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Barry Eisler and Stephen Leather ride the indie charts in U.S./UK

Yet another self-published Kindle writer makes a killing

  In mid-March we had Barry Eisler turning down a 0,000 advance, which he explained in his long interview with J.A. Konrath.

  As the Daily Finance's Martin Cloake reported:

  ' At the heart of both authors' reasoning [Konrath and Eisler] is the publisher's advance. Traditionally authors received a lump sum advance against sales which they would use to write the book. But that money has to be earned back once the book is published, and at a royalty – between 10 and 15% – of the sale price.

Insurance policy
This can be seen as a loan, an insurance policy, even a bet. Konrath says: "Signing with a big publisher is like signing a life insurance policy, where the payments keep getting larger while the payoff gets smaller as time goes on."  Taking that loan, argues Eisler, only makes sense if "the loan is so big that you don't think you'd ever be able to make that much on your own". '

Stephen Leather - UK
A British thriller writer, Stephen Leather (U.S.)  (UK) sells his ebooks for as little as 71 p (US .50) and has enjoyed the #1 spot on Amazon UK's ebook bestseller lists for "90 percent of the last three months" and that's from selling "somewhere in the region" of 2,000 ebooks a day.

' Leather enjoys a successful parallel career writing "big international thrillers" for Hodder & Stoughton.

But last August, when Amazon.co.uk opened its Kindle store, he saw an opportunity: "I was lucky, in that I had three novellas Hodder had turned down because they were in a different genre from my other books and too short to work as conventional paperbacks.

"But I realised they might work for the Kindle." '

He realized the Kindle (UK: K3) was going to be very big on Christmas Day and that after people downloaded the ebooks they'd always wanted, most of them relatively (or absolutely) expensive, they'd start looking for cheaper books.

"I knew the wave was going to break on Christmas Day.  I got myself in position to take advantage, I got on and I've been riding it ever since."

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.


Indie Booksellers’ Choice Award gets new co-sponsor, announces longlist

Melville House has announced the longlist of finalists for the first Independent Booksellers Choice Awards.

The list of 30 semi-finalists was supposed to have been announced Friday.

“We had a last minute rush of votes and it got pretty exciting,” explained Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson. “It was so close that we wound up extending the list to 36 titles from 29 different independent presses.” Johnson said votes came in from many of the country’s most prestigious bookstores, including St. Marks Book Shop and Word in New York, 57th Street Books in Chicago, City Lights and Green Apple Books in San Francisco, Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, and Book Soup and Skylight Books in Los Angeles.

Among the finalists were titles from indie standard-bearers such as Akashic, Dalkey Archives, New Directions, Graywolf and Seven Stories, new houses such as O/R Books, micro-presses Two Dollar Radio, Flatmancrooked and The Dorothy Project, and giant indies such as Grove Atlantic and Norton.

The complete list of titles appears after the jump.

Melville House also announced a new partnership with the popular trade e-newsletter Shelf Awareness, which will now co-sponsor the award.

“Non one in the American media covers the independent bookselling scene more smartly than Shelf Awareness,” said Johnson. “They really get what indie bookselling means to the culture at large, and we’re really thrilled to join forces with them in the effort to champion books published by independent publishers and sold by independent booksellers. That’s what it’s all about.”

“The Indie Bookseller Choice Awards symbolize everything we value and believe in at Shelf Awareness,” said SA publisher and co-founder Jenn Risko. “We’re so pleased and grateful to help shine the spotlight on the amazing work that both indie booksellers and indie publishers do.”

The short list of winners will be announced on May 1st. Ultimately, the five winners will be announced during the annual Book Expo American convention, at a ceremony at the Housing Works Bookstore in New York City on May 23. The five winning titles, chosen from any genre of publication, will be on display at participating independent bookstores across the country.


Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk  (Tin House)
Aliss at the Fire by Jon Fosse  (Dalkey Archive)
An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris by Geroges Perec  (Wakefield Press)
Asunder by Robert Lopez  (Dzanc)
Black Minutes by Martin Solares  (Grove/Atlantic)
Contingency Plan by David K Wheeler  (TS Poetry)
Dolly City by Orly Castel-Bloom (Dalkey)
by Eugene Marten (Tyrant Books)
Flyover State by Emma Straub  (Flatmancrooked)
Forecast by Shya Scanlon  (Flatmancrooked)
Grand Central Winter: Stories from the Street by Lee Stringer (Seven Stories Press)
Great House by Nicole Krauss (W.W. Norton)
I Just Lately Started Buying Wings by Kim Dana Kupperman (Graywolf Press)
Long, Last, Happy by Barry Hannah (Grove/Atlantic)
Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (McPherson)
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes  (Grove/Atlantic)
Museum of the Weird by Amelia Gray (FC2)
New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (New Press)
Nox by Anne Carson (New Directions)
Orion You Came and Took All My Marbles by Kira Henehan (Milkweed Editions)
Report by Jessica Francis Kane (Graywolf)
The Autobiography of Jenny X by Lisa Dierbeck (O/R Books)
The Black History of the White House by Clarence Lusane  (City Lights)
The Debba by Avner Mandelman  (Other Press)
The French Revolution by Matt Stewart (Soft Skull Press)
The Instructions by Adam Levin (McSweeney’s)
The Jokers by Albert Cossery (NYRB)
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall (W.W. Norton)
The Museum of Eterna’s Novel by Macedonio Fernandez (Open Letter)
The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich  (Two Dollar Radio)
The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel (Unbridled)
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade Books)
Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja (Small Beer Press)
Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck (New Directions)
Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns (Dorothy)
by Nina Revoyr (Akashic)


Indie ebook sellers creating virtual High-Street

High-street book sellers changing into online ebook sellers:

For quite some time now people have been bemoaning the death of bricks and mortar book stores as more and more people move over to reading ebooks rather than paper ones.  The general idea being that one or two big players will take over the whole book selling market and that once all high-street book shops have died, ebook prices will rocket and we will all be at the mercy of outfits such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and have no other choice as to where we buy our ebooks.

The parallel is drawn with the effect that large supermarkets have on small stores, which on the face of it is a reasonable comparison.

However, I am now seeing a new and rather wonderful development, as fast as the small independent book are closing down (which saddens me no end) small independent ebook selling websites are springing up all over the place, or small book stores are moving over to selling ebooks – and paper ones – on websites.

As with the bricks and mortar small book shops, they can’t really compete with the big boys on price, (the Agency model of book pricing actually helps the small ebook seller, as the Publishers are dictating the selling price of their ebooks) but what they can and do offer is a much more  personal service.   Buying from Amazon et.al is efficient (to a point) but totally impersonal, much like the high-street book shop chains.   All the newly created small online ebook sellers seem to be run in much the same way as their high-street ancestors,  one deals with a friendly and well informed individual in most cases, and can enter into amusing and informative email conversations with them, almost as it is if one goes into any small book shop.

So what seems to be happening is that there is a sort of seesaw effect happening here as book selling moves from paper to digital, and it is beginning to seem, as with paper books, that there is a place for the small independent ebook seller out there.

There is one difference that is noteworthy about these new smallish ebook sellers, they are almost all also getting into publishing ebooks as well as selling existing ebooks, which is  interesting.  I have come across  quite a few of them in the last couple of months, who offer reasonably priced ebook publishing services for writers, and obviously attractive to writers, they also offer a very good rate of royalty on every copy sold.  This development will assuredly have a profound effect on publishing as well.

We already have sites such as Smashwords who do this, but they are so damn big, it is tricky for an author to stand out among the crowd, but if you publish your master work via one of these smaller ebook sites, then provided the site owners manage to make their sites well known, you will stand out and be easy to find.. and thus your ebook should sell much better, seems to me.

I suspect that we will see a digital version of the way the paper book market is split, one has the big chains for selling the Top 10 and similar books, and the  small independent shops who tend to sell rather less well known authors, but importantly, know about the books they sell….  Most big book sellers carry large stocks, but also tend not to have very well informed staff.

All very interesting I find.   We are seeing a sort of virtual high-street developing here and I am curious to see how far it goes in the course of the next year.

Share with us:

Does this spark any thoughts in you?   Am I correct in feeling reasonably optimistic about the future of small book sellers, or not?



The missing ingredient: quality control in Indie ebooks


To me, the lack of quality control is a big deterrent to paying more than a dollar or two for an indie ebook from an author whose books I have not previously read. In the beginning, Smashwords was a great place to find indie books and give them a try, but that is rapidly changing as the number of indie ebooks rapidly increases. As Smashwords has grown, as indie publishing has grown with the rise of ebooks, and as the needle in the haystack has become increasingly difficult to find, we need to implement a method that imposes some sort of quality control.

