The Impact of Indie Authors on Fantasy2012-Feb-1 -> from the 29-days-of-fantasy department
Welcome one and all to 29 Days of Fantasy, my month-long blog event and tribute to the fantasy genre. I have a great month full of guest posts for you, this being the very first. I open this event with a personal friend and fantasy author, Connie J. Jasperson.
Connie Jasperson lives and writes in rural Washington State. She and her husband share five children, nine grandchildren and a love of good food and great music. Connie has worked as a field hand for a Christmas tree grower, a darkroom technician, a hotel maid, a bookkeeper and also 'did time' in the data entry pools of several large corporations. She is now semi-retired and is writing and blogging full time. She is the author of the epic fantasy 'Tower of Bones,' based in the fictional world of Neveyah, and 'The Last Good Knight', a medieval fantasy. Currently in the works is another book based on the adventures of several characters in 'The Last Good Knight,' and an epic fantasy, 'Mountains of the Moon,' another tale of Neveyah. She can usually be found blogging at http://conniejjasperson.wordpress.com.
We begin our month of fantasy with a look at independant or indie authors, and how they have affected the fantasy genre. This is not an indie vs. traditional debate or discussion, but simply a look at how indie authors are able to pull the genre in directions that historically were not possible. Connie herself is an indie author, and a long-standing fantasy reader with many years and many hundreds of books under her belt. She offers a unique and compelling look at this influence that the common reader may not know or understand. Take it away, Connie.
The genre of fantasy as we know it today began with the works of such radical authors as Fritz Lieber, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley and J.R.R. Tolkien. Back in those wild and wonderful days it was a radical departure from the mainstream and not really even considered to be respectable.
'Two Sought Adventure' by Fritz Lieber was first published in 1939, in the magazine 'Unknown'. This tale later evolved into the epic 'Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser' series. Not only did he spawn the sub-genre of sword-and-sorcery novels, such popular games as Dungeons & Dragons owe much of their existence to his work.
'The Hobbit' was first published in 1937, and was soon followed by 'The Lord of the Rings'. Tolkien was the first author of high fantasy to receive wide acclaim, perhaps because he was a professor of Anglo-Saxon and English Language at Oxford University, lending some degree of legitimacy to his work. His success lent some measure of respectability to the genre as a whole, and paved the way for those who followed him such as Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Terry Brooks.
These authors were trailblazers, and only the bolder, more daring of the publishers would take a chance on publishing them. As a reader, during the 1960s and 1970s I had a hard time finding books that fell into that obscure genre of fantasy. Most of the books that were available I had already read, and there were not nearly as many being written as I wished for. Fortunately in the late 1970s an explosion of sorts occurred in the field of fantasy, and suddenly it was not only more available, it was cool! Everyone was reading J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Moorcock and Roger Zelazney, and they were talking about it! The variety and scope of the new fantasy genre was amazing, and still I read the books faster than they could write them.
Still, even with the demand for fantasy books it was hard for an author to get published. The smaller publishing houses gradually closed or were absorbed by the larger houses. There were fewer publishers because traditional publishing is an expensive business, and the cost of publishing a book that might not be a blockbuster was quite prohibitive even for the large publishing houses.
This meant that although publishers were swamped with submissions, they were either unable or unwilling to take a chance on most unknown authors. An author had to be in the right place at the right time with the right manuscript for them to receive an offer of a contract. This also meant that at times over the last twenty years, much of the fantasy that was available to readers like me was often formulaic and somewhat canned. Much of it had been tailored to sell to specific niches, and was quite dumbed-down. Where was the ingenuity, the fire, the heroic saga of the good and the damned?
Enter the world of the e-book. Now, previously unpublished authors can not only find a venue for their work, they are often successfully publishing it themselves. Yes, there are often some editing and formatting issues, but quite frankly, the fiasco with the first upload of the e-book edition of 'Son of Neptune' by Rick Riordan proves that formatting for e-books is hinky and arcane, even for the mighty Tor Books Publishing Company. With manuscripts being submitted electronically there are more and more opportunities for the Big Six publishing companies to suffer the slings and arrows of version-control disasters.
