Indie Excellence

PJ Sharon here, talking about Indie Excellence today. With all the new indie-published authors flocking to the internet, the gazillion free self-pubbed books available for Nooks and Kindles, and the influx of Small Press publishers, how can we possibly separate the chaff from the wheat, or in this case, the good from the bad in published books?

Most readers, in an effort to narrow their search, will go to those trusted Top 100 lists on Amazon or BN. How do books make the list you ask? And which list are we actually talking about? Here’s a great article by David Gaughran about the difference between the Top100 lists and the Popularity lists. Most people don’t realize there’s a difference or what it means. The trick is getting on those lists and becoming visible to readers who routinely shop there. But making the list is one thing—staying there is another. Both require a tremendous amount of promotion, a dollop of good timing, and a heaping helping of luck. One big edge that traditional publishers have is the power of advertising. They know how, where, and when to advertise to get maximum exposure. Whereas us indies are figuring it out as we go along, and taking shots in the dark that either pay-off or they don’t.  

Ironically, there are nearly as many indie-pubbed books on the Top 100 list lately as traditionally published books, a fact that makes us indies very hopeful that the playing field is leveling out quickly. The truth is that readers don’t care HOW a book is published. They care about a good story. But finding great indie books can be challenging since there are no real controls in place to ensure that what is published is a quality product. And yes, there is a tremendous amount of poorly written, poorly edited, and shoddy work out there. My personal experience, however, has been that there are some amazing indie authors producing phenomenal books. Stop back next week to see my “Favorite Indie books” list.

My favorite part of reading indie books is that they are unique in plot, structure, voice, and character—all the reasons that they weren’t picked up by trad-publishers who are looking for “the same, but different”. Indie books often fall outside the traditional mold and therefore are overlooked by agents and editors who think they know “what the market wants”. Thankfully, the Top 100 lists filled with all those indie-pubbed books are proving them wrong. My feeling is that there is an audience for every well-written story.

If you want to find some great quality indie books, check out the following sites.

 Indie Bound

Good reads Indie Book List

American Booksellers Association

There are also more and more review sites that are now reviewing Indie books.

Kirkus Reviews (although it is pricey to get a review from them and paid reviews just seem wrong to me.)

Indie Book Collective

Indie Reader

Even RT Magazine is “Hot for Indies” according to this article on the WG2E. Still, there is something about being traditionally published that screams legitimacy. Not that being traditionally published guarantees quality. I’m sure we have all read poorly written and poorly edited books straight off the bookshelves of BN and the desks of Big Six publishers. But for most writers, the legitimacy of being traditionally published still means something. We want our friends, families, readers, and peers to know that we DESERVE to be published—that our work was recognized as standing out among the hundreds of thousands of writers who submitted their manuscripts into the fray. And that our writing has been judged worthy.

So who decides what truly makes the cut in the Indie world? Enter the IndiePENdents,  a group of authors who started a review site set up to judge and legitimize good quality indie books. Each book submitted to the site goes through a panel of three volunteer reviewers and a validation team prior to being awarded the IndiePENdents Seal of Approval. I’m proud to say that my first book, Heaven Is For Heroes was one of those books selected for the honor. I received a certificate and this lovely seal to place on the covers of my print books to show that this book has met the industry standard of excellence in writing. The book also made the Awesome Indies review site’s top picks.

I’m so thankful to the wonderful volunteers who read and review indie books, making it possible for readers to find the best of the best in Indie Publishing. You guys rock! be sure to stop by Rhonda Hopkins’ blog later this morning. I’m a guest on her Authors Give Back charity blog and I’ll be sharing one of my favorites and why I love it. The post goes live at 9 am EST.

Please tell me dear readers, have you read any good Indie published books lately? What did you love about them? How did you come to find them? And was the quality up to your standard for a good book?

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23 thoughts on “Indie Excellence”

  1. PJ, your post is fabulous, but intimidating for me, yet an unpublished author. I hope that by the time I am seeking to be published, the publishing world, indie or otherwise, has figured it out. The networking and marketing has me concerned b/c as a seasoned business woman, I am aware. Do I want to push the world around once again to be successful in this business? Yup, that’s what is necessary in order to achieve results. Every business requires “getting involved” with your market and reaching out beyond. Thanks for all the heads up in the publishing market, where to go, who to ask, what to look for, etc. I appreciate your knowledge and your sharing.

