Friday, August 30, 2013

Readers’ Guide to Buying Indie Books

indiebookBefore Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and the birth of the ebook, self-publishing (or more politically correct – independent publishing)  was frowned upon as a last resort for those whose writing didn’t measure up to the standards of traditional publishing houses.

But with platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Platform, Create Space, and Lulu, literally anyone can publish a book. Bowker Market Research reported earlier this year that self-published ebooks now account for 12% of the entire digital publishing market and as much as 20% in the sci-fi and romance market.

While some of these indie books are well edited, many, many more are not edited at all. Rife with typos, lack of formatting, and just plain, poor writing, these indies are often cheaply priced and uploaded at a rapid rate.

Traditionally published authors complain that indie books have caused the price of legitimately published authors’ works to plummet. Because the average indie title rings in at a whopping $0.99 to $2.99, (compared to the average publisher price of $5.99 – $12.99) buyers have been  conditioned to pay as little as possible and will often leave bad reviews that publishers’ books are priced too high or not worth the money.

However, many traditionally published authors are turning to independent publishing in order to have more control over content, cover, and royalty income, and are experiencing great success.

In this vast sea of competing titles, how does a buyer know which book are worth the money? Especially when poorly written and hastily produced books sit on virtual shelves next to high quality titles?

It is up to buyers to do their research before clicking the buy button.

Here are some indie book buying tips:

1. Do you recognize the author’s name? – Often, authors who have acquired the rights to their books re-release them independently. If a big name puts out an indie, you can just about bet the book had been thoroughly edited and that you’ll be buying a professionally produced work. Hint* Sometimes, when releasing a previously published work, the author is required to change the title. Be sure to read the blurb before you buy.

2. Does the cover look professional? – If the book has a poorly designed cover, the quality of the writing is most likely poor as well. Professionally designed book covers cost good money. If the author has invested in cover art, then they’ve probably invested in good editing as well.

3. Read the blurb and the excerpt. – This is probably the most important tip. Is the blurb well written? Intriguing? Free of typos? And what about the excerpt? Is the writing filled with passive voice and grammatical errors? If so, pass. If not, you might be in for a treat!

4. Read the reviews. – Reviews are subjective, but if the overwhelming majority warn the buyer of typos, errors, and shoddy writing, then the book might be one to pass on. On the other hand, if there are only glowing reviews that neglect to list details of the plot, information about the characters, etc., then you might surmise the authors’ family and friends have flocked to the site to give them rave reviews without reading the work.

5. Does the author have a professional looking web presence?  - Still not sure? Look at the author’s Amazon page and follow the links to their website, facebook, or twitter feed. Professional authors usually have well crafted websites. If an indie author’s site is sloppy, their writing is mostly likely sloppy as well.

7. Is the book competitively priced? – While professionally published authors conduct giveaways and sales to boost visibility, if all an indie author’s titles are .99, or less than 3 dollars, the indie book may be substandard quality. In comparison, professional authors might have two or three titles priced to move on a very long backlist of competitively priced books.

After acquiring the rights from a small press to my young adult paranormal, Eternal, I decided to release it as an independent title. I had established a name as a historical and paranormal author with several traditional publishers. The book had been well edited and had received fantastic reviews at the small press, but I felt I could do more with the title if I had control of printing, cover, and sales. I hired Tricia Pickyme Schmitt to design the cover, formatted the book for both print and various ereaders and released it in October last year.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]


My hopes of having a normal life died when I did. Especially since my near death experience turned me into a clairvoyant with a disfiguring scar. Not exactly most-popular material.

Now, because of me, my whole family has been forced to move to some small town in Tennessee. My parents think a quiet new school and a new set of friends will heal me of the scars I carry both inside and out.

There’s just one problem. I’m being haunted by Jeremiah Ransom, the charming ghost of a Civil War soldier who lived and died in my house. His presence makes me feel perfect. As if there’d never been a wound in the first place.

But I’m afraid that loving him will result in my death all over again.

*Previously published as Haunted.

For more information about Eternal click HERE.

Trade Paperback

Amazon | B&N | BAM | CreateSpace

Digital Ebook

ARE | Amazon | B&N | OmniLit

Do you read indie books? If so, what criteria do you look for in buying an indie title?

DEBRA GLASS is the author of over thirty-five books of historical and paranormal romance, non-fiction, young adult romance, and folklore. The recipient of the National Society of Arts and Letters Alabama Screenwriter Award in 1992, she went on to win the NSAL Empire State Award for excellence in screenwriting. She holds an MAed with emphasis in history from the University of North Alabama.

Debra is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Professional Authors’ Network. She is also a member of RWA’s Heart of Dixie and Southern Magic Chapters.

She lives in Alabama with her real life hero, a couple of smart-aleck ghosts, and three diabolical black cats.


For information about the Skeletons in the Closet Series or Debra’s Haunted History of the Shoals Ghost Walk Tour, click HERE.


Louisa Cornell said...

This is a great post, Debra! Your criteria are spot-on. I do buy indie books, for the most part by authors I know or by authors who are recommended by people I trust. And your cover for Eternal is FABULOUS!

Naima Simone said...

Great criteria, Debra! And dead on. Especially about the covers! I haven't even read a blurb because of a shoddy cover much less bought the book!

I buy books by authors both traditional and indie published. I've found some fabulous new authors through indie published books, but like you recommended, I can tell by the blurb and excerpt if the writing style and content will appeal to me. I'm not one who decides to buy a book off someone else's review, but that being said, I do read them for a running theme like typos, editing that took a reader out of the story, etc. And if there is an element in the story that will make me put a book down, but isn't mentioned in the blurb, it will most likely be mentioned in a review. I don't think I've ever gone to an author's website to check them out but that's a great point! Several great points in there!

Awesome post!!

Meda White said...

Thanks for the tips! I am reluctant to purchase indie books by authors I don't know because I've been disappointed in the past. I used to tell myself, "It's only 99 cents." But those little purchases add up over time. Thanks again.

Chris Bailey said...

Love your cover and your blurb! With so many books available, it's helpful to have criteria for making quick decisions.

Jamie said...

This is a fantastic guide! Thanks for such a great break-down of what to look for in a book. :)

Angela N. Blount (RedPeril) said...

Lots of valid points and reasonable deductions!

Personally, I love Amazon's sample option that lets you read the first 3-4 chapters to self-screen the quality of your potential purchase. Life is too short to read poorly-done books. ^_^