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Opinion: Indie Author Imprints Can Ensure High Quality – So Why Did Readers Object?

head and shoulders photo of Fiona Cameron

Scottish indie author Fiona Cameron

Scottish indie author Fiona Cameron takes exception to a reading group’s assumption that self-publishing her books under her own imprint diminished their worth.

I was very pleased to find that my fourth novel, By Heart, had been chosen by a reading group as their September text, after a group member had reviewed it. I’ve newly had feedback, and predictably, not everyone liked it. If I expected everyone who reads my books to love ‘em, it, I’d have been carted off in a white van long since.

However, this is the comment – listed on the ‘anti’ side – that floored me:

“It was put forward and then looked up to see if you have your own press to print your books? Self-publishing?”

If I’m being pedantic, no, I don’t have my own press to print my books, but yes (I know this is what the person who made the comment was getting at), I set up my own imprint to publish them. I’ve never concealed this fact – but why is it filed under complaints? And why did reading that comment make me feel I should be behaving furtively, as if I’ve done something wrong?

Why I Set Up My Own Imprint

cover of by heart

…and from the heart – Fiona Cameron makes a passionate plea to respect indie author imprints

I put a lot of thought into setting up my own imprint, and my main reason for doing so was that purchasing ISBNs and entering the wonderful world of Nielsen Bookdata etc seems easier if there’s a name other than the author’s own.

I had previously dipped my toe in the water with one of the print-on-demand companies, but I was put off by what seemed to me a poor-quality product, plus the fact that their charge for author copies is eye-watering.

I also know many other authors who have been published by small “traditional” presses, and whose books are (rather obviously) not well-edited, and appear with uninspiring covers and so-so product quality.

As has often been discussed within ALLi, such authors also have to do all their own marketing and PR, and may even be responsible for distributing their own books.

 

How Having My Own Imprint Ensures Quality

Armed with horror stories from their experiences, I made a very conscious decision to set up Flying Swan Press. I thus have full control of not only how thoroughly my books are edited, but also of the design and quality elements.

  • The books published to date have all been professionally edited (three of the four by Wildland Literary Editors, one by the Janette Currie Consultancy), professionally formatted for both digital and print editions, and have appeared with professionally-designed covers.
  • l did a lot of research to find a short-run printer I was happy to work with, whose quality of output I find satisfactory, and whose unit costs are low enough to allow me a degree of profit on sales even through bookshops taking 40%.

I am confident that the resulting books stand up to scrutiny alongside those from the smaller traditional presses – and, indeed, from many of the larger mainstream ones – and pass with flying colours.

So why does that single “self-publishing?” comment have the capacity to make me feel I should crawl into the nearest hole and expire? (It’s the question mark that drives like a nail into my skull.)

The way I read it, the most damning implication is that the mere fact a book is independently published is a standalone reason for finding it wanting. The pages of the ALLi FB page demonstrate that many book retailers (and indeed, many organisers of literary festivals and the like) take the same sort of view.Up until now, I haven’t really felt I had an axe to grind in terms of indie vs traditional publication. I’ve had short stories traditionally published, so it’s many years since I achieved that happy state of being eligible to be a member of the Society of Authors (you have no idea how many new authors regard this as the Holy Grail!) I’ve never (till now) felt the slightest need to seek the supposed legitimacy that traditional publication, even by one-man-and-a-dog presses, seems to bring.

When she worked on my fourth book, my editor suggested that I should head along the path of seeking traditional publication for the next book. “Don’t waste your time going after the small companies,” she said. “Go straight for the big boys.” I’m ambivalent about this advice, but have taken the step of starting to seek an agent. I love the creative control we get from being indie authors – but heavens above, it can be tough to find oneself constantly regarded as a second-class citizen.

Strength in Numbers

I belong to a local writers’ collective, and thrive on the mutual support that brings. (Many of us are independently published.) ALLi brings the same sense of solidarity on a wider stage. But writing is, almost by definition, a solitary profession. It’s all too easy to find oneself losing sleep and losing focus because of snide remarks from the nay-sayers. It seems we need to keep fighting the good fight to ensure that not only the larger book retailers but also readers realise that independent publishing is not vanity publishing, and that the vast majority of independent publishers take enough pride in their work to ensure that quality of content, quality of editing and quality of presentation stand comparison with the best mainstream traditionally published books.

