Same Field…Different Game…otherwise known as my thoughts on Small and Large Publishing Houses.

*****This blog is an opinion piece. All opinions are my own*****

This post has been sitting in my drafts for awhile. However, a Tweet asking patrons to #buyonebook spurred me to finish it. I want to pass along my thoughts on the differences between large and small publishing houses. As well as to pass along my love of independent small publishing houses to another reader. I recently saw a quote by the amazing Haruki Murakami “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Please do not get me wrong I have a love for all publishers but this one tweet made me truly sad. Both large and small publishers have their place on the field but they aren’t playing the same game.

First, I’ll start with what I see on #bookstagram. I see a lot of YA fantasy and a lot of contemporary fiction. This makes me super happy as it means that people are reading, which for me is the most important thing—I don’t care what you read as long as you are reading. If that means you are reading an online magazine freaking awesome, if you read lifestyle blogs go forth and read. You are a reader…you are reading. That said, I have also noticed that amazing books aren’t getting the same #bookstagram love as either they aren’t in the genres I mentioned above or they aren’t as well known, or from as well known authors or publishers (this I credit one of my Instagram buddies for pointing out). I usually post a picture a day of what I am reading or have bought. I have quite a few followers, but the pictures that have always done the best are—big surprise!—the YA fantasy books. Two of my favorite reads which are neither YA fantasy or contemporary fiction, this year did not do as well. I thought this was an interesting trend, so I did a bit more investigating on Instagram I did a search for the author #cassandraclare, which returned 580K posts, and then searched for the author #kristylogan, which gave me only 794. I picked the author Kristy Logan because she is published by Salt Publishing, a small press based in the UK. So I started thinking as I was driving—yes, I do this a lot!—what the difference really was between the books and the photos. Both were well-written, excellent stories. The biggest difference was the size of the publishing house.

I am a loud and proud supporter of small presses. I love the quirky and unique books they publish, and that they give authors that may not have a voice at larger publishing houses a chance to share their work with the world. From short story collections to novels, I find that these unique small press books speak to me in a very cerebral way. They make me think. They have unforgettable characters, like Peril Sloot from Peril in the Old Country by Sam Hooker (published by Black Spot Books, June 5th 2018). All people should read about Sloot and his adventures or be enthralled by the heartfelt emotion that Jane Rosenberg LaForge writes with in The Hawkman (published by Amberjack publishing, June 5th 2018). I love how strong the stories and author’s voices are in small publishing houses, and how engaged the press is in the individual successes of each book. Authors seem to have more freedom (I could be wrong) than at larger publishing houses.

However, of course the large publishing houses have a place. I can’t tell you how many times a friend “will say Book X (published by a large publishing house) has got me back into reading” and “the sequels to said book have kept me reading.” My little bookish heart grows a thousand times when I hear that, or when I see photos of beautiful covers all over Instagram. These books have been able to reach a wide variety of readers and I love that. I love reading the Instagram posts and seeing why the Instagrammer picked that book for their #bookstagram post of the day. Many give similar stories of how such and such book got them back into reading or they weren’t a reader until they read said book or series. I think that completely has a space in the publishing industry, and is very valuable.

 

Small and large publishers do not even play the same game. Here is where I see the largest difference between publishers. The first is their marketing budgets—these small houses don’t have double-digit thousand dollar budgets to flood the market with their content. There is a small handful of booktubers I watch. The one I watch the most regularly talks with such love and passion for the books that Salt Publishing publishes that I started buying her recommendations and haven’t been disappointed, but if I hadn’t happened upon a video of hers talking about The Rental Heart and other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan would I have even known about Salt or this wonderful book? The answer is likely no. The third book that I ever reviewed was The Hawkman by Jane Rosenberg LaForge, which I have seen mentioned less than a handful of times on #bookstagram. When I see a tweet come through my Twitter for this wonderful author and book I always make sure to retweet it and add my enthusiasm. But where are the book tubers and the larger #bookstagram accounts? There certainly are #bookstagram accounts with 10k and more followers, but it seems that they are really partnered with the larger publishers. Where’s the love for the small presses?

The second difference I see is that smaller publishers are a bit more niche, whereas larger publishers are geared for mass market. I am generalizing here and going off of my own reading experiences. Take, for instance, The Book Collector by Alice Thompson, published by Salt in the UK. This is a fantastic book. The Hawkman by Jane Rosenberg LaForge, published by Amberjack Publishing, again an amazing book. Or the mind bending Bury the Lead by Cassondra Windwalker, published by Black Spot Books. These are targeted for a specific reader in my view—one who is likely to dig for books that aren’t necessarily located in Target or the aisle caps at Barnes and Noble (although some certainly are). This is not a jab, but rather an observation that I have had being a part of the book community. Here is the rub: these incredible books aren’t necessarily going to be right there in front of the average purchaser.

