A caution against self-publishing, with links…

I have a side job right now where I review “indie” books, which mostly means self-published books, although some small-press books are also thrown into the mix. Reading on average one self-published book a week for the past several months has made me very pessimistic about the quality of self-published books in general. In fact, it’s pretty insulting to readers, some of the dreck that’s being sold to us in these days of instant self-publication. A book may be a piece of art, it may be your baby, but it’s also a product that is being sold, and readers deserve a professional product. I view my little reviews as something of a public service, either a message to the author that the book was not nearly ready for publication, or if that’s not something the author wants to hear, then a message to the reader to beware.

It’s not all bad news. Self-published nonfiction tends to be better quality than fiction, I think because nonfiction is more likely written by a professional in his or her field. When it comes to fiction, though, I have a hard time recommending any of it. Of all the books I’ve reviewed, I’ve only given an unqualified recommendation to books published by a small press, which had obviously received the attention of an editor, a copyeditor, a designer, and a cover artist.

Based on my forays into the world of self-published books as a reviewer, I’ve developed a prejudice against them as a reader. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s the natural result of being exposed to so much amateurish self-published writing. I can assure you that I’m not the only reader who is rapidly learning never to touch a self-published book. I would caution any new writer to think long and hard before choosing to self-publish. For a small subset of writers, self-publishing may be a good way to build a readership and maximize profits. However, most writers won’t be able to distinguish themselves in the rapidly expanding ocean of self-published books out there, and they may be putting their work out for judgment before it’s mature enough.

For further reading, here’s a small collection of links about deciding whether to self-publish:

Finally, if you decide to go the self-publishing route, make sure that your command of spelling and grammar is impeccable. Readers should not have to read your book with a red pencil in their hands. And please, I’m begging you, learn the difference between passed and past.

Recommended Reading: Three Sequels

I don’t often read series. I don’t like commitment, at least when it comes to reading. I like one-night stands with lots of different authors. I don’t want to get tied down.

So I surprised myself by reading not one, but three sequels in the past few couple of weeks–all middle books in a trilogy. And I can recommend all of them!

Ancillary_Sword_Orbit_coverAncillary Sword by Ann Leckie: I read Ancillary Justice way back last fall (here’s my review), and to be honest, I forgot a lot of the details, so I felt a little lost diving back into this complex universe. This could almost be standalone novel, though, except for the mystery left hanging at the ending. I dug the character development and the space station setting, and I’m now eagerly awaiting the final installment, Ancillary Mercy, due in October.

515EOHP5KfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Finders Keepers by Stephen King: I actually liked the follow-up to last summer’s crime novel Mr. Mercedes (review here) even better. That’s because it’s about readers and how obsessed we can get with our favorite books, writers, and characters. It’s also a page-turner — just what you’d expect from King.

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Authority by Jeff VanderMeer: Wow! I tore through Annihilation just a month ago (here’s my review), and the sequel did not disappoint me. It’s very different in terms of character and style of book, but just as disquieting, atmospheric and weird. Also, there’s this one part… Well, let’s just say I yelped when I read it. Already got the last book, Acceptanceon hold at the library.

Women writing — some links

For my yearly reading project in 2015, I have been focusing on women writers, specifically of speculative fiction. This project has led me down lots of wonderful side alleys discovering new writers, revisiting old favorites, and thinking about what they have to say. It’s also helped me understand the bias that women writers continue to face when it comes to getting published, reviewed, and honored. Here I want to share some related links and also encourage every reader to seek out more women writers to add to their To Read lists.

I am putting together a list of great books by women writers to read. It is now over 150 books. I’ll probably share it when it gets up to 200 or so titles. In the meantime, here are some women writers who I have been reading lately to go out and discover right now: the aforementioned Margaret Atwood and Daphne du Maurier; Shirley Jackson; Patricia Highsmith; Ursula K. Le Guin; Octavia Butler; Jane Austen; Stella Gibbons; Dorothy L. Sayers; Harper Lee; Tana French; Mary Doria Russell; Kate Atkinson; Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie; Ruth Ozeki; Jhumpa Lahiri; Ann Leckie; Emily St. John Mandel.

Patricia Highsmith, from 20 Photos of Famous Authors Looking Badass at Flavorwire.

Lists of Note in the Virtual Library

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A new addition to my virtual library is the absolutely gorgeous Lists of Note, compiled by Shaun Usher, author of the fascinating blog Letters of Note.

Recommended Reading: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer is everything I liked about Lost, but much better executed. Full review on Books Worth Reading.

Essay of the week: Amanda Palmer on radical empathy…

A beautifully written piece by Amanda Palmer: Playing the Hitler Card: “We live in an age of endless, foaming outrage. The only answer is to try to feel empathy for other people, no matter who they are.”

Essay of the week: Are women-only book prizes necessary?

Maybe for a century or more to come, we’ll continue to need cultural spaces in which “women’s writing” is protected and encouraged to flourish as something separate from “men’s.” But that same small part of me fears that the gated-off arena can too easily become a prison. There’s something ironic, and a little depressing, in the fact that the digital archive of a major American university now displays the poems of the boldly gender-­ambiguous, literary-drag-­wearing Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell under the festively decorated but irredeemably patronizing heading “A Celebration of Women Writers.”

via Does an Award Like the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Help or Hurt the Cause of Women Writers? – NYTimes.com; quote by Dana Stevens; Zoe Heller also answered the question.