David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

On SF Signal: Are SF Series a Barrier to New Readers?

Today on SF Signal, I’ve got a mini-essay on their “Mind Meld” series. The question: are science fiction and fantasy series a hindrance to new readers? Do they leave the casual bookstore browser high and dry because inevitably not all of the books in a series will be available?

Quick excerpt from my response:

From a publishing perspective, series are absolutely not a barrier to gaining new readership. And there’s a simple reason why: more books on the shelves equals more bookstore real estate devoted to the author, which equals more of a chance that the author’s books will attract the attention of a potential reader. Once you’ve caught a reader’s interest, it’s easy enough for them to find the earlier books online, or (gasp!) special order them from the information counter.

You can also find responses from my editor Lou Anders, my pal Chris Roberson, my buddy John Joseph Adams, and a blogger named Joe Sherry who I don’t know from (John Joseph) Adam(s) but seems like a nice fellow. In fact, he linked to my website from his blog Adventures in Reading, so he must be a nice fellow. (And I’m happy to return the favor.)

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  1. Joe Sherry on March 6, 2008 at 12:54 pm  Chain link

    Sir,

    I appreciate the link. I’m quite blown away by the company I’m keeping on this Mind Meld. I look around the room and think, hmm, which one of these doesn’t belong?

  2. Scott on March 18, 2008 at 1:39 pm  Chain link

    Mr. Edelman,

    I responded to the Mind Meld question with one of my own:

    What ever happened to the smaller book? The 200pp-300pp book? Is it the market that has driven smaller books away, what with $8.99+ cover prices for a paperback and north of $27.00 for a hardback?

    I talked this over with a friend of mine and his response was that modern SF/F books (post-1980), the emphasis has been on world-building. Not as up-to-speed on modern SF/F novels as he is, I took his statement to be true.

    But back in the day, SF books were shorter. Granted, you had Dune and others but it seems to me that the emphasis was on a particular story rather than an entire fictional world.

    What is your take on the question? Is there a market for short SF books in the old pulp style? Or has the new Space Opera merged so completely with hard SF that we now have hard space opera?

    Thanks.
    ~Scott

  3. David Louis Edelman on March 18, 2008 at 8:46 pm  Chain link

    Scott: I think it’s a combination of a number of things. 1) It’s harder for writers to break into the business, and harder for them to stay in the business, so extended franchises are safe bets. 2) Books are much more expensive these days (as you note), so people don’t make as many impulse buys. 3) More informed consumers (cf. the Internet) tend to know what they want, and how to find it. As a result, less grazing. 4) Publishers have much lower profit margins than they used to, and now they’re all owned by big corporations who are very focused on the bottom line. Ergo: publishers want to publish safe bets. If the last book about erotic urban vampires sold, get the author to write another book about erotic urban vampires pronto.

  4. Matt Mitchell on March 19, 2008 at 9:12 am  Chain link

    I’m not so sure; personally, when I see that a book is a part of a series it kind of detracts from my urge to buy it, or even to check it out from the library. Especially if the first one I pick up is the second or third book in the series.

    Of course, it doesn’t matter if it’s a series I’ve kept up with all along. It only qualifies when I come across a series I haven’t read or heard about. If I pick up book 2 of the Hadradginum Series, I’ll just put it down without giving it the time of day. If I’ve heard of the author or the books, however, I might stick around long enough to find book 1. I guess I’m just contrary.

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