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Athena

When is something an author's debut?

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I know there are a few of us on this forum who keep track of whether a book they read was an author's debut book. That inspired me to do so too and I've been tracking that statistic for a while, both in the books I read per year, and in my Book Collector program of my book collection.

 

I was thinking about this yesterday, and I realised, what I consider an author's debut book, is their first published book, but that's not the only way of doing this. Sometimes I read that something is an author's debut YA novel, or their debut memoir, or their debut fantasy novel (ie. when I'm doing research whether a book is a debut or not).

 

I only consider a book a debut if it's the first book from the author that gets published, and hence an author can only have one debut, in my own statistics. So if they first write a memoir and later a novel, the memoir is their debut and I do not consider their novel a debut, even if it's the first novel they write.

 

So I was wondering, for those of you who track this statistic too, when do you consider something a debut? Is it the first book that gets published? The first book in a genre that gets published but the author has not written anything in the genre before (ie. memoir vs. a contemporary fiction novel vs. fantasy vs thriller vs science-fiction etc etc)? Or is it just fiction vs. non-fiction? The first book per age range that gets published (ie. an author has written adult novels but now they are writing their YA debut)? Can an author have as many debuts as genres / age ranges they write in?

 

I'm happy with the way I've been tracking my own statistics, though I would definitely be reading more 'debuts' if an author can have more than one debut book. I'm just curious what those of you interested, how you define a debut :).

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On 28/03/2018 at 3:43 PM, Little Pixie said:

I don`t track it statistically, but for me, it would be the fiction debut as the first book. :)

 

Sorry, I'm going to disagree!

 

I don't track it either, but the semantics interest me.  A debut book is, surely the first book somebody writes.  If one has to qualify it (e.g., YA debut, horror debut etc), it's not their out and out debut, just a debut in a particular genre.  The debut book of a writer who has written, say, a number of non-fiction books and then writes one that is fiction, is surely the first of those non-fiction. The fiction book is their fiction debut, but not their debut.  Of course, one may only be interested in fiction, and thus in the fiction debut, but that still doesn't change the fact of what is their actual debut!  So, in other words, I would completely agree with your third paragraph @Athena (and, no, one can't have more than one unqualified debut).

 

For me, a little bit more uncertain, is is it the first book somebody writes, or the first book that is published?  For simplicity and certainty, I'd go with the latter, as that is the first book to actually appear, just as making one's debut is 'appearing' for the first time, and making a debut is all about the appearance.

Edited by willoyd

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13 minutes ago, willoyd said:

 

Sorry, I'm going to disagree!

 

 

:o:hide:  :giggle2:

 

Respectfully, us book wurms are so polite. I love it. ;)

 

 

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11 hours ago, willoyd said:

I don't track it either, but the semantics interest me.  A debut book is, surely the first book somebody writes.  If one has to qualify it (e.g., YA debut, horror debut etc), it's not their out and out debut, just a debut in a particular genre.  The debut book of a writer who has written, say, a number of non-fiction books and then writes one that is fiction, is surely the first of those non-fiction. The fiction book is their fiction debut, but not their debut.  Of course, one may only be interested in fiction, and thus in the fiction debut, but that still doesn't change the fact of what is their actual debut!  So, in other words, I would completely agree with your third paragraph @Athena (and, no, one can't have more than one unqualified debut).

 

For me, a little bit more uncertain, is is it the first book somebody writes, or the first book that is published?  For simplicity and certainty, I'd go with the latter, as that is the first book to actually appear, just as making one's debut is 'appearing' for the first time, and making a debut is all about the appearance.

 

Thanks Willoyd, that makes a lot of sense :).

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I agree with Willoyd too, their first book is their debut, although whether you go by their first book written, or first book published, is another point.  Personally I would go by the first book they ever wrote, even if it's not their first published book.

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I probably would too, but of course unless you know the author personally you wouldn't have the opportunity to read such works, or even know about them. In terms of publishing then a debut can only be the first book to be published. It is very rare for an author to have the first book they have actually written published - unless of course they do it themselves and assuming we are talking about fiction as opposed to non fiction. Non fiction is a completely different market and much more of a niche thing.   

