Random noises about Silent Symmetry

The totally incredible cover for Silent Symmetry was finished last week, and the first book in my Embodied trilogy is now available on Amazon. Many, many thanks to Alex Nereuta for again doing an amazing job with the cover design. It actually makes me want to read the book, and I already know what happens! Judge for yourselves:

Book 1 of the Embodied trilogy - design by Alex Nereuta.

Book 1 of the Embodied trilogy – design by Alex Nereuta.

What’s Silent Symmetry about, you ask? Well, I’ve cooked up a blurb, and here it is, fresh out of the blurb oven:

Silent Symmetry
a mystery-fantasy love story

Book 1 of the EMBODIED trilogy

The Embodied glide through the busy streets of New York, uttering barely a sound.

Their eerie beauty comes from their perfect symmetry. Male, female, old, young… their faces are always absolutely symmetrical. Are they flawless humans, the epitome of evolution? Are they a genetically modified super-race? Are they extra-terrestrials? Once prep school student Kari Marriner becomes aware of their existence, she is driven to find the answer and finds herself ensnared in a web that reaches further than she could possibly have imagined.

Kari’s earliest memory is her father’s death in a car crash back in small-town Wisconsin. Now, 12 years later, her mother has been hired by a pseudo-religious organization in Manhattan called the Temple of Truth (a.k.a. the ToT). At Chelsea Prep, Kari develops a crush on classmate Cruz. But when she realizes that Noon, another attractive guy at school, is involved with the ToT, her curiosity gets the better of her.

Kari stumbles upon a secret tunnel leading from her apartment to another in the building, where an ancient book holds images she can scarcely believe, and a cavernous room contains… something inexplicable. As Kari pieces together the incredible evidence, she discovers that the ToT is run by other-worldly beings called The Embodied who influence human behavior and have established a global long-term human breeding program. But why? And what is her role in all this?

Just as she starts wondering whether the love she feels for Cruz is genuine or if her emotions are being controlled by The Embodied, her mother is kidnapped and Kari has to figure out who is human, who is Embodied, and who she can count on to help rescue her mother.

Silent Symmetry is the exciting first novel in JB Dutton’s EMBODIED trilogy. The second instalment, Starley’s Rust, will be published in late 2013.

Silent Symmetry is available on Amazon exclusively until mid-April, but if you’re dying to read it and don’t own a Kindle, fear not – you can download free Kindle reader software for your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android phone or toilet*.

Of course if you’re in Canada or Britain you’ll want to download it from Amazon.ca or Amazon.co.uk. As you can see from the blurb, Silent Symmetry is set in the U.S., so if you’re offended by American spellings and vocabulary, please read it sitting next to a cuspidor for spitting into every few sentences.


*Kindle toilets only available in Japan.

Epublishing: does it need a “publisher”?

Smashwords founder Mark Coker was interviewed by Audie Cornish on NPR this week about whether publishers are becoming irrelevant in the age of epublishing. It’s a subject I’ve been wondering about too.

Traditional publishers are suddenly facing the curse of “living in interesting times”. As I was preparing the front matter for my Silent Symmetry ebook I realized that I had nothing to put where the name of the publisher usually goes. I mean, it kind of goes with the territory of self-publishing, right? So I wondered, should I put by name? “Published by John B. Dutton” almost seems silly, although literally true. And it got me to wondering, from a reader’s perspective, what is the point of a publisher?

A traditional publisher, in all his glory.

A traditional publisher, in all his glory.

If we’re talking about a novel by an unknown author or even a brand new book by a famous one, you could say that the publisher is a guarantee of quality. For sure, if you see Random House or Penguin on a printed book, you know that there won’t be any spelling mistakes in it, the ink won’t come off on your hands and the pages won’t fall out. But of course rating the quality of the literature itself is always going to be a somewhat personal affair. One reader might find a bestseller by a new author wonderful, the next find it boring. So this quality guarantee doesn’t seem to apply to the content of the novel, only the container (the printed book). In fact, I’d say that the biggest name in publishing today probably isn’t a publisher at all; it’s Oprah. Her book club brand acts as a trusted seal of approval for millions of readers who are hungry to discover great books.

Until recently, the vast majority of people never encountered books that didn’t have a publisher, just as they never watched movies that weren’t preceded by the name of a distributor/studio or listened to pop music recorded without a record label. However no one entered a cinema thinking, “I bet this film will be good – it was financed by Paramount,” or  flipped over an album cover and exclaimed, “Wow – it’s an EMI record!” These brands simply represented the industrial “content machine” constantly churning out material that was at minimum professionally produced, whether or not it was great or awful from a creative standpoint. This was just the way things were because production required video and/or audio recording equipment, manufacturing was done in factories, and physical distribution needed a fleet of vehicles. There was bound to be a movie studio or record label; that was literally the only way to connect creative works with an audience.

"Wow – it's an EMI record!"

“Wow – it’s an EMI record!”

The difference with the world of publishing was that the technology needed to produce the initial work was cheap: a clunky thing that sometimes suffered from mechanical failure called a typewriter (eventually superseded by a clunky thing that crashed all the time called a word processor). Manufacturing still required a big, expensive printing press, while distributing thousands of books nationwide could only be done with industrial-scale logistics and financing.

In the digital realm these hurdles have vanished for writers and musicians. Manufacturing is irrelevant in the age of the download. Distribution is non-physical and merely involves pushing a button to upload digital content. Suddenly readers and listeners are able to consume books and songs unaccompanied by the name and logo of a publisher or record company. Written works that lack a publisher’s stamp of approval are being consumed in enormous quantities. How can a reader decide whether a self-published ebook by an unknown author is any good in that case? Well, pretty much the old-fashioned ways: take a peek inside, read some reviews, ask people who’ve already read it for their opinion. The outcome will be the same: some you win, some you lose.

So suddenly for consumers the name of a “publishing house” on an ebook is as irrelevant as a record label is when they download an mp3. This doesn’t mean that epublishers have no reason to exist. An epublisher should do what traditional publishers do: edit a manuscript, commission a cover and help market the book. Some ebooks with complex formatting might require technical assistance from an epublisher. Yet the fact is that if an author hires people or firms to perform these services, the publisher has been eliminated from the equation.

Will readers of ebooks care? Will pseudo-publishers like Smashwords (which is more like a distributor) fill the void and stand for a certain degree of technical professionalism? Will anyone notice the gap on a book where the publisher’s name used to be? Watch that space…

Here’s the link to the Mark Coker-Audie Cornish NPR interview.