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Successful Indie Authors 2016: Part One

Successful Indie Authors 2016: Part One

Orna RossThere is one of those articles doing the rounds, you know the sort, a Huffington Post piece, huffing that self-publishing is “an insult to the written word”, whatever that means.

The comments on the post — many from ALLi members — disprove the author's thesis with aplomb and wit. And anyway, we already know that self-publishing, in a few short years, has given the world hundreds of thousands of fabulous books, some millionaire authors, some big-budget Hollywood adaptations, and — to me, even more exciting than such super-successes — a growing band of authors who are steadily building fans and followers to the level where they can make a living from their writing, without compromising their creative intentions.

And all the while getting validation and feedback from the people that most matter: their readers.

Indie Can Still Be Stigmatized

Nonetheless, it can be painful to some self-publishers to be treated to insult and injury at what might already be a tough time of the year.

For most people in the book business, December holidays spells bonanza. Not necessarily for indie authors, though.

“I hate it,” an ALLi member told me recently. “All my family and friends are book buyers, and they give each other the latest trade-published bestseller, or whatever was well-reviewed in the Times. Some of my closest family and friends are biased against indie books and wouldn’t dream of buying one of mine. And even those who are supportive never look beyond me, or seek out other indie work.

“In ALLi we can forget about it, but in the rest of the world, indie is still stigmatised.”

The reasons for this stigma have been widely debated but one reason that's rarely discussed is becoming more obvious as indie successes pile up.

Watching self-publishers following their dreams, doing the work instead of seeking validation from publishers, agents or critics, makes other people uncomfortable.

Ours is a great calling. It's no small thing to want to be a good writer, or a good publisher. To be both together is an incredible achievement.

The people who love us can fear for us, as we set out. How can they know if we're any good without a trade publisher or literary agent to validate us? And with so many books out there, how can we expect to succeed?

For others, we may be shining a light on their own fears of failure, their own need to stay safe and fight shy. People like the Post's huffer, who'd rather shout “Vanity!” and run away than do the work and put themselves out there.

Indie Authors: Knowing And Owning What We're Doing

Is it vanity to publish your own work? Wanting to write and publish certainly has ego in it, part of the struggle by the self for recognition, its wish to insist: I'm here. This is what I think and feel. Here's what most matters to me.

In the doing, though, in the day-to-day work of meeting one creative challenge after another, the cry of the ego becomes something else.

We may start out doing it for ourselves but we end up realizing we're also doing it for everyone. The creative process, what it asks of us, transforms us.

We need to understand this, to know what it means to be a creative, to recognize that the joy is not in the opinion of the worldly world, but in the act of writing and publishing itself. In the serving of our readers, the best way we can.

Owning our deeper motivations helps us to hold the creative space where the magic of great writing, and great publishing, can happen.


Community and Collaboration

Sure, lots of people don't understand self-publishing, not yet. Maybe, despite our best efforts, they never will.

But the critics and nay-sayers and haters can only hurt us to the degree that we agree with them. 

We all have moments where we think the worst of our work but we cannot live from there if we are to get up in the morning and do what must be done to get another book out.

Why spend time or energy on begrudgers, when we have each other? We are part of an expanding band of creative, hard-working, dedicated, talented, generous authors, in the vanguard of a movement that is transforming reading, writing and publishing.

Indie Author Success

One of ALLi’s ongoing campaigns is Open Up To Indie Authors (please sign our petition here).

Open up to indie author petition

And one of the delights of 2016 was the sense that it’s beginning to happen in more significant numbers. That more and more bookshops, libraries, literary events and prizes, and reviewers are realizing that they must make room for self-publishers in their programs, if they are to do their jobs properly.

Our community has many successes to point to. That's not my opinion, that's just a fact.  See below for some ALLi members' achievements, a quick response on our Member Forum to a call-out for this post. (It's a Facebook forum, so the writers links will take you to their Facebook profile and from there to their websites)

We know that there are many, many more self-publishing successes to report, both inside and outside our membership.

So, not as any sort of riposte to anyone but because it’s New Year’s Eve, a day to celebrate success, can we hear from you if you've placed or won a contest; obtained representation; sold translation, TV or film rights; launched a bestseller, or otherwise done something  horn-toot worthy over the past year.

And tomorrow in Part Two of this success-fest, we'll have a round-up of 2016's Successful Sunday posts.

Today, no matter where you are in your development as writer or publisher, let us know what you've achieved over the past year in the comments below.

