Underground Reading: The Lonely Silver Rain by John D MacDonald

Collectible Titles: 2010 in Hype

A quick look at how the most hyped titles of 2010 are doing - from a collector's point of view. 

It is worth noting that "hype" is a slightly perjorative term. That's not intentional, in fact, from the marketing point of view, it is something to be congratulated: these are the books that cut through the noise to make enormous splashes. The question is, as the year winds up, did those splashes turn into anything more?

Also worth noting that any judgement I make on a book's collectibility is no reflection of that book's literary or artistic merit. This is purely about market factors. Also, this is all for fun, please don't invest your pension on the back of my advice. 

The main standard, as referenced in previous posts on collecting, is simply this: within six months, most books are worth less than their face value. This just makes sense - what is it that would make the hardcover worth the premium when the softcover is on the shelves? The recent influx of ebooks makes this change all the more pronounced. People buying books solely to read them (weirdos) are now able to do so all the more efficiently without ever having to resort to dead trees.

The-left-hand-of-god The Left Hand of God (HB January / PB August): Unsigned first editions are essentially worthless, routinely available for purchase at less than the paperback's price. There's still some buzz around the author's signature. On Abebooks, the asking price is 2-3x the cover price, and a quick check on eBay shows that signed copies are still moving at RRP.
Conclusion: Tentatively collectible (we got it wrong in July). It is holding its own, but the book isn't exactly hitting the jackpot.

Kraken (HB May / PB November): Urban fantasy + squid = extremely excited fans. Plus, of course, Mieville won every genre award on earth for his previous novel. All that and a Subterranean limited edition, just to keep things truly complicated. It seems that the factors are weighing out in favor of Kraken. Unsigned first editions are still hovering around the 50% mark (selling from £5 to £15), and asking prices for collectible copies range from 3-6x RRP. Signed copies are moving at slightly over RRP. 
Conclusion: Yup. Collectible. It may not sweep the awards like his last book, but anything Mieville writes will be earn serious consideration and discussion. His clockwork schedule & growing American following will keep him in in the spotlight as well. Or, to put it in another way, Kraken may very well be his last book that isn't printed in obscene quantities.

N253492 The Passage (HB June / PB November): Cronin's debut was an explosion of collectible shapes, sizes and formats. More dedicated bibliographers will be spending months trying to sort out all the varieties of "limited" edition that came with the massive launch of this vampire thriller. Seven months after release, signed hardcovers are still available on shelves although they've at least climbed back up to RRP. They're also successfully selling on eBay at RRP - although most enterprising sellers are having to throw in publicity items to try and give copies individuality. The 250-copy slipcase edition is commanding asking prices of £300-400 (although the only copies to have changed hands on eBay went for £175 and £40, with the latter being an outlier). (Worth noting that Goldsboro Books still sells a limited slipcase edition [possibly the same one?] for the original price of £250).
Conclusion: I was very down on the collectibility of this book when it came out, but it seems to be picking up some. That said, the flood of special editions seems to have successfully kept buyers from making any one variant properly collectible. 

Farlander (HB March / PB Unreleased [March 2011]): Ouch. The asking price of the proof is under the RRP on Farlander, not a good sign for something that's not even out in paperback yet - nor is the <£5 price of the first edition hardback. Signed copies, including the 150 copy limited edition, have asking prices of 2-3x RRP (although Goldsboro still have them in stock for £35...). There's just not a very large volume of trade here at all.
Conclusion: Nope. Unless there's an unlikely flare in value that comes with the noise of the paperback (or a wildly successful second volume), I'm going to stay pessimistic on this one.

Any others too look at? 2011 looks like a cracking year for collectors - lots of the Big Established Names will be publishing, so look for another burst of pricy proofs & a confusing array of numbered "limited" editions to keep you on your toes.