It seems to me that there are six kinds of Indie Published books. Out of these six, only the last fits the idea that many people have that Indie books are of inferior quality. The number of books in the first five categories are growing, and I believe that the numbers of books in the last category will shrink as it becomes clear that readers won’t pay for poorly written books, especially as more blogsites appear that list ones of quality.
Previously published authors’ backlists – you’ll find no surprises here. These books are exactly the same as what you’ll find in any bookstore. They were on the bookshelves years ago, but not now. The copyright has returned to the authors, so they’re putting them back in the market. They usually have an established reader base and many of their more recently acquired fans haven’t read their older books, so they’re snapping them up. Many of these authors are earning more than they ever did with the traditional system, and as other authors realise the viability of going Indie, the number of books in this category will grow.
Agented authors books – theseauthors’work is good enough to get an agent, but the agent didn’t score a publishing deal. Sometimes the author got sick of trying; sometimes they ran out of options and sometimes they just decided that going Indie was a better deal in the long run. A traditional publisher would most likely have published such books 5 or more years ago – agents only take books they think are good enough to sell – but they missed out because of the shrinking traditional publishing industry. Sometimes this is simply because they didn’t find the right publisher at the right time; sometimes it’s because they are a little different from the present fashion in the genre. For example, traditional publishers are favoring dark, brutal, often depressing stories for young adults. If you want something without that flavour, you’re likely to find it in Indie published books.
Mainstream books by skilled authors who have decided against the traditional route – These books are similar to books produced by major publishers. They fit the genre and the fashion of the day and are professionally produced. The author has simply chosen Indie publishing because it suits them to take control of their own work.
Books that are too short for traditional publishers to consider – in this category, we have novellas, novelettes and short story collections. Electronic books give authors the freedom to write stories to their natural length. They don’t have to pad something out to an acceptable length to make it salable in paperback. Shorter works work well on ereaders because they are so easy to carry around. You can read a short story while waiting for the doctor and you can read a novella while the rest of the family watch a b-grade movie on TV. There’s a lot of excellent books in this category, in fact all the short Indie fiction I’ve read has been excellent.
Quality books that are different / alternative /outside the box –Books in this category are of a professional standard but are too different for a traditional publisher to risk taking on. Big publishers have to feel sure that they can sell a book to large enough numbers of readers to pay their huge overheads and make a profit. That means that they are limited to the demands of the present market as they perceive them to be. This is the most exciting category, because this is where you’ll find the real alternative to the mainstream. This is where new trends will emerge, where you’ll find talented new authors and books for niche markets or that break new ground.
Books by unskilled authors without the skills to be published any other way – these books languish in the free or 99c categories of ebook – the good ones are usually only there for a short time, or they’re the first in a series, or a short work as a sample of an author’s work. You can avoid poor quality books by choosing titles from the Awesome Indies listing. As time goes on, these authors will either improve or give up. There are excellent books in the free and 99c bins, (especially the short ones) but don’t expect them all to be good and you won’t be disappointed.
The last category is the one that gives Indie publishing a bad name, but the important thing to understand is that they are only one category of what you’ll find in Indie published books. Don’t let a few poor experiences turn you off the whole scene, it’s called throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Does this sound like a reasonable categorization to you? have I missed anything?
Written by Tahlia Newland. If you enjoyed this blog post and would like to read more, you can subscribe to new content delivered by email or RSS feed (see the buttons on the right side bar). You can also follow me on Facebook and/or on Twitter.