To Autobuy, or Not to Autobuy? That is the Question:

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous book prices
Or to take arms against a sea of banal writing
And by opposing end them. To buy, to read—
No more.

Heh, I’m too lazy to do the whole soliloquy. I’m sure you get the gist of it.

Anyway, Maili’s Romancing the Blog post today hits right at the heart of many of us biblioholics: Autobuy authors who have been struck off the list.

I have quite a few romance autobuy authors who have remained on my list ever since the first book of theirs that I read. Right now, they are:

Laura Kinsale (biiiig surprise there)
Loretta Chase (I know, another surprise)
Jennifer Crusie (the shocks keep on coming!)
Judith Ivory
Karen Ranney
Shana Abe
Barbara Samuel/Ruth Wind (romance only, not women’s fiction)

All these authors (with the exception of Kinsale) have in their past written a couple of stinkers, but to date, their good stuff far, far outweighs the turkeys. Once an author makes the autobuy list, I can be quite preternaturally patient, and none of the authors on this list have tested my patience too much.

As many of you probably know, an autobuy author who broke my heart when she stopped writing romance novels is Patricia Gaffney. Pat, come baaaaaack! No, there’s nothing wrong with women’s fiction, but dammit, it’s not a genre I care for particularly, and as always, it’s all about ME and MY NEEDS. (Or at least, it should be, waaaaah!)

Anne Stuart and Lisa Kleypas are two autobuy authors who were knocked off the list for a period of time, then reinstated in a blaze of glory. When I first started reading them, they came out with a slew of brilliant books and got me hooked, but then somewhere down the road slipped into the Slough of Crappy Writing and wrote a streak of mediocre—or downright bad—books (Stuart when she switched from Avon to Zebra for her historicals, Kleypas with Somewhere You’ll Find Me and Because You’re Mine). They have since redeemed themselves (Where Dreams Begin, Shadow Lover), and while the quality is of their books can be quite uneven, I’m toughing it out because they’re still producing more good stories vs. bad ones.

Some authors that stopped being autobuy include:

Mary Jo Putney
Connie Brockway
Chirstina Dodd
Pamela Burford
Vicki Lewis Thompson
Judith McNaught
Susan Kay Law
Teresa Medeiros
Shelly Thacker
Jo Beverley

I dropped Putney and Brockway not because the quality of their books became worse; it’s just that certain aspects of their work that never used to bother me (the rather modern tone, the tendency for Putney’s characters to engage in extremely modern talk therapy and self-analysis) starting bugging the shit out of me. It took me a long time to give them up, especially Putney; I gave up on her just this year, and really, there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to resist temptation when I see a new release of hers at the library or at the bookstore.

The others became autobuys based on one or two books (or in McNaught’s case, four) that I really enjoyed, but I eventually realized that all the subsequent books of theirs that I read got nothing stronger from me than a big old “meh.” McNaught’s heroes also started blurring together for me; the only distinguishing feature about them was their eye color.

Who are your autobuy authors? Are there authors whose books you automatically buy even though you know they, well, suck, and have been sucking for all this age? (Yes, HelenKay, this is an invitation to come on out and ‘fess up in gory detail to your addiction for biscuit-lovin’ Texas Rangers.) Are there autobuy authors who have never—or almost never—disappointed you?


Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Robini says:

    Oh, the curse that is reader loyalty. My first Autobuy author was Brian Jacques, and I stuck with him for a good 8 books before I realized that he was writing the exact same story over and over again. Ick.

    Right now, my list is pretty short: It conisists of Jacqueline Carey, Susan Wiggs’ Historicals, and…Hmm – There is no “and”. There are also some series that I buy loyally (“Harry Potter” springs to mind), but that’s kind of different since for those it’s not just the writer’s skill I’ve invested in.

    I used to be fanatically loyal to Jayne Ann Krentz, until I got a hold of a couple of her paranormal/psychic plotlines going through her back catalog, and been less than impressed. I’ve also “broken up” with Judy Garwood, and I think that’s about it. It’s kind of hard to get on my autobuy list, I guess.

