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Sword and Laser Video Show > A Modest Proposal

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message 1: by Walter (new)

Walter Spence (WalterSpence) | 707 comments I wanted to suggest something to the Powers That Be in the General Folder, but since that one is not showing up in my dropdown menu for new topics, this folder seems the best possible compromise.

As a currently self-published novelist (my SFWA credentials were established via a collaboration originally published by Baen Books), I believe that there are at least a few independently-published works out there worth a read by the discerning folks who make up this group. There are also some months (September having been one of them) where the monthly pick is a well-known classic many group members have already read, sometimes recently.

What about the possibility of S&L using their vast powers for good to, once in a rare while, allow for the inclusion of a worthwhile independently-published novel as an alternate read in such cases? I'm not familiar with how the regular picks are made, but surely there is someone whose literary acumen and impeccable taste could be trusted to make such a selection.

Concerns? Suggestions? Other thoughts?


message 2: by Rob, Roberator (new)

Rob (robzak) | 5140 comments Mod
Walter wrote: "I wanted to suggest something to the Powers That Be in the General Folder, but since that one is not showing up in my dropdown menu for new topics, this folder seems the best possible compromise."

To post in general the trick is to not pick any folder..


message 3: by Walter (new)

Walter Spence (WalterSpence) | 707 comments Thanks, Rob. Will remember that for future posts.


message 4: by Bob (new)

Bob Chadwick | 37 comments I would imagine it all depends on the availability of the book across multiple "markets". You probably won't get a lot if participation if you can only buy from one source. I don't know if Baen books are available on Amazon, Google, and whatever else is or there but I think most people would skip a book if they had to go sign up to ANOTHER website and order something. Maybe that's just my inner paranoid but that's how I think. Another place to get hacked that has my credit card.


message 5: by Walter (last edited Oct 02, 2012 07:38PM) (new)

Walter Spence (WalterSpence) | 707 comments I would imagine it all depends on the availability of the book across multiple "markets".

(Apologies in advance for the length of this post.)

Bob, when I referred to self-published works, I wasn't referring to Baen, a traditional publisher. But I can see now that I erred in assuming everyone would know what I was referring to when I used the term 'self-published'.

Currently, in terms of traditional publishing, we have what is frequently known as "The Big Six": Hachette Book Group (HBGUSA for short), HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. In addition, there are any number of small presses out there.

But when I said 'self-published', I was referring to those authors who eschew, for varying reasons, this method of getting into print, and who instead pay out of pocket for the services these outfits provide (cover art, printing, editing, etc.) and publish their novels themselves. The differentiating factor distinguishing 'self-published' from traditional offerings is that in the former the author bears the financial burden of seeing his or her work get into print.

This sort of thing was, once upon a time, more commonly referred to as 'vanity publishing', and carried with it the odor of an author whose work was of such questionable quality that he or she could not sell it to a traditional publisher, and so such authors would pay a 'vanity press' to print their works for them.

Even in the days when this was the norm for self-publishing, such a description was not always true. Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do by Peter McWilliams was once touted as a best seller, despite its being self-published.

But nowadays traditional publishing is not considered the only game in town. The advent of ebook readers minimized the cost of producing a book, and the Internet allowed for such a work's distribution at minimal cost. In addition, services such as Createspace rose to compete with the vanity publishers. Owned by Amazon, Createspace can take a manuscript and make a trade paperback out of it (and also can convert said manuscript into an ebook as well), and then put it up for sale through Amazon. There are also outfits which specialize in the production and distribution of ebooks, such as Smashwords.

There are multiple markets for self-published books (most are ebooks, but some also have a hard copy version as well), the most common being Amazon, which sells the lion's share of such offerings. But there are other outlets as well, such as Barnes & Noble and the aforementioned Smashwords (whose primary advantage against these larger companies is that they offer ebook versions for multiple ereaders, as opposed to only the Kindle for Amazon and the Nook for Barnes & Noble).

The problem with self-published books is their highly-uneven quality, this due to the low barriers to entry in the marketplace. But this does not mean quality work is not being self-published. Traditional publishing can only afford to put out so much product, and every offering is - to some extent - a gamble, requiring an initial investment which very well may not 'earn out' (a phrase most authors are all too familiar with). A Confederacy of Dunces was shopped by the author to every publisher he could find, and when they all turned it down, the author ended up commiting suicide. The book was only sold when his mother found a carbon-copy of the manuscript and began shopping it herself, finally finding LSU Press, who put it into print in 1980. In 1981 it won the Pulitzer Prize.

The difficulties with being self-published do not end just because low costs allow work to be placed in a sellable form (typically an ebook). Marketing is very problematic. The enormous number of titles in the marketplace, coupled with a resistance by industry reviewers to review such books (many periodicals have a policy against reviewing self-published books) makes marketing this sort of work even harder.

This is what I meant when I suggested the 'once-in-a-blue-moon' offering of a self-published sf or fantasy novel as an alternate book club read when the regular choice is a well-known classic. While there are occasional exceptions, the vast majority of such work can easily be accessed via Amazon. And though there are some ebooks which are only available on Amazon, the reverse tends not to be true, reducing Bob's concerns expressed upstream in this thread.