 

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18 hours ago, Talisman said:

I probably would too, but of course unless you know the author personally you wouldn't have the opportunity to read such works, or even know about them. In terms of publishing then a debut can only be the first book to be published. It is very rare for an author to have the first book they have actually written published - unless of course they do it themselves and assuming we are talking about fiction as opposed to non fiction. Non fiction is a completely different market and much more of a niche thing.   

 

 

I'd agree, also because trying to work out the first book actually written can be very messy - what is a book after all?  Take Jane Austen for instance.  Her first published book was Sense and Sensibility, although she had had a novel called Susan (likely to be the predecessor to Northanger Abbey) previously bought by a publisher but unpublished.  However, that was preceded by another full-length unpublished novel, Elinor and Marianne, which may or may not have morphed into S&S, but was apparently epistolary in nature, so must have looked very different; it was read in its entirety to the rest of the family according to Cassandra, but there is now no trace of it.  it was also preceded by a variety of juvenilia (three volumes worth) which included a completed novel called Love and Freindship (Austen's misspelling), but never seen as a separate book, which is not the Love and Friendship of the film (that's Lady Susan!), written when 14, as well as her 34-page History of EnglandLady Susan was also written before S&S, and Elinor and Marianne.

So what is Jane Austen's debut book?  For me, it has to be S&S, as that is her first appearance on the public stage as a completed, and independent, book. All the rest are interesting (and I love Lady Susan!), but they are simply works leading up to her debut.  Debut doesn't mean 'first', it means 'first appearance'.  Put it another way, if S&S isn't, what is her debut book?!

Edited by willoyd

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I`m out on my own here, but I`m still going for the debut book as the first fiction book. :lol:

 

Fiction involves the creation of characters and plot, and a whole different world. Other books involve the real world ; Does Alan Titchhmarsh`s first thriller count as his debut, rather than his first gardening book ? I`m going with yes. :)

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Willoyd is right - the term debut means first appearance, think of the word debutante and what that meant - a young woman's first appearance or coming out (a term that means something very different now) into so-called fashionable society. 

 

There are huge problems with saying that the term debut only applies to fiction. Are you saying that those who write only non fiction as many do (including myself) cannot have a debut? How then would you classify such authors? You seem to be saying that if someone writes both, no matter how many non fiction books they have written, only the fiction ones will count which is patently absurd, especially when you consider that celebrity authors rarely write their own fiction books anyway - most of them are ghost written. With non fiction on the other hand, because it is their area of expertise they are much more likely to have written it themselves. If anything then it should be the other way around and their first  published non fiction work is their debut! Because of the nature of non fiction, factual writing, most people have written a lot of other stuff before they get published, which may or may not have been published in other ways, such as academic journals and so on.

 

For my two penneth if someone does write both, I would say it is entirely possible to have a debut as both a fiction and non fiction author. Just saying ....  

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Yes I agree you can of course have a debut book in a different genre - taking Titchmarsh as an example, he's written loads of gardening books, but his first novel is a first novel, not a debut book in the true sense of the word.

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Exactly. He had a first or debut non fiction book and then a debut novel or fictional work. For those who write in different genres it is then entirely possible to have more than one debut.  

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6 hours ago, Little Pixie said:

When I think of books, I think of stories. That`s just my opinion. :)

 

That's rather a lot of books to ignore, so I'm intrigued.  If they aren't books, how would you classify non-fiction? (Just thinking of all those books I thought I'd read but apparently haven't!).

 

 

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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When I look back on my own reading over the last 5 years or so, almost a quarter of the books I read are non fiction. Everyone reads non fiction in some form or another and at some time - who hasn't read at least parts of The Bible, and who never picks up a newspaper? Okay a newspaper is not a book, but it is still non fiction. I have to be honest here and say that to me as a non fiction writer the assertion that what I have written and published is not a book is a tad insulting. I am sure it wasn't meant that way, and it's no doubt for me to look at why I feel that way, but still it's there. Its true that most of the people on here do read and discuss predominantly fiction, and yes these types of books are stories, but non fiction can be too. I have read some great books based on true stories of peoples lives, particularly in war zones and so on that are told as stories and read very much like fiction - Dave Eggers What is the What and Tracey Kidder's Strength in What Remains both spring to mind. These are both brilliant books. 

