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Re: [mythsoc] A new novel about Tolkien

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  • Jason Fisher
    ...   That s a fair point, John, but the last several you list all come after the decision to publish a book. By the time book shops, reviewers, and critics
    Message 1 of 17 , Jan 13, 2011
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      > Personally, my problem with self-published books is that they have not passed
      > through the 'filter' of the publishing world - agent, publisher, editor, proofreader,
      > book shop stockists, reviewers, critics, etc.
       
      That's a fair point, John, but the last several you list all come after the decision to publish a book. By the time book shops, reviewers, and critics see a book, it's already been published, or publication is imminent. It is true that it can be hard to get book shops, reviewers, and critics even to look at a self-published book, for basically the same reasons you give in your last paragraph.

      > But it does normally at least ensure some basic level of quality --
      > gramamtically correct, not too many typos, the hope that someone has
      > fixed the more gaping plot holes, etc.
       
      Usually, but less and less. It used to be that traditional publishers really did do all of this, but under big pressure from discount e-tailers like Amazon, they have had to take drastic measures to reduce their bottom line. There is nowhere near as much copyediting as there used to be, for example. For nonfiction books, publishers used to produce indexes, but that burden has now been offloaded to authors. Publishers used to help broker permissions, but now that's all on the author. Etc. I take your point, but these benefits are diminishing all the time. As a parallel process, I think the general quality of self-published work has been on the rise to meet the falling standard in traditional publisher. There's still a gulf there, but in five years? Ten? Will there be any difference? Will readers still know where their books are coming from?

      > But given that my life-time is too short for me to read everything, the
      > filter of the publishing process is, for me, still a helpful one.
       
      Yes, it probably still serves that function for most readers. For now. For me, personally, whether a book is traditionally or self-published has almost no bearing on whether I'll read it. I decide on my reading in other ways -- mainly by word-of-mouth recommendation.
       
      Jason
    • Alana Abbott
      One little anecdote that, to me, represents really *good* self-publishing. A mentor of mine, Jeff Duntemann, has been a publisher several times over. When he
      Message 2 of 17 , Jan 13, 2011
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        One little anecdote that, to me, represents really *good* self-publishing.

        A mentor of mine, Jeff Duntemann, has been a publisher several times over. When he and others sold the last publishing company he'd helped create, he decided to start a very small, POD house of his own, largely to do the kind of nonfiction work that Sarah's talking about. But his own short fiction, largely previously published in periodicals like Asimov's, is also sort of a niche market. It's brilliant work (I reviewed his older collection, Souls in Silicon, not long ago in Mythprint, so if you read that, you've already heard me rave about it). But a short story collection by an author who's not terribly well known doesn't have the mass appeal that it would require for a traditional house to pick it up. So, Jeff published it on his own POD imprint. 

        He's a guy who knows the industry and has worked on the inside of much larger houses for most of his career, so he knows how to publish books. And I can't imagine he'd take any less care on his own fiction than on the books he edited and oversaw at his larger houses.

        I also know many writers who have re-released short fiction as e-books (through fictionwise and other sources) once the rights reverted to them. E-publishing is changing the market even further. 

        I guess where I'm going here is this: all sorts of people come at self-publishing from different angles and for different reasons. There are some spectacularly bad examples of self-publishing, and probably a very few really great examples of self-publishing. It's very helpful that Jason's willing to have Mythprint sort through some of that on our behalves!

        -Alana


        --
        Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
        Author of "Nomi's Wish" (http://coyotewildmag.com/2008/august/abbott_nomis_wish.html), featured in Coyote Wild Magazine
        Contributor to Origins Award winner, Serenity Adventures: http://tinyurl.com/serenity-adventures
        --
        For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans
      • David Bratman
        That a book is self-published is not offered as proof that it s bad. Many self-published books, especially niche non-fiction, are good. (Hello Sarah, did you
        Message 3 of 17 , Jan 13, 2011
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          That a book is self-published is not offered as proof that it's bad.  Many self-published books, especially niche non-fiction, are good.  (Hello Sarah, did you think I'd forgotten about your book?)  But fiction usually isn't.  So when, as in the case of the Tolkien-spy novel under discussion, even the author's own publicity releases make it look wretched, finding that it's self-published is - again, not logical proof that it's bad, but a sure indication that life is too short to give it any more attention.  And I think we've now given more than enough attention to this.


          -----Original Message-----
          From: Jason Fisher
          Sent: Jan 13, 2011 7:05 AM
          To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: [mythsoc] A new novel about Tolkien



          Ah, this takes me back to the self-publishing panel at Mythcon last year! Thank you for chiming in, Alana. I wanted to make some similar points.
           
