Monday 27 January 2014

This week I shall mostly be in Finland with the day job. To keep you entertained in my absence I have a guest blog from Cheryl Morgan - who runs the rather fabulous Cheryl's Mewsings -

Cheryl is a science fiction critic and publisher. She is the owner of Wizard’s Tower Press and the Wizard’s Tower Books ebook store. (And she has plenty more feathers in her cap - just go look at her site). I reviewed both Wonderbook & Jagannath last year and for ease I post my reviews below Cheryl's post. (I really recommend Cheeky Frawg so if you're going to get books from them please do use Cheryl's site to do so)

Cheryl tells us:

Why I Publish and Sell eBooks

Most media discussions of ebooks tend to follow the pattern of false opposition that journalists love so much. Either you are all for ebooks, or you hate them; either ebooks are destroying the publishing industry, or saving it. You, the public, should take sides. Are you Team eBook, or Team Paper?
Well, I don’t have time  for such nonsense. I love books, no matter how they come. And I am adult enough to understand that both paper and electronic delivery have their advantages and drawbacks. Let me explain, using some friends of mine from America as an example.
Last year Jeff VanderMeer published Wonderbook, a handbook for writers working at the more imaginative end of fiction. It is a big book: over 300 pages printed in full colour on thick stock. It is heavy, and it is absolutely beautiful. The book also contains sage advice from some of the giants of the field, including George R.R. Martin, Ursula K. Le Guin, Neil Gaiman and Lauren Beukes. If you are interested in following in their footsteps, it is an absolute must read. But frankly it is worth having just as an objet d’art. The work that Jeff and his co-designers, Jeremy Zerfoss and John Coulthart, have done is amazing, and Zerfoss’s illustrations are a key part of the lessons that VanderMeer presents in the book.
Something like Wonderbook could have been done digitally, but it would probably have had to be done as a stand-alone app, with production costs running into millions of dollars. And even then you could not reproduce the sheer physical presence of the book.
And yet, Jeff and his wife, Ann, also run Cheeky Frawg Books, a small press that publishes interesting and innovative titles, mainly of weird fiction. The paper editions are not widely distributed, but I sell the ebook editions in my online store Last year a Cheeky Frawg book was the best-selling title in that store.
The book in question is Jagannath, a self-translated collection of short fiction by Swedish writer, Karin Tidbeck. A story from the book won the short form category in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards last year, and the book itself went on to be nominated in Best Collection at the World Fantasy Awards. It is a fabulous book, and as it relies solely on the words there is far less downside in digital publication.
Jagannath is by no means the only translated work that Ann and Jeff publish. Last year they came out with Datura, a delightfully creepy novel from Leena Krohn, and It Came From the North, an anthology, both translated from Finnish.
Translations are a difficult sell. People tend to assume that the language quality will be poor, or that they won’t be reading what the author “really” wrote (whatever that means). Also the costs are higher, because you have to pay the translator as well as the author. Ebooks, with their negligible variable costs, and no requirement for investment in a large print run, are ideal for this sort of project. They allow the publisher to take a risk on something that may only break even, but may, like Jagannath, become a huge hit.
There are other reasons for publishing ebooks too. Many mid-list writers are finding that their back catalogues have gone out of print, and while their publishers might take the time to produce ebook editions of best-sellers, they have no interest is books that only sold moderately well. Companies like Open Road Media specialize in making back lists available again. I’m pleased to say that my own publishing company, Wizard’s Tower Press, is providing a similar service for writers such as Juliet E. McKenna, Lyda Morehouse and Ben Jeapes.
Finally the low risk in publishing ebooks makes them ideal for projects that, like translations, are somewhat off the beaten track. I publish books that showcase local writers from the Bristol area. I sell a lot of books with feminist and LGBT themes. I’m sure that there are plenty of other examples that you can think of. In many cases these books would simply not exist, and would certainly be very difficult to find, were it not for the particular economics of ebook production. And of course as ebooks they can be sold worldwide with ease.
So please, next time you see an article asking you to decide for or against ebooks, take it for the artificially created controversy that it is. Books are a good thing, and I love them whether they come on clay tablets, papyrus, vellum, paper, microfilm or pixels.
Many thanks to Cheryl for providing such an interesting post. Here are my reviews of Wonderbook & Jagannath for ease of finding:
Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer & Jeremy Zerfoss
Jeff Vandermeer knows a few things about writing fiction, especially fantasy fiction and has decided to share it via this stunning book with artwork by Jeremy Zerfoss. First of all this is a gorgeous book, lovingly illustrated and great for those who learn in a visual way (some pics from the book can be seen here in addition it's stuffed full of great writing advice. On top of all that it is has some really cool writing exercises and as if that wasn’t enough it has a whole gaggle of essays by other authors who each drop in bombs of inspiration and wisdom. There’s a website to go with the book too. I read this from cover to cover without meaning to, it really should be used throughout a writing project constantly referred to, re-read and revised. I will be doing that for sure. I think I’ll be referencing this book a lot. The deconstruction of the first page of Finch was worth buying this book for by itself! I loved it.
Overall – stunning & useful, what a great book!
Jagannath by Karen Tidbeck

Tidbeck has written a collection of weird fiction that feels both fresh and peculiarly Nordic. There are, fittingly for the 2013 challenge, 13 stories in this collection. In Beatrice we meet a man who falls in (sexual)love with an airship, and this is one of the less weird stories. My favourites here were Pyret, written like a scientific treatise, and Brita’s holiday village where a writer spends some time in a holiday village which is populated overnight by many people claiming to be her relatives and the great story, Augusta Prima, that flips the usual “human meets supernatural and is changed by it” on its head set in a Faerie court. From subtly odd to wildly fantastical this collection is never dull and Tidbeck manages to catch your imagination and take it on a very satisfying journey. There is an interesting afterword by the author also dealing with the challenge of translating her own works and why she needed to.

Overall – highly readable collection of shorts
Tomorrow I'll catch up with the Silverwood books event in Bristol Foyles I attended on Saturday and coming soon I'll be interviewing David Edison about his new book The Waking Engine and Dave Hutchinson about his new book Europe in Autumn.
I also have a few more authors & guest blogs lined up, so watch this space...

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