One advantage of the current publishing climate is that a reader has no shortage of books from which to choose. Free and low-cost books are everywhere, including through subscription services like Amazon.com’s Kindle Unlimited. But finding a good book is not so easy. Reviews offer some insight, but many good books fail to attract reviews for various reasons. Book bloggers soon acquire more titles than they can ever have time to read, never mind write about. Readers, too, become overwhelmed by demands on their time. And not all reviews are what they seem: ethical writers, including myself, refuse to pay for book reviews, but some desperate souls give way to temptation. So what’s a reader to do?
One approach, adopted by more than a few GoodReads friends I know, is to limit oneself to commercially published books. There readers can trust that books have gone through editing, typesetting, and proofreading, received professional covers—and, yes, that any reviews they receive reflect the honest opinion of the reviewer. But trade books are expensive, at $9.99–$12.99 or more even for an e-book. For the average voracious reader, they represent at best a partial solution, although public libraries can help.
That approach also ignores the many good books published outside the commercial houses. And commercial publishing is just that: books have to sell millions of copies in today’s market to make a trade publisher’s investment worthwhile. If your taste runs to more unconventional fare, you’re out of luck.
That’s where small presses and coop publishers (a variant on small presses) come in. A coop like Triskele Books or my own Five Directions Press exerts the quality control of a traditional publishing house but can charge less, especially for e-books, because the coop authors can break even at a much lower number of copies sold. No one can guarantee that if you love one author’s gritty historical fantasy, you will love another’s sparkling contemporary romance, but you can count on each book having received extensive critique and suggestions for improvement followed by professional editing, typesetting, proofreading, e-book production, and cover design. We guarantee one another’s work.
We also cooperate to get the word out, which means that we publish newsletters featuring other authors and news about our forthcoming titles, regular lists of book recommendations—such as Triskele’s Book Muse and Five Directions Press’s monthly Books We Loved—and blog posts, many of which feature writers and/or their books. I host an interview channel, New Books in Historical Fiction, where I interview other authors and read excerpts from their books. Gabrielle Mathieu, another Five Directions Press author, does the same for fantasy and adventure novels.
So you see, there are tools out there to help you navigate the independent publishing ocean. Take a chance! You never know what magical island may be hiding right over that cloudy horizon.
An earlier version of this post appeared on the Triskele Books blog a few weeks ago. Many thanks to all the Triskele authors for the opportunity to share my thoughts with their readers!
Image: Clipart 109839003.