So I'm curious Wendy when do you give up on an auto-buy?
The short answer? Death.
The long answer? Oh sure, I might stop buying the offending author, but I won't necessarily stop reading them. Such is the downfall of being a librarian. I literally have access to millions of books, none of which I have to pay for. Plus, I seem to have attachment issues with series/authors I've been reading for a long time. Let's look at some examples:
Lilian Jackson Braun - Lord help me, I feel dirty admitting I still read her books. Longtime fans suggest that maybe the series is now being "ghostwritten." I contend that if they were being ghostwritten they'd be much better books. I stopped actually buying these books (I think) with #22, The Cat Who Robbed A Bank. Yet, I'm read up on the entire series, which will see #29 published in January. They're just plain bad. Once the bible for cozy mystery writers, the books have disintegrated with Stepford-like characters, little to no mystery, and pesky details left off like (oh I don't know) telling the reader the villains' motive! Hello?
Patricia Cornwell - Amazingly enough Blow Fly didn't push me over the edge. No it took Trace to do that, when it became very clear that the author was recycling her plots (alright, I'm a little slow). Seriously, if I read another Scarpetta book where Kay is dealing with office sabotage I swear I'll scream. I hate reading about victims, and that is what Kay has become. Also, I used to love the politically incorrect Marino - but he has since morphed from an intolerant, albeit excellent detective, to an intolerant sad sack who moons over Kay. And Lucy - could someone please shoot Lucy? That said, I still read the last book in the series, Predator, thanks to the library, and whenever The Book Of The Dead finally appears (I keep seeing conflicting pub dates) I'll borrow it from work as well.
Notice that both of these are series mystery writers. I don't seem to have a problem making a break from romance authors. Why? Because romances don't follow the same character through a series of books (they wouldn't be romances otherwise). There is little to no chance for me to get invested to the point that I can't stop myself. Also, a lot of my absolute favorites in romance have either 1) retired 2) started writing a different sub genre (and I didn't make the transition for one reason or another) or 3) haven't hit a skid yet.
Also, both of these mystery authors in question I started reading as a teen - so I have serious attachment issues to both. I keep telling myself the next book will be better. Let's call this The Danielle Steel Syndrome.
As it is, I think I have a serious problem - and as long as work can feed my habit, I'm not sure I'll ever make a clean break entirely.
(And for the record, while I was disappointed in the latest Gerritsen, I'll be buying her next book).