    But I do understand the security of picking up a new book and knowing you’re going to love it. And I can empathize with buying book after book in disappointment, just trying to get that old feeling back. I still have 2 unread Brian Jacques books sitting on my shelf, just in case I ever want to go back.

  2. 2

    I think all mine are dirty little secrets.
    Auto buys
    Judith McNaught
    Karen Robards
    J.D. Robb
    Michelle Reid
    Anne McCaffrey
    Clive Cussler
    Robert Ludlum
    Georgette Heyer (there are a few titles I don’t own, or haven’t read yet.)

    off the list
    Tom Clancy
    John Grisham
    Catherine Coulter
    Julie Garwood

    okay, mock at will.


  3. 3
    Aoife says:

    My current autobuy list is…well…hmmm..Actually, that’s a tough one to answer.  It *used* to include Connie Brockway, Jayne Ann Krentz, Elizabeth Lowell, Mary Balogh,Loretta Chase, and Barbara Hambly, but I would say that most of those are under review.  Elizabeth Lowell I never buy, now, although I may check her latest out at the library if I am in the mood for purplitude.  I knew I was in trouble with Connie Brockway when I kept putting one of hers down and forgetting to pick it back up again.  Forgetting you are reading something is a very, very bad sign.  Mary Balogh I still buy, but I have been disappointed in the last couple, and her autobuy status is shaky.  Krentz I gave up on years ago when I realized all her heroes and heroines were interchangeable, and I couldn’t tell if I had read a book or not.  I still enjoy Hambly and Chase, but who knows how long that will last?

  4. 4
    Arethusa says:

    I suppose I am an unforgiving reader: I am fairly ruthless in my auto-buy list and am not reluctant about dropping authors if two books consecutively suck. It’s about near-impossible for them to get back on the list. I may try their new releases if the local library gets them.

    Lisa Kleypas
    Shannon McKenna
    J.D. Robb
    Emma Holly

    Sometimers, Depending on Whether the Book Synospis Sounds Good and It Passes the “middle-of-the-book” Test:
    Madeline Hunter
    Nora Roberts
    Jennifer Cruise
    Lori Foster

    Former Auto-Buyers Who No Longer Exist in My Book-Reading Universe:

    Iris Johansen – jumped on to the Romantic Suspense boat
    Linda Howard – same
    Catherine Coulter – same
    Brenda Joyce – same
    Amanda Quick – her books all started to “look” the same
    Jayne Ann Krentz – same
    Shannon Drake – same

  5. 5
    Michelle says:


    Susan Elizabeth Phillips (especially a football hero)
    Julia Quinn (although her latest one was a wallbanger to me…she has some redeeming to do)
    JK Rowling

    Autobuys..Depending on the plot:
    Teresa Medeiros
    Nora Roberts
    Johanna Lindsey
    Susan Wiggs—loved the last two…

    Fell off the list:
    Julie Garwood
    Judith McNaught
    Kristin Hannah (bring back the historicals, Kristin!!)
    Jude Deveraux (see the note to Kristin)

  6. 6
    Beth says:

    I don’t really have many auto-buys. But they are:

    ~ Laura Kinsale
    ~ John Irving
    ~ Michael Chabon
    ~ the Harry Potter books
    ~ GRR Martin’s Ice & Fire series
    ~ and gawd help me – the Outlander series (I’d like to think I won’t buy it, but I know I will. There’s crack in them thar pages!)
    ~ Also, anything my friend Snookie tells me to read. Not an auto-buy author, but an auto-buy rec.

    Honestly, I can’t think of any who have been tossed off the list. It’s so hard to MAKE it onto my list – it takes several years and several books. The only one close to getting scratched is Gabaldon. And she’s not getting scratched so much as I’m just depending on hating 80% of her next book (while loving the other 20% with all my heart and soul, damn her) and resenting her for it.