Cover of Opening Up To Indie Authors

#publishingopenup handbook

The #publishingopenup campaign, exemplified in our guidebook Opening Up To Indie Authors, aims to break down the kind of prejudice that Fiona reports here. Reading it will help you break down barriers and build understanding of what it means to be an indie author today. ALLi members may download a free ebook, and it’s also possible to buy in print and digital form via the usual outlets. 

OVER TO YOU If you have your own imprint, has your experience been similar to Fiona’s? Do readers care how your book is published? Would you ever decamp to traditional publishing to escape stigma, or do you feel the gap is closing between trad and indie? Join the conversation via the comments box!

A rallying cry for proper understanding of #indie #authors by Fiona Cameron #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

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36 Responses to Opinion: Indie Author Imprints Can Ensure High Quality – So Why Did Readers Object?

  1. Lorna October 4, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    Two weeks ago, I was interviewed on a national radio station about my second book and at the end of the interview (which went well, was full of banter and humour),the interviewer looked at the back of the book saying ‘Who is it published by?’ and then not recognising the name,asked if it was self published (with surprise in his voice). I just said ‘yes’ and moved on to say that I was selling it at that huge agric event (whee the interview was based) and he didn’t return to it. In one way, I was pleased that he was surprised and being self published hadn’t been considered in their deciding to interview me.

  2. Maggie Lynxh October 3, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

    I am saddened to hear of such an uninformed comment being made by a book club member, or worse what Chris describes about Crimefest in the UK. Here in the U.S. indie panels are now the norm at most organizations because so many well-known and bestselling writers across many genres have left traditional publishing and are now indie. I’m not a member of Crimefest, but I have seen well-attended indie panels at RWA, SFWA, MWA and Thriller Fest.

    Warning: Soapbox Time

    I do not think the answer is “certification” by any group–no offense to Awesome Indies program. The reason I don’t agree with this approach is that it accepts the premise that most indie work is crap and therefore someone has to identify the few that are not. Here in the U.S. there are a number of organizations that purport to offer certification. In all the cases, there is a fee to be reviewed. Even though the review does not guarantee certification it still means you are paying for reviews.

    One does not achieve equality by admitting that their group needs a stamp of approval.

    As someone else pointed out, a traditionally published book in no way guarantees quality editing, quality covers, or a quality story. In addition, a traditionally published book in no way guarantees that you will sell, that you will be stocked on bookshelves in shops, or that anyone will say your book is quality. The reality is that no matter how you are published, your book will do as well as the public allows it to do. It may catch fire and rise through the ranks or it may find a good niche and bring a regular income, or it may languish because it doesn’t quite hit genre expectations or the needs of the reading public at this moment in time.

    I have many friends with major NY publishers who have suffered such indignities as having someone else’s back cover blurb put on their print book (Harlequin); having their book put in the wrong category (e.g.,. Horror instead of Christian fiction) (Harper Collins); entire pages or chapters missing in the final product (Penguin); and I hear frequent complaints about the lack of editing expertise because senior editors no longer have time to do that except for their bestsellers. Instead they are managing acquisitions and going to meetings to convince the sales staff to put a book above the other 200 coming out that month at that press. Editing is now relegated to the newest member of the publishing team–someone just out of college with an English degree but little knowledge of genre, story, or voice. At least in the U.S. this is the reality of NY publishing. Small press publishing can be better for those who have been around for a decade or more. That is few.

    If you are with a small ebook first press it is really a crapshoot. Frequently, the press was found because the owner or his/her spouse couldn’t get a NY deal. The owners niece is your cover designer and the daughter is your editor. Or worse, all employees are not paid a salary but a percentage of sales on your book. Yes, this is a reality with many ebook first presses in the U.S. I know one popular romance press that only distributes to Amazon KDP Select for it’s authors. Is that what we aspire to? Not me.

