Going Indie?: Why Quality Matters in Self-published Fiction
by Helen Hollick
The HNS is one of the rare venues willing to review Indie – self-published – fiction. Many refuse to accept Indie books because, “We’ll be inundated with poorly written and badly produced rubbish.” And yes, that is an actual quote.
At the HNS, we take a more positive view. We encourage well-written, nicely produced, quality Indie Fiction, and we provide a venue for its review in our web presence.
Authors choose the Indie route for a variety of reasons: some were traditionally published but found their backlist dropped and new material turned down; others cannot find a publisher because their subject does not fit the norm – publishing houses are business concerns, and if a novel cannot be easily marketed (perhaps because it is a cross-over genre) then they are often not interested. Nor are publishers keen to take risks on diverse subject content, and sadly, the days of a publisher nurturing a potential author to blossom are long gone.
Some Indie books are (to be tactful) in need of a lot of work, but there are quite a few gems out there, and I am delighted that the HNS is helping to find them. The Indie Review team, based in the UK and the US, are strict on the rules for accepting submissions. If an author wishes to be taken seriously as a writer then, obviously, the writing has to be good. Having your work professionally edited is essential, for instance, and this is not limited simply to checking spelling and punctuation. Editing is about the technique of writing. A favourite aunt or a teacher friend is not a qualified, experienced editor. Anyone can build a house, but would a prospective buyer appreciate wonky windows and a sagging roof? Editing is expensive, but think of it like this: to start a successful business you have to invest in the product you are intending to market. You are the business; your novel is the product. Do you want to offer Tesco Own Brand or Armani chic?
We only review novels that have been printed and produced to a mainstream standard – you do not find double-spacing or left-justified text in books published by Harper Collins or Random House. Would you be happy to purchase a new coat, for instance, with one sleeve longer than the other and the pockets upside down? Of course not, so why expect a reader to buy your book if it has not been formatted and printed correctly? And yes, sorry, but readers will notice. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing it properly.
The cover, too, should look professionally designed. Indie books do not, usually, have the advantage of a huge marketing campaign or sitting proud on a bookstore shelf. Potential readers only glimpse a small image on Facebook, Goodreads or Amazon. That cover has to grab your reader by the throat and not let go. It is tempting to use your talented daughter’s beautiful painting, but does it look good at thumbnail size? Does it shout “quality!”?
Each quarter for the Indie Review, I and my US colleague have the pleasure of selecting our Editors’ Choice titles from the submitted Indie books. The fact that it is getting harder to choose because the standard is improving is wonderful – but take a look at the covers of some of my recent choices included on this page. I selected these novels because they were fabulous reads, looked – and felt – professionally produced, and were indistinguishable from mainstream published books.
If you want to be regarded as a good, worth-reading author, then ensure your books are of the highest quality. Give your readers the full enjoyment of your hard work and leave them eager for your next book – and your next…
If you wish to have your Indie novel reviewed, contact Stuart MacAllister via firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
About the contributor: Helen Hollick is the UK Indie Review Editor for the HNS and her e-book, Discovering the Diamond, giving handy tips for Indie writers, is available on Kindle. Her historical novel, Ripples in the Sand, is also out on Kindle. seawitchvoyages.blogspot.co.uk and www.helenhollick.net
Published in Historical Novels Review | Issue 63, February 2013