Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Debut Authors Challenge, Random Updates and More

I just had to link this. The Story Siren is hosting a Debut Author's Challenge. You basically read as many debut authors as you can. Since a lot of book bloggers love covering debut authors, I thought I'd bring it to your attention. She's focused on YA novels, but why limit ourselves?

Read about it here!

Random Updates

I have several things in the hopper, including one of Raven's urban fantasy reviews (or two), a One Year Later post and a contest! All in February!

I've been reading Lamentation by Ken Scholes. It's very good and since I have an advance copy, I want to be able to post my review on the release date in about two weeks. I may put up an as-I-read-it post or two, mostly because I haven't done any of those in a while.

I also read Amanda Ashby's Zombie Queen of Newbury High. It doesn't release until next month, so I'll try to stifle myself until then. And don't forget, I'm already stifling myself about Betraying Season by Marissa Doyle.

Future of Publishing?

I took note of this post by Nathan Bransford on The End of Publishing because it made me think about an email conversation with an author (actually, his wife) that I've had recently. In the conversation, I agreed to review a novel that is outside of my usual guidelines, by which I mean, published by a small press. I haven't done that since I reviewed Griffin's Daughter by Leslie Ann Moore last year. I'm very proud of being one of the few websites to discover Griffin's Daughter, which won the 2008 Ben Franklin Award for Best First Fiction.

The article above talks about how the business model for publishing might be changing, and how new authors may have to self-publish more and more in the coming years while we go through this state of flux. In particular, I took note of this paragraph:
At the same time, the Internet and e-books are opening up new sales avenues for authors who either catch on through word of mouth or are able to build their own buzz. As a result, you're seeing progressively more self-published and small-press books rise up through the cacophony of titles and find their readers.

I'm torn. I don't like being a snob, but I genuinely don't have time to vet a bunch of self-published books. At least the good small presses edit their work and make it professional, which happened with Griffin's Daughter, and presumably happened with this other novel I agreed to review. If, in the future, most authors have to publish books on their own in order to be noticed, then I'm going to have to adapt as well.

In the case of this small press novel (not self published!), the author's wife--some of you probably know who I'm talking about--convinced me to review the book because it had already gotten good reviews by several reviewers that I trust.

I'm not sure how I'm going to handle this. I may wait to see which small press and self published books do rise up, like I'm doing now.

What would you prefer--that I stick to major publishers? Or should I occasionally try to find those small press and self-published gems?


Amara said...

I subscribe to this blog because it points out books I might not otherwise see or pick up at a bookstore. Small press and self-published books definitely fall in the category; I would just like you to focus on the "gems" when you find them.

Elizabeth said...

There's a sharp distinction between small press and self-published. Small press books are typically high quality, have been through the editing process, and someone has paid for the right to acquire it. They are as valid as a book from a large press. Self-published seems like another matter - unless it has, as you said, bubbled to the top.

Mulluane said...

I subscribe to this blog because...umm...well...Tia knows where I live :>(

Maria Zannini said...

I have to agree with Amara.

What you decide to review is entirely up to you, but as readers we depend on the reviewers we trust to give us a head's up on the good stuff--and the bad.

The publishing model is changing, not just because of the economy (though I think that plays a big role) but also because of technology.

Samantha said...

Well, I don't think you should completely exclude self-published, web-published works. But I don't think you should make an effort to review every one, either. I think that if a work outside the normal list of debut books is generating some buzz, you might have a look at it and let us know if it is worth checking out.

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin said...

I'm leaning towards agreeing with Elizabeth. Thes days I'm ordering more books than I'm picking up at the store, so how likely I am to run into them on the shelves really isn't a concern.

However, you've mentioned that your time is limited. My few run-ins with vanity press publications did not impress me with their quality. My run-ins with small-press publications have been decidedly more favorable. Unless and until you come up with a lot more free time, I hope you'll concentrate on books that have seen decent editors. {SMILE}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

TK42ONE said...

There's so much here to talk about. Starting with small press vs. self published, I'd say you should be moderately safe reading a small press book. As already stated, most should be fairly professional in editing, etc. And some small presses are more like medium ones. Self publishing has long been the red-headed step-child of the writing world. While any crackpot with a credit card can get something published, it does not mean it's a good story. I've read a few over the years and tend to stick with mainstream novels. Those that I've read have ranged from utter crap to mildly entertaining. But overall there were certainly rough spots that needed polishing. On this topic, I'd say small press is okay, but don't focus on it (unless you want a theme for a new blog). And I'd avoid self published titles unless they come highly recommended by trusted sources.