          I am not especially impressed with the description of this novel either, but the fact that it is self-published should be beside the point. I think we the reading public should make a real effort not to pre-judge books on that basis. "This book is self-published? Well, it must be terrible! Read it? No, I'm good, thanks", and that sort of thing. David, I know your comment was not solely based on the fact the book was self-published; it just gives me an opportunity to comment on that general kind of judgment.
           
          Yes, having a "real" publisher means that some disinterested party or parties have read a book and deemed it likely to make enough money to defray the costs of publishing it, but of course, that doesn't automatically make a book good, any more than self-publishing makes a book is bad. I see a lot of publishers' catalogs and, to me as a reader, 99% of the genre fiction being published by established brick-and-mortar publishers looks terrible, but there is still obviously an audience -- and a big one. (Either that, or the costs of traditional publishing have gone down enough to have altered their risk calculus substantially.)
           
          The same (i.e., there is an audience) must be true for self-published books. I think we have a tendency to assume that self-published implies rejected by a publisher, but that is no more than an assumption on our part. In fact, there could be many reasons this author published the book himself. He may have never even approached a traditional publisher. And conversely, a book's having been published by a traditional publisher does not mean it wasn't rejected by ten or twenty other publishers first. Lots of people love Dune, and a large, maybe equal, number think it's a terrible book; the fact is, it was rejected by more than twenty publishers before it made it to print. Having a traditional publisher is often assumed to be a stamp of quality, but this is hardly a given.
           
          I will be the first to agree that there are a lot of bad books being self-published (and even more bad-looking books), but the same is true of traditional publishing. We just give traditional publishing more benefit of the doubt, largely because it's establishment, and we therefore assume it has better quality control (it may, but again: an assumption). I think we have to give alternative models a chance. If we don't, we're just buoying up a lot of traditional publishers who are not really trying very hard anymore.
           
          My two cents. Others' welcome!
           
          Jase


          From: Alana Abbott <alanajoli@...>
          To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Thu, January 13, 2011 7:20:39 AM
          Subject: Re: [mythsoc] A new novel about Tolkien

           

          I don't think being self-published is always a kiss of death. It doesn't surprise me that a book of this description and content would be difficult to convince a traditional house to publish. That's no comment on whether or not I think it will *succeed* as a self-published title, of course! (But there are those rare success stories...)


          The web site for the book looks pretty professionally done, and the sample is better than I expected. (I acknowledge I went in pretty low, based on the press release. *g*)


          -Alana

          On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 10:26 PM, David Bratman <dbratman@...> wrote:
           

          I see from the Amazon listing that it's self-published.  That's comment enough, I think.






          --
          Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
          Author of "Nomi's Wish" (http://coyotewildmag.com/2008/august/abbott_nomis_wish.html), featured in Coyote Wild Magazine
          Contributor to Origins Award winner, Serenity Adventures: http://tinyurl.com/serenity-adventures
          --
          For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans


        • Darrell A. Martin
          ... Ernie: De gustibus non est disputandum. Further, being predisposed doesn t mean I can t be convinced in some cases. A historical character in fiction,
          Message 4 of 17 , Jan 13, 2011
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            On 1/13/2011 8:41 AM, davise@... wrote:
            >
            >
            > --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Darrell A. Martin"<darrellm@...>
            > wrote:
            >
            >> I am predisposed to an intense dislike for fiction about real
            >> persons. That applies to Vercingetorix, George Washington, Richard
            >> the Lionhearted, John F. Kennedy, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Among
            >> others.
            >
            > I'm not sure I agree. "Ivanhoe" is fun. Thornton Wilder's "The Ides
            > of March" is very worth reading. Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" about
            > Thomas Cromwell, got rave reviews; I haven't read it yet, but it's on
            > my list. Detective novels often do it well; for instance the Steven
            > Saylor series about Gordianus, set in the Rome of Caesar, Cicero etc.
            > In children's literature, Robert Lawson's "Ben and Me" (about Ben
            > Franklin) and "Mr. Revere and I" are great. Of course, there is a lot
            > of lousy fiction of this kind; but there is a lot of lousy fiction of
            > any kind.
            >
            > Certainly a large fraction of the great plays, from Shakespeare on
            > down, deal with real historical people.
            >
            > -- Ernie

            Ernie:

            De gustibus non est disputandum. Further, being predisposed doesn't mean
            I can't be convinced in some cases. A historical character in fiction,
            doing things we think he actually did, is not as big a deal to me as
            that same character doing things we think never happened.

            My second paragraph, unquoted, was perhaps more to the point. The issue
            for me is not the *mixing* of fact and fiction, but the *blurring* of
            the difference between the two.

            (I might note in passing that the theater leaves me with the impression
            that even in historical settings, the realism is right there with, say,
            the Asterix comics. But that's me.)

