A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Published Fantasy Novels

 

“Self-published novels are complete and utter trash!”

Even with high-profile SFF like The Martian and Eragon in the public spotlight, the stigma persists.The idea that self-published novels are slush-pile rejects at best, and groady monster/dinosaur porn at worst. And up until very recently, I had similar misgivings about the self-pub Amazon space. After purchasing a print copy of JP Ashman’s Black Cross however, it completely changed my perception of what self-published books could be.

Soon I found myself checking out more and more titles from the self-published space. Paternus, Where Loyalties Lie, Bloodrush and more. And again, they turned out to be really freakin’ good. Like, “holy cow, I’ve really been missing out” kind of good. And So I started to take the self-published space a lot more seriously. Are there bad books? Sure, but it’s increasingly easy to separate the good from the bad. Much more so than it was in say, 2010.

Still, there’s a definitely a curation problem on the Amazon platform. With traditional publishing at least, you can get a feel for what different imprints (TOR, Orbit, Baen, etc) tend to put out. Amazon’s a bit more like the Wild West, with all sorts of different books crammed into one store. Sometimes it can be hard finding just the right book, which is why I put together this guide for newbies such as me.

But first things first…

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A Tribute to Mary Shelley

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For International Women’s Day, I can’t think of a better person to spotlight than the great-godmother of all Sci-Fi, Horror and Fantasy, Mary Shelley.

If you haven’t read the original Frankenstein, it might be easy to take for granted just how important that book is. While the Universal Monsters movie is great and iconic in its own right, it’s the novel that truly shines as a bedrock of genre literature, and one of the founding pillars of what would eventually become SFF as a whole.

That alone would be impressive in its on right. But when you add the fact that she was only TWENTY YEARS OLD, it becomes doubly so.

And if you haven’t read (not watched!)Frankenstein, I’d highly reccomend doing so. It’s an immensely good read, even 200 years after the fact.

 

My Thoughts on the Upcoming Conan Show from Amazon

So Conan’s getting an Amazon Prime series, and here’s my two cents on that as an avowed Conan and Frazetta fan:

Overall I’m cautiously optimistic about this. Conan adaptions have been pretty garbo overall (yes, including the Arnie one a bit, though they are the least bad and James Earl Jones is stellar in it), and I think a TV show would do wonders to help flesh out the Hyperborean world and show off aspects of Conan’s character only the books touched on. I want to see Conan the King, the Tactician, the Pirate, and all the different aspects of his personality, especially his cunning and wit. Because in the end, that was what made the books really kick ass.

My hope with this show is that it has the budget and vision to accurately replicate the look and feel of the classic Frazetta paintings rather than hop on the “Game of Thrones-esque fantasy” bandwagon. Because the thing I really like about Conan is it’s NOT medieval/viking/d&d stuff. It’s weird, pulpy, bronze age and wholly unique. And it’d really be a crying shame it they tried to Game-of-Thrones-ify it by downplaying the bronze age stuff and focusing more on Norse-inspired adventures like The Frost Giant’s Daughter.

Also on that note, I’d be nice to actually find a guy that looked the part. While many were fond of Arnie in the role, I honestly want either a buff Native American-looking dude or Jason Momoa to play Conan. Again, we’re likely gonna get a flood of western fantasy titles in the near future, and I’d really be disappointing if a proper Conan adaption of all things just blended in with the post-GOT fantasy adaptation crowd. When I think Conan, I think this:

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Not this.

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I dunno, I just think Option B, while looking pretty cool, looks like he’d fit in more as a Game of Thrones wildling. Although to be honest, if they got the personality down (and a sun tan) It’d still be better than most Conan adaptations IMO. But yeah, give me Bronze Age, Frazetta Conan over Generic D&D Barbarian #1266 any day. And I want towering elephants and bronze-age cities of wonder, eldritch horrors and giant apes, dammit! Seriously, I’ll do Amazon Prime again if it means proper pulp Conan on the screen, my dudes.

That’s not to say I’m not also looking forward to the Wheel of Time and Kingkiller Chronicles TV Shows. It’s just that Conan is an entirely different beast altogether, and I’d honestly hate it if boardroom execs tried to “make it like that show with the titties and the dragons.” It is its won beast and ought to be treated as such.

As long as they get those character details down and make it like the books though…yeah, this could kind of rock.

Here’s the Query Letter that got Fantasy Writer Ed Mcdonald Published.