Let's show the world just how wonderful it is to walk the indie way.

And let's make 2017 our most creative year ever.

All of us at ALLi wish you a new year full of good health, wealth, happiness, readers and rewards.

ALLi Member Successes

Diane Capri: My indie release, Jack and Joe, had a good year. It was a finalist for the International Thriller Writers' Thriller Award, took the Silver IPPY award for Thriller eBooks and made its first appearance on the USA Today bestseller list.

Joseph Alexander: I passed $1m in revenue with my non-fiction guitar guides.

Rebecca Bradley This year I've had two Audible books released which are Audible productions – traditional deal. The second, Made to be Broken, was an Editor’s pick.

Joe Cawley: 2016 was marked by selling Estonian publishing rights to More Ketchup than Salsa, and becoming a Shore Scripts Quarter Finalist with a 1-hour TV pilot adapted from the same title.

Wendy Jones: Due to the success of my indie DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries I was approached by a publisher to write a young adult series, The Fergus and Flora Mysteries. I signed a contract for a three book series. My first book Killer's Countdown was given a Chill With a Book Award. I was also interviewed on the radio and as a result of this was asked to present my own radio show on books, reading and writing. I am also, this year, my second year as a published author, making a full time living as a writer.

Jean Gill: At 61, I'm very proud of being Miss December (with The Troubadour Quartet) in Ingram Spark's Successful Indie Publishers Calendar. The French translation of Someone To Look Up To has been in amazon.fr ‘s top 100 dog books since publication in July 16 and the original has earned an amazon bestseller tag more than once in 2016; Plaint for Provence is shortlisted for the Chaucer Awards. How Blue is My Valley is being translated into Chinese. This is the first year my books have earned more than my photos and my gamble in leaving a high-earning career when I was 47, to write, is now paying off financially, as well as in fulfillment.

Jane Davis: My sixth self-published novel An Unknown Woman won Writing Magazine's Self Published Book of the Year 2016. It was also shortlisted for a Book Viral's book of the year award, and it won two awards for Andrew Candy's cover design.

Claire Wingfield:  52 Dates for Writers was selected for serialisation with online book club the Pigeonhole.

Mo R. Phongsavan: The second picture book in my MJ and Friends series won a gold level Mom's Choice award.

Dan Holloway: Not strictly books, but definitely written and creative and indie. I won the Creative Thinking World Championship this summer.

Roz Morris: My second self-published novel, Lifeform Three, has been making its mark outside the indie world. It was featured in Plymouth University's One Giant Read initiative, a project to showcase quality science fiction, where it was reviewed alongside mainstream published books and was compared favourably with the work of Margaret Atwood. It's now a finalist in the People's Book Prize.

Amira Makansi: Our first novel, The Sowing, was optioned for a film production by Big Picture Ranch in Ojai, Calif.

Chrissie Parker: I won my first award, published my fifth book, was interviewed for the Huff Post and have been asked to guest present (as author) on my local radio station.

Alison Morton: I published the fifth book in my Roma Nova series, Insurrectio, which became a Historical Novel Society indie Editor's Choice and was awarded the BRAG Medallion for independent fiction. My fourth book, Aurelia, was one for four finalists out of a field of 400 for the Historical Novelists' 2016 Indie Award. I signed an agreement with Blake Friedmann Literary Agency this year to represent me for ancillary rights. They sold my first four books to AudibleUK which came out this December.

Shweta Aggarwal: I launched my first book Kite Crazy in March 2015. Since then I've been honoured with the Asian Women of Achievement award and featured on London Live TV on World Book Day. “Indian Moms Connect” in the US (the largest blogging / parental portal for Asian mothers) has chosen both Kite Crazy and my 2nd book Colour Carnival as one of their top five books.

Anna Belfrage: I published the second book in my 14th century series, Days of Sun and Glory. It has been awarded a BRAG medallion, an HNS Indie Editor's Choice and a Reader's Favourite Silver Medal.

Lorraine Thomson: This year I published Boiling Point, my 4th indie-published title, and signed a deal for an exciting new project with one of Europe's largest independent publishing houses. Getting a bite at both apples.

Ann Victoria Roberts: My first novel, Louisa Elliott, published in 1989 by Chatto and by me in 2014, is now to be translated into Lithuanian. And in the same week, I heard from a German publisher that wants to re-issue their 1992 translation.