            I think Ivanhoe is a good read, but it bothers me. My junior high
            English teacher did not mention that the book was not history. I thought
            Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe was a real person for years. That is not Scott's
            fault, but I still resented finding out much later that my views on 12th
            Century England were based on literary invention.

            "Ben and Me" and its ilk find me on the fence. Even most children are
            immune from thinking that Mr. Franklin had intelligent conversations
            with a mouse. BUT ... does that create confusion about the historical
            parts of the story? Perhaps they are not real either.

            The same sorts of questions might be asked about Narnia. I do not know
            anyone who is confused enough to think that Aslan is *actually* the
            Second Person of the Trinity incarnate in another world. But how much
            does the Beast Fable setting suggest, even subtly, that just as the
            distinction in Narnia between humans and animals is fundamentally
            altered from reality; Lewis also not only adapted, but altered, Narnia's
            ethics and philosophy? Perhaps the rules of proper thinking and behavior
            there are nice -- for talking animals.

            There is a lot of gray between fiction and reality. In part that is
            because reality is often less than crystal clear! When an artist does a
            particularly good job of putting fiction into a historical setting, the
            gray area gets bigger. I am uncomfortable when it becomes possible to
            "cross the line" without noticing.

            Darrell
          • davise@cs.nyu.edu
            ... On the contrary, one of the reasons I subscribe to a literary chat group is disputare about gustibus. ... But that would apply to any kind of historical
            Message 5 of 17 , Jan 13, 2011
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              --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Darrell A. Martin" <darrellm@...> wrote:
              > De gustibus non est disputandum.

              On the contrary, one of the reasons I subscribe to a literary chat group is disputare about gustibus.

              > I think Ivanhoe is a good read, but it bothers me. My junior high
              > English teacher did not mention that the book was not history. I thought
              > Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe was a real person for years. That is not Scott's
              > fault, but I still resented finding out much later that my views on 12th
              > Century England were based on literary invention.

              But that would apply to any kind of historical fiction whether or not it contains historical persons. After all, your misconceptions about 12th c. England would have been much the same even if the Black Knight had not turned out to be King Richard and even if you had realized that Sir Wilfred was a fictional character.

              I'll agree that it is very annoying if a real person or event whom you care about is portrayed inaccurately in a work of fiction. (And not just real people, as we have certainly discussed on this list!) But, for myself, though that happens occasionally, it doesn't happen very often. It is much more common that I have encountered historical periods, or events, or people, for the first time through historical fiction (or at least for the first time in any depth); and overall the knowledge I have gained is much greater than the misconceptions acquired.

              -- Ernie
            • Darrell A. Martin
              ... Ernie: OK, then you are wrong [big grin]. ... Yes, and I don t like historical fiction in general, even about periods in which I have a strong interest.
              Message 6 of 17 , Jan 13, 2011
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                On 1/13/2011 7:29 PM, davise@... wrote:
                >
                >
                > --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Darrell A. Martin"<darrellm@...>
                > wrote:
                >> De gustibus non est disputandum.
                >
                > On the contrary, one of the reasons I subscribe to a literary chat
                > group is disputare about gustibus.

                Ernie:

                OK, then you are wrong [big grin].

                >> I think Ivanhoe is a good read, but it bothers me. My junior high
                >> English teacher did not mention that the book was not history. I
                >> thought Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe was a real person for years. That is
                >> not Scott's fault, but I still resented finding out much later that
                >> my views on 12th Century England were based on literary invention.
                >
                > But that would apply to any kind of historical fiction whether or not
                > it contains historical persons.

                Yes, and I don't like historical fiction
                in general, even about periods in which
                I have a strong interest. But when "real
                people" show up, it makes it worse -- at
                least I think so.

                > After all, your misconceptions about
                > 12th c. England would have been much the same even if the Black
                > Knight had not turned out to be King Richard and even if you had
                > realized that Sir Wilfred was a fictional character.

                Perhaps. But the Black Knight *is*
                King Richard, and Prince John *is*
                Prince John, and I noticed that. The
                misconceptions may very well have
                occurred anyway, I agree. But maybe
                not.

                Ivanhoe is probably not the best book
                to use as an example. It is one that
                you tossed in my direction, and it
                struck a chord in me (dissonant).

                > I'll agree that it is very annoying if a real person or event whom
                > you care about is portrayed inaccurately in a work of fiction. (And
                > not just real people, as we have certainly discussed on this list!)
                > But, for myself, though that happens occasionally, it doesn't happen
                > very often. It is much more common that I have encountered historical
                > periods, or events, or people, for the first time through historical
                > fiction (or at least for the first time in any depth); and overall
                > the knowledge I have gained is much greater than the misconceptions
                > acquired.
                >
                > -- Ernie

                I know my Mom agrees with you. She
                likes stuff about Colonial New
                England especially (our ancestors
                landed, or were unceremoniously
                dumped, there beginning in the
                1630s). My mileage varies a LOT
                from hers, and yours.