A common response to this puzzle is to suggest looking at reader reviews on ebookseller sites like Amazon, on social sites like Goodreads, and on book review blogs. Perhaps in the very infancy of ebooks these were good and practical ways to determine quality, but that has changed with the rapid growth of indie ebooks. Not only are many of the indie ebooks simply not reviewed, those that are reviewed are often not well reviewed except in the sense of whether or not the reviewer liked the story. The insight of a professional reviewer is missing.

I began to notice the problems with reviews when readers began giving 1-star ratings because of price; that is, they were protesting the price of the ebook rather than evaluating the content. Price should not be a determining factor because each of us is capable of determining whether we are willing to pay the price, independent of whether someone else believes a particular price is too high, regardless of the book’s other qualities or lack thereof.

Compounding the price boycott review problem are the reviews that give a book 4 or 5 stars but do not detail what is good or bad about the book. One book I was interested in had a rating of between 4.5 and 5 stars. Of the 23 reviews, only 2 mentioned that book clearly had not been edited or proofread and, thus, reading it was difficult. This is not to suggest that the other 21 reviewers either didn’t or shouldn’t have enjoyed the book; rather, it reflects another concern of mine: Perhaps readers are unable to discern the difference between there and theirseen andscene, or seem and seam, and thus do not know that a book has errors. Some readers have told me that, as long as they get the idea, they do not care. I’m not convinced that bodes well for the future of literacy.

Yet another problem with these reviews is that it takes a leap of faith to accept that they are legitimate and made knowledgeably. This is the result of a lack of uniform, accepted criteria against which a book is judged by everyone — the gatekeeper role. When someone with the screen name “opus941″ and no other identification tells me that so-and-so’s ebook was by far the best fantasy ebook he/she has read since Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but doesn’t mention that there are 4 homonym errors, 2 run-on sentences, and the same character’s name spelled differently within the first 3 paragraphs, I wonder whether opus941 ever read LOTR or simply watched the video, and I wonder how much credence to give to the review and the reviewer.

It is true that with a lot of work on my part, I can overcome many of the problems. For example, if I discover that opus941 has reviewed 42 ebooks and that I have read 10 of them and agreed with his/her reviews, I can probably move toward the end of the spectrum that says I can gamble on an ebook with a good opus941 review. But such trust is rapidly shattered by the first ebook opus941 raves about where I can’t get past the first few paragraphs because of poor grammar and editing, an occurrence that happens much too frequently with indie publishing.

The real question, however, is why should I have to do so much work to find a decent indie ebook to read? The consequence is that I am unwilling to pay much, if anything, for an indie author’s ebooks until I have read 1 or 2 and am convinced that the author can actually write a coherent sentence that captivates my attention. There are just too many things competing for my attention for me to undertake yet another major project, and looking for indie ebooks that worth reading is becoming such a project. Clearly, this is neither good for authors nor for their distributors. Yet, in the absence of traditional publishing that assures at least a minimal gatekeeping, this hurdle needs to addressed by 90% of indie authors (yes, there will always be a percentage for whom none of this is a hurdle to overcome).

The solution may be for distributors to become the new gatekeepers, either themselves doing the gatekeeping or requiring authors to attest that their ebooks meet certain prestated editorial criteria. I am not talking about storyline, plot, or other content related to the storyline or plot. I am talking about quality control – that the book has been professionally edited and professionally produced. The question is how to implement such a system at the distribution level.

I suppose one way to do it is to require every ebook to have a minimum price of 99¢ and to require the author to offer a double-your-money-back guarantee should the buyer find x number of grammar and/or spelling errors. (I accept, and think everyone must accept, that no book, professionally edited and proofread or not, is wholly error free. The question really is one of numbers: 1 error every 2 to 3 pages may be acceptable whereas 1 error every paragraph would not.)

Another way might be to require reviewers to respond to certain questions as part of the review process: “Did you find any spelling errors? Give examples. Did the ebook appear to have been edited? What is the basis for your conclusion?” Perhaps 2 or 3 more standardized questions should be asked and answers required before a more general review about the story or plot can be posted and a star rating awarded. Then the star rating can be given as weighted to include the answers to the required questions. For example, if a reviewer gave the story a 5-star rating but said that spelling errors had been found and the ebook appeared not to have been edited, the weighted rating might be 4 stars. However, a reader could see the review, the answers to the questions, and the story rating, as well as the overall weighted rating, and can assign his/her own weights.

