I keep my membership partly as a way to watch trends and partly to keep an eye on which of my titles they offer how often. And I suppose a little bit to buy books. The SFBC is awfully expensive even with the deals they offer, but sometimes I’ll pick up a title I’m positive I’ll love from them, and when I do I usually add a couple more titles to take advantage of whatever deal is on at the moment, three for the price of two or whatever.
I’m pretty wary of their book descriptions now, though. They have some very good copy writers and I don’t know how often I’ve been tempted into buying a book by an author I don’t know; often that’s led to a disappointing experience. Now I seldom try a new author via the SFBC.
Anyway, I’ve been a member off and on for . . . I don’t know . . . must be close to thirty years? Something like that. How times have changed, right? The SFBC mailing used to be all novels all the time, or so my memory suggests. These days there’s tons of graphic novels and manga and stuff like that in the middle of nearly every month’s mailing; that’s new. Not useful to me because I’m seldom interested, but it tells me that a lot of the readership has moved toward graphic forms.
There are 28 paranormals offered this month, counting three-in-one volumes as one but also including zombies, which arguably don’t belong in the same category. Lots are by specific authors: seven or eight titles by Kim Harrison, the same from Jim Butcher. I can definitely see that offering a whole page devoted to one author might be a good marketing strategy.
There’s a two-page spread on dragons this month. That’s eye-catching. Robin Hobb, Naomi Novik, and Ann McCaffrey — with Brennen’s recent A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS thrown in. I do hope there’s a sequel to that one.
Several pages showing three-in-one or two-in-one volumes; obviously that’s an excellent marketing strategy. I’m certainly more willing to pay $17 plus S&H for a three-in-one trilogy. Plus, hey, the Griffin Mage trilogy is in that section, next to Patricia Briggs, so that’s excellent.
I have definitely noticed a ton of repetition of titles over the course of the year; once your book is picked up by the SFBC, it seems likely to appear in approximately every other mailing. That’s great for authors, so Yay! As a reader, I wouldn’t mind a little more variety. I do know people who buy MOST of their genre books via the SFBC, if you can believe that, and I have to say, they are certainly missing the great bulk of all good books by limiting themselves that way. Keep in mind that I live way out where the nearest bookstore is more than an hour’s drive away, and you really can’t browse on Amazon. I get book recs from blogs, mostly; I can see that if you haven’t found a handful of blogs you trust, it would be very difficult to have any idea what’s out there that you might like.
This month, the most appealing offering (for me) is RIVER OF STARS by Guy Gavriel Kay. Gotta pick that one up sometime, I know I’ll love it. There are quite a few other titles I know are good because I already have them, but very few new titles that I would pick up without a blogger recommendation. Some award nominees, unsurprisingly. 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, for example — right across from Heinlein’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. (I did say that titles, once the SFBC acquires them, never go away.)
These days they often have a couple of pages where they show thumbnails of their current top twenty — that’s a feature of this month’s mailing. Orson Scott Card’s RUINS is number one this month. That’s nice to see, because he certainly can write, though I don’t like all of his books. I’m definitely not interested in the Star Wars tie-in novels, but they have several excellent titles on the list this month.
Anyway — not dropping my membership any time soon. It really is an interesting way to see what’s selling in the current market, sometimes the offers are pretty good, and hey — it’s still a thrill to seem one of my titles right there next to authors I admire!