I guess my ending point here is that there is room in the publishing industry for both large and small publishing houses. My greatest fear is that the smaller publishing industry will be pushed out of the market by the larger marketing budgets of the big publishing houses. That would be to the detriment of readers around the world. If you read and agree please make sure to support small publishing houses. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the three that I mentioned there are plenty of others like Word Horde and Crystal Lake Publishing. Lets make sure that small publishing houses don’t go the way of the silver rhinoceros.

Isle of Gold by Seven Jane

As a good deal of people know I live in the desert. WAAAAYYYY down in the desert. We can get to The Gulf of Mexico in about 8 hours driving. But there are some days I really want to smell the salt air and say shit like Ahoy matey. But alas, I am not a pirate. So, when I had the opportunity to read a pirate adventure I was all over it. An adventure at sea away from all the desert cacti……yes please.

Summary: An girl who was orphaned joins the crew of a pirate ship in search of adventure.

What I liked: I truly dislike tropey novels and Isle of Gold  fit that bill. It was a fresh take on the pirate adventure with a bit of myth thrown in for good measure. I really enjoyed the pacing of the novel. It reminded me of a wave ebbing and flowing with a big build up to action and retreating to give the reader time to breath before the next wave of action. The characters were well written and three dimensional. The relationships between Tom and Merrin was sweet and I appreciated it. In a time where characters in books rip each others clothing off there was a lot of patience and build up between them and I found that endearing. I love the way myth was woven through the story to craft a back story that I found truly special.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t anything I didn’t like….well there was one…the story ended.

Star Rating: 5

My thoughts: Jane has left a bit to the imagination with this story and I truly loved it. I thought that the pacing was cleverly done and there wasn’t a time throughout the book that I was bored or wanting to read something else.

Isle of Gold goes on Sale October 9th 2018. If you want a refreshing take on a pirate adventure with sirens and the sea herself involved please pick this book up.

BIG Thanks to Black Spot Books for providing me a free advanced reader copy for my honest opinion.

The Mermaid By Christina Henry

I remember watching the non-Disney cartoon of The Little Mermaid. It didn’t end with Ariel getting the prince and living happily ever after. It ended with the little mermaid dying sad and heart broken. I tend to stir away rom mermaid stories as most authors don’t portray mermaids in the correct light. They tend to make them half human half fish and beautiful or kind or whatever. However, I wanted to read The Mermaid by Christina Henry as it included PT Barnum who lets face it folks wasn’t the nicest of people. I really wanted to see what type of treatment both Barnum and the mermaid were in for. I was more then pleasantly surprised.

Summary: A willful mermaid takes her destiny into her own hands when she agrees to work for PT Barnum.

What I liked: Henry didn’t make the mermaid half fish and half human she made her a siren or a creature of the sea and I really appreciated that detail. The first chapter sucked me in and the way the story is written was to a bit melancholy. Which I for one enjoy. There are many themes throughout the story ranging from the view of women and animals at the time the story was set to some feminist themes. I appreciated the way that Henry also painted Barnum. The plot was really well written and the pacing of the novel was good.

What I didn’t like: I found the story was a bit long to get to where it ended. I feel like there were a couple of parts that could have been glossed over or written in a different way. But overall an enjoyable read.

Star Rating: 4.5

My thoughts: I appreciate the character treatments by Henry. Too many times have a read the mermaid trope and felt like I was reading the same story over again. But this was not tropey and didn’t have aspects of Mermaid stories that I don’t necessarily like.

The Mermaid goes on sale 06/19/2018. If you have a love of Mermaids or a passing interest in PT Barnum please go pick this up!!

BIG Thanks goes to Berkley and Penguin Random House for sending me a advanced review copy for my honest review.

The Outsider by Stephen King

I have loved Stephen King’s novels since I was in about 5th grade and I got my hands on a copy of Tommyknockers. I still love Tommyknockers but there are so many more stories to love. Annie Wilkes in Misery, Ben Hanscomb in IT and Bill Hodges from Mr. Mercedes are all just a small sampling of characters that come from the pen of Mr. King. I hadn’t been as excited for a release of a book as I was for The Outsider and trust me it didn’t disappoint.

Summary: Can a man be in two places at one time? Can said man commit a heinous crime and still be with family and friends? That’s it folks I am not  divulging anymore.

