Fri
May 15 2009 5:11pm

Where do you find out about new books?

The other day, I found out Conspirator was out by seeing it on the publisher’s website. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever done that. Before I started writing here I never went to publishers’ websites—these days I have very firm opinions about them, and which ones are good, but before that even though I am in their core constituency, the publishers might as well have saved their HTML to cool their porridge as far as I was concerned.

The most common way I have historically found out that a book exists is to find it on the shelf in a bookshop. I will always remember the day when I literally screamed with surprised delight when I saw The Sign of The Unicorn on the shelf in Chapter and Verse—I’d read the first two, and it was immediately apparent that this was an Amber sequel, but I had no idea that there would ever be such a thing. These days, that’s a lot more unusual, and not just because I’m no longer fourteen. I often know about books before they’re published. I’m waiting for them. I read about them on writers’ blogs, or I see them listed in Locus, or I read reviews here, on on my friends’ blogs. I tend to hang out where people are talking about books. These days the books that surprise me in the bookshop tend to be non-genre books. I was surprised by the new A.S. Byatt while I was buying Conspirator.

Waiting for books that aren’t out yet is like waiting for next winter’s snows. I know they’re coming, but nothing I can do can make them get here faster.

A lot of the time, even though I know a book is on the way, I’ll find out that it’s actually been released because somebody will mention it online. Often one of my livejournal friends will say something like “Picked up Corambis!” Then, depending on how urgently I want it, I rush out immediately, or I make a mental note to check for it when I’m next in the bookshop, or I log in to the Grande Bibliotheque and see if they’re buying it, and if so, put in a reservation. Unlike many people I know, although I buy plenty of books I also continue to use libraries extensively.

The disadvantage of relying on word of mouth is that I can miss things people aren’t talking about. I’ll mostly spot them in the bookshop, because it’s not as if I don’t check the shelves obsessively every time I’m there. A Fistful of Sky was one of those—I had a “Where did that come from?” moment.

I was wondering how typical all this is, how other people these days find out that books they want exist, and that they’re out. Do you rely on spotting it on the shelves? Or word of mouth? Or do you check publishers’ websites? How about the “new books” listing on Locus online? Or are there other methods I should consider taking up?

37 comments
Bret Scott
1. BlacksmithButNotEmo
Jo, I'm a lot like you - most often, I stumble across new stuff in the book store. Very few people I know read the stuff I read, so word of mouth is basically useless to me. If there's an author I like, checking his website helps (Neal Stephenson, Clive Barker, Dan Simmons). Amazon has really stepped up in my world for notifications of late; I've bought a fair bit of stuff there and their database of my interests is fairly detailed (despite my wide-ranging interests). I've seen a fair bit of stuff on the Tor site that piques my interest, since I've been coming here for the WoT recaps. Haven't tried Locus yet...

Hate waiting for the next book in a series. Hate, hate, hate. I read fast enough that I'll just buy a whole series at a swoop, and avoid getting into a series in progress.
Zach Ricks
2. Zach Ricks
I'd refer you to some good podcasts that talk about new and upcoming releases.
I had been listening to Adventures in SciFi Publishing (http://www.adventuresinscifipublishing.com/), but unfortunately they are on hiatus for at least the next year (good backlog of interviews though). Here's hoping that comes back strong (and maybe sooner rather than later).

And there's always the one that got me started listening to podcasts in the first place - DragonPage Cover2Cover at http://www.dragonpage.com. Michael Stackpole (yes, THAT Michael Stackpole), and Michael Mennenga do a great job of staying on top of what's coming out, and again, lots of great interviews.
Jonathan Wood
3. JWood
Usually the blogosphere/twitter. A lot of my friends have similar tastes and read more than me. They blog/twit about reading something or being excited to read something. Or I actually talk to them (how last century). If it sounds like my sort of thing I'll get excited. I feel a little like a 2nd tier book discoverer.

I've also used Amazon recommends a couple of times. And chased down books by authors whose short fiction I've enjoyed, and also followed the book recommendations of author's I respect.

