Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Indie Books: What a reader is looking for...

By Rel Mollet

The rise of independently published books is well known to those in publishing, but less known by many traditional readers. Most readers don't have a lot of cash to splash around on book, so we are particular in what we select to buy. Even now, with indie books getting a lot more airplay, many readers will still choose the 'safe' option of buying books from a traditional publisher, in the belief they will get a solid, well written and edited story.

That said, and contrary to popular opinion, the most challenging, entertaining, and heartfelt books I have read in the past 12 months have been those published independently, so be adventurous!

Here's what I'm looking for in an indie novel with Christian flavour that is not often available from a traditional publisher...

A Powerful Story

I want a story not constrained by the traditional structure and themes of a Christian novel.

Amy Matayo's The End of the World is a brilliant story that delves into complex issues of foster care, abandoned children, sexual abuse, bitterness, and betrayal. Should you care to look beyond a traditional framework, themes of forgiveness, love, hope, healing, and living with inner and outer scars are blatantly displayed.


Kristen Heitzmann's Told You So exhibits her significant talent as a writer of realistic fiction that doesn't shy away from the world we live in. Intelligently written, her character's fall from grace is all too common but rarely dealt with in traditional novels. Stories like these need to be written, otherwise we are excluding and marginalising many readers whose life choices have not been 'perfect'.


A Stunning Cover

Jenny B. Jones' soon to be published novel, I'll Be Yours, captures the eye, the genre, and the quality an indie book needs to stand out in the crowd. Having had the privilege of reading this story, I can tell you the interior matches its stunning exterior beautifully! This novel is not Christian Fiction, but a clean read, so don't look for a conversion scene ;-)


An International Setting

With the overwhelming majority of novels written with the American reading public in mind, and accordingly set in one of the many US states, I love that indie books can branch out to settings all over the world - nothing like travelling around the world for the cost of a novel!

Our own Dorothy Adamek's debut novel, Carry Me Home, typifies the freedom of an indie writer. An historical novel set in Phillip Island? It doesn't get much better than that for this Victorian girl :) I can tell you Dorothy has ticked the boxes of a gorgeous cover and a fabulous story!


Lynnette Bonner is about to launch an historical serialisation set in East Africa where she grew up. Her Sonnets of the Spice Isle begins with On the Wings of a Whisper - again, a striking cover that gives clues for readers about the story.


A Unique Time Period (for a Christian novel)

While a change is in the wind, traditional Christian publishers have been reluctant to publish medieval novels in the past, so Tamara Leigh's multiple medieval series have been a joy to read, her latest being Baron of Emberly. Note again, the attention to detail of an eye-catching cover that is genre specific. As for the writing, with over books written for the general market, in the CBA, and now independently, Tamara's experience and talent is immense and her stories never disappoint.


A Quality Story

I'm a little weary of the sameness of so many Christian novels, even by the most beloved and popular authors. Too often I feel like I'm reading a familiar story with only the names, location, and point of conflict tweaked. My experience is that indie writers are penning stories more out of the box and I love that.

Tammy Gray's recent YA novel that highlights high school bullying and the structures that allow it to continue is excellent. Sell Out also happens to have one of my favourite covers from 2015.


Similarly, Sally Bradley's successful contemporary novel, Kept, is as story of exactly that - a kept woman and her confrontation with the love that is from God alone.


A Reasonable Price

I don't mind paying a decent price for a paperback or hardcover book, but I do balk a little at traditional publishers' prices for ebooks. You can get a taste of an indie writer's style for a reasonable price by buying their ebooks, usually set at around $2 to $5USD.

Our own Narelle Atkins has used this ability to price her novels as she wishes, even including them in bargain e-novella collections with other writers - Love Blossoms - giving readers a taste who, if they love the writing, will be more willing to part with their book budget on a writer they now know can provide a great story.


A Moving Story

Okay, so we can get this through traditional publishing, of course, but I do want any story I read to impact my emotions and/or challenge my thoughts.

Joanne Bischof has published two gorgeous stories independently - This Quiet Sky and To Get to You - both are beautifully written and I may not have had the chance to read these redemptive stories if Jo hadn't pursued self publishing.