I’m sure there are other creative ways to get a truer sense of an ebook, we only need to collaborate to find them. Authors and distributors should agree to the method ultimately settled on should be agreed and it should be applied uniformly across distribution channels. Authors would still be free to do as they please. However, readers would be better served and the better authors — those who really do care about their relationship with their readers — would profit more because readers would feel assured of getting a quality read from these authors and thus be more willing to spend a reasonable sum to buy the author’s ebooks.

It could only be good for all concerned when distributors are able to sell ebooks for a reasonable sum, authors are able to sell ebooks for a reasonable sum, and readers can improve their odds of finding that proverbial needle in the haystack. Certainly, it is worth thinking about.

Via Rich Adin’s An American Editor blog


3G Kindle at AT&T stores – Random House US goes ‘Agency’- Indie author’s $$$Sales

KINDLE NEWS March 1, 2011

This means you can "test drive" a Kindle 3 at any AT&T store soon, and there are about 2,200 AT&T stores.  Here is info from AT&T on this.

Also, they will carry ONLY the 3G model, not the WiFi one, since they provide the 3G cellular wireless, which is free for Kindle customers (and best used with text-oriented sites with slower E-Ink) and it's speculated by JPMorgan & Chase Co. analyst Philip Cusick that AT&T will get a few dollars per Kindle sale.  These will sell at the same price as from Amazon: 9.

L. A. Times's Carolyn Kellogg reports that the last of the "Big 6" publishing houses is moving to the Agency model for e-books, which is noted most of all, by consumers, for its higher e-book pricing over the last year that it's been put in place.  Apple's iPad2 announcement tomorrow will probably include that Random House has been accepted into Apple's iBook store, rather than kept out because they would not accept the Agency model terms earlier.

  I mentioned other day that the Agency model and the pricing wars have less to do with the amount of immediate profit-taking than 'control' over the e-book market, which is threatening the paper-based book market and its profits - the main and admitted concern of the Big 6 publishers.
  As Random House put it:

' "Going forward, Random House will set consumer prices for the e‐books we publish, and we will provide retailers with a commission for each sale," Random House said in a statement.  The agency model guarantees a higher margin for retailers than did our previous sales terms. We are making this change both as an investment in the successful digital transition of our existing partners and in order to give us the opportunity to forge new retail relationships." '

  Translation: Apple is ultra-likely to announce Tuesday that Random House has come within the fold.

  Apple and Random House are said to have been in negotiations since December.  We can hope that Random House may choose to set lower prices than the Big5 did during the last year.  The American Booksellers Assn. gave "strong support" to the move.

Not surprisingly, to those following the UK scene, Random House's UK company is not going Agency.  The Office of Fair Trading ("OFT") launched an investigation into e-book pricing in February, and publishers outside the Agency model "said they would be more cautious about it while it was under review."

  The Amazon UK forum "Agency Pricing" message thread is still going strong (with 1727 posts since mid-October, and the last message, dated today, says:

' Posted on 1 Mar 2011 10:21 GMT
Izzy says:
Well I'm glad many of us emailed the OFT and that they are looking into it because Random House US is going agency too, but not Random House UK... phew.  It's very unlikely that any UK publishers will switch to agency while it's under investigation. '

They have been comparing pricing and ways to bring e-book pricing back to what made sense to them as Kindle owners until the Agency plan started taking hold even there.

That's sort of old news, courtesy of USA Today on February 9, but the story has been picked up more in the last couple of weeks and while I won't name the online zines that had so much "misinformation" in them (Amanda Hocking's word), including the misspelling of her name several times in one article as well as statements that she receives 70% of a sale for 99-cent books (not true, it's 35% for books under .99), it's been time-consuming to try to get more factually-based info.  But we have access to her blog for that.

Her success in sales should be given some attention by the Big 6 publishers in connection with their favored higher-ebook-pricing Agency plan.  They tend to insist that no one will be 'discovered' without their help.

According to the USA Today article, she started self-publishing in March, was selling hundreds of copies by May and thousands by June, at prices between 99c and .99.