Keith Dixon: This year I've had several books translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

Mandy Jackson-Beverly: A Secret Muse Book 1, won the fantasy genre section at the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Awards.

Belinda Pollard: My light memoir, Dogged Optimism, won Bronze in the Foreword Indies (judged by librarians and booksellers) and was a finalist in the NextGen Indie Book Awards.

Helen Blenkinsop: As AA Abbott, I've published dyslexia-friendly versions of my last two thrillers, The Bride's Trail and The Vodka Trail. It's gained media coverage, as ground-breaking fiction, published for younger dyslexics.

Jonathan Stevenson: I have done a book signing in Waterstones, read at a school.. [and]… featured in the Mail on Sunday Books of the Year section.

Debbie Young: Being invited to read one of my stories at Cheltenham Festival of Literature. And at the meal beforehand with my (non-author) friend, being given wine on the house in the restaurant on the basis that I was a Festival author.

Patti Brassard Jefferson: I just bought out my partner at my first bookstore and am in the process of rebranding it as a P.J. Boox Bookstore. So now there will be two.

Karen Inglis: I now have schools contacting me to visit them on World Book Day,  including one school which wrote that Eeek! The Runaway Alien is a huge part of their Year 2 curriculum and another that has that book on its recommended reading list for Year 3 pupils, citing as it being great for reluctant readers.

Now your turn. If you’re an indie author, please let us know what you achieved over the past year in the comments below.

Author: Orna Ross

Orna Ross is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and inspirational poetry, and a creativity facilitator. As founder-director of the Alliance of Independent Authors, she has been named one of The Bookseller’s Top 100 people in publishing. 


This Post Has 32 Comments
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  5. Congratulations to everyone for their fantastic achievements. I published my debut novel, Death on Paradise Island: A Fiji Islands Mystery in October. Under another title, a previous draft of the book was shortlisted for The Impress Prize for new Writers. For me, that launch was unbelievable, and a long time coming, but I hesitated to mention it beside all those stellar outcomes above.

  6. I self-published my first four books last year and collectively, they have won more than a dozen awards, including by debut, Daughter of Destiny, being named Book of the Year by Chanticleer Reviews and it’s sequel, Camleot’s Queen being awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Currently, all four books are being considered for translation in India, Romania and Brazil.

  7. Amazing motivation within ALLi, I’m delighted to be a member. In 2016 I wrote and published three non-fiction books and a ‘silver authors’ anthology. I was invited to join Wessex Writers group and contribute to their monthly on-line magazine. I was also invited to feature as an international author in ‘My Big Idea’ book. I became an Amazon best seller and awarded the EIPPY award. Am preparing for an international radio interview and 2 more non-fiction books being released in January. Anticipation is high for more and better publishing opportunities in 2017.

  8. I have self-published my first children’s picture book called The Clown’s Clothes. It was a dream come true and it marks the beginning of my writing journey. Here’s to more stories in 2017!

  9. I am thrilled to see all these successes and so happy to have chosen the path of Indie publishing. My first historical novel, “The Tremble of Love: A Novel of the Baal Shem Tov” launched on Amazon the beginning of December (2016) with the paperback edition in the top 25 books in all its categories, the Kindle edition in the top 50, and hardcover in the top 100. At one point, I felt like I was in a horse race, as I watched The Tremble of Love pass Paulo Coelho’s new release and come up behind “Celestine Prophecy” to take its place as number 11 in Visionary and Metaphysical Fiction. Later that day, “The Tremble of Love” was dubbed a “hot new release” next to Amoz Oz’ new book. I laughed aloud: a 550 page novel inspired by the life of a spiritual master, a teacher of love who lived in the 1700s, called a HOT NEW RELEASE. Gratifying does not cover it. I am so enthused to watch this book’s journey.

  10. “Ours is a great calling. It’s no small thing to be a good writer or a good publisher. To be both together is an incredible achievement…”
    Hats off to you for writing this article, Orna!
    And hats off to all the incredible Indie authors out there making history!
    Fact is—the industry has changed, for good.
    It’s still early in the game for me—my two books went live days before Christmas.
    I hope to be able to report back here in a year’s time on similar successes as my fellow distinguished authors.

  11. Thanks for the mention Orna! When I came up with the idea of an indie author only bookstore in Nov of 2014, I had no idea that at the start of 2017, I would have 2 locations and work with hundreds of authors around the world and meet such champions of the indie movement like you. What a great journey so far!