I do browse bookshelves in stores, but I really don't buy that many books (at least I didn't before my Audible subscription), so that's more just for the pleasures of bibliophilia than actually for purchasing something. If I do see something in the stores I'll go on-line and check out reviews, etc before buying anything, and usually it just goes on my ever-expanding Amazon wishlist.
Zach Ricks
4. SWS
Deepgenre.com asked this same question quite a while back, and many found books through their Amazon.com suggestions. I certainly do.
Heather Johnson
5. HeatherJ
Most of my book recommendations lately come from book blogs, publisher newsletters, and other book-focused emails. Since I discovered book blogs my to-be-read list has grown exponentially - I LOVE all the suggestions I'm getting that way.
Pablo Defendini
6. pablodefendini
Mostly online, but that's 'cause I live here, so the phrase "mostly online" applies to most facets of my life, from book selection to ordering dinner (grubhub.com, I love you). Particularly, services like Twitter allow me to connect to booksellers from all over, who know me and my tastes and recommend books to me.
Stephanie Leary
7. sleary
I use the Locus listing quite a bit, but more often I hear about upcoming books from friends -- or directly from the few authors I like enough to follow, if they have blogs that are equipped with feeds. (If it doesn't have comments or a feed, it is not a blog. AHEM, Charlaine Harris and Jacqueline Carey.)

I use publishers' sites only when I'm looking for an author who doesn't have a site of their own. Once or twice I've signed up for the publisher's email notification of new releases, but I've never actually received one. Ditto Amazon's, come to think of it. I'd rather have a feed than an email, anyway; the email is all too likely to get eaten by my spam filters.

IOW, authors without blogs are generally not on my radar unless they're very popular and thus likely to be brought up in conversation.

I would love NY publishers to be as communicative as Subterranean Press is. SubT announces new acquisitions in its email newsletter and then periodically mentions the production status ("Got cover art," "shipping next week," etc.) -- and the order link is included every time the book is mentioned. Pretty effective marketing, judging by my credit card statements. (Plus, there are seldom any nasty surprises about delayed manuscripts. I've had a couple of Amazon pre-orders abruptly canceled recently. Not my favorite way of finding out there's a problem.) I'd love SubT's updates even more as a blog, because I can't easily link to or tweet the email newsletter.
Lou Anders
8. LouAnders
I like Fantasy Book Critic's monthly cover run down, and I go in to the store once a week to eyeball new releases. In terms of choosing what to read, I really like author interviews to give me a feel for their sensibilities.
Zach Ricks
9. Nina A
One of my favortie resources for finding out what's coming out in both the US and the UK is my local indie bookstore's online newsletter. It has a large collector customer base, so gets in a large number of Uk eds of things-I just got my City and the City from there. Here's a link to the most recent edition
http://www.poisonedpen.com/current-booknews
Max Kaehn
10. mithriltabby
I find a fair amount from the blogs of authors I read, including John Scalzi’s Big Idea posts. A longstanding habit of mine has been to pick up an author’s book if I liked how they spoke at a convention, and I treat the SF-writer blogosphere as an extended convention for this purpose. LiveJournal is very handy that way, as I may discover one writer from their comments in another’s journal.
Leonardo Limm
11. dirty_leo
I follow blogs and the sffworld.com forums... They're all one needs to be overwhelmed with new book announcements, reviews etc. So much to read... so little time...
Paul Weimer
12. PrinceJvstin
@LouAnders

I also rely on publishers like you, Lou, who are proactive in putting out blog posts and newsletters about forthcoming books in your imprint. I'll often do more research (visit the author's website, visit amazon, etc) but it provides a nice heads up to add to some of the ideas mentioned above.

That's how you, ahem, hooked me on a few of your authors... :)
John Skotnik
13. ShooneSprings
More recently, I have used Tor.com to find new books, which would have otherwise remained unknown to me.
The last book I read that I was previously unaware of was Patient Zero - I saw a banner ad which linked to a blog post containing the first couple chapters and I was hooked.

Similarly, I plan to get Norse Code, which has recently been playing on the banners here as well as featured in a post or two.
Emily Cartier
14. Torrilin
I stalk authors I like online, so I know when they have a new book out. It is *ever* so much easier to see them mention "Half a Crown is out", open up a tab, hit the library's website and place a hold (or send a politely whiny email about the lack of listing). I've also learned that if Author A mentions a love of some *other* author, I should go seek that other author out. It gives me something new to read! Stalking makes it much easier to find new reading ideas.

