#Smashwords31, the story so far:
During July, Smashwords are running a summer / winter sale (this acknowledgement that a July sale is not a summer sale the whole world over is typical of the Smashwords approach), during which Smashwords authors are encouraged to slap on a discount and join the site-wide promotion. I did so, and on the remote possibility that a) you’re reading this and b) you haven’t already obtained a copy of Viennese Waltz from one of my previous promotions (or, bless you, at full price) and c) you have the remotest interest in obtaining one, you can purchase at copy at half price here.
Slapping on a discount is the easy part, of course. A site-wide promotion works if we’re all promoting it, and that gave me pause. I’ve banged on about Smashwords a lot, and I’m painfully aware that pointing a casually browsing acquaintance at Smashwords is as likely as not to result in that acquaintance turning up two or three duds and retiring hurt, so I’m loath to do it – and there’s no point crassly plugging my own work all month at people who already know what I do, especially not when I’m not online enough to sugar the pill with a heavy layer of less mercenary tweets.
Soaking in the bath on the evening of July 1st, pondering this problem, and also the fact that it’s a bit rich expecting anyone else to explore Smashwords when I so rarely do it myself, I resolved to find 31 books on the site this month that I wasn’t embarrassed to recommend. This seemed like a sensationally good idea at the time.
If it’s been harder than I expected to find those 31 books, that’s not mainly to do with the quality of the works available. I was expecting to have to plough through the under-edited, the over-ambitious and (whisper it) the plain deluded, as well as perfectly good books that just weren’t quite my cup of tea. I hadn’t reckoned on getting so dispirited – browsing usually results in having a book to read, after all, and that makes it worthwhile; days of browsing that resulted in a string of rushed blogs but very little actual reading rather soured me on the whole experience. It made me an even pickier reader than usual, as well, which hardly helped. I know I’ve been discarding books for bad reasons, for being in a voice that takes more than half a page to get used to, for presenting something I take to be a misinterpretation of something that I pride myself on knowing about, for starting the sample with a few pages of reviews or acknowledgements . . . I’m pretty hard to please.
But I’m back, and I’m determined to make those 31 recommendations. They can’t be entirely whole hearted, because they’re not, naturally, of books that I have read from cover to cover. If I try this again next year, they will be, because I’ll start reading sooner, but for this year all I can say is ‘this is a promising beginning’. So:
Suggestion 16: The Heiress Effect. You may have gathered that I’m not entirely at ease with romance, and my biggest problem is that the impediment to the relationship is so often either not realistic (exclamation you’re most likely to hear whilst I’m reading romance: “ffs! Why don’t you just talk to the damn girl if you feel that way?”) or is overcome with suspicious ease once the time is ripe. This has our heroine snared in a really neat little scenario, and I refuse to spoil Courtney Milan’s careful opening reveal by telling you what it is.
Suggestion 17: Omaha by Kevin O’Kane. This Orwellian cyber-thriller nearly went on the easy reject pile for being told in the present tense, which I generally find intensely irritating. Aware that I’ve been rejecting a lot of books rather easily I gritted my teeth and held on to see if it was only the prologue that was going to annoy me. It looks as if it’s going to be present tense all the way, but it’s piqued my interest enough to carry on and I seem to be getting used to the tense.
Suggestion 18: Flit by Abieth Winter is a fantasy adventure that is technically aimed at young teens, but I’ve always firmly believed that any so-called children’s story that’s actually any good should also make a good read for adults. I’m not sure if there’s enough in the sample to really decide the issue, but I like the tone so far, and it certainly comes in the category of promising beginnings – beyond that you’ll have to come to your own decisions.
Suggestion 19: Second Nature by Jae is another book I almost gave up on easily, purely for having (yawn) an author in the lead role. Told well enough to make me give it a chance, it soon cut away to hint at a rich alternative reality, and in the short sample that I read has already given me an interest in several characters, even though I’m not yet sure which are heroes and which are villains – I’m even daring to hope that the hero and villain labels are going to prove to be too simplistic for the story that’s being told here.
Suggestion 20: Moonheart, featuring music, motorcycles and fey folk, is by award winning master of urban fantasy by Charles de Lint, so you don’t have to take my word for anything on this one.
Suggestion 21: Ransom X by I B Holder is a thriller that I wavered about recommending. It opens with a gang-rape scene, but there doesn’t seem to be any intention to titillate with that, and again it’s well enough told and intriguing enough for me to take a chance on it.
Taking a chance on it, that’s what I wanted to talk about, really. It doesn’t take so long browsing on Smashwords to find something that’s worth taking a chance on, and very often that’s a chance that costs less than a Saturday newspaper.
I’ve seen a lot of posts recently about not selling yourself too cheap, but I would caution you against making any immediate assumptions about quality based on cover price. There are talented writers out there who’ve read somewhere that cheaper books sell more copies (I’ve read that somewhere too, though I’m beginning to suspect it applies mainly to an established name with one or two discounted titles), or who think that no one’s ever going to take that first chance on them with a heavier price tag – and there’s plenty of over-confident indies out there who aren’t as good as they think they are (I’m sorry, but I’m a reader too, and it’s true) who know, and sadly they are right, that a professional price-tag will persuade a lot of readers that they’re being offered a professional product, readers who will buy based on the cover art, the cover blurb and the price – and will then feel they’ve been stung by some kind of indie-conspiracy, when they could easily have downloaded a sample first.
If you’re going to read indie, browse. I know I haven’t been a great advert for that so far this month, but I haven’t been pausing to enjoy the fruits of my labour. You wait will next month when my actual reviews start trickling through.