In a similar vein, Amanda Dykes penned one of my favourite Christmas stories in Bespoke. Once again, the beauty of Amanda's written word evoked all kinds of feelings in me, despite it being such a short story.


How about you? Read any good indie stories, lately? Thinking about publishing an indie novel?

*******


Rel Mollet, a founding member of the INSPY Awards, has been blogging since late 2006 at Relz Reviewz, her site dedicated to showcasing Christian Fiction and its writers, by way of reviews, author interviews, character spotlights, and more. Her passion for the written word was established from the moment she could read, now evidenced by overflowing bookcases and a towering TBR pile. A Book Club Coordinator for over a decade and a correspondent for FamilyFiction’s digital magazine, Rel resides in Melbourne, Australia with her movie-loving husband and three book loving daughters.













46 comments:

  1. 56% of the books I read in 2015 were indie books (although a chunk of these were novellas and short stories)

    My favourite indie book of 2015 was Amish Zombies from Space. This series actually started out traditionally published, but the title proved a little much for the tradition Christian audience, so author Kerry Nietz shifted to self-publishing for this sequel.

    A close runner-up was Storming by K.M. Weiland.

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    1. That seems to be the way authors who write out of the box stories need to go, Adam. For now, at least :)

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  2. There are definitely some great reads with Indie books - I've enjoyed Mike Duran's The Ghost Box, Michelle Evan's Spiralling Out series and (general market) Delia Strange's Femme.

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  3. I should also mention Dan Walsh's Rescuing Finley and Richard Mabry's Silent Night, Deadly Night.Both authors have a string of traditionally published novels but are plunging into the indie pond!

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    1. Rel, I was enjoying the comments when I did a double-take. I hardly expected to make this discussion, and certainly not in the same sentence as Dan Walsh's work. Thanks so much. And, by the way, I'm looking at going deeper into that pond.

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  4. The indie pond is growing! I'm honoured to be among such stellar writers.
    Sally Bradley is an author I'm watching closely. Loved Kept, and I've also loved the way Sally's entered the indie-author world and carried herself. She's a real encourager and I'm grateful for her wisdom...as one who's gone before me. :)

    Thanks for the shout-out, Rel. So glad the 'international location' met your reader expectations. (wink) xx

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    1. I'm with you on Sally, as you know! Thanks for dropping by - you are known by the great company you keep, my friend, and these indie writers are the best, including you :)

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    2. Dorothy, thank you so much for those kind words. Frankly, I'm watching you now. :) You did soooo well with that first book. You took that story and made it fresh. Looking forward to reading more from you!

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  5. Oh and I love all of Joanne Bischof's books. I'm a big fan now and I'll will read anything she puts out there because she delivers a quality reader experience every time. :)

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  6. A good range of books there. Thanks.

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  7. Hi Rel! Honored to be mentioned alongside so many fabulous, boundary-pushing indie authors. Looking forward to reading these fine tales.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by, Tamara - I think your achievements in indie publishing are an encouragement to all writers who don't want to be limited with their writing.

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  8. So many good stories here! I've read a few and need to add others to my list. Thanks for including me in such good company. :)

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    1. A pleasure, Lynnette - thanks for stopping by.

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  9. I spy Dorothy Adamek's masterpiece!! So, so proud of you, Dorothy!

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    1. Isn't it fabulous, Preslaysa? Adored it, too.

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  10. Thank you to much for including me in this list, Rel! They all look so great!

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    1. They look pretty impressive all lined up, don't they, Amy?! Loving watching your indie progress xo

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  11. Some new books here to add to my TBR list. Thank you for including the Love Blossoms set in such honourable company!

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  12. Love this! Thanks so much for including me with these awesome writers. And thank you for being such an advocate for authors and books. We love you!

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    1. Thanks, Jen - appreciate your lovely encouragement xo

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  13. I agree that a lot of the better stories I read are indie published, although I'm also finding a lot of small press books which fill a niche the big publishers aren't necessarily interested in. Books like . . .

