I woke up this morning, shuffled and shambled from my bed, and deposited myself at my desk. Cup of tea in hand, I fired up the Internet device . . . and was greeted by another dumpster fire of a human being showing its ass on Twitter. I know, right? Just another day ending in Y. This particular dumpster was gibbering on like a postmodern burning bush about the shameful and egregious quality of self-published books.
And I thought: “Well, there’s my topic for today, sorted.”
Let me preface this by stating unequivocally: self-publishing needs no defense from me. While what this bloviating dumpster person is spewing might have been valid 20-30 years ago, with the Digital Revolution, self-publishing has come into its own — especially in the arena of speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy and their innumerable sub-categories). Today’s self-publisher — if they’re savvy and have the resources — can avail themselves of professional editing, professional designers and artists; even before the manuscript is ready, there’s whole networks of other writers willing to help them hone their story. And then, there’s the likes of Mark Lawrence, an award-winning and bestselling (and traditionally published) fantasy author who hosts the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO), wherein each cycle 300 entrants compete via their books to earn the top spot: the best book as decided by ten different industry/review blogs. To the winner goes more than bragging rights. Because of Mr. Lawrence’s influence and the popularity of the contest, agents and publishers watch and wait, snapping up those of the finalists who might be open to receiving a commercial publishing contract. The ones I know of that sprang from the ranks of SPFBO include Jonathan French’s The Grey Bastards, Josiah Bancroft’s Senlin Ascends (a personal favorite of Mr. Lawrence), and the inaugural winner, Michael McClung (The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids).
So, what sets these books apart from commercially published novels from the Big 5? Not a damn thing. Certainly not quality. They’re well-written, edited, typeset, in possession of slick covers. Some were never submitted, some fell through the cracks. Others were rejected numerous times for myriad reasons, so the authors took them public on their own dime. That’s the only difference.
Independent authors are authors, no different from traditionally published authors; indie books are books, as deserving of your time as anything put out by commercial publishers, big and small. Self-publishing is a viable career path for writers now; no longer something practiced in the shadows, a last refuge of the desperate or the gullible. Self-published books should be celebrated. They deserve a place right alongside all the other books on our shelves. And that dumpster fire of a human being on Twitter? It can feel free to fuck right off.
Follow this link to Mark Lawrence’s blog and see the cover contest for SPFBO 7. This should give you some indication of the current standards for eye-catching covers in self-publishing.
Follow this link to an article from 2017 at The Fantasy Hive, giving a great overview of the contest and its impact on the world of fantasy publishing.
I’m told Hugh Howey (Wool) is starting up the science fiction equivalent of SPFBO. Which can only be a good thing for SF publishing in general.