Also, I kind of enjoy seeing when a favorite author is done with the book, or done with page proofs. I don't need daily word counts, but since I know a book usually comes out about a year after turn-in, it's easier to cherish hope. Daily page counts aren't necessary for me to keep stalking. (really, in a lot of cases, a finished book isn't needed... authors I like tend to write pretty vividly about things as objectively boring as a dog who likes to eat mulch)
Zach Ricks
15. Tim Pratt
I work at Locus, so I'm pretty well set when it comes to SF/fantasy stuff. For other genres, I find recommendations in blog/twitter posts, some print reviews, hear suggestions from friends, and see things on the new shelf at the library.

I spend a lot of my time reading OLD books though -- finding an author I like and devouring their backlist.
Richard Fife
16. R.Fife
My current book and the two of my other recent reads I got from Tor.com in one way or another. Also picked up Mistborn at JordanCon (I'm a sucker for free books, what can I say?)

But, my usual MO is actually the bookstore. I love to just peruse the SFF section and read back-covers/duskjackets. Fairly hit or miss on whether I like it or not, but its a grand adventure.

I do get occasional friend recommendations, which got me into Wheel of Time and Sword of Truth, and occasionally meeting an author can inspire me to buy (best example is when I met Pat Rothfuss at DragonCon). So I guess I'm all over the place. Keeps me busy.
Paul Howard
17. DrakBibliophile
Currently most of my book buying is ebooks so I find most of my new books on-line at the ebook sites like Fictionwise and BooksOnBoard.

However, I also check upcoming books on Amazon.com and the Barnes & Noble site.

Unfortunately, I don't live near any of the bigger books stores to browse like I've done in the past.
Karen Lofstrom
18. DPZora
I haven't been inside a bookstore for ages. Arthritis. Hurts. I order online.

As a consequence, I usually find new books online. However, it's hit or miss. Sometimes I don't find out about books until several years after they've been published.

The Tor ebook giveaway that inaugurated this site introduced me to authors I've since read with pleasure. I wish there were something like a First Page SF site where I could read the first page of every new book that came out (from reputable publishers, that is). Or perhaps just a first para. If you like that, click through for first page. If you like that, click through for first chapter. If you like that, then you can buy the ebook :)
Felicity Shoulders
19. Felicity
I discovered when I started using Goodreads and LibraryThing that I often fill in 'Powell's sale table' and 'Powell's Daily Dose' under 'recommended by'. These are the wages of living in Portland, OR. I have little resistance to the little red and yellow sale stickers Powell's uses. I also go to readings that sound interesting, both at P's and other places, and pick up a book if I'm impressed.

I do keep an eye on my friends' reading with Goodreads and LibraryThing, and if I see one of their reviews that looks interesting, it's easy to add it to a 'to-read' category and never lose it again. And of course, friends often insist I MUST READ such-and-such when we're gabbing in person.

Since the advent of the shiny new Tor.com, there have been several additions to my to-read list inspired by Jo Walton reviews here. To a lesser extent I add books, especially non-fiction books, from blog mentions.
Zach Ricks
20. Shireling
DPZora @18, what a great idea -- a First Page SF(F) site. Or a First Chapter.

scifi.com used to be a great source of new book recommendations. They had 2 or 3 new reviews a week. The reviewers were SF writers themselves, and the books were rated (A, B, C). Then the site was overhauled and the book reviews disappeared. Does anyone know of something similar? SFsite.com is OK, but they don't review that many books.

Publisher sites are good for notice of something specific, or if they post an excerpt.

Going cold to the bookstore doesn't work for me. I need a LIST, d***it.
Gary Gibson
21. garygibson
Where I am (Taiwan) most of the available English books are less varied than what you find in an airport. So I get most of my ideas from the net (keeping in mind i now more or less exclusively buy ebooks). I've sometimes picked up ideas for purchases from random mentions on writer's blogs, and I've discovered one or two writers through free ebook giveaways.
Zach Ricks
22. Michael M Jones
I watch a hell of a lot of author Livejournals, and the general word of mouth there keeps me up to date not just on their own stuff, but that of their friends, neighbors, coworkers, people with whom they share an agent, and so on and so forth.
Beyond that, I scour Amazon.com and use their Wish List feature as a way to track authors and books I know are coming out, cross-referencing it with Barnes and Noble's site to know when something's hit my area. Amazon is good because they have suggestions, like "People who bought X, also bought Y and Z..."