On the topic of e-books, it is certainly the wave of the future. Has been for several years now. And with the advent of more e-book readers, more e-galleys, more companies looking for a way to publish books cheaply, more readers looking for a way to buy books cheaply, and of course the ever-suffering economy, I think it will continue to rise in popularity. There's also the "video book" and various other cross-media publishing waves that have cropped up recently. We've seen 'webisodes' for TV shows for a few years now just apply the concept to books and presto. Multi-media, cross platform, broad spectrum publishing. Personally, I like e-books. Especially the free ones. But I've only read a few. Some of SM Stirling, the Alexander Cipher gallery, and I'm still working on Mistborn. I find it's hard to "read" with a hot laptop in your lap. But if I were to use my dad's super-small notebook, I might change my mind.

So, to answer your question, stick with mainstream debuts, but keep an eye open and an ear to the ground for those up and coming authors using small press publishers (and vanity presses if the title is recommended by a trusted source).

Tia Nevitt said...

Mulluane: Huh??

I've seem small press vary quite a bit in quality. I look them over very closely. One author I worked with thought she was going with a small press, but she turned out doing everything herself. But Avari Press--the publisher of Griffin's Daughter--was very impressive. And they did a great job on the cover art for the second book, Griffin's Shadow.

And another author . . . well, suffice to say, I know a few horror stories.

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin said...

I see your point. Still, when you find a good small-press, you might add it to things you check. Tho you don't have to if you're pressed for time. {Smile}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

Tia Nevitt said...

TK, thanks for your in-depth analysis! We most have posted at the same time. As for e-books, I'll have to get a decent reader first.

Anne, you hit it with the "pressed for time" part. Were I to start examining self-published gems on this blog, I'd have to bring in a fourth person.

Hmm . . . this blog is getting to be something like a magazine.

Marc Vun Kannon said...

As a small press author I would hope you'll start looking at our work. I know my publisher, Echelon Press, is quite good in a variety of genres, because I've read just about every book they make, even though I write and prefer to read fantasy.

T.D. Newton said...

Being that I'm self-publishing my first book, I would be a little too biased to weigh in on this. Yes, the stigma of self-publishing is a tough one to try and shake, but some of us are putting in a lot of work (not just MS but also cover design and whatnot) to make the book a marketable product. We'll see what happens.

gav (nextread.co.uk) said...

I come here as I love Tia and she's always got some gems ;)

I'm going to be a snob and say that I'm never ever going to read self-published book again. I buy books because I know that they've been selected, polished, loved and generally leave the factory in a good condition as they possibly can. Self-publishing doesn't have the same effect.

That's not to knock small-press publishers. Take PS Publishing or Solaris Books. They are highly respected and quality publishers.

So there is a big difference.

E-books are never going to replace paper unless someone decides that paper should be banned.

I love my Sony Reader 505 plus I'm alright with using Stanza on my iPhone and for me ebooks are great but I don't think that they are suitable for most situations like paper is.

I hope ebooks will be a large but small market.

I'd say go for what you fancy and we'll come along for the ride.

Tia Nevitt said...

I feel so loved! Thanks, Gav!

I didn't think Solaris was considered small. They do put out excellent work; I loved Thief with No Shadow.

I can't see using ebooks any time soon. Why do they make the readers so expensive? Maybe it's still in the "early adopter" stage, and the price will come down eventually. Or so I hope.

Marc, I'll take a look at Echelon. I review publishers on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, authors will set up a publisher for the sole purpose of publishing their own work, so it takes a bit of research. It helps to get a referral like this, though.

TD, see Gav's reply for the attitude among reviews concerning self-published books. I know it's harsh, but most of us come to this attitude after getting burned. Some self-publishers are persistent to the point of nuisance. Since I know you, I'd give your book a chance, assuming it's something I'd normally read. But I'd want to read the first three chapters electronically before I commit. I'm very reluctant to take copies directly from authors even when they are published through major presses; I prefer to receive them through the publisher.

T.D. Newton said...

