I recently had to demote an author from auto-buy. Auto-buy is a way of saying that I buy an author’s books based on name alone. I will buy their new book quicker than I can eat a 3 lb bag of chocolate. (yes, that fast) All writers want on this list for as many people as they can. Auto-buy is a close-cousin to impulse buy. As a writer myself, I wanted to figure out why they were demoted. 

I remembered a post from earlier in the year that talked about comparing a reader’s auto-buy and Dunbar’s number. Despite its name, it’s actually a series of concentric social circles, from casual down to intimate friends. The gist is, you have only so many slots at each level and the more intimate, the fewer slots there are. This works for friends, authors, and maybe even chocolate (or maybe not, maybe just wine).  You will have far fewer authors on auto-buy than in the group you just ‘like’.

But, what causes certain authors to be auto-buy? What causes them to be demoted from or promoted to that exalted level?

The Sorting Hat:

This all in my head and that makes it super hard to quantify. Since there is no hat in real life, I cheated and came up with an acronym. Cue the music. Ta da.


  • Story quality
  • Type of story
  • EmOtional satisfaction
  • Readability
  • Memorability 


S – Story Quality

Is the plot interesting? Do the characters feel real? Are they the right characters for the plot? Does it grab me from page one?

T – Type of story

This is two fold, it’s both specific to a genre and series. Is this a genre I want to read? Is this a series I want to read or start reading?

O – EmOtional satisfaction

For me, the hero/heroine must triumph over crazy odds. They have to work for it. The bad guy should get his just desserts or be redeemed. I LOVE a good ‘all is lost’ moment. That moment when it looks like they won’t succeed. But they must or I’m out. I also HATE cliffhangers at the end of a book. I hates it, my precious. (Thanks, Gollum, I agree.)

R – Readability

This is writing, pure and simple. Am I thrown out because of failed credibility check? (where has that long sword been this whole time?) Was something super confusing? Did I get lost in similarly named characters? Was the POV so shallow I started skimming?

M – Memorable/Met expectations

Do I want to immerse myself in the story again or does it blend in with the hundreds/thousands of other stories I’ve read? Do I get what I’m expecting when reading the book? Not only from the first chapter set-up, but my expectations before I even started the book. Do I care enough to come back?

Putting STORM to the test:

Before yesterday, I had two authors on my auto-buy. They STORMed it (heh). I pre-ordered everything and bought both the physical and e-book versions.

In this case, this author had been on my auto-buy list for years and I had just gotten the latest book in one of her series. After three chapters, I said meh and closed out my Kindle copy. Since I was in a reading mood, I opened a different author’s book (one on auto-buy cusp). Once I finished that book, I continued to read the excerpt at the end that was for her book in different series.  I bought that book and read it in one sitting. (See? Excerpts work).

Actually, I lied about the ‘meh’. I was annoyed. Annoyed enough to demote her.

My core issue was she gave me a different book than I expected. It failed the M. I came in with series expectations that weren’t met. I ended the third chapter wondering who the book was even about. Worse, I did not care.

Damn you, M!  Sigh.  I guess I’ll be interviewing for the open auto-buy slot.

What about you? What makes or breaks your auto-buy? What will get an author demoted or promoted to that list?  Any good auto-buy candidates I should look at?

2 thoughts on “Demoted

  1. STORM is a great rubric. Having had a few auto-buy authors that I then decided to demote as well, it’s usually when they need a change of perspective, setting, character or both. When Clive Cussler started writing himself as a character in his Dirk Pitt novels, I was done.

    On the other hand, sometimes it’s not the author who changes, it’s you. You just outgrow stuff or the author. For example, I used to love those action books when I was a teenager (Hammer’s Slammers, Remo Williams, The Survivalist, etc) until I got older and read more and realized how simplistic they were- and in many places, just super-warped and prejudiced. I also liked zombie stories and post-apocalyptic stories until I started seeing it as a world of murdered souls trying to get their life back.

    Now I’m in a phase where I think I’ve studied writing so much (without producing anything of note, mind you) that all I see are mechanics – opening scene, emotional hook, narrative twist, rising complexity, ascension, first contact, the antagonist’s world, find allies, new plan, final conflict, wonder about tomorrow. I just see the assembly line and the welds and lose sight of the product. That doesn’t mean I think I’m smarter or a better writer or jaded or anything – I’m not. I just can’t seem to get lost in fiction any longer.

    • Very good points. This was the 9th or 10th book in the series. I think she was trying too hard to cameo all the previous people in the books. She started a newer series and that doesn’t seem to have the same issues.

      Good point on the you yourself outgrow some books. I remember a book I loved as a teenager that I read as an adult. Let’s just say it’s no longer on that pedestal. Although I still have some classics that I will re-read even now and enjoy. That feels more akin to putting on comfy clothes and relaxing on the couch.

      You are also correct, as a fellow writing student, we can see the tricks of the trade. If they are done right, I am more than willing to still immerse myself in the story. I do think I have more skim reads now. I finish them, but I’m watching what the author does. Not actually immersed in the story.

      Thanks for to comment.

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