If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I’ve been struggling to find good science-fiction stories in magazines. Although I haven’t blogged about longer fiction lately, I also have trouble finding good sci-fi and fantasy novels.
I normally don’t pay any attention to a book’s publisher. I usually decide what to read based on a single-paragraph marketing blurb, although if I’m not in a hurry, I’ll also browse through the user reviews at Amazon or Audible. Maybe I’m not choosing books effectively. By ignoring the publisher, am I leaving out a critical piece of information which could help me identify good (or bad) books?
To see if my enjoyment of books differed by publisher, I downloaded the book ratings from my Goodreads account, and manipulated the data to give each publisher a score. I began with 525 rated books, but ended up using only 103 of them.
First, I eliminated all non-fiction (losing half my books), and then I got rid of short story collections. I also removed books published before the year 2000. I’m looking for a publishing machine that can deliver for me now, but the further back I look, the more I’m seeing the work of people who aren’t there any more.
Next, at each publisher, I averaged the ratings for each author into a score. I didn’t give Baen credit for eleven highly-rated David Drake books, I gave them one credit for David Drake with an author average of 4.45 stars. I want publishers to find me great authors I don’t know about. I can find more books by those same authors on my own.
I also grouped all self-published books together as if they came from a publishing house. Of course, there was no common editorial team or process for those books, but I wanted to see how they’d rank as a group against the traditional publishing houses. Finally, I removed any publishing house which brought only one author to me. Here’s what I had left:
The first thing that jumped out at me was that self-published authors beat 6 of the 8 traditional publishers. Years of industry experience and multi-million-dollar budgets couldn’t beat the proverbial guy in his attic.
I’m working to finish a series or two at the moment, but once I’m done, maybe I should give a new author from Baen a shot. Maybe I should be more cautious about picking up new titles from the lower-ranked publishers on my list. Maybe I should search for more self-published work.
How do you find books to read? Do you factor the publisher into your purchasing decisions? Do you read self-published books? Tell me in the comments below — I’m curious what other people are doing.