The Cornucopia of Plenty: Or How I Learned To Love Indie Publishing
Indie books let your mind roam free!
October 25, 2013 - 1:00 pm
In today’s installment of the Friday Book Plug we have an annotated edition of The Wind In the Willows.
This made me think of how Indie is a Cornucopia of Plenty, or perhaps a bazaar full of exotic offerings.
It’s not a vision of indie or electronic publishing you see often, certainly not in circles devoted to traditional publishing and never when reading articles written by people for whom traditional publishing means money and prestige.
There you hear that indie publishing is the domain of badly spelled, would-be erotica, and semi-literate romances.
But truly, it is no such thing. By its very nature, both because it only had so many slots, and because it was of necessity, mass publishing, benefiting from economies of scale, and needing to cater to a certain number of readers before it was profitable, traditional publishing left a lot of market needs unmet. More so as, over the last twenty years or so, it became convinced it could push from above and dictate what people would like to read. What I mean is that executives of publishing companies and chain bookstores in NYC decided what would be stocked throughout the country.
The results were predictable. Print runs fell. For instance, until recently, Baen was the only publishing house taking Space Opera, which the others had decided wasn’t sufficiently “important” for them. In fact, Baen books could be said to be a creature of filling a niche that no one else was meeting — politically diverse (including to the right, which no other house took) plot-driven science fiction.
But even had traditional publishing been perfectly sensible, it would have needed a certain amount of expected sales — say five or ten, perhaps — to make back enough money to justify its effort.
It’s completely different for the indie publisher, with his profit margins. Say you bring out a book for 5.99 and are getting $4.50 or so per book. you only need to sell 700 or so, to make what you’d have made from a beginner traditional advance. And since the book remains in print forever you have a long time to make that money.
This has opened up a cornucopia of plenty for those of us who, as readers, are somewhat less than standard and “blockbuster” oriented. We can suddenly find more books on local lore, more memoirs of the Great War, more things that We just want to explore than ever.
The people who talk about indie publishing as though it were the refuge of the low-brow and unoriginal forget two things: while it’s true that many people will want to write a “romance, just like Twilight” or whatever, the people attracted by indie publishing are of all sorts. And some number of them will find in indie the outlet for interests and passions that they never found a chance to pursue in traditional publishing.
For instance, when — ten years ago, might as well be another world — Sarah got the call asking her if she wanted to write the fictionalized biography of one of Henry VIII’s wives, she wanted to write Anne Boleyn or Kathryn Howard. She received Jane Seymour. (The resulting book, under a house name, is Plain Jane by Laurien Gardner.) Years later, she got to write Kathryn Howard (No Will But His.) Judging by the sales on Kathryn Howard, since rights reverted to her and Sarah released it indie through Goldport Press, Sarah can finally pursue her interest in writing Anne Boleyn. In fact, given all the research she’s done on what she calls “the dead English Queens” she will probably in due course write all of them (including a different version of Jane Seymour.)
In the same way, one of these summers, when she gets a few weeks to herself, Sarah plans to translate The Three Musketeers and release an annotated edition.
This is a project that would be impossible under traditional publishing. Though French is Sarah’s second language, it’s not her native language and no major publishing house with entrust her with this project. And if she tried to get it, it would take years of establishing a reputation as a literary translator.
Now? She can do it if she wants to.
In fact, the only limiting factor on indie authors’ passions and their putting those passions and interests into publishable form, is the intense competition of other ideas (leading to a case of what Kristine Kathryn Rusch calls Popcorn Kittens) and the perennial lack of time.
Download some samples of today’s offerings, and be glad that you live in a time when such an amazing and diverse selection is available.
Never mind what the frustrated gatekeepers say. They could never establish taste as such, only their own taste. And when people are free to choose, their choices are both sillier than before, and more complex, interesting and satisfying than the traditional market could ever guess or anticipate.
