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.