' "More astounding: This January she sold more than 450,000 copies of her nine titles. More than 99% were e-books."
. . .
In fact, Hocking is selling so well that on Thursday, the three titles in her Trylle Trilogy (Switched, Torn and Ascend, the latest) will make their debuts in the top 50 of USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list.

A recent survey shows 20 million people read e-books last year, and more self-published authors are taking advantage of the trend. '

  To see Amanda Hocking's list of facts to offset the misinformation online, see the 'Misinformation and Corrections' entry at her blog.

  Essentially, she is 26, has published eight books and one novella, "so there are nine works that you can purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Smashwords."
  She was never traditionally published and still has not been traditionally published.
  Hocking first published two books in April 15, 2010 and in less than a year, she's "sold over 900,000 copies of over nine different books."
  Has been on the USA Today Bestseller list but not the NY Times List.
  She has an interview with Elle that will be in the April issue and is due to be interviewed by Better TV in late March.
  She writes "young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy, mostly."

  Her Trylle Trilogy has been optioned for a film and is "a paranormal romance without vampires, shifters, mermaids, fae, angels, dragons, ghosts, or ninjas."
  On the other hand, her latest, Hollowland, IS a zombie urban fantasy, a bit more gritty than her previous books but romance remains part of the mix.  It already has 83 customer reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars.  I have no idea why zombies are so 'in' these days and will add that's not a draw for me, but I do like that she has used a background of very-early writing focus and years of serious classes in writing and has exploded on the scene, enjoyed by many paying-customers despite no help whatsoever from the traditional large publishers.  Read her blog to see the avenues she uses for getting the word out.
  Here's her Amazon Author page.

Authors and Kindle Publishing.

A Kindle World Blog history of articles on the e-book pricing wars

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.


Indie books & independent nations… Google for good.

Keeping the lights on: Greenlight sells physical and virtual books

When Google launched its long awaited Ebookstore in December, part of the hype and hope was that it would allow indie bookstores to take advantage of the digital revolution. At the L Magazine, Mark Asch interviews Jessica Stockton of Greenlight Books about how it’s going so far:

At this point, barely two months after the launch of the Google ebooks project (and only three months after our store’s ecommerce website went up), it’s really just a trickle. But…as people get comfortable with how the buying process and the platform works, we’ll definitely see an increase.

Asch then asks why Google has gone out of its way to offer eBook sales opportunities to indie bookstores when they could have tried to monopolized the market a la Amazon or Apple.

The scale that Google operates on is so far removed from my experience that I can barely begin to imagine their business strategies! But my thought is that perhaps they’ve adopted a philosophy of diversification, rather than a philosophy of consolidation (as, for example, Amazon has with the DRM-ed up, single-channel Kindle)…. If this is indeed their thinking, it’s a variation on the kind of collaborative “enlightened self-interest” we practice in working with other independent bookstores and other local businesses—and I think it makes for a healthy, sustainable long-term economy for books.

Along with Google’s recent undercutting of Apple’s deathly 30% subscription fees, the company does seem to be positioning itself as the tech giant that supports the little guy. Throw in Wael Ghonim, the heroic pro-democracy activist and  Google executive in Egypt…. and you’ve got an impressive “don’t-be-evil” streak going.


Indie author Simon Royle interviews Joanna

51FNaNA1SNL SL500 AA266 PIkin3 BottomRight 16 34 AA300 SH20 OU01Royle has a long interview with our own Joanna on his site. Here’s the beginning:

Joanna, perhaps more known to some of you as Ficbot, is a real champion of Indie work. Asides from writing for Teleread for a long time, Joanna also reviews indie books at her blog, and also runs the Indie eBook Hall of Fame.

“This might sound a little harsh, but honestly, what I am looking for is a book that is of a high enough quality that I could actually picture it being sold in a store. If indie authors want true credibility, that is the bar they need to aim for, and that’s why I give very few 5/5 ratings.”

Go on over and take a look.


The people who make indie publishing possible

The casual reader rarely realizes the amount and variety of work that goes into finding, editing, producing, promoting, and distributing the books they pick up in the bookstore, bring home, and learn to love. So today we’re going to tip our hat to two of the people who are integral to Melville House‘s success.

Last summer, Melville House hired Christopher King as Art Director and he immediately took over every visual aesthetic of the company from the covers of the books to the spacing conventions of the em dashes in our books (I’ve yet to see him leave his desk since). Now, with our Summer 2011 Catalogue, his distinctive, stylish work has begun to spark notice.

