The growing world of self-publishing

It's funny how things have changed in just the last couple of years. Ten years ago, self-publishing was anathema. In the Kindle era, it's gained a sheen of respectability, particularly when carried out by authors who've already proven themselves in the traditional publishing market place.

The vast majority of self-published work otherwise is, of course, utter trash, even the stuff that shifts a quarter of a million copies a year on Amazon. If you don't believe me, go take a look at the opening page of pretty much any self-published, high-ranking novel. Most of them make Dan Brown look like Hemingway. That they sell as well as they do says more to me about the reading public than it does about the authors.

Don't get me wrong. I wish these authors all the best in their success. I hope, however, they spend some of the money they make to teach themselves the basic skills of grammar and sentence construction.

Because of this, it's very hard for genuinely good but unknown writers to become recognised. I knew when I released Fergus Bannon's Judgement as an ebook it was going to be a single shiny nugget floating in a sea of shit. But I got the book out there, and that gave me the impetus recently to put out previously published work by some well regarded authors. I know there must be equally good self-published works out there on the internet, but I'll be damned if I have the time and energy to find them.

Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the best way to become published remains finding a (good) agent and then a publisher. Outside of that, the only truly notable self-publishing ventures are those backed by writers who are well-known in their field. William King is an obvious example, and his work is backed up by dozens of best-selling novels for Warhammer. I was pleased to see Rudy Rucker recently start up something called TransReal Press. His anthology 'Transreal' was an absolutely seminal anthology, and he's without doubt one of the finest writers in the sf field. He's produced a huge, ever-evolving anthology of all his published short fiction, and it is very surely worth the price he's asking.

So how to identify a genuinely good author and bring him to the attention of the right readers? Well, that brings me on to a recommendation.

I've known the writer Ian Sales for at least a couple of decades, and was probably introduced to him by Jim Steel at some convention or other. In fact, I know Ian entirely through science fiction conventions. He's had bits and pieces published here and there, mostly in the small press, but is a genuinely fine writer. In fact, he's precisely the kind of writer who could and should benefit from the e-publishing revolution. He recently sent me a novella called Across The Sea of Rains to read, and it proved to be a beautifully written piece of hard science fiction constructed around a delightful bit of Forteana.

Now, you might be thinking well, he's a mate. You would big him up, wouldn't you? Well, er, no. No, I wouldn't, unless I genuinely rated the work. I'm hard that way.

Here's the description from Ian's own blog:

This April, Whippleshield Books will launch its first book, Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales. This 20,000-word novella tells the story an attempt to return home by a group of military astronauts stranded at a base on the Moon. Described by Adam Roberts, author of By Light Alone, as “written with an expert blend of technical precision, descriptive vividness and emotional penetration”, and by Kim Lakin-Smith, author of Cyber Circus, as “as poignant as it is impeccably researched”, Adrift on the Sea of Rains is the first in a thematic quartet. The remaining three installments will also be published by Whippleshield Books.
Whippleshield Books was founded by Ian Sales in order to focus on a type of science fiction which no one else seems to be publishing – ie, stories of high literary quality with extremely strong scientific and technological content. 

So keep your eyes out for that one. I'm recommending it highly.


Orin Thomas said...

Recommendation from someone you follow & whose books you like trumps review from someone you don't know.

Charlton Houston said...

Excellent novella, really enjoyed it!
There's a good review of it at Upcoming4.me