                Darrell
              • lynnmaudlin
                The publishing houses serve a real function: they decide whether they re willing to undertake the expense of typesetting, cover art, publicity, etc., on a
                Message 7 of 17 , Jan 24, 2011
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                  The publishing houses serve a real function: they decide whether they're willing to undertake the expense of typesetting, cover art, publicity, etc., on a particular project.

                  If they don't think they can make $$ on the project, they don't do it. THAT doesn't mean the book isn't worthy - it may be the wrong genre for this particular publisher. Or they already have an author who "does that." Or they just don't quite see how to sell it, don't have the vision for it.

                  But it may also mean the book is inferior.

                  So, imho, the value of a 'real publisher' is the indication that SOMEONE was willing to invest several thousand dollars up front to make it happen.

                  -- Lynn --


                  --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Jason Fisher <visualweasel@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Ah, this takes me back to the self-publishing panel at Mythcon last year! Thank
                  > you for chiming in, Alana. I wanted to make some similar points.
                  >
                  > I am not especially impressed with the description of this novel either, but the
                  > fact that it is self-published should be beside the point. I think we the
                  > reading public should make a real effort not to pre-judge books on that basis.
                  > "This book is self-published? Well, it must be terrible! Read it? No, I'm good,
                  > thanks", and that sort of thing. David, I know your comment was not solely based
                  > on the fact the book was self-published; it just gives me an opportunity to
                  > comment on that general kind of judgment.
                  >
                  > Yes, having a "real" publisher means that some disinterested party or parties
                  > have read a book and deemed it likely to make enough money to defray the costs
                  > of publishing it, but of course, that doesn't automatically make a book good,
                  > any more than self-publishing makes a book is bad. I see a lot of publishers'
                  > catalogs and, to me as a reader, 99% of the genre fiction being published by
                  > established brick-and-mortar publishers looks terrible, but there is still
                  > obviously an audience -- and a big one. (Either that, or the costs of
                  > traditional publishing have gone down enough to have altered their risk calculus
                  > substantially.)
                  >
                  > The same (i.e., there is an audience) must be true for self-published books. I
                  > think we have a tendency to assume that self-published implies rejected by a
                  > publisher, but that is no more than an assumption on our part. In fact, there
                  > could be many reasons this author published the book himself. He may have never
                  > even approached a traditional publisher. And conversely, a book's having been
                  > published by a traditional publisher does not mean it wasn't rejected by ten or
                  > twenty other publishers first. Lots of people love Dune, and a large, maybe
                  > equal, number think it's a terrible book; the fact is, it was rejected by more
                  > than twenty publishers before it made it to print. Having a traditional
                  > publisher is often assumed to be a stamp of quality, but this is hardly a given.
                  >
                  > I will be the first to agree that there are a lot of bad books being
                  > self-published (and even more bad-looking books), but the same is true of
                  > traditional publishing. We just give traditional publishing more benefit of the
                  > doubt, largely because it's establishment, and we therefore assume it has better
                  > quality control (it may, but again: an assumption). I think we have to give
                  > alternative models a chance. If we don't, we're just buoying up a lot of
                  > traditional publishers who are not really trying very hard anymore.
                  >
                  > My two cents. Others' welcome!
                  >
                  > Jase
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > ________________________________
                  > From: Alana Abbott <alanajoli@...>
                  > To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                  > Sent: Thu, January 13, 2011 7:20:39 AM
                  > Subject: Re: [mythsoc] A new novel about Tolkien
                  >
                  >  
                  > I don't think being self-published is always a kiss of death. It doesn't
                  > surprise me that a book of this description and content would be difficult to
                  > convince a traditional house to publish. That's no comment on whether or not I
                  > think it will *succeed* as a self-published title, of course! (But there are
                  > those rare success stories...)
                  >
                  >
                  > The web site for the book looks pretty professionally done, and the sample is
                  > better than I expected. (I acknowledge I went in pretty low, based on the press
                  > release. *g*)
                  >
                  > http://mirkwoodnovel.com
                  >
                  > -Alana
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 10:26 PM, David Bratman <dbratman@...> wrote:
                  >
                  >  
                  > >I see from the Amazon listing that it's self-published.  That's comment enough,
                  > >I think.
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >
                  >
                  >
                  > --
                  > Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor
                  > (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
                  > Author of "Nomi's Wish"
                  > (http://coyotewildmag.com/2008/august/abbott_nomis_wish.html), featured in
                  > Coyote Wild Magazine
                  > Contributor to Origins Award winner, Serenity Adventures:
                  > http://tinyurl.com/serenity-adventures
                  > --
                  > For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at
                  > http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans
                  >
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