    I would rather expend my energy in working together to change the perception of self-published books by continuing to put out quality work and to get the word out to as many indie authors as possible what that means. I would rather beg and insist on being on panels and doing presentations, and talking to professional membership organizations and to booksellers. I refuse to accept that my work is less than a NY book. I know it is not true. I’ve been published by NY publishers in the past, I know what that is like and I believe that my professional editor, my professional cover designer, my proofreader does a better and more consistent job than they will do for me being as I am a midlist author.

    I have worked with my local booksellers to devise methods for quick evaluation of books when an indie brings it into their store. Many booksellers now have a consignment process for books that meet the basic quality tenets. This allows them to evaluate whether the book will sell in their market. Once there is proof the book will sell on some regular basis (e.g. two to five copies sell within a quarter), then they will purchase it in advance from the author. If the author is distributing through Ingram direct instead of Createspace, they will buy it from Ingram.

    Doing this work takes time and requires building relationships with individual booksellers. However, once you have built those relationships they talk to other booksellers about what they are doing and how it is working. When a large number of indie authors are working hard to push the indie agenda and to prove their quality it multiplies and the perception begins to change. One of the ways many of us have made inroads is to be a part of the “buy local” movement, and to include “local authors” movement as a part of that platform–no matter how they are published.

    Don’t take the bad perception of indies as a given. Fight it by producing quality work and then working to make sure everyone in your distribution chain knows about it. Yes, it helps to join together with others in organizations or to publish in cooperatives. I happen to run Windtree Press with 20 authors and over 100 titles for exactly this reason. No matter what you choose, It’s not easy. But nothing about this business is easy–traditionally published or not.

    Stand up for yourself and for your colleagues. Do not accept the perception of indies as fact. Fight.

    Okay, I’m stepping off the soapbox now.

    • gracedenise November 24, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

      I’m a little late with this reply, but I think your response was spot on. I’m taking your path and hope to lead by example. Thanks for standing on that soapbox!

  3. Inge Meldgaard October 3, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    ‘Awesome Indies’ looks like an incredibly useful site, and if I were considering publishing a fourth novel (which at this stage I’m not, due to time and health issues), I would most likely make use of their services, since the type of feedback and advice offered seems to be exactly what is needed when other (e.g. free or very low cost) avenues aren’t readily available. It’s wonderful, too, that the various versions of ‘English’ are catered for 🙂 Even the advice given on the website and the links provided are of great value.

    Oddly enough, here in Australia, where I’ve mainly targetted libraries as my customers, being self-published hasn’t presented as being a problem in most States, and particularly not in my home State of Victoria. The librarians wanted a good cover, an appealing book description, and they read a sample before ordering from the distributor – once they purchased the first book, most went on to purchase the second and third novel in the series, so the lesson was, make sure the first book is well written and engaging.

    However, I struck problems, because, being completely naive when I wrote my first novel, I ‘signed up’ with someone who had their own imprint and believed them when they said the book was ready for publication. As it turned out, when I became more experienced, I realised the book needed a great deal more work, so ended up issuing revised editions, which isn’t a good look at all. This is the danger of going with small/one-person companies, and I’ve noticed that there are lots of people who offer to publish books but who have very little expertise. Naturally, I imagine there are also small companies who really know what they’re doing, but I had my fingers burnt badly, and that was actually the second time around with this book, since I’d already cancelled a contract with another small publishing company who I eventually found were highly unprofessional, and who had also assured me that the book was ready for publication. These experiences prompted me to self-publish.

    On the other hand, I recently published someone’s book for them, after being contacted for advice, because although he’d had five well-educated friends help edit the manuscript, it was still in need of major work, and he was even more naive than I was when first starting out. I didn’t charge for all this, and it’s all turned out very well, but it was just as well I helped him because he was about to use one of the vanity press sharks to publish his book, which would have been a disaster.