Currently the genre of fantasy encompasses some 24,969 e-books at Amazon.com! 15 years ago I was lucky to find 10 new books in a year. Now I can find any number of wonderful fantasy reads for the simply amazing price of $2.99. Many are free, and many are $0.99 but at these prices I can afford to buy a lot of them and that is what I do! Now I am spoiled!
Not every book is a winner, and many are not that great. Still, I have found some of the most innovative and radical authors to be the Independent Authors. This is because, as yet, their creativity is not constrained by what will sell to the masses. The indie author has a day job, and writes what he wants to read, not what his publisher has deemed to be commercially viable.
These are the books that are written with passion and ardor for the tale, and these are the books that I search for, like a truffle-hunting hound. These books take chances, and push the boundaries. These books have a soul, that rare thing that makes a book a classic.
Now that ah-ha moment happens sometimes in the established publishing world. Brandon Sanderson has done quite well and so have Tad Williams and Mercedes Lackey. Their work reigns supreme, and rightfully so. But these shining examples of genius have become rare because genius is often not appreciated by the public until it is out of print, and somewhere along the line over the last twenty years the people in marketing decided that the reading public wants to be spoon-fed.
The indie movement has brought new blood to a genre that was growing stale, and that can only be good.
Lorna Suzuki, Glenn Thater, Alison DeLuca, Dean Lappi, and M. Todd Gallowglas - these are the new heroes to me. I am waiting on pins and needles for their next novel, and I am not the only one! And while I am waiting I eagerly read every new novel by other indie authors that I come across, looking for that next masterpiece. Even if I have never heard of that author, I will still give that book a try. At those prices I can afford to buy a book that runs the risk of not really enchanting me. Danielle Raver, Shaun Allan, and my good host today, Thomas A. Knight, these authors have not only enchanted me, they have made me a confirmed follower of their work.
Once in a while I will go back to check on the authors that I love who are fortunate enough to be published by the big mainstream houses, but when the big name publisher charges $7.99 to $15.99 for a kindle download, there is the chance that I may just walk away, no matter how long I have been waiting for that book.
The indie movement is driven by economics, both in the ability of Joe Author to get his work published and the ability of the reading public to cheaply feed their ever-growing reading habits.
The impact of indie authors on the genre of fantasy has been mixed. There has been a huge flowering of wonderful, well drawn tales in vivid and beautiful worlds. Conversely, there has been a large influx of wannabe-Tolkiens who don't bother to get to know their characters, or have their books edited properly, and who don't think that the rules of grammar and readability apply to them. What these authors need to understand is that word of mouth is still a powerful tool for driving sales. I always recommend the works that moved me, and widened my horizons. I do not recommend the books that were stinkers.
I want to thank Thomas A. Knight for having me as his guest today. His book 'The Time Weaver' is one of my current reads, and I must say I enjoyed it immensely. It is a wonderful adventure set in an alternate world, and is a very creditable first novel. I am a confirmed fan!
I assure you, I didn't pay her to say those wonderful things about me or my book, but I appreciate it.
Thank you, everyone, for joining me on this 29 day journey through the heart of my favourite genre. Tomorrow I bring you another phenominal indie author who gives us a lesson on incorporating reality into fantasy. Trust me, you don't want to miss this!
Thanks for reading!
I'm always interested in hearing what you have to say. Contact Me, I'd love to hear from you.
Don't forget to join in on the conversation in the comments section below.
6 Comments(1 Pending Approval):
Or maybe that's just me.
AE Marling: That's one way of looking at it. I don't see it really as a competition. I just want people to read and enjoy my book. :)
The economics are different in Australia where a paperback costs $22 and a hardback $50. From that stance, $11 for a well-known author is still half the price what I'd pay in the shops and I'd rather spend that $11 on something I'm reasonably certain I will enjoy than on 3 or 4 books I probably won't.
These days I really only read indie by recommendation after too many books that were, not to put too fine a point on, just crap (none of them were by the indie authors you have mentioned by name, btw).
The indie revolution can be an amazing thing but unfortunately the people who don't care, don't work hard enough at their craft, or just don't recognise they're not ready to publish, are making it hard to find the good indie authors. A lamentable situation and I one I wish I could find a solution for so it would be easier for me to enjoy these new and inovative voices in fantasy.
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