So I came across this post from author Ed McDonald detailing the query letter that got his book accepted. It’s a great read, and an excellent look at a proper and professional query letter.

If you’re a new writer, I strongly suggest you give this a read, and also follow his blog as well!

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While I was going through some old files, I happened across the cover letter that I sent when I was submitting Blackwing. I thought that it be interesting to people to see it, so, here it is. It’s nothing flashy or that doesn’t go outside the kind of guidelines that you’d usually see, but well worth noting that I provided exactly what was asked for.

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So I Found Dragon Ball Z Vol.1 at my Friends of the Library…

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So…Dragon Ball Fighter Z came out recently, and it seems the internet’s abuzz with DB fever! Though I didn’t get the game, I did find a small piece of OG Dragon Ball media in the form of a manga volume at my local Friends of the Library.

This is the first volume of the “Dragon Ball Z” manga, which is really just Dragon Ball Vol. 17 in Japan, if I remember correctly. It pretty much starts right off where the anime started, with Goku’s brother and gutter trash tier character imposing bad guy Raditz showing up.

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Honestly, I’m kind of shocked at how good the art is here. It looks just like the DBZ anime’s playing out in my hands! Except it’s bit more clean, expressive, punchy…and violent.

Anyway, it was a good read! I’m kind of tempted to do an in-depth post about the connection between DBZ and early American pulp fiction, because as my other posts might infer, I dig me some pulps.

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Weirdly enough, I also found Maus there, which was every bit as harrowing and sad a story as it’s made out to be. Everyone and their dog knows that though, and there’s really not much I can add to the conversation. It is kind of funny to think how utterly opposite DBZ and Maus are stylistically, though. One’s a sketchy family tale about a holocaust survivor…and the other’s a clean, sharply-detailed funnybook about martial artists firing laser beams at aliens.

It goes without saying, I quite enjoyed both though.

An Update + Readin’ Blackwing!

 

The year’s barely started, and already it’s nuts…

So just a quick update going into next month. Very soon I’ll be starting work on another draft of my Hispanic-flavored epic fantasy novel. Expect some writing-related posts vaguely related to whatever might be on my mind at the time.

Another thing that’s literally keeping me up at night, slowly turning me into some kind of shriven lich bothering me somewhat is publishing, agents and all that jazz. Now obviously I’m a bit of a ways away from all that, but as someone who likes to plan ahead, listening to people’s wildly different opinions is agonizing.

Trad Pub Chad will swear by the system, say it’s the best deal in terms of editing, covers, and all that jazz. And he’s right. Hands-down, in fact.

But then Indie Pub Cindy comes along, says that she sold eight billion copies on Kindle and makes TOP DOSon the platform, is demonstrably more popular than Chad, and to top it all off, other Trad Pub Chads (and I’m talking big dogs) have flat-out personally told me indie is the future…provided you can get noticed among the crowds. And they’re also right.

Honestly, this is one of those topics that only gets more confusing the more I research it. There’s a real good article on the state of the publishing industry here from a veteran of it. Really worth a read if like me, you find this stuff endlessly frustrating/fascinating.

Oh, and Ed McDonald’s Blackwing kind of kicks ass. It’s got that weird old-school fantasy vibe that the Elric books have, but feels real fresh and modern to boot. It also doesn’t at all feel like someone’s D&D campaign, which is really nice and refreshing. Buy it, or the Baba Yaga will shank you while you sleep. I haven’t even finished it, but I seriously doubt my opinion will change at all.

Happy Birthday, Robert E. Howard!

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So today is the birthday of pulp fantasy titan Robert E. Howard. One of my personal literary heroes and monumental influence in genre fiction, Robert E. Howard is the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Kull the Conqueror, and Solomon Kane. As you may have gathered, I’m a bit of a fan.

While Robert E. Howard isn’t as popular or ‘academic” as J.R.R. Tolkien, there’s a lot to be said about his more working-class, American style of fantasy prose. One that eschews Elvish linguistics and epic backstories for bare-knuckled grit and bronze-age spectacle, and made fantasy lit accessible to millions. On top of that, he inspired the kick-ass paintings of Frank Frazetta, basically the entire Sword and Sorcery genre, Khal Drago, Barbarians and Fighters in your favorite RPGs…the list goes on and on…So happy birthday, Robert!

If you’d like my personal breakdown of why you should absolutely check out his Conan stories, here’s a handy link to my post on the subject. And by Crom, give these stories a shot, you won’t regret it!