  4. Fiona Cameron September 30, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    I wasn’t aware of the existence of IndieBrag – have just checked it out, and I note that it’s not currently open for submissions. I guess this shows that there’s scope for more of this type of gate-keeping? I’d very happily pay a fee for this, as it seems to me a way of (potentially) ensuring that the large amount spent to date on editing, cover design, formatting, etc is not in vain! It’d be great to find a UK-based business similar to IndieBrag. Any tips & links very welcome.

  5. Tahlia Newland September 29, 2015 at 11:15 pm #

    This is why I never published under my own name, but I also found that just having a business name didn’t help that much because what people saw was that I only published my own books, therefore there is no external quality control as there is if someone else makes the decision as to whether it’s worthy of publication or not. We can never escape the fact that if we self publish we are making that decision, and as authors we are the least likely person to be able to make that decision because we are too emotionally involved and too focused on getting it published even if the book isn’t really worth the effort. (I’m going to post an article on this on my blog in a couple of days.)

    All this is why I now run AIA Publishing (Awesome Independent Authors). We’re a selective, author-funded publisher which gives an author the stamp of approval that comes from having passed through a submission process AND the control of a self-publisher. Authors manage their ebook file themselves so have total control and 100% royalties, and get 90% of paperback royalties. Each book goes through a comprehensive series of edits. I set it up as a way to help my editing clients publish without the stigma of self-publishing, and of course, to give more standing to my own books which are published by AIA Publishing (after my editorial team have given the go ahead) so the costs to the author are minimal. We charge only for our time.

    I too have considered looking at submitting my latest books to agents, but I’ve been that route with my earlier work (I got an agent but closely missed out on a publishing deal) and frankly I just can’t be bothered jumping through all those hoops when my work is probably too different for the big sales the big publishers need. The agent I had isn’t interested in anything else I have because she couldn’t sell the first lot. It’s a tough business, she used to say. She also said not to go with small publishers, and she’s probably right. But she also said don’t self-publish.

    I guess this is because we will probably never fully escape the ‘poor quality’ label. The best we can hope for is that readers will accept that SP books listed on Indie Brag and the Awesome Indies are exempt from their contempt.

    Why do I say we probably never fully escape the prejudice? Because unfortunately, many authors who think they have quality books because they had them ‘edited’ actually haven’t had the comprehensive editing they need. Often they’ve just had a copy edit so there’s no typos but the flaws in prose and structure haven’t been addressed. I’ve found this in small presses as well. I know this because I co-ordinate the Awesome Indies and our reviewers find this often. Authors get a real shock when they discover that their book doesn’t pass the eye of an editor who looks at more than grammar, spelling and punctuation.

    My answer to all SP authors and directors of small presses is to get your books into Indie Brag and/or http://awesomeindies.net because even if the majority of readers don’t know about them yet, one day they will, and in the meantime at least you’ll know if your books are as good as you think they are.

    BTW free submissions for the Awesome Indies open tomorrow.

    • Fiona Cameron September 30, 2015 at 10:41 am #

      Some great ideas there, Tahlia. Awesome Indies sounds like exactly what’s needed!

    • Fiona Cameron September 30, 2015 at 10:46 am #

      I’ve just been checking out the Awesome Indies website, and I’ll definitely submit my next book. I guess there’s no point in submitting ones already published?

      • Kate Jackson October 1, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

        Yes, you can submit books that have already been published to Awesome Indies. But please, speaking as a reviewer on there, at the very least make sure your book is free of basic errors. As well as writing a review, I usually add some private notes for the author, pointing out examples of errors and where the writing could be made stronger.

        And, as both Tahlia and I have said, Awesome is international, and we certainly have quite a few British reviewers. I think BRAG books are usually good, but I’ve had feedback from authors that they can be selective whereas AI is pretty open.

        At least AI is a few steps above the Amazon ‘Gosh I really loved this book’ review.

  6. Anna Castle September 29, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    Like Pauline, I decided to publish under my own name (actually a pseudonym; long story). I had intended to do an imprint, but as I was filling out the form at Bowker’s for my ISBNs, I felt increasingly absurd. President: me. Contact: me. Author: me. Hm. I am proud of my books on all counts — craft, language, story — and have higher production values than most small presses.