The Caustic Cover Critic blog was the first to spot and admire King’s work. Now they’ve interviewed him more about his influences and ideas. You should read the full interview (and see the covers for yourself), but here are a few highlights:

Last summer I took over as art director of Melville House, and, as I’m reminded on a daily basis, it’s pretty much the best job ever….Any designer who’s ever faced the firing squad (a.k.a., packaging meetings) could appreciate what a relief it is to seek approval only from our two publishers, who are, remarkably, willing to indulge just about all of my harebrained schemes, and who are almost never heard to say, “make the title bigger.”

Needless to say, if you told my five-year-old self he would actually get paid to draw dinosaurs someday, he’d probably pee his pants.

Another essential book-industry job that rarely receives his or her due is the sales rep. These are the endlessly literate, enthusiastic, dedicated people who devour thousands of books every year in order to let bookstores and libraries know about the most exciting new titles. At The Dewey Divas and the Dudes a blog dedicated to “The adventures (reading and otherwise) of book reps on the road” we were thrilled to see library sales rep Maylin Scott singing the praises of Melville House:

…the stacks of paper and catalogues and drop-ins can be overwhelming. But one of the independent presses that I’m really proud to represent, just keeps infusing this cynical sales rep with electric (and ecclectic) jolts of amazing creative energy, passion and originality that completely recharges me.  This is THE press to watch in 2011…

Last but not least, they are doing something this summer that I’m still chuckling about – it’s an absolutely brilliant idea.  For most publishers (and authors, I suspect), it’s a nightmare when two books come out in the same season with the same title.  Well, Melville has embraced this challenge and this summer are publishing, not one, not two, but FIVE books in their Art of the Novella series, all by different authors, all titled The Duel. Dueling Duels.  I love it!

I’m getting up at dawn on five summer days and reading them all.

Indie publishing is a pitched battle against a multitude of adversaries: the endless clamor of mainstream entertainment, the near impossibility of being noticed against the hyper-visual backdrop, the physical challenge of getting books out into the world, the deadening apathy of much of the culture. It’s the creative energies of people like Maylin and Christopher that keep us alive.


New! The indie ebook hall of fame


I have a major announcement! I’ve been working away this weekend on a little webpage I’m calling The Indie eBook Hall of Fame. This site is designed to be a one-stop filter for readers to help them find the best of the best indie ebooks being reviewed out there in Blogland. To land on the list, the book must be available in ebook form in multiple formats, and must have been reviewed (and recommended!) by at least three independent bloggers—not just Amazon, Smashwords or Goodreads reviews, but full-on write-ups by bloggers who are reviewing indie books.

The internet indie scene can seem at times like the world’s biggest slushpile. This site offers not just one, but THREE gatekeepers who have screened the content for you and found it worth recommending. Each of these books was found worthy by more than one reviewer.

I started by combing the archives of my own reviews and those at a handful of other blogs I follow, looking for repeat appearances. And I’ll keep my eye out for more. But of course, I can’t do it alone. Here’s where you can help me:

- If you are an author, you need to set up a Google Alert on yourself so you can tabs on who is reviewing your stuff. When you hit the magical three excellent reviews, send me the info on your book and where it’s been reviewed so I can check it out.

- If you are a blogger and you have a book you’ve read that is worthy but doesn’t have three reviews yet, send me the info and I’ll add it to the ‘Almost’ Page, where other bloggers who are trolling for their next great read can go and look for something. And of course, if YOU are trolling for a new read, why not check out the ‘Almost’ Page yourself?

- If you are a blogger who regularly reviews indie books, and you are not yet on the Blog Roll at the side of this blog, email me so I can check out your site and add you.

I am very excited about this page—it’s not just me, recommending these books (in fact, there are a few on there already which are patently not my thing). It’s the entire blogging community. Please spread the word so those who have intel about thrice-recommended books I’ve missed can get it sent to me. Let’s create a true one-stop resource where readers can connect with truly excellent indie reads.


Beyond “Best Of”: Melville House and the Indie Lists

"Best in Show"

The years draws to a close and we’re all awash in best-of book lists and holiday gift books suggestions. These lists are simultaneously addictive and so abundant as to render to render themselves meaningless. Largehearted Boy has undertaken the thankless task (though we do thank him for it) of compiling an aggregate list of all “Best of 2010″ lists. (It also includes “best cryptozoology books,” “most disappointing books,”  and “best map books.”)

