The Beginner’s Guide to Reading Indie

I hope you’re in the mood to read, because it’s #IndieApril season! Yes, I see that tippy tower of books you were planning to tackle in the near future, but there’s always room for more books, am I right?

The Beginner's Guide to Reading Indie

#IndieApril is all about promoting independent authors. These trailblazers go above and beyond the already challenging task of penning a novel—they also take on the full responsibility of editing, formatting, packaging, marketing, and all that other behind-the-scenes business stuff that goes into a glamorous modern writing career. Impressive, no?

Places like Etsy and Kickstarter have gotten us acclimated to accepting creators who make their own path toward success. The world is catching on that the future is highly independent, and support for solo ventures and small businesses is on the rise.

Feeling ready to dive in and try reading something less traditional? Here are a few tips to guide you on your quest to discover excellent indie books.


Judge Writers by Their Writing

I’m the kind of person who picks what to read based on the cover. With indie books, that’s not the best policy. Indie authors can’t always afford to hire a cover artist, nor do they usually hold down a day job in graphic design… but that doesn’t automatically mean their writing is shoddy. On the other hand, some indie authors DO have a budget or rockin’ Photoshop skills, but have sadly rushed production… therefore the contents don’t live up to the oh-so shiny exterior. Try to find reviews with excerpts or read the sample chapter on Amazon rather than going entirely on outward appearance.


Know How to Look

#IndieApril on Twitter is nice for logging your participation, asking for recommendations, and checking out what other readers are currently enjoying. Yes, there will be some spammy self-promo to weed through, but if you look at what actual readers or book bloggers are saying, it can lead to some exciting discoveries.
Pro Tip: When asking for recs on Twitter, give a few details about what you like to read so you get relevant suggestions.

Use Google to find bloggers and reviewers who are actively reading independently published fiction. Try searches like “Self Published Fantasy”, “Best Indie Books”, or “Books to Read for #IndieApril” for starters. Narrow in on favorite genres or tropes if you aren’t finding books that appeal right away.

Hunting through Goodreads lists is another fantastic way to find must-read indie books. Well-populated lists are ranked by how many people vote for the same book, so you can count on majority rule. You can also read through reviews if you’re not 100% sold and weigh the pros and cons before making a purchase. It’s important to note that authors will often re-release a book if they got a lot of complaints, so you can’t always judge a book by its oldest reviews.


Rate and Review

Reviews are just about the most valuable thing for authors, right next to sales. This goes double for indie publishers. I’m not 100% sure about all the algorithms and stats, but something as little as a starred review or a short sentence helps boost a book’s ability to get more sales big time.

When it comes to negative reviews, do keep in mind that a lot of indie authors keep close tabs on their book’s stats and are more likely to see your feedback. Don’t let that keep you from being honest, but maybe rethink the scathing tone and sarcastic GIFs.

If you enjoyed a book, consider writing a longer review, sharing a recommendation on social media, or passing a copy to your bookish friends. Word of mouth is always best, after all!

And if you really, really, really loved the book, sending a message to the author is a cool thing to do. Indie authors work extremely hard to get their book out on the market and most don’t get a lot of validation. Even a short message is guaranteed to make their whole week.


Watch and Learn

If you discover an indie book that you absolutely adore, it’s completely worth checking out the author’s website, signing up for their newsletter, or stalking their social media. Why?

  • You’ll get news about future publications, sales, and special events.
  • Most indie authors will share fun bonus material or behind-the-scenes stuff with their most avid fans. It pays to stay in the loop!
  • Lots of indie authors are indie readers, too. Their recommendations will help you find even more excellent books to try out.


Be a Supporter

Support comes in many forms, but I think the most underestimated is simply being excited. Indie authors normally don’t have a marketing team to hype their next release or promote upcoming events, so adding your voice to the cheer might just be the greatest way to lend a hand and be there.

Indie authors are more connected to their readers than most traditional published writers get to be, so it becomes a lot easier to make friends with fellow fans and sometimes the authors themselves. It’s a wholly unique benefit to indie publishing that’s weirdly overlooked by most Indie vs. Trad pros and cons lists. Especially since the community element is part of what makes reading indie so addictive.


You’ve Got to Try

Not every indie published book is a diamond. You’re going to run into more than a few duds along the way, but I think it’s ultimately worth the risk. Some incredibly creative people are out there inventing new genres that scare off agents. They’re doing things that are too outside-of-the-box for booksellers. They’re writing things that aren’t trendy or lucrative or competitive enough for a publisher. They have a vision so grand and specific that they’re the only one who can pull it off. This isn’t a shortcut or an Option B for them; it’s their very own path to success. I want to be one of the people lucky enough to be there and see it all come together.


Are you a fan of reading indie? Share your top recommendations in the comments!

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