    Patti Jefferson, CEO of PJBoox

  12. Since 2013, I have published 6 novels. The 4 WW2 thrillers are all selling steadily, amounting to close to 40,000 sales so far. The Black Orchestra series has been picked up by Tantor Media for conversion to audio. Was awarded a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award at the Dublin writers’ conference in June.

  13. My debut novel “The Embroiderer”- a saga spanniing 150 years set in Greece and Turkey was picked up over a year ago by a Greek publisher Enalios- Oceanos and was released in Greek at the end of October 2016. Throughout December it was (and still is) being promoted heavily on Greek TV, in Greek Elle and with a spread still to come out in Marie-Claire. It is currently one of their best sellers. Sub-agents in Istanbul are are currently trying to place it with a Turkish publisher.

  14. Set up a publishing company in July and published my first two books, Loreless and Complicated Blue. Huge learning curve but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Looking forward to putting out many more in 2017.

  15. In October I passed half a million copies sold in my 5 years and 9 months of indie publishing and my historical fantasy novel THE MAPMAKER’S APPRENTICE became a USA Today bestseller in its release week. It’s been a great year, not just for me, but for indies all over the world, and I predict 2017 will be even better.

  16. My second book was published this year and I’m working on two more. They are all in my ‘With Photography’® series and so, as the name suggests, all are illustrated with full colour and black-and-white photography. I’d like to thank everybody at ALLi for the help and advice which has proven, time and time again, to be so useful and I feel I am among friends.

  17. I feel a blog post of my own coming on, but let me point out quickly here that the gauntlet of constant rejection perpetrated by traditional publishing has kept many a good writer from even trying to get their work published.

    This was me. I was a fiction writer for fifteen years before I got up the nerve to send out my first query email. I hit send and then promptly ran into the bathroom and threw up. The thought of how much rejection I would have to endure before finding an agent (much less a publisher) literally made me sick.

    Fortunately, indie publishing was taking off and I decided to take that path. Five years later, I am one of those midlist authors making a decent living off my books. And in 2016, I had my first bestseller, book one in my new mystery series about a trainer of service dogs for veterans with PTSD!

    Congrats to all my fellow ALLi members for your successes and to all indie authors everywhere for having the guts to follow your dream!

  18. Congratulations to everybody! I spent most of 2016 preparing my second novel for self-publication in March. I sent out advanced review copies in November, and I’m nervously waiting for early reviews. Wishing us all a very indie-successful 2017!

  19. Lots of successes and delighted to add mine to the list.
    I brought out a third book in September (An Ideal Farm Husband) and was delighted that a national newspaper launched it for me at Ireland’s biggest agricultural show.
    I won the Best Nonfiction in the inaugural CAP indie awards with my second book (How To Be A Perfect Farm Wife).

  20. My third Archer and Baines crime novel, Evil Unseen, was published in January and all three in the series have rarely been outside the Kindle Serial Killers top 100. The first Archer and Baines novel, The Scars Beneath the Soul, was a Bookmuse recommended read and my ghost story, The Sobbing Child, won first prize in the Chiltern Writers short story competition judged by award-winning novelist and short story writer Margaret Morton Kirk. Good wishes to all for 2017.

  21. Wow, so proud and pleased to be part of this community! My CAT FACTS nonfiction encyclopedia won multiple awards this year, and my thriller SHOW AND TELL and a Lei Crime Kindle World novella thriller BORN TO LOVE have both been nominated for awards (paws crossed…). May 2017 be even better for indies & hybrid authors!

  22. Congratulations to all these excellent writers! I was fortunate to hit the USA Today bestseller list with Killer Pursuit and sold my six book middle grade series for Russian and Azerbaijani translation. Most exciting, my connection with ALLi enabled the sale of Night Chill for Turkish translation through Toby Mundy. Here’s to an excellent indie year for everyone!

  23. I published my first children’s Asper Fiction book in September, but then had to take it off due to major issues with the cover. It has been republished now. It is called ‘Billy and the Sparkling Socks’ and is available on Amazon. I am still learning how to publish a book with small drawings in as it hasn’t gone to plan for me yet. Oh, and I helped my client publish his first picture book.

  24. Was the Leverhulme Trust 2016 Writer in Residence at the British Library; wrote and published three non fiction books and a novella; did a three month blogging slot for Mslexia and was given a fully funded three year place on a Creative Writing PhD at the university of Surrey. Here’s to 2017 being equally wonderful!

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