Tuesday, May 9, 2023

The Crime Club Magazine by Collins

In the United Kingdom, Collins took a unique approach to running The Crime Club compared to other book clubs. Unlike traditional clubs, membership was free, and books were distributed through booksellers and libraries. Instead of sending titles directly to readers each month, a newsletter/magazine was provided, featuring a list of forthcoming titles. This method can be seen as more of a marketing promotion than a gatekeeping distribution strategy.

Informed club members had the advantage of being able to promptly visit their local bookshops or libraries and be among the first to access their favorite authors' works. Agatha Christie, a renowned author, regularly released her books as Collins Crime Club editions, adding to the club's appeal.

The back cover blurb of The Murder at the Vicarage highlights that the reach of detective novels extends to a diverse audience, including cabinet ministers, business magnates, specialists from Harley Street, prominent judges, bishops, religious leaders, teachers, and individuals from all walks of life. Collins aimed for an educated readership, and their promotional materials reflected an open-minded approach to their broad range of readers. The Crime Club magazine specifically emphasized the high-quality writing of Murder on the Orient Express in its advertisement for the title, further showcasing their commitment to exceptional literature.

Spring 1934 Crime Club Magazine

Classic Crime Fiction has been kind enough to digitize the entire ten-page Collins Crime Club newsletter from the spring of 1934.  I've added a couple of screenshots here to liven-up the visuals, and recommend viewing the entire issue on their site if you are so inclined. 

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Once again, if you'd like to read the entire newsletter, please visit Classic Crime Fiction.

Details About The Crime Club Newsletter Magazine

Customers who enrolled in the Collins Crime Club had the opportunity to receive regular newsletters, mailed to them every three months. These newsletters served as a valuable source of information, informing members about the latest crime books that had been released or were scheduled to be published. Collins had a clear plan in mind: to unveil three new crime books on the first Monday of each month. These selections were carefully curated by a panel of experts, led by Cyril Alington, who diligently handpicked one book as the prestigious "Selection" of the month, while designating the other two as "Recommended" choices.

As a marketing strategy, the club proved to be highly successful, attracting a substantial subscriber base. In fact, Collins proudly boasted of having 25,000 subscribers in 1934, a testament to the appeal of their offerings. The popularity of the club led to an expansion in the number of books published, surpassing the initial promise of three books per month. This trend continued, peaking in 1938 with an impressive 42 books published, showcasing the Crime Club's dedication to providing crime fiction enthusiasts with a wide range of captivating reads.

The Collins Crime Club newsletter played a significant role in engaging members and promoting upcoming titles. It served as a means of communication and anticipation for readers interested in crime and mystery literature.  

Content: The newsletter contained a variety of content related to crime fiction. Alongside the list of forthcoming titles, it featured articles, reviews, author interviews, and recommendations. The content aimed to provide readers with valuable insights into the world of crime writing and keep them informed about the latest releases.

Author Spotlights: The newsletter often highlighted specific authors, allowing readers to delve into their background, writing style, and notable works. These author spotlights gave readers a deeper understanding of the writers behind their favorite crime novels and introduced them to new authors to explore.

Exclusive Offers: The newsletter occasionally included exclusive offers, such as special editions, limited releases, or collector's items. These offers provided members with unique opportunities to enhance their crime fiction collection and access rare or highly sought-after editions.

Reader Interaction: Collins Crime Club valued the opinions and feedback of its readers. The newsletter encouraged reader participation through features like letters to the editor, book recommendations from members, and reader polls. This interactive element fostered a sense of community among crime fiction enthusiasts.

Extras and Extras Plus: In addition to the standard newsletter, Collins Crime Club introduced "Extras" and "Extras Plus" inserts. These inserts provided additional content, such as short stories, puzzles, quizzes, and other crime-related diversions. They added an extra layer of enjoyment and entertainment for readers.

The Collins Crime Club newsletter went beyond a mere list of forthcoming titles. It offered a comprehensive reading experience, combining informative articles, author features, exclusive offers, and opportunities for reader engagement. It catered to the interests and passions of crime fiction fans, creating a sense of anticipation and connection within the community.

The War Years

During the challenging times of World War II, the Collins Crime Club faced significant difficulties due to paper shortages. In 1942, the club regretfully announced that it could no longer produce quarterly newsletters as a result. Additionally, the page count of their books was significantly reduced, ranging from an average of 252-280 pages to 160-192 pages. To accommodate these changes, smaller typefaces were employed, and the quality of paper used was inferior. Moreover, the production of new books saw a drastic decline, reaching an all-time low in 1946 with only 16 new releases.

The Enclosed Postcard

The Collins Crime Club newsletter prominently featured a recurring footer message encouraging members to "Re-Enrol Now!" and providing instructions to fill out the enclosed postcard. This postcard served as a means for members to renew their membership and stay connected with the club.


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