  7. 7
    HelenKay says:

    Cool, public humiliation. I’m in.  My list is a bit different.  It goes like this –

    Authors I’ve always bought and can’t seem to stop no matter how much therapy I receive for the problem:

    -Diana Palmer – with or without biscuits those Long Tall Texans are hot
    -Linda Howard – but even I’m starting to fade waiting for the return of the alphas
    -Julie Garwood – if she doesn’t go back to the Scottish stuff soon, I’m outta here (sorry Maili)
    -Susan Elizabeth Phillips – who else could write a romance that takes place in a circus, hmmmm?
    -Linda Lael Miller – I buy her stuff but haven’t been reading the books lately so for me she’s more of a collectible than an author
    -Jayne Ann Krentz in any form – really, I need a 12-step program

    So, basically, if Candy and Sarah hate the author, I collect her.  Uh-huh.  Say something…

  8. 8

    Gack! i forgot Elizabeth Lowell.. she’s a train wreck I can’t stop myself from reading… likewise Christine Feehan, although, I still think her first Dark book was an exceptional romance, the whole series has become a charicature. And yet… train wreck!


  9. 9

    My top-off-the-head seriously permanent autobuy consists of:

    Tanith Lee
    Jacqueline Carey
    Laura Kinsale
    Barbara Samuel
    Evelyn Vaughn

    Guilty pleasure (on/off) autobuy is:

    Laurell K. Hamilton
    Amanda Quick
    Mary Janice Davidson

    The rest completely varies.

  10. 10

    Wow, autobuys are tough because I’ve got my hardcover/paper breakdown as well.  For instance, I’ll reserve Laurie King books at the library, but wait for them in paper to buy. I’ll buy Mary Balogh in hardcover, but Janet Evanovich in paper.

    So, the A list of hardcover autobuys, and this includes people who aren’t in hardcover but if they were I’d buy them:

    Carla Kelly (I think I’d pay to read her grocery list)
    Laura Kinsale
    Mary Balogh
    Susan E. Phillips
    Loretta Chase
    “Laura London” (I’m an optimist)
    Jennifer Crusie
    Edith Layton

    Not romance autobuys, but autobuys that have romantic elements:

    Connie Willis
    Lois McMaster Bujold
    Sharon Shinn
    Robin McKinley
    Patricia McKillips
    Laurie R. King
    Jacqueline Carey
    Kate Elliott
    Terry Pratchett
    Diana Gabaldon
    Jennifer Roberson
    Michelle West/Sagara

  11. 11
    PC Cast says:

    Hell, I’ll chime in for public humiliation…BUT I’m purposefully excluding any girlfriends from this list because I’ll always buy their books whether I like them or not.  That said, I’m a totally sucker for:

    Diana Gabaldon – hated Fiery Cross and Lord Jim, but I deeply adore so much of her stuff that I’ll always buy anything she writes, just on the off chance…please God another Outlander/Voyager
    Tanith Lee
    Robin McKinley
    Anne McCaffrey
    Ray Bradbury
    Karen Marie Moning (I know her, but she’s not officially a “girlfriend,” which is why I’m including her in this list)
    Laura Kinsale
    Wilbur Smith
    JK Rowling
    Nora Roberts & JD Robb (don’t even start – she’s The Queen and I’m hooked)
    Dean Koontz
    Christopher Moore

    And I admit to wishing I’d made someone’s list…MOM?!  WHERE ARE YOU?


  12. 12
    Emma says:

    My current autobuys:

    Laura Kinsale
    Judith Ivory
    Suzanne Brockmann (or she would be, if I bought hardcovers; I get them at the library instead)
    Susan Elizabeth Phillips (ditto)
    Rachel Gibson
    Susan Squires
    Lisa Gardner

    Fallen off the list:

    Madeline Hunter (I wish she’d write medievals again…)
    Mary Balogh
    Mary Jo Putney
    Christina Dodd
    Stephanie Laurens

  13. 13
    Rachel says:

    Penelope Williamson was one of the few authors on my list, but then she dropped out of the genre.

