Self-published/ indie authors? What do you think of them and what can we do differently?

Question for you all: self-published/ indie authors – do you read them (other than me, obviously!)?
I must admit, although I’m one myself and I like to think my books are alright, I DO still feel pleasantly surprised when I read something by another indie and find that it kicks ass and isn’t riddled with childish spelling errors. It’s a stigma that is hopefully being eroded as people like Kevin Ashman, Gordon Doherty and Mel Sherratt sell increasing amounts of books, gain more critical acclaim and in some cases win deals with the likes of Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer, but it’s still definitely an issue for authors like me.

lbf 2
Mel Sherratt and myself at the London Book Fair in 2014.

I employ professional cover designers for my artwork and an incredible editor who’s worked with people like Jilly Cooper, Bernard Cornwell and Ben Kane to try and make my books good value for money but for every indie that does that, there’s certainly one or two that don’t think it’s worth the money (or simply don’t HAVE the money to employ professionals) and just put their books out in what’s essentially an unfinished state. It makes all of us look bad.

Things are changing though – even traditionally published authors are starting to put out books on the side that their publishers maybe didn’t have a place for. Glyn Iliffe continued his fantastic Odysseus series without a trad-publisher, Douglas Jackson put out his War Games by himself, and my favourite book of of 2014, A Day of Firewas self-published by the authors. It gives us all a real freedom to try things we might otherwise not have been able to (my own novella Knight of the Cross, for example, was a fun spin-off I’m sure a traditional publisher would have had no time for).

Glyn Iliffe, author of the excellent Adventure of Odysseus series.
Glyn Iliffe, author of the excellent Adventure of Odysseus series.

So…have you read any self-published books recently and if so – were they any good? Were they worth the money?
And most importantly…what can we, as authors, do to convince readers a self-published book is worth a punt?

20 thoughts on “Self-published/ indie authors? What do you think of them and what can we do differently?

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  1. I often read self-published / indie authors! Most are terrific reads; but I have certainly come across a few that actually had me putting bad reviews on my blog; which I try to avoid doing whenever possible. There was one so terrible I will never forget it; over a year later, I can still remember every horrible sentence (until I quit reading it, that is!)


  2. I’m a self-published author and I have also read a number of books by other indie authors. Some were excellent, others were so so. What can really help an indiie author is making sure they do a final proof read of their work before they release it to catch those niggling mistakes. Those jump out at me when I read. They should also find a beta reader to help them find plot holes and other inconsistencies in their work before they publish. Another point is the formatting of some ebooks. Some of them are so bad that one look and I won’t even bother reading it. Oh, then there are the covers of the ebooks. If you make your own, be sure that both th etitle and the author name are are still readable when the image is a thumbnail.


  3. A Kevin Ashman book turned me onto indie authors, before then I’d been put off by the rather childish descriptions and mistakes, then came ‘Wolfs Head and I was hooked. The price of indie books is about right for a regular reader such as myself and if your choosy, like read a free sample on line to see what you think, or like me with Kevin Ashman, read a few reviews before purchasing. Thru Facebook indie authors can show that they are people who are interesting, personable,even. I reckon now I’d always go for indie!


  4. East End Butcher Boy by Joe E Lawrence is self published is wonderful and with little work would make a screenplay far superior to Lock, Stock and all that crap. Most folk I know don’t really differentiate between published and self published. A books a book and well done mate. The sheer weight of numbers of both published and self published ensures that even an assiduous reader will only be able to read a fraction of these. A fastidious reader is going to favour published over self published for all of the reasons you have highlighted. But whilst the first is contracting the other is expanding exponentially. Amazon’s algorithm is king. The problem is not so much publishing or self publishing. The problem is being seen and having followers.


  5. I do read a lot of self published authors since reading Steven S. McKay’s excellent work, but think it is worth while getting the works edited. Some excellent stories I have read have been shocking with regard to grammar and spelling. One particular author quite often used the wrong word entirely – possibly from letting his spellchecker select for him; another consistently used the apostrophe s in the wrong way- every time! However I do think we get a wide variety of literature from self published author and welcome them.


  6. The standard varies very widely, I find. I have found some fabulous indie reads in my travels, but also some less than stellar efforts. It has made me realise how important good editing and proofing is. If I had to choose between paying for a cover and editing, I’d go for editing every time. I think that is the biggest point of difference between trad pubs and many indies – the extra polish from professional editing. The stories are as good and frequently better, but the realisation and finish is sometimes not as high standard.


    1. You may be right going for the editor over the cover – there’s a series of books out just now that must be similar to mine and they seem to be selling like hot-cakes and have great reviews, but the cover is just a plain background with the title!

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      1. Word of mouth is still a valuable advertising tool! I still believe (perhaps I’m naive) that an outstanding book will find the audience it deserves eventually. I started a reviewing blog called Trawling the Amazon for fun where I mainly review indie freebies I find. It has been a real eye-opener as to the quality and variety – and the sheer quantity – of indie or small press pubs.


      2. That’s a cool idea for a blog although I’m not sure I’d like to give my books away for free. Maybe for a short time to help promote a newer one but I dunno…I think there’s too many free ebooks out there, it devalues the really hard work it takes to write a book….That said, as a reader, I’ll take them for free if I can find any I like! 😉


  7. I’m a self published author and I agree with everything you say in this article. It’s certainly been a very steep learning curve since I released my first book a few years ago. For my next release I will definitely be paying out for a professional editor. One good thing about indie publishing though is that you can update and improve your book whilst its on the market. I’ve had to make numerous updates as even a proofreader tends to miss things. For cover art though I would suggest taking a look at sites like deviant art as there are some amazing artists happy to get their work seen.


    1. Interesting blog! If you’d like a review copy of one of my books let me know (yes, I have them in paperback) – I’m a fellow Rush fan, although my favourite Canadian musical export is Annihilator! 🙂


  8. The quality of indie offerings is on the up, especially as more authors take pride in their work and pay for good editors and cover designers. It’s a good thing for the industry too. Publishing houses have called the shots for too long, so I’m glad authors with enough self-belief can publish their own work without too much expense. When I first tried to publish King of Ithaca in 2001 the marketing department at Hodder & Stoughton said there was no market for novels about the ancient world. I think Harry Sidebottom, Simon Scarrow, Ben Kane, Anthony Riches and a host of others have proved them wrong on that point. I just wonder how many other great books have been denied to the reading public by marketing people who should know better!


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