Beyond THAT, there's the Locus list. And http://www.scifiguy.ca/search/label/Forthcoming%20Books and http://walkerofworlds.blogspot.com/ and http://tezmilleroz.wordpress.com/.

As a reviewer, I also get catalogs from some publishers, and books in the mail.

I also scour every bookstore I come across, because my methods are still not thorough enough for my tastes, and I'm still likely to stumble across things I wouldn't have known about otherwise, either from new authors or ones who snuck up on me.

In short, I get most of my information from the Internet.

Shireling: I personally recommend SF Site, even though they don't review as many books as I'd like, and Green Man Review (www.greenmanreview.com).

For me, hunting books is a constant thing, full of strange and wonderful treasures.
Zach Ricks
23. afterthefallofnight
Sheesh, I feel like an old fuddy duddy.

I read the reviews in Locus, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov and Analog. For the last several years, most of my discoveries have come from those reviews, especially the Locus reviews. I still browse book stores and sometimes something will catch my eye. Sometimes a friend will recommend a new story or author.

I can't remember the last time I discovered a new author or story via an online source. It certainly has not happened very often.
George Baker
24. wraeththu
Like afterthefallofnight, I rely on the reviews and listings in Locus for the bulk of my sf and fantasy book-release knowledge. The magazine and Web site continually amaze me with their comprehensiveness. I also pay attention to the newsletter that Uncle Hugo's in Minneapolis publishes quarterly, which captures some titles that even Locus misses, as well as contains a hefty list of upcoming mystery and suspense titles.

For "mainstream" releases, there's not a comparable single resource (unfortunately). I find out about many titles from the reviews in the New York Times Book Review, though I've seen a narrowing of the scope of what they cover over the past few years. Like many of the previous commenters, I've found out about books through Amazon recommendations (both US and UK), and author Web sites and blogs are also becoming increasingly useful.

As an aside, about 80 percent of what I read I obtain through the public library. The rest--titles that aren't available from the library or are by authors I collect--I purchase from Amazon or the publishers' sites.
Jo Walton
25. bluejo
Wraeththu: On reading your comment I googled for Uncle Hugo's, a bookshop I've enjoyed visiting when I was in Minneapolis. I found their livejournal, and in the "new books this week" I saw that had Tolkien's Sigurd and Gudrun right next to my Lifelode. This made me literally breathless for a moment. It's not that I don't know I'm a real writer, it's just that I didn't know I was quite that real.
René Walling
26. cybernetic_nomad
I randomly come across books as I wander through life. I do help matters along by checking out every pile of books for sale my eyes come across and knowing a bunch of writers. I also go to quite a few conventions and other events.

Also, I have this neighbour who read a lot and who often recommends great books (old and new) I didn't know ;)
John Massey
27. subwoofer
It's hard to find a good read. The library thing is what gets me through sometimes. There are recommends and -can't find the link- book club reviews that are either hit or miss. Unfortunately time/ or a lack thereof limits my ability to read like I used to, balancing a career and family etc., so when I sit down to read it has to be something I really want.

On the other hand, if Oprah recommends something, I promptly run the other way. The net is the fastest way to filter through info sometimes. But it has it's own way of editing content, so it is nice to sometimes touch a real book and see what's inside.
Zach Ricks
28. Tony Zbaraschuk
Amazon gets a lot of the credit these days, but I've been training it for eleven years, so for books by authors I already love, it's usually the first warning I had. Used to read the LOCUS new books issues with great attention, but my book-buying budget has basically saturated the available rate.

I'll still see new books, or books from yet unknown authors, in the bookstore (it's one reason I go!), but usually if (say) David Weber or that Robert Jordan guy are publishing something new, I heard about it from Amazon a year ago and pre-ordered, or something like that.

This does bring up the very important difference between searching and browsing, in the Internet era. Searching is "Google me this thing I want", and it works very well and lots of effort has been exerted to make it so... if you know what you want.

Browsing is serendipity, "I never knew THIS existed... IT MUST BE MINE!", and it's one reason I expect bookstores to continue to flourish. Though sites like this one, or favorite blogs, also bring up things I hadn't known I wanted until I read about them. (Some blogs are very very good at recommending stuff I'll at least take another look at, which is I read them... focused serendipity, not quite surprise.)

