A week or two ago I saw yet another of those Best Books of 2019 articles in An Important Newspaper. I was surprised by how predictable that list was, but not by the complete absence of indie writers. One of my Twitter followers tagged the article’s author, mentioning the indie scene never getting noticed unless the indie author gets offered a “real” contract. The response was “one of those publishers is a very small indie press”. (I checked. The very small indie press was home to more than 30 authors.) This, unfortunately, wasn’t the question, but once it got clarified the article’s author didn’t respond anymore. An indie writer is not one that has a perfectly normal contract with a perfectly normal publishing house which calls itself indie because it’s not an imprint of the Big 5.
The publishing market has been evolving at the speed of light, single-handedly upended by a certain Jeff Bezos. The monopoly of the agent-editor system is falling apart and unsurprisingly the people who make money out of it don’t like it. The main weapon the Big 5 still have against self-publishers and indie authors is discoverability via The Important Newspapers and The Important Newspapers also know that. Publishers Weekly now offers reviews to indies, except the authors hoping to have their book reviewed have to pay hundreds of $$$ for the privilege. The Best Books Of 2019 You Have Never Heard Of lists tend to be variations on the same fifty titles. What possibly baffles me the most are the well-publicised one-star reviews of really awful books, the only merit of which is that they were published by Simon & Schuster rather than Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
Out of the six best books I have read this year five were written/published by indies. Why don’t those books get press? Because they don’t sell enough. Why don’t they sell enough? Because they don’t get press. It used to just be the publishers who made sure some voices would never be heard. Now that there are ways to go around publishers, media gleefully took over the role.
Here are some great indie books I’ve read this year and would recommend to anyone, and there is a chance you’ve really never heard about them. Before I begin, though, I would like to thank all the book bloggers who put their time and work and dedication into helping indie writers and their audiences find each other.
Yours truly, a well-seasoned journalist and writer, greatly enjoyed Clayton Snyder’s River of Thieves and decided to interview the main characters, Cord and Nenn. Unfortunately some notes might have been misplaced… An awkward, unedited transcript follows.
BL: Welcome to LRSN FM! Today we have the most special guest for you: Mademoiselle Nenne du Corduroy talking about her new memoir, “Lotus on the Lake”. Uhm, mademoiselle, you can’t smoke in here. And… this… person… is, uh, your current husband, the Duke, I gather?
Cord (C): Wait. You wrote a book?
Nenn (N): I do a lot of things.
C: “Lotus on the Lake”.
N: Eh, the publisher thought it’d sell better with the Hestians.
C: Most of them are illiterate.
N: *rolls eyes*
N: Wait. Did you say husband?
C: Why? Why would someone say that?
N: I don’t really like…
C: Penises. She doesn’t like penises.
N: Well, I was going to be more tactful, but yeah. In a nutshell.
N: Sigh. Next question.
For those who have read Storytellers already, this is Doctor Brynjólf’s bookshelf.
(Árbærsjafn Open Air Museum)
The always amazing Lydia Schoch:
My reading habits have evolved a lot over the years. In today’s post, I’m going to start with my earliest memories and share some stories about how my interests and habits have changed over time. […] How have your reading habits evolved over time? If anyone decides to borrow this topic and blog about it, I’ll edit this post to include a link to your response if you’re interested in that.
I taught myself to read at the age of four. I kept forcing my mum and grandparents to re-read the same children’s books to me over and over and over again, until they told me that by now I must have memorised them. Since they refused to re-re-re-read them for me, I took things in my own hands and discovered that 1) I had indeed memorised them, 2) I was able to figure out what letters meant, how they composed into words, then sentences. I didn’t know it was unusual for a four-year old to read, but I also didn’t know that some books were not suitable for kids.
I read everything we had at home. Once my grandparents and mum noticed, they bought more kids’ books, but not before I went through multiple crime stories, lots of sci-fi, various romance books, magazines such as A Woman and Life, catalogues – if it was written word, I read it. My biggest achievement was a MASSIVE tome Four Tank-Men and a Dog (I’m not sure whether that’s a correct translation, but the word does not appear in dictionaries), which I read for the first time around the age of six/seven. (A lot of it was Soviet propaganda, which of course I missed.) I also loved a series about a teenager who travelled around the world, discovering things, saving others, basically a teenage Indiana Jones. I had no idea racism even existed, so the disdainful descriptions of all races other than white completely passed me by. Winnetou was wonderfully homoerotic and my re-reads of that coincided with the period I discovered I was gay myself. The difference between my favourite books and all the others was that I read the favourites more than once. Generally if it had printed text in it, I read it.
I only became more discerning later…