  14. 14
    E.D'Trix says:

    Hmmm, my problem is that after 10 years as a bookseller I have more autobuys than not. But now that the beeeyoootiful employee discount is gone with the wind, my (still massive) autobuy list is:


    JK Rowling
    Tamora Pierce
    Eoen Colfer
    Mercedes Lackey
    Patricia Bray (sci-fi/fantasy, not regencies!)
    Patricia Briggs
    SL Viehl
    Sara Douglass
    Laurell K Hamilton
    Sharon Shinn


    Suzanne Brockmann
    Carla Kelly
    Linda Howard
    Loretta Chase
    Gaelen Foley
    Sherrilyn Kenyon
    Laura Kinsale
    JD Robb/ Nora Roberts
    Deborah Smith (even, god help me, her women’s fiction)
    Ruth Wind/Barbara Samuel (romance only)
    PC Cast (see you made a list? and have I mentioned that I bought the original version of Goddess by Mistake YEARS ago? LOL)
    Robin Owens
    Diana Palmer (I am so with you HelenKay! I cannot stop compulsively buying her stuff, even though it is gawdawful.)
    Kay Hooper

    I can’t think of any others right now, but I am reasonably sure that I am leaving off about 10-15 others!

  15. 15

    Karen Marie Moning—never let me down
    Linda Howard
    Janet Chapman
    MaryJanice Davidson
    PC Cast—even if I hated her, I’d love her books :)
    Katie MacAlister
    Susan Elizabeth Phillips

    I started out reading Julie Garwood and Johanna Lindsey and really hope they return to their earlier styles.

  16. 16
    Candy says:

    Ooooh, I didn’t even touch my non-romance autobuys. Currently, they are:

    Dan Simmons
    Sharon Shinn
    Roddy Doyle
    Alex Garland
    Louise Erdrich
    Philip Pullman (he has a huge backlist that I’m dying to glom, but so far I’ve read only I Was a Rat!, Count Carlstein and Clockwork, all of which are brilliant)

    Non-romance autobuys I gave up on:

    Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman (I know, I know, HEY, THEY’RE NO LONGER AUTOBUY, OK?)
    Stephen King
    Robert Jordan (It took me until book number 7, but I eventually got there)
    Barry Unsworth (he writes good stuff but most of it isn’t worth buying, plus it’s hard to beat Sacred Hunger)

    Hmmmmm. I thought there were more, but none are coming to mind right now. The thing is, I’m much more likely to take big chances and check out new-to-me authors with lit fic, SF/F and children’s books; for whatever reason, good buzz and reader recommendations in those categories have worked out much better for me than romance recs tend to.

  17. 17
    Sharon Cullars says:

    Hi, new to the board but just had to post.  I have autobuys that haven’t failed me yet:

    Octavia Butler
    Tananarive Due
    Douglas Preston/Lincoln Childs
    Terry Goodkind
    David Handler (Berger & Mitry Mysteries)
    Caleb Carr
    Ellis Peters (until she passed away)

  18. 18
    senetra says:

    Everybody’s all kind of mixed together.

    Carla Kelly
    Mary Balogh
    PC Cast
    Robin Owens
    Wen Spencer
    Catherine Asaro
    Kathleen Gilles Seidel
    Roberta Gellis
    Lynne Graham

  19. 19
    Robyn says:

    HelenKay, you are my kind of woman. We’d get along very well together.

    I don’t have a problem with spending hard earned money, because my town has a little hole-in-the-wall store that trades books for only the sales tax. New releases will be there a few months after they come out in the stores, and if I don’t like one I can always trade it back.

  20. 20


    Arturo Perez-Reverte
    Jacqueline Carey
    Linda Howard (used)
    Tanith Lee (always)
    Neil Gaiman

    Kicked off the list for bad behavior:

    Christine Feehan (Come on, girl, I know you can do better.)
    Patricia Cornwell
    Laurell K. Hamilton

    As I look back, I realize that there’s not much trad Romance on the list. Argh. How did I get into writing romance?

    Anyway, it gets pretty obvious when a writer stops trying and starts churning out the same story because “it’s worked before”. That’s usually the kiss of death for autobuy authors.

  21. 21
    HelenKay says:

    Candy – See, Robyn thinks I have good taste in author choices.  I’m thinking I need to send you Linda Howard’s entire backlist and see if I can’t win you over to the Dark Side.

    Robyn – Thanks for the support.

  22. 22
    Lynn M says:

    I’m very discerning or picky or just crazy, I think, but I only have a couple of absolute autobuys:

    Suzanne Brockmann – even in hardback
    J.K. Rowling – again, even in hardback
    Jennifer Crusie
    Lynn Veihl’s Darkyn series – which has been only one so far but if her second pans out as good, I’m so there
    J.D. Robb – but not Nora, sorry

    Past Autobuys that are now maybes:

    Judith McNaught
    Loretta Chase

    Everyone else is strictly a book by book basis.