    Swimming Through Clouds (and sequels) by Rajdeep Paulus
    Grime Beat (and sequels) by Marji Lane
    Ehvah After by Rose Dee
    The Ponamu Prophecy by Cindy Williams (Rhiza Press)
    I Always Cry at Weddings by Sara Goff (WhiteFire Publishing)
    When Fall Fades by Amy Leigh Simpson (WildBlue Press)

    And I've still got Amish Zombies from Space on my to-read pile!

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    1. Thanks for the book advice, Iola - as if either of us need more!!

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    2. Don't know when I'll find the time, but I'm making note of your list, Iola!

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  14. Echoing Jen's comment-- we love you! So thankful for all that you do, Rel, and more importantly, the amazing person you are. Thank you for the surprise and joy of being included in this list! You make such an incredible difference. <3

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    1. I treasure your story, Amanda - loved it!

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    2. Amanda! How on earth did I not know that you had written a story?! Rel has done a great job drawing attention to you and these other authors, and now I just need to find more reading time.

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  15. I'm a huge indie author fan, and like you, some of the best books I've read over the past two years have been indie published. Some of my go-to fave Christian indie authors are Christina Coryell, Becky Doughty, Sally Bradley, Heather Woodhaven's Book Club series, Joanne Bischof's YA, and I could go on and on for a long time. Indie books often satisfy my itch to read about new time periods, locales, married characters, or basically out-of-the-box issues that traditional Christian publishers might miss. Thanks for being an indie champion!

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    1. Exactly, Heather...and you would know!!

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  16. Honored to be included on your list, Rel! Such great books here. A few favorites and a few I am really eager to read!

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    1. I can't wait for your 2016 release, Joanne - talk about anticipation!

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  17. Rel, I'm always a bit shocked and giddy when you help spread the word about my baby. :) Thank you so much for championing me and other authors who are going it alone--well, at least until you came along. You've been such a friend to us. Saying thank you isn't quite enough.

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    1. You bring so much encouragement, entertainment, comfort, and challenge to readers - all writers who value their craft do - I'm simply returning a little of the favour, Sally :)

      Thank you all the same!

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  18. I was just looking at my most recent Kindle purchases and they are 50/50 independent and traditional which is a big change from a year ago! Favourite authors include Nicole Deese, Jenny B. Jones, Sally Bradley and Joanne Bischof. I've just bought Amy Matayo's because of you too :)

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    1. Yay! Oh, I think you will love Amy's :)

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  19. So glad I found this post supporting indie authors. I'm having a grand time venturing from trad to indie with my last two and have found such enthusiasm and encouragement within the community.

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    1. The indie community is very supportive, Normandie - it's great to see.

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  20. I have to agree with your list -- it's great! It's amazing how the recent rise in indie books has swept through the Christian genre.... and I'm quite happy with it. I have added some of these to my TBR!

    I'd include "Isle of Hope" by Julie Lessman as another fabulous indie book from 2015. It packed a punch with emotion and faith unlike many traditional published books.

    I've also noticed, like Iola pointed out, several small press books that deserve a shout-out: Pepper Basham's Penned in Time series (Vinspire Publishing) and Dawn Crandall's Everstone Chronicles series (Whitaker House Publishers).

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    1. Yes, I agree, Courtney. Julie's has made a great transition into indie publishing. Thanks for sharing :)

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    2. Agreed, Courtney. I loved Dawn Crandall's books, and I've got Pepper's on my to-read pile.

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    3. Agreed, Courtney. I loved Dawn Crandall's books, and I've got Pepper's on my to-read pile.

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  21. Thank you so much for this list of great books. I've previously read several (in fact, every book by Tamara Leigh, Jenny B Jones, Tammy L Gray) and I'm "sold out" for their writing, and am now excited to read all of the others listed here.

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  22. Rel, excellent post! Readers are the winners because they can now purchase a range of quality books from traditional publishers and indie authors. Thanks for including Love Blossoms in your post :)

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  23. I read a lot of indie books simply because they are affordable, and as you stated in your article, some of the best I've read. I have some of the ones that you mentioned and put some on my Amazon wish list. I read 10-13 books a month, so I need my books to be affordable! Kim

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