And what about the authors themselves? Don't they still need editors and gatekeepers to keep them (authors and would-be authors) on their toes? Keep them from getting complacent? Whatever happened to working hard, being patient, earning the satisfaction that came with a Publisher’s stamp of approval?
These concerns aside, if Margaret's Ark, by Daniel G. Keohane, is an indication of publishing and self-publishing's potential future, things might not be so bad.
Of course, it makes a difference when the author self-publishing is an experienced professional with valid publishing credentials outside their self-published venue, and a Bram Stoker Award Nominee to boot. It makes a difference when the author self-publishing has done their time and has achieved industry success. Not to be redundant, but it also makes a difference when the author's self-published novel was a semi-finalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novelist contest, scoring a positive review from Publisher's Weekly, even.
All these things make a big difference, because Margaret's Ark is not a sloppily conceived story slapped together in Word and Adobe, then uploaded to CreateSpace. Nor is it a rookie author's efforts. It's a quality work of fiction, written by a professional who knows his stuff. A gripping story about the power of faith, but also a frightening portrayal of that inevitable conflict that must erupt – because we're human and flawed – between those who would choose to follow their faith unswervingly, those who follow it only for selfish reasons, those who fear and do not understand faith's power...and those who ultimately reject it.
Solomon's Grave, Keohane's first novel, proved a solid debut and earned him a Bram Stoker nomination for “Superior Achievement in a First Novel”, however Margaret's Ark is Keohane's best work to date. Though it moves slowly and takes time building its tension – and build tension it does – this novel is the mark of an experienced craftsmen. The characters are varied and engaging, prompting genuine sympathy in the reader.
Keohane manages to walk a fine theological line, also. His story is original and well-written, not a shabbily veiled religious allegory, but it shouldn't prove too radical in regards to doctrine. His success is that he does what spiritual fiction often fails at: he focuses on the human element, how humans deal and grapple with the difficulty – and demands – of faith.
Margaret's Ark is published through Keohane's own, self-styled imprint, Other Road Press. Time will tell if he'll release other works through this venue, either his own or of other authors. In any case, not only is it a fine novel, but the book itself – its craft, its formatting – serves as a rare example of self-publishing's promise for the future.
Kevin Lucia is a Contributing Editor for Shroud Magazine. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. He's currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles, and he's currently working on his first novel. Visit him on the web at www.kevinlucia.com.