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It's not something I would keep track of, but for me, debut novel is first published. Different genres wouldn't count for me (although I always like to know).

 

The only fly in the ointment with this is when an author gets a previously unpublished work published. I think this happened to Harlen Coben. A previous unpublished book was released that he actually went on record as saying he was embarrassed about - he thought it was a bad book.  

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Mmm - so what you are saying is that non fiction books do not count? That means according to your criteria that I am not a published author. I am not sure what that box of books with my name on the cover in the corner of the room are then! In fact come to think of it, I am not sure why I bothered spending 5 years writing it either! 

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I think my question has been sufficiently answered, thanks everyone who responded.

 

I don't think anyone was trying to offend anyone else, we're all stating our opinions and what a debut means to us. I think it's okay to let the thread go away quietly?

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I guess so - I am sure that no one set out to offend and like I said I have to look to see why this presses my buttons so much and take ownership. I am old and wise enough to realise that, but can't help being intrigued as to why anyone would think that anything that isn't a novel doesn't quality as a book! It sure looks like one to me but each to their own .... 

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For me, the debut is the first published book, no matter what genre. But does that include self published? I think not.

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That means then that I am still not published when the pile of books in a box in the corner of my room says otherwise. It sure looks like my name on the cover …..  :dry: Seriously though, some of my favourite authors like Mark Edwards self publish their books and it is becoming increasingly common with Kindle which makes it so easy - I mean why wouldn't you when you can earn so much more? Mark has a huge following and his books sell in the thousands, so I find it very difficult to understand how someone can state that someone like him is not published! Personally I don't think it matters 2 hoots how a book was published - the only thing that matters is that it is - just my two penneth. 

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I know Athena suggested this quietly went away, but feel compelled to agree with Talisman here.  I'm struggling to understand how books can only be novels, and appearing in public for the first time only counts when somebody else publishes your book.  For me, it's a bit like saying only Cheddar is a cheese, or only the English are British.

 

 

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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Thank you - my thoughts exactly!

 

I know too that Athena suggested this quietly went away, but I am not the one that opened it up again and I feel compelled to answer these points. I just really struggle to understand the reasoning that anything that isn't fiction is not a book, or for that matter that a book that you paid to have published yourself isn't one either - trust me when I say that self publishing is bloody hard work - much harder than when someone pays you for your work! To me personally no matter what the subject, a book is a book is a book. If it's something you can read and has been published in any form - electronic or printed then it's a book - end of! 

 

I just don't understand why non fiction seems to be looked at in this manner and whether people intend for it to sound this way nor not, it really is incredibly insulting. It reminds me of the time that I joined a so called creative writing group that was advertised as suitable for both fiction and non fiction writers. When I went along it became clear that it was anything but. At one point one of the other members challenged me quite vociferously as to what I was doing there and had the audacity to suggest that because my writing was factual it was not creative. The following week I came in with a copy of the dictionary and showed her the meaning of the word creative - she didn't do that again!

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I hadn't thought of self published that way and you guys are right, it is published, no matter by whom. I stand corrected.

 

 

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Thank you Rebecca - it's good to get people thinking differently. :)

 

Self publishing is really no different to running your own business - in fact it is a business. Just like with any other business there are lots of things that you have to do in addition to the actual writing - editing and proof reading, designing a good cover, registering your ISBN, dealing with the legal side with library deposits and so on, finding a distributor and establishing a relationship with them, managing all the sales and marketing - contacting and dealing with the press, retailers, radio stations and so on, writing press releases, designing and updating your website, managing your email list with all the data protection protocols that go along with that, and then of course there is the financial side. I paid a self publishing company to take care of a lot of that for me but I had to do all the marketing and finance side myself - while working four days a week. That's what I mean when I say it's bloody hard work and that's why I take issue with anyone who tells me I am not a published author. I am and I have a box of books underneath my desk to prove it. ;)    

Edited by Talisman

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