Still the largest family of book clubs in the US, Bookspan has been quietly at work on ambitious new plans, PL has learned. A few months ago, with little fanfare, their “flagship” Book of the Month Club went dormant as a stand-alone club, integrating BOMC members in the companion club, The Literary Guild. (As best we can determine, the transition happened around August 1. The Wayback Machine last captured a BOMC home page in late July, and by August 7 the page was redirecting to the Literary Guild, which welcomed the old BOMC members. Also, the BOMC Facebook page went quiet as of August 1.)
Bigger than that transition, however, is a plan underway to rejuvenate BOMC. According to job listings from recent months, they have in the works a “re-launch” of Book of the Month Club, “one of our most well-known and historically important clubs.” The listing explains, “The redesigned club is a subscription service which provides members with a narrowly focused, high-quality mechanism for discovering new books and authors.” Once again they will recruit and “sign up a panel” of “well-known and trusted ‘judges’ who will select and feature 3 to 5 new titles each month.” Plans include “building anticipation for new selections prior to release and making a ‘splash’ announcement upon arrival.” Clearly they are trying to reinvent the model in which BOMC monthly selections played a major role in drawing attention to significant new releases and helping people decide what to read next. At least one of those positions has been filled recently by former Amazon Publishing editor Katie Salisbury, who has joined Bookspan as a product manager working on Book of the Month Club.
Meanwhile, it’s clear that Bookspan is innovating on other fronts as well, already moving forward with a division of publishing imprints. The first is Crooked Lane Books, a crime fiction line started earlier this year with former Minotaur/St. Martin’s editor Matthew Martz as editorial director. They describe themselves on their website as “a house that publishes the highest quality titles to crime fiction readers in both print and electronic editions.”
Crooked Lane is an imprint of a “publishing house” called Quick Brown Fox & Co., which appears to be a unit of Bookspan though does not formally declare itself so. Martz tells us that the two “are separate companies,” adding that, “Bookspan is a partner of ours, and we are planning to work with them to market a sub-set of our titles, which we think will work well in some of their book clubs.” He adds, “I founded Crooked Lane Books to focus on working with new- and mid-list authors in the crime fiction genres — I believe that this space is currently underserved and represents an opportunity.” They are “not quite ready to make an ‘official’ launch announcement” since various plans are still coming together, including “discussions with a number of marketing and distribution partners.”
The Crooked Lane site says: “Our business relationships include some of the most innovative and respected companies in the industry including Bookspan, home of the country’s largest book clubs. With this unique marketing and distribution relationship between Quick Brown Fox and Bookspan, Crooked Lane titles are offered by the clubs to millions of readers alongside of some of the biggest bestseller and most well-known authors.”
Longtime publishing entrepreneur and executive Dan Weiss serves as chief publishing consultant, working for them since April according to his LinkedIn page. At least one author, Christine Goff, lists herself as having a deal with Crooked Lane, saying she has a two-book deal for an international thriller series. She writes: “DARK WATERS will be released in 2015 as a ‘Pride of Club’ title, and available in HC and e-book through regular distribution.”