Monday, June 30, 2014

Picking Up the Gauntlet

So because of my post last week, I received a lot of spirited defenses of self/indy publishing, many of which struck me as missing the central point I was making: that agents and editors dig through a lot of crap to find the things they publish.  Several people argued that "people aren't waiting for publishers to tell them what to read, they're listening to reviews and recommendations from friends."  What this fails to recognize is that traditional publication is, in essence, a powerful form of recommendation: someone said, "I think this book is so worth reading, I'm financially backing it." 

So powerful that many reviewers and sellers take notice.  It is on that recommendation that most reviewers will accept the book to read.  (Most will not review self/indy books.)  It is on that recommendation that the sellers-- bookstores-- agree to stock it.  (Many will not stock self/indy books.)  And the individual people who work there will give their personal opinions to the customers.

So don't tell me that no one is listening to publishers for recommendation, because that is literally what the traditional model is.

The other argument I heard boiled down to, "Thanks to indy/self publishing, so many amazing books that wouldn't have seen the light of day are now available.  Readers can decide for themselves."

This may well be true.

I'm game.  I'd like to know what some of these amazing books are.  So, I'd like to hear some recommendations.

But wait!  I've got some rules.

1. You can't recommend your own book. The main reason for this is I think recommending your own book undermines the point of "so many amazing books are now available".  If you just tell me about your own book, what you're telling me is that you don't really care about all those amazing books, other than in the abstract sense of how promoting the idea helps your own book.  You're not telling me how indy/self helps readers "decide for themselves", you're telling me how indy/self helps writers sell their books.    If the system really is for the benefit for the readers, I want to know how it benefited you as a reader

2. No recommendations that started indy/self and then were picked up by a traditional publisher.  Because they've already received that recommendation bump.  I can find them in the traditional market, even if their path there wasn't entirely traditional.  Recommend something that I can't find on the traditional market.

So let's hear some recommendations!  Put my money where your mouth is.


Unknown said...

The lack of enough books in my genres recently to support my reading-on-the-train habit has left me digging through indie books a lot.

Top recommendations:

Christopher Nuttall's Ark Royal (it's a trilogy, but the first book was written as a stand-alone so works fine on its own.

Ryk Brown's Frontier Saga, starting with Aurora: CV-01
This one does lead very obviously into the series, but the first one was good enough I've kept reading.
(or you can pick up the first three for a bit more here:

Thirdly, the Battlecruiser Alamo series by Richard Tongue is also really good:

And I don't need to recommend my own books because you already know about them ;)

Mike Reeves-McMillan said...

I maintain a whole database of such books:

Larry Kollar said...

I don't think self/indy publishing needs a defense. If it wasn't already successful, large publishers and their industry organs wouldn't be trying to trash it. But that was last week.

There are a lot of stories that publishers won't look twice at, not because they aren't "worthy" (by whoever makes that decision) but because they don't fit the perceived commercial models.

First example: novellas. They're a perfect fit for readers who need to kill a couple hours on a boring road trip or a rainy afternoon, but regular publishers won't pick them up without an extra 20K-30K words worth of padding. Check out:
Occupation by LazerusInfinity (zombie hunters in New Orleans)
Dead Man's Hand by Icy Sedgwick (a ghostly Western)

Second example: unique stories that don't fit the preordained pigeonholes. I helped edit (but didn't write) Pigments of My Imagination by Angela Kulig, but a reviewer (who gave it 5 stars) says it's "unlike any book you've ever read."

Dan said...

Nathan Lowell's Solar Clipper Series (Quarter Share, Half Share, and so on.)

I really enjoyed Lisa Cohen's recent release of Derelict.

Quality books like these are everywhere. Mike's database is testament to that. If you're not seeing them, it's because you've put on blinders.

Unknown said...

1) The Breath of Aoles by Alan Spade
2) Hollow Moon by Steph Bennion
3) Space for Sale by Jeff Pollard
4) Crimson Footprints by Shewanda Pugh
5) Half Way Home by Hugh Howey (but he may have been picked up by a traditional)
6) The one I can't recommend due to the rule not allowing me to recommend my own book.

PaulineMRoss said...

I wrote a blog post at the end of last year showcasing the best self-published fantasy books I came across in 2013 (note: edited to include more than the original 5):

Obviously, these are ones that appealed to me. YMMV. However, the quality isn't in doubt.

Unknown said...

Actually, if I really wanted a traditional publisher I probably would have looked for one. You seem to assume that is what everyone wants. That is no longer necessary. I'm not going find good independent books for you. Simply go to Smashwords and look for books with high download rankings and good ratings from readers. It's easy.

Marshall Ryan Maresca said...

Cool. I've download a few samples based on this stuff. I'll go back for more if those work out.

Also: Mike Reeves-McMillan: You're doing the slushdiving work, even if it's not as an agent/editor. And that's a valuable service.

Unknown said...

Well somebody needs to voice their support. I wasn't going to say anything, but so far dissenting comments reign unopposed so I guess I'll speak for those of us who think you're right about this whole traditional/indie publishing landscape. I agree - and you word it very well with the slushpile analogy. There are a LOT of crap works out there in the indie universe, and yes there are a few gems, but sometimes I don't even like reading those, out of personal preference. Reading a quirky, unique book that couldn't get published because it "broke commercial standards" is like trying a very exotic dessert: I might like it, I might hate it, I might be indifferent; but 9 times out of 10 I end up preferring a nice piece of comfy, delicious chocolate cake. And that is not a crime.

A really important point to add, however, is that biting at the heels of the publishing industry also demeans the authors that manage to actually get their books traditionally published. It takes work and talent to get that far, no matter what genre or target audience. Tearing down published authors just because you don't like how selective the industry is comes across as petty and insulting. If I were to go through all the hard work of getting a book published, I wouldn't want that accomplishment to be scoffed at because "there are tons of other equally good books" that just didn't want to go through the process; or that my book didn't receive valid judgement on its quality just because it was reviewed by agents and publishers; or (heaven forbid) that my story was only published because it fit some commercial cookie-cutter mold. How pretentious - how insulting.

So if I were to pursue traditional publishing, all that means is that I'm aiming for the stars. The Harry Potter, Hunger Games, LOTR type of stars. Because not once - not ONCE - have a heard of a self-published book that took the world by storm without getting traditionally published along the way.

End rant.

Marshall Ryan Maresca said...

Appreciate it, Dani.

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