For Indie Books, The Only Choice Is to Immerse or Die

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Immerse or Die Bundle from
Immerse or Die Bundle image courtesy of

The literary world is on fire with the controversy surrounding this year’s Hugo awards. Accusations are flying, political agendas being bandied about, and the giants of fantasy and science fiction are fighting over who will take home those shiny rocket ships.

Even George R.R. Martin has been devoting some serious word count to the issue.

In the shadows of these giants, away from the politics and adulation, people continue to seek great books, leaving no page unturned–digital or otherwise. Technology has enabled an indie revolution that has evolved far outside the reaches of the traditional publishing world. Recognition of these books has been a tricky endeavor.

In many cases indie books have developed a bad rap. With the surge of digital self-publishing, the coveted title of “published author” has been reduced to a single mouse click. However, writer and creativity hacker Jefferson Smith is convinced that this frontier fringe has attracted some of the best writers in the field. Not just A-listers seeking to get life from their backlists, but unknown talent who “have game.”

Jefferson will be the first to admit that in the indie world “few of the titles being released meet even basic professional production standards.” To separate the wheat from the chaff, he’s developed his own grueling method.

Jefferson’s a practical guy, and getting in his morning stroll on the treadmill while reading indie sci-fi and fantasy books seems like a win-win. Most of the time, it isn’t.

The Immerse or Die method submits each book to a forty-minute test. In those forty minutes, a book is given a three strike policy which he calls “WTFs.” After the third, his immersion in the story is considered lost. He tosses the book, notes the time into his 40-minute workout, and later completes a write-up of what went wrong.

Last year, Jefferson read 114 titles. Of those, only 13 survived the full 40 minutes.

Those thirteen survivors he read cover to cover. He took more notes, checked to make sure each one had it all: a complete and satisfying story, clean production, and an overall entertaining read worthy of shelf space anywhere–in or outside the traditional publishing circles.

The 13 fell to 8.

Jefferson had a nifty website graphic to hand out, but no shiny trophies. Simply passing the test was quickly becoming a badge of honor in indie circles. Still, he felt these books were so good they needed a bigger audience.

So Jefferson reached out to the authors and to and the Immerse or Die Bundle was born. Now all 8 books can be had for a price that you name. (Jefferson has even included a ninth bonus book, one of his own, so that readers can get sweet treadmill revenge.)

If you’re an avid reader of speculative fiction and fantasy, this bundle covers the gamut. From desert dark fantasy to reality-bending steampunk, pulpy sci-fi noir to an urban fantasy of lost souls, these stories are dripping with originality backed by vetted quality to rival the big names.

In time, I’m sure those literary giants will put their differences aside and figure out who deserves the coveted rocketship this year. But in their shadows, indie writers will continue to tirelessly create new worlds and entertain readers with a skill and work ethic that deserves broader recognition. No political agendas or baggage, just a pure love of the craft and the hopes to topple a treadmill or two.

You can find out more about the Immerse or Die Bundle here. Summaries, reviews and author bios are presented for each book.

For more information about Jefferson Smith’s Immerse or Die Report, click here.

(Full disclosure: I have a book, Crimson Son, included in this bundle, but can personally vouch for the quality of each title and for Jefferson’s exhaustive process. If you’re a speculative fiction reader, you’ll find plenty to love in this package of digital goodness.)

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6 thoughts on “For Indie Books, The Only Choice Is to Immerse or Die

  1. In some respects this is great, in a couple of others not so great.

    It’s great in that you have an accomplished author to shine some light on some books that might not otherwise gain recognition.

    One of the downsides is that you need many more than just one author reviewing. Any one person is biased and there are probably some books on the list that even though they do not strike his fancy, would entertain someone else.

    The other disadvantage is that one author cannot possibly come close to reading all of the available indie books out there. So there are many others that are being missed. Not Jefferson Smith’s fault, but it would help these writers if there were more authors on the job. But a few obtaining recognition is better than none.

    1. I agree with you, Jim! Keep in mind though that even with “big” literary awards like the Hugos where you have say 1500 ballots being cast, there’s still no way every sci-fi / fantasy book is being read or considered. Much like any award ceremony, the nominations often revolve quite a bit around small-group politics over substance (and this year they have completely boiled over into pure politics as some groups tried to prove that point and others tried to destroy the process entirely). True, Jefferson’s approach is limited and that is definitely a drawback, but because of this, it is also pretty transparent. You can go to his site, read each report, and very quickly get a fairly clear picture of any biases he may have. Not ideal but a strong start and the Indie world does need more people like him.

  2. I’m vouched for!

    Seriously, Russ plowed through all the other books before the bundle went live, just to make sure he wasn’t in unsavory company. He’s a good guy.

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