I caught this post (worth reading just for the strapline) from Militant Writer a bit late in the day, but I think it sums up just where we are in the publishing revolution. With first-time authors publishing to e-book rather than waiting for a publisher’s stamp of approval, the infamous slushpile is by-passed. But the task of sifting the wheat from the chaff has passed to the reader, who for minimal outlay can make his own decision on the value of the product. If the book fails to engage, it’s discarded without rancour: if it’s liked, the author gets a recommendation. If lots of readers do the same, enough steam might be generated for the author to land a ‘real’ book deal for this or a follow-up novel. Of course this is how Authonomy (I always felt that name was too clever by half) was originally launched, as an alternative to the slush-pile, but although there’s still value in peer review, it’s now just as tempting for an author to go straight to the target readership.
But even if readers of freebie books are less critical (and/or quicker to discard what doesn’t please) I think most readers still look for clues as to where to look in the heap of slurry for the best chance of a decent read, and while many will be happy to rely on the big players (Amazon, Good reads etc ) for reviews, these sites have problems of their own, and responses from book bloggers who already have track record in reviewing are a useful addition. This is one reason I’ve been posting e-book reviews here, and why I offered to cover indie books for What The Dickens (next one out at the end of the month, I think).
Alongside independent reviews, there are also sites where authors come together to support each other and generate readership for both indie books and those from some of the new small publishers more of whom spring up every week. Love-a-happy-end (who are having a real live event in Tetnbury soon – and yes, I’ll be there) and Famous Five are two groups who seem to be going places and there are lots more based in the US, mainly geared towards romantic and commecial fiction. I particularly like the Indie e-book review, which is allied to the Authors Electric blog but accepts submissions from any uk indie author, selecting only those deemed worthy. And just as I’m publishing this, word reaches me that the excellent Vulpes Libris book review blog is having an e-book fortnight which is bound to be worth a look.
It’s good to know which of the millions of e-books out there are reaching something like the quality (in writing, editing or production) of what’s on offer from the big boys of publishing. Because in the new slush pile there are some gems. Anything that makes them easier to find is a good thing.
Hope you like the (unrelated) photo of a very English heat-wave. The sea-mist adds a nostalgic touch to Mablethrope which on the day was brashly 2012. A case of smoke and mirrors.
2 thoughts on “Slush or slurry, wheat and chaff: the e-book landslide”
You hit the vital point. It’s the readers in the end who buy/download a book, who read it and critique it. And they’ll tell their friends in real life, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It’s a harsh, but clarifying process. The good stuff will rise to the top, but there’s still a fair bit of murk to get through.
Authors who care about quality will follow a parallel route of traditional publishers in that they’ll have their work edited, printed on good paper and market it in a good cover and a professional atttude. Those who don’t will stay in the murk and slush
Thanks, Alison for taking the time to comment. As long as the story is pulling me along I find I am less sensitive to the odd typo in an e-book (let’s face it you get plenty in most commercially published novels these days) but the book still has to have a professional feel in content style and presentation. Wonky formatting on Kindle is a bugbear of mine. As I understand it you can preview before publishing. Why not just get it right?