Debut or not to debut: that is the question…

Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageously being ignored, or to take arms against the indifference, and by saying you’re a debut, end them?

Okay, it was a bad bastardisation, but the question is still the same:

What is the big deal around debuts?

You may be surprised to find that a lot of your very impressive debut authors are experienced writing roses by another name. For some reason, in publishing, debuts are a HUGE deal.

I’m not entirely sure why, because it seems pretty counter-intuitive to how you pick someone for any other job. Even when you do submit as an author, you often have to show that you have clout – you’ve been writing a blog, or reviews, you have a good social following or you’ve written before.

When you’ve been a published writer for years, you have a following to work from, a target market to work towards, measures of success and sales and a relationship with publishers and authors.

But that can also work against you – if your sales were good, but not amazing. If you had a bad book (hey, it happens) or the book that looked like it was going to be phenomenal had a failure to launch…those things have an impact.

As a debut, you don’t have a backlog of work, you have nothing but the talent of that one manuscript, and a heap of potential. And that, as in most stories, is more appealing. It makes a better narrative, to hit it out of the park with an amazing debut. It makes those debut authors seem so sparkly and talented, and lucky! They build momentum more easily, because they automatically seem more successful.

And we buy into it as authors too. We think ‘oh crap, I missed my chance’ because our first books weren’t bestsellers. And yet, every book I’ve written has been better than the last. Every time I write another, I learn something new, and I get another chance to tell a story.

So why wouldn’t we use that experience? Why isn’t it valued?

Well, it is.

That’s why a bunch of those debut authors are actually experienced authors with new names!

Some people find that annoying, or misleading. And in many ways it’s super dumb. But as an author, I find it so comforting. Because these are authors who have been slogging away, working hard, improving their writing and possibly creating in other genres before they try something new.

A new direction, the chance for growth and a do over: a fresh start. That’s exciting no matter what industry you work in!

So I’m joining the ranks of the ‘new-name-start-over’ society – no one’s pretending I’m a debut, and I’m certainly not hiding my experience, but maybe with a new name, a new direction and a little luck, new people can find my books and be excited to discover something.

What do you think about debuts, as a writer, reader, publisher or anything else? Do you take a chance on a debut, or are you more likely to read your existing favourite author’s new books?

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