    The stigma is definitely hurting me, although I understand it. I just went to an indie author event and was handed promo materials for books with cringe-worthy covers and ungrammatical blurbs. Those people are not doing what I’m doing. Like Fiona, I sweat the details and create books that I would not hesitate to put beside any book you care to name. I love having publication in my own hands (especially the schedule) but I don’t know how to distinguish myself from that careless, low-values herd.

    We need vetting agencies, as Barry suggests, like Awesome Indies and Indie BRAG, as well as invitation-only cooperatives like the Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative. That’s step 1. Step 2 is to educate the reading public about these resources. I truly believe that the best writing these days on all counts, most especially originality, is coming from us indies. We have to help readers blow past the chaff to find the wheat. The question is, how do we do that if we’re backwatered at every reader-oriented conference and banned from most media?

    • Tahlia Newland September 29, 2015 at 10:39 pm #

      We have step one; Indie Brag and the Awesome Indies are both reliable guides to quality. Step 2 is the difficulty. If readers knew about these accreditation services it would go a long way to removing the stigma, because all the books listed on both these sites are proof that there are quality indie books in the market place.

      Authors need to be talking about these quality indie book listings a lot more – especially if our books are listed. Though they provide a service for authors, their primary aim is to assist readers in locating quality indie books.

  7. Megan Haskell September 29, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

    I started my own imprint, Trabuco Ridge Press, because I wanted the legitimacy of the DBA. I consider myself an author-entrepreneur, and enjoy the business of publishing my own books as much as writing them. I haven’t pursued traditional publication, and I don’t think I will (if they came to me, that might be different…dunno, haven’t gotten there, yet), because I truly love being my own boss.

    With all of that, I understand that there are prejudices against self-published authors. I don’t like it, but it’s there. I think my imprint shows that I am approaching writing and publishing as a business and am putting out the best product possible. I’m not a fly-by-night, throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks operation. Hopefully that reassures some readers and reviewers before they buy the book, but honestly, I don’t think most readers care one way or another. Most certainly don’t take the time to look up whether my imprint is just for me or a small indie publisher. And if they do, are those really the readers you want to have?

    • Debbie Young September 30, 2015 at 8:56 am #

      I think that’s a very good point, Megan – it certainly does look businesslike. I’ve taken that route too, creating my own Hawkesbury Press imprint for my books. No great secret that it’s a small press (I’ve published a couple of other books besides my own) as I’ve named it after the village I live in, where I’ve also set up the Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest – but it makes me happy! And there are plenty of excellent precedents, and not just of recent origin e.g. Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth press, which was actually named after the house they lived in!

  8. clare weiner September 29, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    I also am furious with these assumptions, made by both the public (whether represented by ‘real’ friends (ie not FaceBook!) and the unknown vast public, who don’t know me from a bar of soap. It is insulting that Indie authors are thrown into the basket of vanity publishers.

    It is also sadly somewhat justified by the number of people publishing e-books which are not up to standard.

    There seems to be a real conflict raging about Indie publishing, with possibly the traditional publishers glad to support the idea that we are under-qualified and producing substandard products whether in terms of the writing/editing etc or of the physical production. I recently had a reply from the organiser of a small LitFest who pointed to an item in their discussion programme that we might be interested in, since we are ‘on a quest to get published’! I had written asking if we might do a small fringe event and stall …

  9. Simon Denman September 29, 2015 at 10:07 am #

    The problem is a general lack of understanding in the public, which unfortunately is reinforced by the traditional publishing industry and its apologists.
    In the past, self-publishing was synonymous with vanity press, and although this is no longer the case, most people never got this memo, and so assume that indies are simply those authors who weren’t good enough to attract a ‘proper’ publisher.

    I blogged about this perception and some possible solutions in the form of seals of approval last year here:
    http://www.readersintheknow.com/blog/7/new-gatekeepers-publishing-quality

    and I also posted a response by a non-profit organisation call the indePENdents.org here:
    http://www.readersintheknow.com/blog/10/The-indiePENdents-response-to-new-gatekeepers-quality

    • Fiona Cameron September 29, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

      Thanks for those links, Simon!

