The Best of Ben

At last available in print! And thanks to my lovely wife for suggesting the title.

Well, Christmas is on the horizon, I’m poised to make it big in the US (a posture I’ve been maintaining for about 10 years but I live in hope) and I enjoyed the exercise. The definitive Ben Jeapes short story collection is now available in one handy volumecosting a snip at $11.01.

Or, if you like, you can just go to my web site and read them for free.

Hmm. I start to see why marketing was always Big Engine’s Achilles heel.

This is a self-publishing venture through lulu.com. For the benefit of readers who get confused by various critical views I have expressed in the past on self/vanity publishing, here’s the introduction to the volume. Think of it as value added. You’re welcome.

“Approach a self-published book with caution. This is a self-published book, so you have been warned.

Normally, when you see a book in a bookshop, this is what has happened. The author sent that book to a publisher that liked it. (It might have been sent to several publishers first who didn’t like it. If that happened then the author might have worked on the story again to improve it, and become a better author as a result.) The publisher’s editor and the author will have worked together to make it even better. The publisher then paid the author and produced the book at its own expense, confident that it would get all that money back from sales. That’s a big vote of confidence.

However, a self-published book has not been sent to a publisher (or if it has, the publisher turned it down). The author has never had to improve the story. The only money that has been risked is the author’s own. The author thinks the book is pretty good – but what else would you expect? Why should you believe him?

This is a self-published book.

On the other hand, every story here – except one, and we’ll come to that – has been through the process described above. It has been accepted by a book or a magazine editor, who worked with me to make it as good as possible, and paid me and produced the magazine or book at their own expense. So, people other than me have believed in these stories and thought they were worth reading. I’m still the one who thinks they could work as a book collection and I take full responsibility (but offer no refunds) if you think my judgement was out.

I’ve sold 18 stories in my time, published between 1990 and 1998. Two of these were to Dr Who collections and so they don’t belong to me, they belong to the publishers of the collections. The remaining sixteen are collected here for the first time. There is also a seventeenth story here, which has been to not one but several editors, and worked on (and worked on, and worked on) but never actually published. It may be rubbish. It may not. This is only my opinion speaking, after all. But I won’t tell you which one it is yet – I wouldn’t want to prejudice you before you read it.

I wasn’t sure what order to put the stories in. I honestly can’t remember the order they were written in. It would be nice to think that if you read the stories in publication order then you could trace my development as a writer, but that would also be completely false. A writer’s style – if he’s doing it properly – changes every time he makes a sale, based on the experiences he has had, the feedback, and what else he has read and written in the meantime. There are also large gaps in the process; for instance, ‘Pages Out of Order’ dates back to at least 1990, but was sold in 1994 and published in 1997. I wrote and sold plenty of other stuff in those gaps.
Then I thought of putting them in alphabetical order, or grouping them by style, or doing it in order of length … In the end, I just put everything into a ‘this feels right’ sort of order. If it doesn’t work – well, that’s my fault again.

If the stories were in order of being written, it would be interesting to track my increasing confidence in the use of what maiden aunts might call Language. There are occasional mild uses of Language here and there; it’s heaviest in ‘Go with the Flow’. ‘A Holiday on Lake Moskva’ also contains scenes of implied pre-marital intercourse, so only show them to your aunt if you’re absolutely certain she isn’t a maiden. If she loves you, she won’t mind you asking.”

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