What I liked: Everything. This was Mr. King in his truest element. I read and savored every word, sentence and page like a fine gelato. It was dark and twisted and it was perfect. Mr. King has a way to make the unimaginable seem possible and mundane. One thing I have always noticed about King’s writing is that it moves forward in time. You never feel as though the characters are in a time bubble. There is discussion of what is going on in the country peppered throughout the story and how it would relate to the characters. Honestly, I could gush about this book for hours and hours until my fingers fall off. The pacing was spot on throughout the novel. I love King’s use of pacing in his novels. You have slower bits and faster paced bits, the eb and flow of the story and the characters lives. His characters as always are three dimensional and are well planned out.

What I didn’t like: That it was over.

Star Rating: 5 Stars….all the stars…every star in the sky!!

My thoughts:  Stephen King fans all have our favorites and the stories that didn’t quite do it for us.  But this amazing tome will sate even the most ravenous and discerning of Mr. Kings fans. Just wow. Love it. There really isn’t much more to say.

All The Ever Afters By Danielle Teller

As a child you are told fairytales….of wicked stepmothers and ugly stepsisters, however; did you ever wonder what their backstories were? Where they as horrible as the stories led you to believe they were? Or did they suffer some type of trauma in their own right. Cinderella’s stepmother’s backstory is presented in All The Ever Afters. 

All the ever afters

Summary: The tale of how Cinderella’s stepmother became her stepmother.

What I liked: I loved that the All the Ever Afters basically turned the entire story on it’s head. The original story is presented as lies that were told around the court against the stepmother and her step sisters. The character of the stepmother was three dimensional and you really did feel quite a bit of sympathy toward her character. Teller’s backstory for the stepmother was interesting and kept the reader engaged. The stepsisters were interesting characters in their own right. I didn’t see the story coming in the way it was laid out and I appreciated that.

What I didn’t like: Throughout the story there were interjections from what I assume is a diary or a journal from the stepmother. I found their intrusion in the story well a bit intrusive and took me out of the backstory. The journal entries made sense at the end but  I wasn’t a big fan.

Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

My thoughts: I love fairytales and retellings….I found the story of Cinderella’s stepmother to be heart breaking and sad. It just goes to show you gossip is no good for anyone.

A Big Thanks to William Morrow for a free review copy for my honest opinion

Bury the Lead by Cassondra Windwalker

With the advent of the term “fake news” I have been wondering where do we draw the line. What’s real…..what’s not real? Who can you trust and you can’t you trust? Is there  line where the news is publishable and or not publishable? What is true and what isn’t true? Bury the Lead explores this issue in a new and unsettling way.

Summary: A newspaper editor begins a social experiment using his newspaper and embedded advertising.

What I liked: After finishing Bury the Lead I had a deep and unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach. Just like a thriller should. Windwalker’s writing delivers this unsettling feeling with flair and style. Her writing is witty and biting. The storyline was pertinent to what is going on in society today. The ending was deliciously dark and left me scratching my head. I loved that the ending wasn’t laid out on a silver platter. It left a bit to my imagination and with a surreal feeling which was perfect for what I wanted.

What I didn’t like: Nothing there was nothing I didn’t like about Bury the Lead.

Star Rating: 5

My thoughts: I finished this quickly but I wanted to really to sit back and think about this story. And it has been a few days and I am still thinking about this book.

Sinners by Christopher Graves

” The thriller is the most popular literary genre of the 20th century.” Ken Follett. I love a good thriller. One that will make your heart hammer in your chest and get the ole adrenaline going. When I was offered the chance to review Sinner by Christopher Graves I jumped at the chance.

Summary: A centuries old cult still has one person that is doing their bidding against the women of Pennsylvania.

What I liked: I read Sinner in one sitting. Once I started it I couldn’t really stop. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. The story was one wild ride from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. I liked the cult aspects to the story I found that it added a bit of spice to what could have been a average thriller.

What I didn’t like: I found the main bad guy to be a bit formulaic. The ending felt rushed. And honestly I wasn’t a big fan of the ending. I don’t like everything to be all roses in thriller endings but I do like some closure unless it it a series.

Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

My thoughts: I love the cult aspect of the story. But some parts of the story really felt formulaic. Which I do have a problem with. The ending was open ended which in this kind of thriller leaves me a bit bleh. It feels like something else should have happened at the end of the story. I just felt a bit deflated. But that is just me. But I appreciate a good cult story as much as the next person.

A big Thank you to Smith Publicity for sending me a review copy for my honest opinon.