    • Barry Knister September 29, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

      Simon–
      However true it is to say that self-publishing shouldn’t be equated with the vanity publishing of old, it is also true that a great many self-published books today are the result of “vanity.” The difference is simply that if the writer has a little money, he can be his own vanity publisher. That’s why I believe means of independent evaluation need to be developed and put in place.

  10. Pauline Baird Jones September 29, 2015 at 4:35 am #

    I chose not to create an imprint. I’m proud of the fact that I’m publishing independently. I’ve been traditionally published and small press published. Heck, I’ve read books from both that could have used more “curation.” I like being the boss of me. I like being in charge of my business, my books. If someone judges me without even looking at what I write? Not my audience anyway.

  11. Kim Lambert September 28, 2015 at 11:55 pm #

    Great idea Barry Knister! I have already started working on how that can be set up, what assessment criteria might be, and how best to make it available. Watch this space!

    • Barry Knister September 29, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

      Kim–
      I certainly hope you pursue the idea. Books that are rejected by such a service will of course result in nay-sayers who insist the criteria are unfair. But if it’s voluntary, and the criteria made clear, I think such a vetting process would be really valuable.

  12. Chris Longmuir September 28, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    I’ve recently hit this problem. After years of being found acceptable to appear on panels at Crimefest. I’ve done both panels and spotlights at this crime convention, I’m suddenly out in the cold and no longer acceptable to appear on panels. The reason for this was my appearance on the Indie authors panel last year, and despite a history of traditional publishing I am to be offered no more panels because I am ‘self-published’. It makes me wonder why I was acceptable while still with a traditional publisher but as soon as you get all your publishing rights back you become a pariah! I did point out to them I’m a member of the CWA (only traditionally published authors are eligible), and I’m on the committee of the Society of Authors in Scotland, but it didn’t make a blind bit of difference. I’m now self-published and that’s that!

    • Karen Inglis September 29, 2015 at 9:59 am #

      That is truly shocking, Chris….

    • Barry Knister September 29, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

      Chris–
      That’s about as bad a story related to all this as I’ve heard. I hope you tell David Gaughran about it–he is widely read, and would certainly want to tell others about the disgusting treatment you’ve received.

  13. Inge Trueman September 28, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

    Great post, Fiona and I congratulate you on doing things your way.

    I started a writing collective a few years ago and although some in the collective prefer to go the traditional route (everything is allowed and blessed in our group), we too have set very high standards for anything that is published under our umbrella. I prefer having the control and fail to find much advantage with the traditional route. As you point out, unless you’re published with the big boys, you have to do much of the legwork of promotion yourself anyway. Why not reap the rewards!

    My books were both professionally edited by a real live editor who used to own a reputable publishing company and is now freelancing and my covers are done by an award-winning designer. Our website is http://www.crabapplemewscollective.com if you’re feeling inclined to have a look.

    I think we are the way of the future and I wish you all the best.

    • Fiona Cameron September 29, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

      Inge, I’ll definitely check out your website. I agree with your philosophy of setting the quality bar high! It’s the only way to combat the prejudice against indie publishing.

  14. Barry Knister September 28, 2015 at 7:12 pm #

    As I see it, the most serious problem faced by indie writers–both in terms of public perception and in actual reality–is the lack of curation, or critical evaluation. Without some reliable means by which to “cull the herd” of millions of self-published titles, readers can be understandably dubious. Professional editing, formatting and cover design notwithstanding, indie authors still have little in the way of reliable evaluation. The number of reviews is often reflective of little beyond the author’s ability to encourage social-media “friends” to heap praise, and “bestseller” means little now. As an indie author, I would like to see an independent service established, one to which authors could choose to subscribe. By genre, such a service would evaluate and rank books, and thereby provide readers with some assurance that books had been vetted. Without this kind of process, marketing becomes most of, if not the whole show.

    • Fiona Cameron September 29, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

      You’re right, Barry – I sometimes despair over the absence of gate-keeping.

