It is sometimes said that every person has at least one book in them. Some of these people get together and form a book club.
Last week, I interviewed Chris Poirier on the Web Fiction Guide, Top Web Fiction, and Crazy Glue.
Merrilee speaks about webfiction quantity, quality, and community.
Mulled wine? Check! Interview time!
AMH: Let’s begin with some general comments. What do you think of the online fiction community? Any particular strengths or weaknesses?
MF: I think the community is broader than it realises, and it covers a lot of sub-groups. Which is both a strength and a weakness. It covers a huge range of writers from the e-book novelists, the Smashwords authors, through blog-fic and web serial writers, the crowdfunding crowd, all the way to the non-writer advocates like Eli from Novelr and Janoda of ErgoFiction Magazine.
That’s good, in that there is a very diverse pool of skills and contacts to draw from. But it can be bad, because we’re not always pulling in the same direction. Although it does lead to very complex and involved discussions.
AMH: And what do you think of the quality of webfiction overall?
MF:Right up there with the controversial questions! I think, like most things, you have a small percentage of excellent work, a very broad range of mediocre work and a percentage that is mind-blowingly bad.
AMH: Was it the wide range of quality that prompted you to start the e-Fiction Book Club, or something else?
MF: There were a number of events that led to the creation of the club, but I think the main drive was to do with reviewing from the perspective of a reader, not another e-fiction writer. I can understand that writers need to be, shall we say, diplomatic in their reviews. It’s still a community where everyone knows your name. No writer wants to damage their relationships with other writers. And what I found was that, sadly, I couldn’t rely on the reviews that were out there. They were far, far too complimentary of work that was poorly executed, poorly edited and presented. There’s an attitude that “hey, you wrote, go you!” Bad attitude. If e-fiction wants to achieve any sort of legitimacy, then quality must be encouraged.
I’m a self-publishing advocate when it’s done for the right reasons. So I support those writers who are trying something different. And e-fiction lends itself to the experimental, the stuff that doesn’t have a large market, the odd cross-genre works, the shorter stories that can’t find a home. But self-pubbers and, I’m sad to say, small presses need to lift their game, or e-fiction is always going to be the outsider. It’s not that hard to find an editor, get your work polished by a professional if you can’t do it yourself. Or even to do a basic spell check and proof read. Lazy writers are insulting their readers. If you can’t take the time to present your very best, why should I bother to take the time to read it?
Can you tell that I feel strongly about this? But I’m getting sidetracked. I wanted a place that presented unbiased opinions, but I didn’t want a review site. Unfortunately the first iteration of the club did turn into a review site. The new site is much more what I wanted in the first place; a group of readers from different backgrounds, finding great books and talking about them, showcasing the works that are well-written, interesting and engaging.
AMH: Speaking of the new site, which launched on December 3rd, what changes did you make to push the focus towards discussion, rather than review?
MF: I went away from the blog format and embraced Drupal. Two very painful weeks later I had the bones of what I wanted; a much more interactive site, where submissions, announcements and reviews could be posted by anyone. It takes a lot of work off my plate and spreads it around, leaving me time to interact with the members and talk about what we’re reading.
AMH: What do you offer to e-fiction readers that no other website does?
MF: Hopefully the chance to discover something new and different in e-fiction, in a wide range of genres. I’ve been looking around, and there aren’t a lot of sites specifically devoted to e-fiction. E-books yes, non-fiction especially. If you look for “e-book review” on Google, you’ll mostly find device reviews or non-fiction e-book reviews. I have yet to find another place that reviews e-fiction exclusively. (And if anyone has a link to such a place, I’d be interested!)
AMH: And what do you offer authors? Can you tell us more about the submission process?
MF: For authors, we offer exposure, plain and simple. We get over 1,000 visitors a day now, and while that’s pittance in terms of the internet in general, it’s still 1,000 more eyes on your work, and it will grow over time.
The submission process is pretty simple. Once you sign up to the site as an author, you have the option to create an author profile, listing your website and your work. From there, you can click a button to submit one of your works to the club. It goes into a submission queue that only the members can see. We then talk about the submissions, look for ones that stand out and interest us. If your work appeals to one of the members, they then present it to the club as a Reading Round. Then we read, talk about the book, discuss aspects of it and present our reviews.
AMH: It sounds good so far! So how do you envision the future of the eFBC? Anything else in the pipelines?
MF: I was considering an anthology of stories from our feature authors at one point, but I’m still wrestling with legalities on that one. Hoping to include e-reader device and software reviews at some stage, and discussion forums for readers. Other than that, I’m looking forward to not thinking about the site for a while, and catching up on reading. There are some really interesting works in the submission pile at the moment, and I want to get my teeth into them!
AMH: That’s everything from me. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
MF: I’d just like to say a thank you to all the people who have given us their support and their voices. We’ve grown entirely by word of mouth, and that has been the work of other e-fiction lovers, who have joined in the discussions and spread the word about the wonderful thing that is electronic fiction. I’m glad to be here in a time when this format is growing so much.
Lastly, early happy Christmas to you!