Why Glomming May be Bad for Your Author-Reader Relationship

Or, Three Things I Learned From Library Thing

I just started setting up my Library Thing library. Gosh that’s fun!

Unfortunately, my blogging platform will not allow me to put that neato set of book covers in my sidebar (grrrrr….), so I had to do it in the makeshift way you see below and to the right. But you can click on the link and check out what else I’ve read in the past 18 months of romance insanity (although I’m not finished setting it up yet).

The process of entering my reads all at once made a few details about my reading habits show up that I normally wouldn’t have noticed. For one thing, when the hell did I read all of those Sherrilyn Kenyon books? I mean, I’ve read 7. Seven! That’s more than any other author, even authors I absolutely adore like Loretta Chase and Jennifer Crusie!

For another, I am pretty fickle. I clearly have no compulsive need to start a series at the beginning or to read it straight through. Kresley Cole’s paranormals? I’ve read books 1, 3, 4 and 5. Nalini Singh’s Psy/changeling series? Books 1, 2, and 4. I’ll read the first and third books in a trilogy, and not in that order. Or, as in JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood or Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander saga, I’ll trail off in the middle of the series and never return to it.

But here’s the most surprising thing: glomming is apparently not good for my relationship with an author. I was inputting books and thinking back to how much I liked them. The first Crusie books I read were Bet Me and Welcome to Temptation and I loved both of them. But then I glommed her, and my affection for each book I read diminished slightly, until the last two (Don’t Look Down and Crazy For You) were DNFs. The same thing happened with Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons, and with Susan Elizabeth Phillips. By the time I got to SEP’s Breathing Room, I had read 4 or 5 of her other books, and I was just SEP’ed out. I have Natural Born Charmer in my TBR pile but no idea when or if I will get to it.

Why is this? Possibly it has a lot to do with the fact that I read the best books first, based on reviews and the AAR’s top 100, for example.

But I don’t think that’s all there is to it. I’ve wondered in my reviews whether it’s fair to make a great author compete against herself, and I am certainly not the only person to do that. We often say things like, “Well, [insert your favorite author here] on her bad day is better than most of them on good days.” But when I read 3 or 4 or 5 of the same author’s books in a row, I am forced to compare them to each other. Perhaps if I had stuck a book by a newer author or in a different genre in between all those Bridgertons I would have liked them all, individually, more.

I’m thinking that glomming is not good for my relationship with an author, and although sometimes the urge is irresistable, I’m going to try to pace myself from now on … for both our sakes.

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Published in: on October 10, 2008 at 12:09 am  Comments (15)  
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  1. That’s certainly true for me. I try to change not only author but subgenre between books. I often completely switch genres, or keep several contrasting books going at once.

    Several of the author/reader sites have had interesting discussions of reader ennui. The first that comes to mind is this, on Readers Gab. We were largely discussing other reasons for that disenchantment–knowing too much about an author’s life, unremarkable voices, reading too much similar material, and high expectations.

  2. Thanks for the link, RfP. At first I thought “oh no! I’ve completely copied their topic”, but then I saw the discussion happened in 2007, so I don’t feel as bad. How long does a topic have to lay fallow before I can legitimately claim it as new again?

    OT: I’m so glad you used the word “ennui”. I was listening to NPR this morning (a rare break from my addictive Sookie audio), specifically a report on the Nobel Prize in Literature, which went to a French writer apparently known for writing protagonists full of ennui. The host was talking to a reporter, and the host said something like, “now… ‘ennui’, that means what.. kind of a boredom, right? It’s a French term, right?”. And I just thought, oh, how we have descended when even NPR can’t assume its listenership knows the meaning of “ennui”!

  3. I try to avoid the glom, too, and for the same reasons. One author I glommed before I even knew that phrase was Karen Marie Moning. I was vastly entertained by one of her books and threw myself headlong into the remainder. I’m now soured on her and it’s really my own fault – she’s no less pleasurable to read now than before, but I *notice* stuff that ticks me off (and I say this realizing that “pleasurable” and “good” aren’t synonymous) that wouldn’t have bothered me if I’d broken her up a bit.

    I’m reading Sherrilyn Kenyon, too, but make sure to intersperse a good number of books in between. That I’m coming to her party late makes it easy to be tempted to read the entire backlist – so many books! – but I’m determined to be strong.

  4. I’ve done this my whole life. When I was a teenager I read everything by Stephen King and V.C. Andrews (she was still alive and the one doing the writing) and others. I haven’t read either since I was 17. I did this with Patricia Cornwell in my 20s.

    What sours me is that I see repetitions in pattern and plot. What I mean is, not the repetition of the ages-old plot devices and “tropes” (I hate that word because it seems to have taken on such a negative connotation and means a whole lot more than it really means), but the repetition of a given author’s FAVORITE devices that are unique to them. Sometimes those devices are inseparable from their “voice” and when I glom I can’t shake the similarities.

    The only author I’ve ever glommed who hasn’t done this to me is Laura Kinsale, who seems to have a different voice and different devices for each book. Except the animal thing bugs me.