Despite its advantages, self-publishing will never substitute for traditional publishing. But due to significant barriers to entry via that option, not all due to quality of product, for some it simply is not a desirable option. Had it been written in modern times, A Confederacy of Dunces might well have first seen publication as an ebook. It is for this reason that I made my suggestion, and I hope Tom and Veronica (and all others in S&L) will see merit in it.


message 6: by Colin (new)

Colin | 278 comments ...not the modest proposal I was hoping for.


message 7: by Kristina (new)

Kristina | 587 comments I think it's a cool idea. Perhaps someone in the know could suggest one they thought was good, to get it rolling.


message 8: by Caitlin (new)

Caitlin | 250 comments Colin wrote: "...not the modest proposal I was hoping for."

Did you also think it was going to be about eating babies?


message 9: by Colin (new)

Colin | 278 comments Kinda. Irish babies are a delicacy after all. Historically proven.


message 10: by Lance (new)

Lance White | 2 comments Hey Shadeskin is a good read, why not use it?

Shadeskin by Jason Craft


message 11: by Stan (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments I think there have been threads about independently published works before

One of my favorite is. Zero Sight . Sort of an Urban Fantasy/Battle Mage type of story with a lot of humor and good characterization. My review of it on goodreads you can find below:

"...Frankly I didn't know what to do with myself. I was sitting buck-naked on the floor ten yards from the most beautiful thing I had ever set eyes on. She was washing the blood of three dead men out of her hair - and I was pretty sure she was humming a show tune..."

If the above quote does not make you want to pick up this book immediately, then you must be crazy. Sharp dialog interlaced with subtle background humor (Las Vegas as a not just a cultural wastelan...more


message 12: by Walter (new)

Walter Spence (WalterSpence) | 707 comments If the above quote does not make you want to pick up this book immediately, then you must be crazy.

While my level of sanity is a topic much commented upon by my friends and family, I will say that quote is quite compelling. Will definitely check it out. Thanks for the recommendation, Stan.


message 13: by Caitlin (new)

Caitlin | 250 comments Colin wrote: "Kinda. Irish babies are a delicacy after all. Historically proven."

Agreed. Very nourishing and wholesome.


message 14: by Bob (new)

Bob Chadwick | 37 comments Not sarcastically Walter thanks for the big post. I've just started dabbling in Goodreads and the big 6 is a new term for me, now I know, and G.I. Joe says knowing is half the battle. But beyond that you wiki-ed that for me, boiled it right down, so thanks.

I would like to see a Self Published section to because it would be nice to have somebody delve in first for me. Literally Dresden is the only series that I haven't read and ranted about before all my other friends. I am the one who told them to read George Martin, I've been telling them to read Carriger, Ready Player One, and a bunch more. So if a few people say, "Yeah this was awesome." On here I can click them, see what they liked and didn't like, then buy the self published book or not.


message 15: by Darren (new)

Darren Humphries (Darrenhf) | 96 comments The issue here is going to be who the arbiter of what is good and what is not. There is a section for self-published works to be announced . Another of Goodreads forums that I am a member of has a small group of (unidentified, but respected) members who wade through some of the new releases and make suggestions of what is worth reading each month. You have to have shown a record of reliable reviewing (ie consistency and accuracy, not what your tastes are which vary amongst the group) before you are invited to join. Who is going to volunteer to step into the lions' den?


message 16: by Walter (new)

Walter Spence (WalterSpence) | 707 comments Who is going to volunteer to step into the lions' den?

Well, it doesn't *have* to be one of the group moderators (though that would be, imo, preferable). But if not one (or more) of them, then I would say someone designated by them. It could be done by poll, but I'd be concerned that the inevitable attempts to gin the system would ruin it for everyone.


message 17: by Linguana (new)

Linguana | 137 comments Kristina wrote: "I think it's a cool idea. Perhaps someone in the know could suggest one they thought was good, to get it rolling."

Hugh Howey's Wool Omnibus Edition was fantastic. It was recently picked up by a publisher, though. So I'm not sure if that still counts.


message 18: by Ctgt (new)

Ctgt | 320 comments We just started this in another book club. Members/authors suggested titles, ten titles or so, we voted on the book and discussed. I think most of the titles were inexpensive Kindle books, so this would limit the number of folks who would be reading, but it was an alternate pick from the main title for the month.
The author, who is a member of the club, was encouraged to join in the discussion which made for an interesting thread.


message 19: by Sky (new)

Sky Corbelli | 320 comments Going to agree with the recommendations for Wool Omnibus Edition and Zero Sight, both are excellent.

Also, in no particular order...

Bad Radio
The Emperor's Edge
Flash Gold
The Shadowed Path


message 20: by Walter (new)

Walter Spence (WalterSpence) | 707 comments Hugh Howey's Wool Omnibus Edition was fantastic. It was recently picked up by a publisher, though. So I'm not sure if that still counts.

Whether or not it counts, Ling, would depend on what the alt book club offering idea is trying to accomplish. If it's to highlight works which not only are but were self-published once upon a time, then Wool would be a good fit.

OTOH, if the purpose is to highlight books which are excellent self-published works, but which are struggling for recognition due to being self-published, then Wool might not be a good fit, since (as you noted) it was recently picked up by a publisher and will therefore not lack for increased public awareness.

I'd suggest the former, if we're trying to reward good books disadvantaged for marketing purposes by being self-published, but that's just my opinion. Others might feel differently.


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