  23. 23
    fiveandfour says:

    It seems as though I’ve got a too-complicated system.  I’ve got the auto-buy hardback, auto-buy paperback, auto-buy used only, and auto-buy whenever/wherever I find it lists I work from (this is generally older books that are harder to find).

    Sometimes an author can slip from auto-buy paperback to auto-buy used only, or from auto-buy paperback to auto-buy whenever depending on the last things I’ve read and my state of mind at the time. 

    For example, Julie Garwood went from auto-buy used to auto-buy paperback but has now slipped off my radar completely.  Michael Ondaatje went from who’s that? to auto-buy hard-back.

    You guys have pretty well covered the romance authors on my various lists already (with a couple of exceptions) -I just seem to have them in more detailed sub-categories than others.

    All of this brings me to something I was thinking about the other day, though: does anyone else discover a new author a bit later on in their career then absolutely GORGE themselves on the backlist until you’re nearly sick of them?  I try to restrain myself from doing this because I know what the end result of my feasting will be, and yet I can’t.

    If you can sprinkle it out over time, how do you do it?

  24. 24

    fiveandfour:  Oh heavens, yes, I am guilty of gorging.  There is no good alternative response when you find an author you adore.  It’s like heavy duty dope.  I’ve done this with Robert Crais and Laurie R. King, and I’m in the middle of a Lee Child and Michael Connelly binge.  I have a stack of library books that’s ready to topple over, and a whole lot of other new books I’ve bought and haven’t read yet ‘cause I have to catch up with the adventures of Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch. 

    I’ve begun asking my friends _not_ to recommend their favorite series to me.

  25. 25
    Jonquil says:

    I’m thinking of forming an Laurell K. Hamilton 12-step program.

    No matter how much we want to read a new good LKH, we acknowledge that LKH has lost all power over her keyboard, and that no matter how much we liked Obsidian Butterfly, it is nonetheless true that all future books will be 90% pointless sex, 10% talking about pointless sex, and -5% plot.

    We refuse to buy.  We shall turn our faces away.  With the support of our friends, we can do it.

  26. 26

    Some of my former autobuy authors, like Evanovich, are now library authors. LKH entered those ranks about 3 books ago.  I know they’ve officially fallen from autobuy when I’m #43 on the library waitlist and I don’t care that it will take months to get the new book.

  27. 27
    E.D'Trix says:

    I don’t care what you say about Laurell *sob* I MUST buy all of her books and read them. And though I long for the days of a meatier plot, IMO she does seem to be corraling her characters back in a bit (from the hideousness that was Cerulean Sins) and moving the story forward.

    I read her knowing that she is more into character development and exploring psyches, etc. than she is into actual plots at this point in time. Once I realized that I was able to enjoy the books much more.

  28. 28
    Jonquil says:

    I can’t say that Anita has changed one iota since she caught the ardeur from Jean-Claude.  She’s been too busy boffing to mature.

  29. 29
    E.D'Trix says:

    Ahh, seemed to me she made some strides in Incubus Dreams—boffed a lotta new vampires, yes—but she also made some strides. And I don’t mind reading about hot vamp/were/necromancer menage action—it tends to perk up the day, LOL.

  30. 30
    Amanda says:

    Let’s see. Romance auto buys:

    Shanna Abe
    PC Cast
    J. Quinn
    G. Foley
    J. Beverley
    K.M. Moning
    S. Squires
    M. Jackson

    I don’t buy romances in HC first go around. I’ll wait for the MM & if it’s a keeper, I’ll hunt for a HC. Maybe.

    Non romance autobuys, in HC:

    P. McKillip
    E. Lynn
    A. McCaffrey
    J.K. Rowling
    C. Funke (Thief Lord author)
    J. Carey
    P. Tremayne
    L.J. Rowland
    R. McKinley

    Don’t buy at all anymore, even at the UBS-

    E. Lowell
    J. Garwood
    GRR Martin
    J. McNaught
    the ‘Cat Who’ mystery author

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