  5. Marsha, I’m afraid my one experience with Ms. Moning was not good, but I think Kenyon is a lot of fun. As Mojo puts it, Kenyon repeats a lot of devices and it makes it hard to tell the books apart.

    What is the animal thing with Kinsale?

  6. Jessica, I remember that review. A lot of what really bothered you about that particular book didn’t bother me, even as I recognized that it wasn’t well-written. I can sometimes forgive moderately bad writing if I’m entertained, and I was. The trouble came when I went to be similarly entertained by other works and discovered certain phrases repeated overandoverandover. If I hadn’t glommed I probably would have gotten a lot more pleasure from the books than I did, especially since I was willing to forgive a lot based on that first experience.

    In addition to the Kenyon books, I’m reading a Gena Showalter series now and am trying to be very careful not to read the books too closely together. It’s a delicate balance between wanting more, more, more! and preserving the potential for enjoyment.

  7. Hi Jessica, I just wanted to let you know I nominated you for an award at my blog. I really enjoy your site!

  8. This is very true for me. I did this with Lora Leigh’s breed series and by the 7th or so book I started skimming the sex scenes. They just became too similar to the ones in the previous books.

    I also notice this “burn out” happening to me not only when it comes to authors but also within a genre. For me it helps if I switch genres, too much paranormal and all the vamps, shifters etc start getting mixed up in my head. Too much UF and I feel the need for something lighter.

  9. Jessica, I wasn’t scolding you. I don’t think any fallow period is necessary before renewing a topic. Conversely, you can’t guarantee all topics will feel “new” to your readership–it all depends where else they visit.

    Perhaps the NPR host was clarifying “ennui” for the listeners? I’d be surprised if their regular staff didn’t know the word. (I noticed a similar moment a few weeks ago, but given the context it was impossible that the host didn’t know the word.)

    MoJo, I really notice “the repetition of a given author’s FAVORITE devices that are unique to them” too. A series with the same characters is the only time I want to see striking similarities in back-to-back books.

    ‘tropes’ (I hate that word because it seems to have taken on such a negative connotation)

    Tropes are a two-edged sword in genre. Sometimes they convey meaning usefully, and create resonances that evoke past texts. But tropes can be irritating if their expression doesn’t seem fresh or if each new instantiation doesn’t seem to *add* something to the pattern, rather than simply reflecting what’s gone before.

    In keeping with Jessica’s topic, I feel that keeping reading fresh is partly within the reader’s control. At the same time, some echoes of past works will never resonate with some readers. I praised noir tropes a few weeks ago, but others who’ve read more noir (or enjoyed it less) might hate the same examples I enjoyed. On the other hand I whanged CL Wilson for leaning too hard on “well-used tropes” from romance and fantasy; it was all too familiar from when I read fantasy as a teen, and I wasn’t thrilled to see those tropes still circulating with little alteration. However, I think for some mainly-romance readers her fantasy world was so fresh and different that the old-school romance tropes hardly registered.

  10. Forgot to say–I think Don’t Look Down is one of Crusie’s weaker books. So that DNF may have been righteous 😉

  11. Marsha, I may try Moning again, I know she’s a fave of so many. But I agree with you and with Leslie, that authors — and even genres — have their styles and it can be easy to take them for granted or even be annoyed by them if they are read in too rapid a succession.

    RfP, thank you for your excellent point on tropes, with which I heartily agree. I think maybe too many things now get stuffed under that label, and some of them have lent it a negative connotation.

    And don’t worry about the nonscolding: I make a living disagreeing with people and getting yelled at. At this point, unless someone is threatening my life and the life of my progneny, I assume they love me.

    Jill, thank you. If you didn’t have your own excellent blog, I would be sure you were my mother. This is a first, and I am in terrific company.

  12. I have the same problem sometimes – it has to do with my liking to complete the series. I glommed The Bridgerton books but had to stop at #7. I also inhaled Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (first five, anyway) in a month.

  13. This happens to me too. I usually limit myself to only read one book by the author a month, or even skip a month. I also try not to read the same genre back to back. I might read a historical and then a paranormal and then a contemporary and then a western. You get the idea. I think you have to change it up, especially if you read as much as I do. I think this helps me stay objective when reading and reviewing. Of course, sometimes I am just in the mood for a certain something and I then I will throw all my rules out the window! Hey, I am allowed!

  14. icedtea — Wow. All five Gabaldons in a month. Somehow I lost steam after the third, but I keep meaning to return to them.

    Jill — How may is “as many as you do”? Just curious! Also, I hadn’t though much about connecting this topic to the objectivity of reviews, but you’re absolutely right. Being weary of a subgenre or an author can unfairly bias a reviewer against a book.

  15. Nalini Singh’s Psy/changeling series? Books 1, 2, and 4.

    Funnily enough, I just finished “glomming” this series, and I almost never do that. Caressed by Ice (#3) is probably my favorite because I loved reading about a Psy (repressed and virginal) hero as opposed to having it be the heroine who is in that position of resisting touch. I hope you get around to it, Jessica, because I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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