A “Look Inside” the World of Amazon Self-Publishing

They won’t win any Pulitzers, but they could be the future of literature

The cover of “Scythian,” the first work in Miller’s self-published saga. Source: Amazon

The cover of “Scythian,” the first work in Miller’s self-published saga. Source: Amazon

Madeline Mooney, Columnist

Amazon: a wonderful place where you can get just about anything delivered to your doorstep. “Just about anything” apparently includes novels about dinosaur love stories and billionaire werewolves. With Amazon allowing absolutely anyone to publish their masterpiece on the Kindle store (preferably with a cover created in MS Paint), most of it is bound to be not very good… but hey, it can’t all be bad, can it?! I’m sure there are some talented writers hidden in this vast expanse of mediocrity. Unfortunately, included in this dense forest of averageness is Hector Miller, author of the “Thrice Named Man” series.

“The Thrice Named Man” is a series of historical novels following Lucius Domitius Aurelianus, “a man with iron in his veins” who flees from ancient Rome and becomes a great warrior. The only way to truly understand the emotional depths of Lucius’ story is to use Amazon’s “look inside” feature, which reveals the first few pages of “Scythian,” the first book in the series.

The prologue sets the scene for just how this story will play out: “[Lucius] is destined to accomplish the impossible. This is the story of his journey.”

The story of Lucius’ journey is, to be frank, not especially well-written. The plot is difficult to follow, but it seems to involve Lucius and a “wise old mentor” archetype getting raided by barbarians. The dialogue gratuitously name-drops historical figures and locations in a way that makes it obvious that the author is just trying to show off his research. As can be expected from the prologue and blurb, Lucius is a flawless hero whose only imperfection is how over-the-top amazing he is.

Little is known about Miller’s beginnings. His “more about the author” page states that he is a “freedman” who quit his job as an accountant and “managed to escape from the corporate world in 2016” and now seemingly writes full-time. He definitely won’t be winning any awards for this story, but he seems to enjoy pursuing his passion, so that doesn’t really matter.

Yes, the majority of self-published books on Amazon are self-published for a reason: they’re too weird, unrefined, or just flat out bad for a publisher to agree to. But that’s not to say that it’s all hopeless. Surely there is some genuine talent out there, even if it’s hidden behind a poorly photoshopped cover. Gone are the days when you needed industry connections, an agent, and a “profitable” idea to get published: now everyone can do it from home.

The concept of a literary “canon” is quickly deteriorating in the modern age, and the rise of technology has hastened this. Not everything coming out is of equal quality, of course, but literary creation is no longer limited to a small group. Webcomics spanning hundreds of pages can develop devoted online followings. Teenage superfans can post their One Direction fanfiction and get hundreds of comments. And Hector Miller can escape from his boring job as an accountant and tell the story of a man “accomplishing the impossible.”