Tia, thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm definitely aware of the attitude toward self-published books and I'm inclined to agree with it; I just hope to be part of that rare minority that is worthwhile. Since the book isn't finalized yet (still waiting for the cover art photo shoot and one last rewrite/pass on the MS), I haven't been really "advertising," and I certainly don't expect folks to be climbing over each other to read my book.

You know, that's a good plan, to offer the opening electronically for interest in place of just sending the whole book. Not sure if that's a standard, but I will definitely use that around April when things are ready to go.

Thanks, as always, for the advice.

Maria said...

I like a lot of the small press books I've read. They are every bit as good as the big guys. I also am reading more ebooks these days. I have nothing against reading on the computer--I've read three or four ebooks now that are also out in print and all were really good. I started one that I didn't finish. All but one of the ebooks was out in print first and were then available as ebooks.

I've kind of given up on self-published. They aren't vetted enough. I have read one or two that I liked, but that's it--it hasn't been worth my time to hunt and peck for treasures.

As someone else said--read what you want to--and report! I've found some really good books due to your blog. Just keep that up. I don't care where or how you find them...

Jeff C said...

Interesting topic Tia. I have the same questions myself. The biggest issue I have is that sometimes I can't tell if a query i receive is from a small press or an author. It seems like sometimes they are the same. I know I would be open to reviewing some small press stuff. I think, and I know it is wrong, that I would put more pressure on the book to "grab me" more quickly than a larger press book. I guess because I would go into it with lower expectations. But this might be because I haven't read much (if any) small press work.

Jeff C said...

On that topic...can anyone recommend some small press companies to check out for epic fantasy (other than ps publishing, which i know of already)?

Kimber An said...

As a book reviewer, I'm looking for a great story. I don't care who publishes it, because no publisher gets it right every single time. In fact, the Big Boys are likely to publish the same kinds of stories over and over and over again, until we're swimming in a sea of blood-sucking dead guys. I strongly prefer a buffet of stories to that. At Enduring Romance, we've reviewed everything from hardbacks by major publishers to paperbacks by small presses to eBooks by ePublishers to, yes, even the self-published. To quote William Shakespeare, 'The play's the thing.'

Maria said...

Jeff, you might ask this question over at bookspotcentral.com. I think Prime Books (or one of their offshoots--there are several...wildside print and some others) has a Fantasy line. But there's another small press that I can't think of that gets discussed over at BSC fairly often that has epic fantasy. I just can't think of it right now.

On the mystery front, I loved books out by Capital Crime Press. I also absolutely fell in love with Dead Woman's Shoes by Kaye C. Hill--out by small press Creme de la Crime (a UK publisher, but the book is available in the US also.)

As someone else said--I'll read small press, large press, doesn't matter. Just looking for a good book!!!

Tia Nevitt said...

Avari Press publishes epics, since they published Griffin's Daughter. I don't know of any others offhand, though.

I haven't tried any small press mysteries yet!

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin said...

Anne, you hit it with the "pressed for time" part. Were I to start examining self-published gems on this blog, I'd have to bring in a fourth person.

If you're that pressed for time, maybe even smaller presses should be a lower priority. Would it take too much time to check them out if and as they come to your attention? {Smile}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

Tia Nevitt said...

That's pretty much my procedure. When I hear about them, I check them out. But I'm not actively trying to find them, as Mulluane and I do for do major publisher debuts.

L.C.McCabe said...


I know several of my writing friends who have gone the self-publishing route. Some have done that because they have been hitting their foreheads against the publishing world and decide to take the more difficult path with their books. Those books are high quality but because of one reason or another weren't picked up by publishers, but they found an audience with the relentless marketing by their authors. I'm talking selling thousands of copies by mostly internet sales. (Then again some of my friends have self-published books that will die a quiet death.) As in all things, it depends.

Since it is unlikely that your local library will purchase many titles from small presses or iUniverse-type titles, I would suggest that anyone who wishes you to review their debut novel submit a review copy to you.

At that point, you can look it over read a few pages and see if it catches your interest. If it has SPG problems, then don't bother reading very far.

I heard Hallie Ephron speak at the East of Eden Writers Conference last summer. She writes book reviews for mystery titles for the Boston Globe and she says that she has an aversion to reading books that she hates. Therefore, she will get more titles to read each month than she is required to submit reviews for and when she comes upon a clinker she will go "Next!"

I'd say remain open to the possibility of some diamonds in the rough being worthy of your time and attention, but I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to find them. Let them come to you.