Sunday, March 17, 2013

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More Adventures In Sci-Fi Romance: In Which I Attempt To Hand-Sell SFR To A Fan of Stephenie Meyer’s THE HOST

This is the edition that was on the table

I recently volunteered at the book fair of my daughter’s school. One of the tables had a small selection of adult titles. Among the many recipe books (sigh) and general fiction was a stack of Stephenie Meyer’s THE HOST (TGE regular contributor Agent Z blogged about it here back in 2008). I thought nothing of it until I overheard a conversation during some downtime.

One of the other volunteers, another mom, started describing THE HOST to someone she knew. Given the small confines of the room I couldn’t help but overhear. In describing the story, she categorized it as science fiction, but she also made a point of saying it wasn’t too "science fictiony" (I’m paraphrasing). As in, no space ships or little green aliens.

She brought up the story’s character-driven, introspective nature. No surprise given the story’s focus. This volunteer was basically gushing about THE HOST, and during the course of the morning she started hand-selling it to yet another volunteer. At that point, I started thinking, “Surely there’s a similar SFR title I can tell this woman about.” My hope was that if she enjoyed THE HOST as much as she said she did, she might be interested in checking out another title.

Taking a deep breath, I approached her. Mind you, I never get the chance to hand-sell science fiction romances to people I encounter in my daily life. This is new territory for me. On top of that, I didn’t even know the woman’s name. Still, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by.

A title came to mind immediately. I knew it had to be a mainstream print book. Even though I snarl at the idea of the wide, artificial divide between print and digital, print still carries more weight with many people. It was the safest bet, all things considered.

The interaction progressed pretty quickly. I walked up to her and basically said, “You like THE HOST, right? Well then, you might enjoy a book called GHOST PLANET by Sharon Lynn Fisher. Similar premise to THE HOST.” (In my head, I’m thinking of the alien symbiotic element present in both stories.) “It’s like the film SOLARIS. Remember the version of SOLARIS with George Clooney?” (This is the point where the woman’s eyes light up—she’d heard of George Clooney!) “Yeah,” I continued, “GHOST PLANET is kinda like that. I think you’d like it.”

The woman listened politely and nodded as I spoke. Was she really interested in reading another science fiction romance? Impossible to tell. But the goal was to plant a seed, and that’s what I did.

Hand-selling in person is both easy and challenging at the same time. Easy, because coming up with titles to pitch is a no-brainer. Challenging because there’s always the risk of rejection. She didn’t know me from Eve so my opinion might not have carried any weight.

Plus there’s the issue of author status. Stephenie Meyer is a celebrity author. If the book fair woman is only a casual reader, the chances of her reading anything beyond Meyer’s work is low. She probably read THE HOST because it was authored by Meyer and therefore prominently displayed in bookstores, not because it was a science fiction romance. GHOST PLANET has yet to prove itself as a contender.

On the plus side, from what I overheard about her interpretation of the science fictional elements, she seemed to have a new perspective on science fiction in general. At least with this reader, THE HOST informed her that science fiction is a broader genre than space battles and Bug Eyed Monsters would have one believe. One can only hope readers like her will be primed to explore other SFRs along the lines of THE HOST. 

Here's an idea--maybe Sharon Lynn Fisher's publisher--Tor--ought to start regularly comparing GHOST PLANET to THE HOST! Perhaps as a great companion book for the forthcoming feature film. I'm thinking a strategy along the lines of "If you like THE HOST..."

Thanks for reading about my latest SFR adventure! I’m curious—have you ever had a chance to hand-sell science fiction romance titles to anyone in person? Would you ever approach a stranger if the conditions were right?

Joyfully yours,