How do readers and authors find each other? That’s the eternal question, not only in the science fiction romance genre, but in general. The concept is known as discoverability from the author side of things and “How do I find something good to read?” from the reader viewpoint.
The ways to find new books used to be rather limited. You could spend delicious hours in a bookstore (can you tell I used to love to do this?), examining covers and reading the blurbs on the back, sampling the prose a bit, to see if the story could entice you to part with your money. Some of my fondest memories are going to the bookstore on Sunday afternoons with my Dad and sussing out new science fiction novels, especially Andre Norton.
A few years ago, there was one book I kept picking up and thinking about and then walking away from, and finally bought on my fourth trip to the bookstore, Heart Change by Robin D. Owens. That was my introduction to her Celta series, after which of course I ended up devouring all the books. It was the cover that attracted me initially. Never underestimate the power of a really well done piece of cover art.
Of course recommendations from friends – that viral “word of mouth” factor that is every author’s dream – are another good way to find new reads, IF your friends are into the genre you’re looking to read. I guess my Dad was the first person to give me “if you liked this, you’ll love that” science fiction recommendations. Since many of my friends these days are also science fiction romance authors, that helps. I’ve found all kinds of good books to read, and new-to-me authors, from Ruby Lionsdrake to Michelle Diner to M. K. Eidem to Susan Grant and more, based on word of mouth.
Additionally, recommendations from an author you respect and like can carry huge weight. In the old pre-ebook days, it was common to have a blurb or two on the cover from big names in the same genre. That’s still done of course, but when browsing for ebooks it’s not as attention-getting. I have to say it was an incredible moment for me when my favorite author, Nalini Singh, tweeted that she’d not only read my book Wreck of the Nebula Dream, but enjoyed it! I’m glad I didn’t know at the time that she was reading it or I’d have been a nervous wreck myself. It’s a thrill to have someone you respect and love to read, say they liked something you wrote. (And maybe some of her 29K twitter followers decided to try the book too. One can hope.)
A free offering is another, no risk way to find a new author.
There’s a whole group of us, some 800 strong, in the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, and under that banner we’re issuing a series of free samplers, known as Portals. Currently we plan four volumes, with varying heat levels. Each volume has ten first chapters from different authors, to allow a reader to try out different worlds at no risk and then make the jump to the rest of the book if they’re intrigued. I’m involved in the project and the first chapter of my award winning novel Mission to Mahjundar is in Volume One, along with nine other samples. We’ve got a structure behind Portals, including a web page, a newsletter and many other plans to enhance our discoverability. I was in charge of the cover design and you can imagine the issues trying to develop something that worked for 40 authors, who write different heat levels. Luckily my wonderful cover artist Fiona Jayde was willing to tackle the challenge for us. We refer to the slightly scruffy but sexy guy on the covers as our Portal Keeper.
The Amazon “also boughts” can be useful. That’s how I found Laurann Dohner after reading Lora Leigh and running out of new books in her Breeds series.
Speaking of series, that’s usually a golden opportunity for sourcing new books to read. Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, Christine Feehan’s Games (Conspiracy Game is my favorite), Rachel Bach’s Paradox series, Cara Bristol’s Cy-Ops cyborgs, Ilona Andrews (anything by this duo for me), Anna Hackett, Patricia Briggs, Michelle Diener…and usually I’ll cheerfully follow a favorite author into a new series as well. But not always! Oddly enough, sometimes I find I’m not a fan of a particular series, even with a favorite author’s ‘voice’. The other problem with a series is that like the tastiest chocolate cake, sometimes you’ve just had enough. I’ve burned out on a few along the way, not naming any names because it’s me as a reader, not them as an author.
Reviews on blogs, on Amazon, in Goodreads or elsewhere can be powerful and helpful. Maybe you love the tropes the one star reviewer hates, so off you go to buy! Or the themes that excited the five star reviewer are your catnip too.
Newsletters such as BookBub, Fussy Librarian and Book Barbarian can assist you in finding books you might otherwise have overlooked, and usually for free, or at a reduced price. They don’t necessarily identify science fiction romance as a category right now, so you can look for SFR in science fiction, fantasy or paranormal, which is a problem.
A few more resources I can recommend which are specific to science fiction romance include the Smart Girls Love SciFi blog, where every Wednesday they highlight new releases, special sales, cover reveals and more.
The SFR Station was set up by a noted SFR author to make it easier to search for new books in the genre (any SFR author can list books there) and a reader can browse by “pairing type”, subgenre, author or series. She also features new releases and audiobooks.
The SFR Quarterly is an online magazine offering reviews, craft articles, new releases, excerpts and short stories on occasion. Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express blog is a member of the SFRQ team and has been instrumental for literally years in bringing attention to science fiction romance. For a long time she was just about the only one out there trying to promote the genre and the books.
There’s the Queer SciFi website for “Sci Fi, Fantasy & Paranormal With a Bent Attitude”, and they also have an active discussion group on Facebook.
The SFR Galaxy Awards are given out annually by a team of top SFR bloggers and you can check their website for past recommendations.
Other places where the SFR community regularly discusses books, shares new-to-them authors and generally hangs out? The SFR Brigade has a fanpage. I’m in a very active SciFi Romance Group on Facebook where we keep promo to a strict minimum and encourage discussion of books and topics related to science fiction in general, but with an eye on the romance. I’m also one of six moderators for the SciFi Romance Goodreads group. We’ve created several Goodreads Lists to help identify SFR books and audiobooks the members loved.
And you can always check out my columns here at Amazing Stories and at USA Today Happily Ever After.
So where do you hear about new books?