1915. A businessman and a prostitute find love. And hate.
The Quivera Trail is intended as a sequel to the Adelsverein Trilogy, as it picks up in 1875, with Dolph Becker courting and marrying a young Englishwoman, Isobel Lindsay-Groves. Isobel has several problems, the first of them being a domineering and cruelly judgmental mother, and the second, that she has made a dreadful hash of her debut year and failed to marry – marry well, or marry anyone at all. She is plump, socially inept, loves dogs and horses and wishes wistfully for a quiet modest country life. Dolph Becker is the answer to a prayer, for he offers all that … but the price for escape from a gilded world of privilege and the casual malice of her mother and Society … is to marry a man she barely knows, and follow him to Texas. Accompanying Isobel on the journey to her new home in Texas is Jane Goodacre, her personal maid and confidant. Jane, the daughter of a small country shop-keeper, also has ambitions – and talents that she hardly suspects. The limitations and expectations for a young working-class woman in Victorian England weigh very heavily on Jane, although she does not realize that … until she and her lady mistress arrive in Texas.
The classic tales of the Middle Thames, of the River Bank, the Wild Wood, Ratty, Mole, Mr Badger, and the incorrigible Toad, have been cherished by children and wise adults for generations. Amongst those who cherish them are Bapton Books’ partners, GMW Wemyss, historian and West Country essayist, and American historian Markham Shaw Pyle. The noted annotators of Kipling, and acclaimed for their histories of 1912, 1940, and 1941, Mr Pyle and Mr Wemyss here expand and re-issue their classic annotated version of Grahame, with some 345 footnotes that explain the Edwardian scene, canals, rural JPs and Toad’s motoring offences, the sad fate of Kenneth Grahame’s son, class issues in the Wild Wood, and Classical mythology. With their sense of history and landscape, their love of this book of both their childhoods, and an eye for literary cross-references, Mr Wemyss and Mr Pyle range from the Psalter and the Book of Common Prayer to the Sacred Canon of Sherlock Holmes, from Eliot to Tolkien, Gissing to Betjeman, Kipling to Aristotle, in giving this classic new depth and resonance. Even if you have never wondered just which canal Toad was thrown into, or why Toad’s trial is only the second funniest in English literature, this annotated edition will deepen and enrich your reading of these inimitable stories. Adults and sensible children – or, rather, children and sensible adults – will rejoice anew in them.
Rudyard Kipling’s tales of Mowgli, the Man-cub, raised by wolves, are not for children only. They have never been out of print, and they have shaped the English language and the British (and American) psyche to an extraordinary degree. The stories that concern Mowgli’s adventures, from his adoption by Mother and Father Wolf to his marriage and taking service in the Indian Forestry as an adult, have been collected, placed in their internal chronological order, and annotated in this volume by the historians GMW Wemyss and Markham Shaw Pyle, the celebrated chroniclers of the Titanic enquiries, the rise of Churchill, and how the US Congress, four months before Pearl Harbor, kept the draft – by one vote. As in their previous noted annotation of The Wind in the Willows, Mr Wemyss and Mr Pyle, the first a British historian, the second, an American historian, have ranged widely in annotating this classic work. It is prefaced with essays on imperialism, dryland farming, the climate and geography of Madhya Pradesh, Kipling’s tribalism and his opposition to the Kaiser’s nascent imperial adventurism, and the image of the Mother-figure. Over 350 footnotes accompany the text in this second edition, delving into ecology; irrigation; literary echoes from Bunyan, the Authorised Version, Milton, Blake, Chaucer, and Shakespeare; Kipling’s literary influence upon Tolkien and Lewis; wergild; snake-cults and Greek oracles; ethnology; mana and tapu; Anglo-German and Anglo-Russian relations; forestry; and any number of subjects with these, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and All. They have given a new generation the knowledge that the initial Victorian and Edwardian reader should have had … and much more. If you wish to enjoy these tales with deeper understanding; if you wonder what Buldeo has to do with Mr Sherlock Holmes’ antagonist Dr Roylott; if you have ever wondered just why a Gond hunter reminds you of the frontman of Jethro Tull; or if you simply want a cracking good read of stories you but half-remember: here is your book.
A difference of opinion with her employers sends Rada Ni Drako in directions she’d only dreamed of. But dreams will become nightmares if she isn’t careful.
The King-Emperor wants Rada dead. She’d prefer not to be, thank you. Compounding her problems, Rada picks up a stray despite her business partner’s protests. Now Rada has almost everything she’s ever wished for. But wishes granted can also be revoked. Worlds shake when a cat seeks revenge.