Lots of publishers sell through Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and other large e-bookshops. But readers may not know that many of those same publishers also sell their books through independent retailers or direct from their own websites.
This series promotes a selection of bookshops, centred around a particular genre. In this fourth post, we're going to look at Fantasy.
Always bundled with Sci-Fi...
It always frustrates me when bookshops clump fantasy books in with science fiction and label them all as SFF.
I understand that both genres were originally denegrated and seen as anything but literature. and maybe still are by some... But still stuffing them into a corner and labelling them with a generic category seems a little anachronistic, considering the millions of pounds/dollars production companies are now making from series' like Game of Thrones, or the absolutely fantastic Expanse.
Considering the ability of online bookshops to categorise titles in any way they want, it almost makes me think they don't really want to sell these titles. Some physical bookshops are much worse than I ever remember. My last visit to a Waterstones (I was helping a friend, okay?) turned into a rant-fest when I realised they had categorised titles as 'Non-Fiction', 'Fiction', and 'Crime'... What do I do with that? How do I find fantasy books in 'Fiction'?
It's clear that Waterstones are trying the Ikea approach - hiding everything so you have to look through the lot, and hopefully buy things you weren't really looking for along the way. They might call it serendipity. I call it sneaky and annoying. I'd shop at Amazon if I wanted sneaky ad annoying.
Teasing the two genres apart to present the most suitable bookshops to you has been... a bit of a process. Which may explain why this initially weekly series has now crept into a longer release cycle - how very George R.R. Martin of me.
Data and all that
I wonder if the book industry's use of data forces many retailers to stick both genres under one label.
Nope. there goes that theory. I can see that the Thema data standard (used to transfer book data between publishers, retailers, etc.) lists Fantasy separately from Science Fiction, and includes plenty of sub-categories for both. I can only assume that other data standards do the same.
If you want to see some serious book categorisation, take a look at Rebellion's bookshop tags.
The Fantasy Bookshops
Luckily, bookshops that stock both fantasy and science fiction understand their readers, and know to separate the genres.
There are plenty to look through, covering all sorts of fantasy interests. We've got Epic Fantasy covered. Lots of Urban Fantasy. Some amazing world-building and a number of very creative magic systems.
You may have seen some of these bookshops in previous lists, but I've kept a few especially for this one. So, let's see what we can find.
To help us get warmed up, let's start with an author's own shop. Chuck Wendig is an author of science-fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy and more un-categorizable fiction.
For this list I'm thinking specifically of his brilliantly anarchic Mookie Pearl urban-fantasy series, which is one of the few fiction books he sells direct. Take a look and spread your fantasy wings into the weird underworld of Chuck Wendig's imagination...
Founded from the best origin story in bookshop history:
"Like many foolhardy ideas, The Book Smugglers was born of a time of great adversity. Faced with threats concerning the overwhelming volume of books purchased on a daily basis, Ana Grilo and Thea James resorted to "smuggling" books home in huge handbags to avoid scrutiny."
Book Smugglers Publishing is the digital-first, book creation arm of the glorious review, discussion and news site for genre fiction. They publish anthologies as well as novels, and the prices are always very reasonable.
Books are available as both ePub and Mobi formats and the covers are absolutely fantastic.
The Black Library is the bookshop for the tabletop gaming company, Games Wokshop's, many titles.
The catalogue includes fiction set in their popular Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 settings along with many of their other properties.
Black Library provide both ePub and Mobi versions of their titles.
Diversion Books is a New York based independent publisher.
They publish and sell a huge range of titles, from fantasy and science fiction, colouring books and classics to romance and time travel.
E-books are available as ePub and Mobi and you get both with each purchase.
Diversion is the place to buy Emma Newman's final split Worlds books in a DRM-free format.
"Fantastic Books Publishing is a family run, independent publishing house based in East Yorkshire.
We pride ourselves on delivering extremely high quality e, print and audio books while maintaining our foundation of charitable giving with all of our projects."
If you want to know more about how Fantastic Books bucks trends, take a look at their inspiring History page.
Fantastic Books offer a huge range of genres, including Science Fiction, Fantasy, Autobiography, Crime, Poetry, Paranormal, Humour, Literary Fiction, Horror, How To, Childrens, and Cookbooks.
They are also official licencees of fiction based on the Elite: Dangerous computer game.
Customers receive all three ePub, Mobi and PDF formats with their purchase.