    • Helena Halme September 29, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

      Barry, there is such a service, called Awesome Indies. It’s small, but very strict with which books it awards an AIA badge. Two of my books have passed, (The Englishman and Coffee and Vodka) and I’m in the process of submitting a third, and will do so with the novel I’m writing now. The AIA badge reassures me, as well as (I hope) my readers that my novels have reached the same standard as those which have passed through various gatekeepers.

      I am proud to be an indy, and wouldn’t go back to traditional way of publishing my books – unless of course I am offered a ‘hybrid’ deal worth thousands of $. (Never say never).

      • Barry Knister September 29, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

        Helena–
        Thanks for the tip. I’ll look into this, but I suspect it’s only applicable to UK writers. Even so, it’s good news to learn something is already being done. Once such a process becomes big enough to be well-known and influential, it could serve to blunt the efforts of commercial publishing to demean indie books.

        • Tahlia Newland September 29, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

          Barry it’s an international service. Our reviewers are familiar with both UK and US English. We’re http://awesomeindies.net not .com because we don’t want to be associated with any particular country. I’m the co-ordinator and I live in Australia. Our reviewers are all over the world, but all are highly qualified – editors, University lecturers and people with degrees in Eng Lit, Creative writing, journalism etc.

          I set the whole thing up because I feel just like you and as a reader I was sick of reading (and often discarding before finishing) a large number of indie books. I was attracted to them by price, otherwise I probably would have turned away from reading them entirely. Then when I found the gems, I wanted to tell the world about them, hence the Awesome Indies showcases books we approve as being of the same quality as a mainstream book, and for those whose books don’t make the grade, we try to be as helpful as possible in giving feedback and advice for how authors can improve their work.

          Our main problem is marketing. We’ve been around since 2012, but few readers know about us and most of us don’t have the time to do anything about it, even if we did have a budget for it. My aim is to actually help the authors to sell lots of books, but as it turns out, we actually benefit authors more at the moment with accreditation and professional feedback. I still hope that one day we will be a big force in the market. It just needs people talking about us really, as in, “Hey I know where you can get top quality indie books. Mainstream quality at indie prices.”

          • Denise Barnes September 30, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

            Sounds very interesting, Tahlia. I’m going to look at the website. I’ve had my debut novel, Annie’s Story, published in April this year and the second one, Juliet’s Story, is due out in January. It would be great to have some accreditation for them, as I still feel there is a gap between indies and trade, though hopefully, it’s closing.

            The main thing we indies must do is to make sure we’ve written a cracking book and have had professional editing and cover design, and the quality of presentation is superb. That should put us ahead of even some of the trad published books.

        • Kate Jackson September 30, 2015 at 2:55 am #

          @ Barry, Awesome Indies is international, both in terms of books reviewed and reviewers. Reviewers are also aware of different editorial/writing styles in say American, British, Australian, Canadian, South African markets etc.

          Reviewers evaluate against criteria which are listed on the AI website so it’s a pretty open process.

    • Sandra Schwab September 30, 2015 at 10:29 am #

      But why would you want to replace one set of gatekeepers by another, Barry? Were we not happy enough to ditch the restrictions placed on us by traditional publishing houses? Moreover, such evaluation services can very quickly turn into yet another venture to rip off indie authors.

  15. Elizabeth Ducie September 28, 2015 at 7:10 pm #

    I set up Chudleigh Phoenix Publications as an imprint for my own books: three collections of short stories and a series of how-to books on business skills for authors, since I knew there was very little chance of getting them published traditionally. Over a three year period, I learned as much as I could about the industry of publishing. When my debut novel was ready, I flirted with the idea of seeking an agent and a traditional publisher, but then decided to bring it out under CPP. What was the point of gaining all the experience, if I was going to throw it away? When that novel won a national prize, I again toyed with the idea of looking for an agent, as I might now be more marketable, but have decided to stick with what I know. I don’t want to add yet another level of stress to what is already a stressful process. I’d rather concentrate on bringing out good quality books via a process for which I take full responsibility and can control. I find my readers don’t seem to care how it is published (although I’m about to attend my first book group feedback session, so that may change). It tends to be other authors who have strong feelings about trad vs indie.

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