Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Any of you members of the SFBC?

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!

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6 Comments Any of you members of the SFBC?

  1. elaine t

    Brennan’s said on her blog that she’s planning a series. I look forward to the next. I enjoyed ANHoD, but there weren’t enough dragons.

    I used to belong to SFBC, but dropped it long ago, so I can’t opine much there. They did offer good deals, and sometimes were the only source for hardcovers. But I (& then we) didn’t find enough to buy from them to continue membership. We’re running into the finding new books problem though. If the library doesn’t have it, and the local bookstores have all closed (we HAD a Borders ten minutes walk away….), how to discover new authors or books? I do through blogs (here, for instance), or samples to my Kindle. My husband doesn’t want to go Kindle and likes to browse in stores – but the last several times we’ve made the trek to B&N what we find is almost all paranormal/urban fantasy romance. (And the GRIFFIN omnibus, but we already own those!) He picked up a couple things from an airport bookstore on his last business trip and that’s it.

    I just finished RIVER OF STARS. Got paper & Kindle, and read it on both, depending on where I was. Further comments deleted in case of spoilerific stuff.

    Last night I dug out Well’s WHEEL to reread since you’ve praised it so highly. I’d been put off somewhat by CITY OF BONES – possibly for the reasons you articulated below, I don’t recall as it was over ten years ago – and WHEEL didn’t work for me then. So far it is going better this time, all of 80 pages or so in.

  2. David H.

    I didn’t understand how the SFBC worked when I first signed up for it–I was just trying to get the Barsoom set for my dad for Christmas and I didn’t realize some of the terms and I ended up buying more than I really intended (the Griffin Mage omnibus being one of the intended purchases!). But as soon as I could, I dropped it since the last few years has just seen the library getting 80% of my reading business and I can’t afford to keep buying books unless I’ve got gift cards. Plus, I still have 10 books from SFBC that I haven’t gotten around to reading, and I got the last of them a year ago. :-(

  3. Michelle

    I am still a member. I mainly use it to get the Omnibus editions (I also have the Griffin Mage edition), and some favorite books in hardcover. I usually wait for the sales or free shipping.

  4. Rachel

    Michelle — yes, I’m a lot more inclined to pick up Omnibus editions than single volumes, and definitely when there’s a sale. Or I buy something I KNOW I’ll love and something else to go with it. I hope you got a Griffin Mage copy without that dreadful typo on the last page!

    David H — it can take me years and years to get to something that’s on my TBR shelves but by a new-to-me author. I’ve got at least a couple SFBC edition books down there now that have probably been on the shelves for three to five years. Too many books, too little time, right?

    Elaine — good to hear Brennen’s definitely planning a sequel! The lack of dragons in the first book didn’t bother me ONLY because there were so many hints of things to come.

    Ack, yes, the last time I walked through the SFF section at a real bookstore, it seemed like EVERY book was a paranormal romance! Even if you like paranormals, how in the world are you supposed to pick one out of the crowd? And Good Lord, but there’s more to SFF than paranormals! Without blogs / friend recommendations, it’d be hopeless.

  5. Gary Pooler

    I’ve been a member of SFBC for nearly thirty years myself. On and off before that because they used to cancel your membership if you hadn’t bought a book within a certain period of time. Things have definitely changed. I think I might have a book or two that I got with my introductory package, all those years ago, that I still haven’t read. I completely agree with what has been said about deals and omnibuses. If only there were ‘Time Enough At Last’ without the broken glasses.

    (…”You’ve read all of these?” he asked.

    “Naw,” Alan said, falling into the rote response from his proprietorship of the bookstore. “What’s the point of a bunch of books you’ve already read?”)

    Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town
    by Cory Doctorow

  6. Rachel

    Wow. I’m pretty sure I have absolutely no books that I’ve owned for anything like thirty years but never read. I guess the average tenure on the TBR shelves is something like a year — though naturally I read some the same week they arrive and get to others much more slowly.

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