    1. I haven’t yet read Leia’s books, but I do have that one on my Kindle. I’ll bump it up in line of TBR’s on your recommendation, Casey. Thanks!

  2. I hear you, Gail. It is a bit intimidating when you think about all that is involved in being a published author, yet that is the dream of every writer who has stories to tell and wants to share them with the world. It’s a case of being careful of what you wish for. If I’d known what I was getting myself into, I might have laid down my pen and given up a long time ago, LOL.

    If you write for the joy of writing and learning the craft, continue to your hearts content. There’s nothing wrong with that in my opinion. Writers groups are a wonderful place to meet like-minded individuals and there is tons of fun to be had in enjoying the process. For some, writing is a hobby. For others, an art, and for some of us, an obsession. I don’t think that reaching for the big brass ring of being published is for everyone. Having said that, I’m a firm believer in doing what you love and finding a way to make money at it. Every artist who is truly outstanding should be recognized and compensated fairly for their work. In today’s publishing market, that has become an opportunity that is open to anyone who is willing to put themselves out there, work hard, and put in the time and professional effort it takes to be successful.

    Though your business background means that you are going in with your eyes wide open, it also means that you will be far more prepared than most people, so don’t sell yourself short. You just have to decide if you are ready, and if you want to be working so hard at this stage of your life. If not–enjoy sharing the wonderful writers life with your funloving peers.

  3. AS usual, P.J., your articles are informative and relevant. I agree with Gail that it doesn’t matter how a book is published as long as it’s well-written and a page-turner-like yours are. Kirkus reviews are expensive, but according to a recent article in RWA, they are well respected and can give a good book a real boost.

    1. Thanks, Joy! I believe Kirkus wanted several hundred dollars for a review, which I found appauling. The other issue is that they publish the review whether it’s good or bad, which could be devastating to a career if that particular reviewer doesn’t happen to like your book. I’d hate to pay a lot of money and then have a bad review floating around that carries a lot of weight within the industry.

      I submitted Heaven Is For Heroes to Publishers Weekly last year and got a mediocre review. It wasn’t a bad review, but it was basically nothing I could use to promote the book. When it comes down to it, readers read and consider Amazon, BN, and Goodreads reviews as much as they do the big dogs since those reviews are what they see when they go to the book’s product page. I’d rather have free honest reviews from readers who enjoyed the book enough to recommend it to other readers than to have a snidely “reviewer” pan my book because it doesn’t fit the mold. Of course that might be just me letting the “fear” monster (Doubties ugly cousin) get the better of me. I do stand on principle that reviews should never be financially compensated.

  4. PJ, This is a wonderful post, and your book deserves every accolade. It’s great to know that there are people out there who not only review, but truly try and examine indie books. As someone who loves to read, just in general, I admit that sometimes it’s hard to sort through the thousands of indie books on the market and figure out (before buying) which ones will be worth the purchase. You have such amazing talent and I am so happy that there is a way for it to be recognized!!

    1. Tracy! Thanks, sweetie! If you’re looking for a great indie read of the paranormal persuasion, check out Cat Kalen’s series. The first book, Pride’s Run was fabulous. I can’t wait to dive in to the next one.

    1. Thank you, Marian. No matter how many times I hear that from someone, it always gives me a boost and spurs me to make my next book even better. I still feel like such a newbie! Becoming skilled at the craft of writing is a never ending pursuit. I’m just so happy that I have writer friends like you to encourage me along the way. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I truly appreciate the support.

    1. Thanks and you’re welcome, Greg. I miss being a part of the WG2E street team activiites. I’ll be getting back to it soon for the September release party. I’m pretty on track for getting the next book out by the end of the month…woohoo! Looking forward to your next one, buddy.

  5. Great stuff, PJ . . . as always. Just FYI, there was an article in the July issue of RWA on Kirkus Indie Reviews and it said, “If the author wants to keep the feedback private, it will never see the light of day.” So if you have a lukewarm review, no worries. I don’t have $425 to give for a review, but I guess some people put more stock into it b/c any relative or friend on Amazon or Goodreads can post a 5 star review.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Jamie. I’d love to have a big name reviewer to quote, but $450 is a bit rich for my blood still. Maybe after the next book releases and I hit that 10,000 sold mark, right?

    1. You are so welcome, Julie. This writers road is no cake walk. I’ve spent a lot of time following trails that others have blazed. I’m happy to make the path a bit smoother for the next crew. looking forward to seeing your name on a published title:-)

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