When I decided to self-publish my first book, my biggest fear was that I would be alone and unsupported. I quickly learned that I had nothing to worry about. I discovered that the indie community is a thriving scene, filled with passionate authors who are writing incredible books, creatively engaging with their readers, working with teams of talented editors and designers, and helping other writers online and in their local communities.
From Virginia Woolf to Andy Weir, there is a rich history of authors writing, producing, and distributing their work on their own terms, allowing them to explore themes, storylines, or characters that may be overlooked by traditional publishers. There is a vast array of indie books available to today's readers, but they can be a little tricky to find.
Jenny Bravo, author of These Are The Moments and writing coach at Blots and Plots, organized the #GoIndie2016 reading challenge to help readers discover indie books and authors. As #GoIndie approaches the halfway mark, I connected with Jenny to ask for her thoughts on the challenge thus far:
What inspired the #GoIndie challenge?
The #GoIndie challenge sparked at the end of 2015, when I was setting goals for the new year. I looked back on all the books I read that year and realized that I'd read very few indie books, despite having a great deal of independently published friends. The math didn't make sense. So, I decided to dedicate a whole year to reading purely independently published books. I wanted to honor the authors in my life that I've personally come to know, as well as find new authors and great books. Making a conscious effort to seek out books that don't have a big publishing team behind them has been incredibly rewarding.
You're currently halfway through the challenge. What are some of the impressions you have after 6 months of reading just indie titles?
It's truly been a thought-provoking experience for me. It's made me ask the big questions about book publishing. What makes a book 'good?' How do we define success as authors? How many readers or reviews or book promotions does it take to make writers fulfilled? My answers change every day, but overall, I believe that if a book is well-written and evokes emotion, it's a success.
Also, it's been a bit of a scavenger hunt. Finding indie books can be a challenging process, but it's been exciting when I find a book that inspires me. I've used resources like BookBub and #IndieBooksBeSeen to discover self-published authors, and I've researched books by small presses as well.
There is a history of stigma against indie or self-published titles, including claims that the quality isn't as good as traditionally published books. How do indie titles compare to traditionally published books?
Now that I'm halfway into this year of indie reading, I've come to discover that the experience is nearly identical to reading books that are published traditionally. You'll find excellently written books as well as books that aren't so excellent. You'll find books that really resonate with you as well as stories that don't. As far as the stigma, I hope that it's changing. Self-published books have every chance at being amazing as traditionally published books do.
The one element that really sticks out to me is professional editing. If you're considering the self-publishing track, I find that authors who make professional editing a priority tend to have better writing overall. Of course, this is on my limited experience, so I'd be interested to hear if other readers have the same impression.
What has your experience been like as an indie author? Has this challenge influenced your writing or publishing process?
Self-publishing takes you through every range of emotion. You're terrified of spelling errors. You're anxious every time you hit the publish button. You're thrilled every time you see a new sale. There's always something new to learn and experience, but I've been fortunate enough to have made incredible friends who are experiencing similar journeys.
For me, I needed to define success for myself before I could pick a publishing platform. After months of research, I realized that at the heart of everything, if my book affected one person in a positive way, then I would be successful. That revelation took the pressure off of me. It helped me to realize that I wanted the self-publishing experience, because I wanted to learn how to create a book in all respects.
How can a reader new to indie books get started with the #GoIndie challenge? Where can they find more indie books and authors?
I post what I've read every month on my blog Blots & Plots. You can also find me on Twitter, where you can send me book suggestions and post your own indie reads, using #GoIndie2016. Instagram tends to be a popular house for the challenge as well. If you're looking for more indie books, you can find them on BookBub or Goodreads. Also, researching small presses or self-publishing awards is a good strategy, too.
Here are some indie books that Jenny and I have loved, or are looking forward to reading in the second half of #GoIndie2016.
1. Rosehead by Ksenia Anske
2. The Charismatics by Ashley R. Carlson
3. Derelict by LJ Cohen
4. Finding Lily by Rachel Del
5. Now and Again by Jennifer Ellision
6. Vinyl by Sophia Elaine Hanson
7. Breathe by Kelly Kittel
8. Blood and Water by Briana Morgan
9. Indie Confidence by Elora Ramirez
10. Secret Hunger by Satin Russell
11. The Hunted by Amanda Shofner
12. The Assassin by Laura Teagan