"Barking Rain Press seeks to publish novels and novellas in a variety of genres, including General Literature, Speculative Fiction (Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction), Mystery/Crime, Romance, Suspense/Thrillers, Westerns and YA/Young Adult."
Barking Rain Press is a non-profit publisher, based in Washington State in the US.
Their e-books are available in ePub, Mobi, and PDF formats. They also sell paperback+e-book bundles, which includes a hefty discount compared to buying both formats separately.
Founded in 2010 by two partners with experience of the e-book industry, Untreed Reads is home to over 1,500 titles from a range of authors. They stock fiction, non-fiction, children's books and foreign-language titles.
This particular book, Waves in the Wind, caught my eye with it's nicely designed cover. That's all it takes sometimes.
It's clear from the blog that Untreed are constantly trying out different approaches and are doing their best to get their books in front of readers. Take a look and see if there's something for you.
Most books are available in ePub, Mobi and PDF formats, but check each listing first, since the options vary.
Serialised books have been making a comeback for a few years now. Serial Box are taking that model and turning it into their unique selling point.
The founders include former Tor and Penguin Random House staff.
In their own words:
"Serial Box is here to change all of that: artfully blending together the best of series television and the convenience of ebooks and audiobooks to bring readers a new form of story telling. Releasing fiction serials over the course of 10-16 week seasons, Serial Box is about delivering addictive episodes straight to the user’s digital device to be read or listened to anytime, anywhere."
Episodes are available in ePub, MOBI, PDF and Audiobook formats and cost $1.99 each for individual purchases and $1.59 each for a subscription. Each episode in a series is written by a different member of the book's author team - in a similar way to a television series - and has an estimated reading time of 42 minutes.
Another example of an e-book business to watch.
Operating out of Alpena, Michigan, in the USA, World Weaver Press publish fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction titles.
In their own words:
"We believe in great storytelling. We believe in challenging genre boundaries and engaging the fundamental human drive to tell stories that resonate emotionally."
The host a strong selection of anthologies and collections, of which I have my eye on Corvidae.
Their books are available in both ePub and MOBI formats and are usually significantly cheaper than their dead-tree counterparts.
Apex is a small press that publishes works of science fiction, horror, fantasy and non-fiction. At the moment, they have around 40 e-book titles for sale, available in ePub, MOBI and PDF formats, all included in a single Zip download. They have beautifully crafted cover images and are heavily discounted compared to their paperback counterparts.
As well as their comic shop (see comic section), DriveThruFiction sell from varied publishers, including Solaris, Monte Cook Publishing (of Numenera fame) and Onyx Path Publishing (publishers of the World of Darkness setting). There's plenty of choice here, across genres, publishers and formats. Driven by its link to the RPG industry, the selection is strongest in that area, but is growing all the time.
A place to buy books by Lynn Abbey, C.J. Cherryh and Jane Fancher, Closed Circle is an interesting find.
Although in need of a visual update, I get the impression the site 'just works', which is all you need. The last news update is from November, 2017, so the site is still up and running.
Books are available in ePub, Mobi and PDF format.
Well worth a look,
An independent bookshop, Weightless Books seem to mainly sell science-fiction and fantasy works. They also offer a number of magazines and anthologies, such as Clarkesworld and Lightspeed. Their direct-to-Kindle delivery system is a great feature.
Let's finish how we started, with authors selling direct. The bookshop of fantasy writers Diane Duane and Peter Morwood, Ebooks Direct, does exactly what it says: sells e-books direct to readers.
This pair of authors are doing what they must to get their books out there. All the while providing a decent service to their customers. They have all the formats covered and have even recently switched to a different payment provider in response to what customers were telling them. Full blown e-bookshops could learn a lot from this operation. And a series about wizard cats guarding the portals between realities is definitely worth a look, right?
So there's a broad selection of e-bookshops, all selling DRM-free Fantasy e-books, and helping us fans get our fix.
While not all are independent ventures, you'll notice plenty of small operations getting on with work that they are obviously passionate about, and that counts for a lot.
I hope we'll start seeing more authors choosing to sell direct soon. It's a great way to connect with readers, especially for already established authors whose rights are returning to them, and are wondering what to do with their back catalogue.
Notice I didn't say Next Week...
I'd like to take a closer look at Horror. It's not a genre I'm particularly familiar with. But having read some great books recently, like The Fisherman by John Langan and Seeing Double by Karen Runge, I'd love to find out where to get some more. And I'm sure there are already a few choice shops in my DRM-free Bookshop List.
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