This list of lists is MASSIVE and, frankly, numbing. Among the straight “best fiction” lists, the titles tend to blur. Freedom, Room, Parrot and Oliver in America, A Visit From The Good Squad, Skippy Dies, The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake, Super Sad True Love Story, The Finkler Question, Mark Twain, Just Kids, Cleopatra. They are simultaneously elevated and somehow erased by the “burden” of consensus and saturation. And so I find myself drawn to the unexpected titles on each list (The Private Lives of Trees by Alejandro Zambra buried at the end of The Boston Globe‘s “best-of” list), and then to the less obvious lists (every title at The Devil’s Accountant best-of list sounds phenomenal). I don’t, in the end, just want a “good” book. I want something idiosyncratic and electric. I don’t just want a good story, but also a great surprise. The New York Times offers not a single unanticipated title on its “best of” list, so I look to see what Flavorwire and The Huffington Post offer on their lists of books neglected by The New York Times list. But even here we find familiar names… Room, Just Kids, Skippy. So you travel to deeper, odder places in the literary sea. To the truly independent end of the literary lists. Which is where Melville House titles thrive.

Flavorwire’s “5 Must-Read Small Press Titles From 2010″ includes Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat “From chapter to chapter, readers will find teacher/student lust, drugs (‘snowcaine’), political intrigue, and religious allegory, all deftly packaged in a fantasy world fleshed out to a near-Tolkienesque proportions.”

Aurorarama also made The Fantasy Book Critic‘s “Top Five Books of 2010″: “There is intrigue, action, ice travels, prophetic dreams, occasionally somewhat explicit sex and drugs and just pure fun.” It’s a sentiment shared at Io9, which cites Aurorarama as a science fiction book that makes [a] great gift” and ”a wildly different take on the genre.”

The Hipster Book Club‘s “2010 Holiday Gift Guide” selects Richard Yates by Tao Lin. “There is no better accessory for the self-hating hipster than a Tao Lin book. But what makes Lin more than just a fashionable writer are his deep characters and his evocative writing.”

The Nervous Breakdown awarded a “Nobbie Award” to Richard Yates: “A terrifying ‘mix’ of hilarious and mind-numbingly boring.” You know you’ve entered indie award territory when something can be great and boring at the same time. Pure entertainment and narrative flow are no longer the criteria of the game.

Another “Nobbie” went to How To Wreck A Nice Beach by Dave Tompkins which was called “weird and wonderful.”

The Village Voice also picked How To Wreck A Nice Beach as a “Best Book Of 2010″ calling it “comprehensively bonkers.” Once again, the adjective selection shows how differently the Voice thinks about quality: the traditional sense of “best” is breaking down. We’re in underground literature territory.

What’s a “Kitschie”? It’s a literary prize given out by Pornokitsch for books that are “progressive (but not wanky), intelligent (but not arrogant) and entertaining (but not trite).” Aurorarama made the longlist.

And speaking of longlists, where thrilled that both Aurorarama and Lee Rourke‘s “Not-the-Booker”-winning The Canal made the longlist for the single greatest literary prize of them all: The Morning News‘s Tournament of Books. We cannot wait for March when our Cinderella literature gets a shot to tussle with the big boys, the Bookers and Pulitzers.

Meanwhile a very odd thing is happening with Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone: one of 2009′s most celebrated novels, the book was reprinted in the UK as Alone In Berlin which has led to its inclusion on “best of” lists for a second year running! We’re tempted to point out that they’re still talking about the same book that we published in 2009, but it’s such a great book, we wouldn’t want to undercut their appreciation. A rose by any other name, etc. We’re pleased to say that Fallada’s masterpiece has been included on best-of lists at The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Daily Mail.

Which goes to show that the independent spirit lives everywhere. Lists aim to guide our attention to goodness, but, as always, we have to do most of the searching ourselves if we want to find things worth finding. And, sometimes, an appreciation for independent literature appears where it’s least expected. For example, at Amazon, where, to our shock, How To Wreck A Nice Beach beat out Jay-Z and Amy Sedaris to be chosen as THE best entertainment book of 2010. Well damn. Maybe there’s something to this “best of” business after all.

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