But surprise will always have a role to play.
Sandi Kallas
29. Sandikal
Like Felicity @ 19, I rely heavily on GoodReads. I have several people on my friends list who somehow manage to get ARCs of new books. (Hint, I love ARCs.) I also have several GoodReads friends who always have to read the latest and greatest. They're my best resource. GoodReads also has a giveaway program that's growing more popular with authors and publishers. I've won about 6 or 7 books through that program, several of which hadn't even been released yet. Even if I don't win a book I'm interested in, the giveaway program introduces me to books that are coming out. I would like it so much better if some of the major science fiction/fantasy publishers would use it.

Like several others, Amazon is a fabulous resource lately. I've purchased enough books through them that the recommendations are getting pretty good. I really love that they notify me when new books by authors I've read before are coming out so I can pre-order.
Zach Ricks
30. Terry Weyna
I find out about new books all over the place. I subscribe to a number of different reviews, including the New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, Locus, Mystery Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and a few others. I read numerous blogs. I get recommendations from Amazon. I'm a regular on LibraryThing and BookBalloon. I haunt bookstores and the library.

But this is the first I've heard of A.S. Byatt's new book -- so thanks, Jo, because now my wish list is one book longer!
M T
31. Firekeeper
Almost entirely online. Either author websites, Amazon's lists, sffworld forums or Goodreads.

I have one friend whose tastes run alongside mine sometimes, so I've gotten a few out of him. Mostly, though, I find books by digging through recommendations/currently reading lists at the previously mentioned sites.
Brian McCullogh
32. webmccullogh
I still love browsing in bookstores on a regular basis but I usually get my advance information from Locus and many of the online sources listed in previous comments. I would also like to recommend Don D'Ammassa's web site Critical Mass, and another interesting review site is SFRevu.
Zach Ricks
33. Colleen Mondor
Most books I find are through book blogs - the interviews at Bookslut will often get me searching out an interesting author. I've also been a reader of several lit blogs for years and found that we like similar titles (Gwenda Bond and Jenny Davidson for sure). I think the lit blogosphere works well if you are patient and follow links until you find a lit blogger with similar taste to your own. In my experience this results in a lot of good book recs.

After I became a reviewer for Booklist I pretty much hit the holy grail of book news - the magazine comes every two weeks and its full of new releases. That pretty much covers everything I don't find from book blogs.

I also second what was said above about Subterranean Press and Powells Books blog; both are great resources. I do follow several author blogs but not so much to learn about their new books (which I do appreciate staying on top of) but also because I find their blogs generally entertaining. Cherie Priest has an excellent blog for example.
Zach Ricks
34. Neil in Chicago
Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing this up!
With the decline in independent bookstores, the proliferation of small presses, and the still daunting challenge of finding the info you really want online, this is a serious issue that I've been suggesting as a con panel topic for a year or two.
The diversity of answers here reconfirms the problem.
Becca Hollingsworth
35. bibliobeque
I am a librarian, so I have easy access to Booklist, Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly. Library Journal offers their prepub announcements and a fair number of reviews as RSS feeds, which is also incredibly handy.

To see if a favorite author has a new book coming up, I rely heavily on Fantastic Fiction. They have "coming soon" lists that can be sorted by genre, but I don't use those much.
S. L. Casteel
36. castiron
Online reviews, mostly -- both more formal review sites and brief "I read this" posts from acquaintances.

For favorite authors, I regularly check Amazon to see if there's a new book forthcoming (and often go ahead and preorder it if there is one), though after Amazonfail and various of their doings I'm debating whether I want to continue giving Amazon my book dollars.

My library's online hold system also helps. When I see a book that sounds interesting and that's been out a while, I can check the library catalog and reserve it if they have it; a few days later, they email me to come to my local branch to pick it up. (And if the book's too new for the library to have, I stick it on a separate Amazon wishlist for books I want to check out at the library, and six months later when they have it I'll be reminded of it.)
Adam Callaway
37. Weirdside
If it's one of my favorite authors, I scour google until I find some sort of informative nugget on their next project. Otherwise I peruse amazon and amazon.co.uk to find the really early pre-releases, the ones without any description save for the title and author. The only local bookstore around here is a B&N and they have a pathetic speculative section.

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