Skip to main content

Should you buy a self-published book?

Once upon a time you knew, on the whole, that if a book had been published (unless it was written by a celebrity) that it would be of a certain quality, because the whole of the publisher's might from copy editing to proof reading had been applied to it. Of course there were always the products of vanity publishing, but you ignored those by the plague.

Now, though, there is a middle ground - the self-published book. Because it is so easy to pop something onto Kindle (say), these are appearing in large quantities. So what to do? Ignore the self-published books, stick a toe carefully into the water, or plunge in neck-deep?

I certainly wouldn't totally ignore self-published books. Think of the parallel with jams. I could always buy Bon Maman, and be sure I was getting the same high standards all the time. But equally I could pick up something at a farmer's market, lovingly crafted that may well taste much better. Or could have gone off. Or could have a dead mouse in it. The difference, I suppose, is that it is much harder to write and edit a good book than it is produce a good jam... yet many more people think they can write a book than think they can make jam.

I get bombarded with suggestions for self-published books to be reviewed on www.popularscience.co.uk but I ignore 95 percent of these. One or two do catch my fancy, though. I very much enjoyed The Rocketbelt Caper, which subsequently became a real published book. And most recently I have been sent Nothing and Anywhere, a novel by Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon, which I was told had enough maths content in it to make it worth considering for the site.

In the end, I didn't include the book on Popular Science because it really doesn't have enough science/maths content to be appropriate, but I do feel it is worth commenting on it here. I love edgy real world fantasies like those of Neil Gaiman, and the opening section of the novel, which is the best part, has that kind of feel - it reminded me a little of Gaiman's Neverwhere, not just because of the title but also because of the strange visitors and the way the main character is plunged into a confusing and life-changing world. Other aspects of the novel - particularly the big set piece attack on a Scottish castle and the very random conversations about favourite pieces of music and the like (a little self-indulgent, I'm afraid) - didn't work so well.

Overall, though, I felt it was a book I was glad that I had read. I was conscious throughout that it could have been a lot better if it had been well edited, but it had a raw enthuasiasm. This very much echoes my experience of reading two other self published novels - Alice Turing's Dance Your Way to Psychic Sex and Henry Gee's gothic By the Sea. I enjoyed the read, even though the experience was a little bumpy in places.

So my conclusion? You have to be very selective. I really need to be sold on a self-published book before I take a look at it. But it is worth dipping a toe into the water. After all, some of those homemade jams really are delicious.

Comments

  1. thanks for the plug, Brian. athe cheque is in the post.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Mirror, mirror

A little while ago I had the pleasure of giving a talk at the Royal Institution in London - arguably the greatest location for science communication in the UK. At one point in the talk, I put this photograph on the screen, which for some reason caused some amusement in the audience. But the photo was illustrating a serious point: the odd nature of mirror reflections. I remember back at school being puzzled by a challenge from one of our teachers - why does a mirror swap left and right, but not top and bottom? Clearly there's nothing special about the mirror itself in that direction - if there were, rotating the mirror would change the image. The most immediately obvious 'special' thing about the horizontal direction is that the observer has two eyes oriented in that direction - but it's not as if things change if you close one eye. In reality, the distinction is much more interesting - we fool ourselves into thinking that the image behind the mirror is what's on ou