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View Poll Results: Have you purchased an indie book?
Yes 116 70.30%
No, but open to purchasing in the future 34 20.61%
No, and not open to purchasing in the future 15 9.09%
Voters: 165. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 03-19-2011, 06:22 AM   #1
Frida Fantastic
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Do you you read indie e-books? What will convince you to check out indie books?

Hi,

New poster and Kindle 3 owner here. I haven't read an indie book yet, but I have one on my to read list (by Gregg Taylor, I've been listening to the Decoder Ring Theatre podcast for six months now). I'm just curious about everyone's thoughts here regarding indie e-books.

I'm a voracious reader and I'm very open to reading indie authors, but I haven't found any other indie authors I've placed on my to-read list because I haven't:

(1) Gotten a recommendation from a friend whose taste I like (which is how I got into the Decoder Ring Theatre)
(2) Found an indie book with a description + cover in a format that's accessible enough for me to sample it.

It all seems pretty trivial, but as a reader, I want to spend more time reading books than looking for books. It's pretty overwhelming looking at the sea of indie e-books out there. I'm sure there's gold out there for me, but I just don't want to sort through them all!

So here's my personal wishlist for indie e-books:

(1) A rise in niche e-book websites that in a way, vets the authors for me.

I like Smashwords as much as the next person, but everyone's on it! I want a nice professional-looking website, at minimum looks as nice as ManyBooks.net, with covers and reviews on it with easily downloadable samples. I want a relevant portal to which I can find indie authors that I like, rather than navigating through general-purpose forums... but it sometimes feels like those forums just have indie authors promoting their works to each other instead of finding that relevant audience.


(2) In the same vein, nice professional looking e-magazines that's actually formatted for the e-book readers that feature short stories from indie writers.

I'm willing to take more risks with a collection of short stories by different authors, versus purchasing one book by an author. There's actually an indie Canadian science fiction magazine that I thoroughly enjoy and desperately want a Kindle version of (On Spec), but it's not available for my device. I have unmet consumer demand! (P.S. If you have recommendations for Canadian scifi for the Kindle, feel free to reply and recommend away!)


It's totally psychological, but I'm more willing to pay a higher price for an indie book that I found out through a third party, and less if i found it through a direct forum or blog post by the author. The first contact with how the work is presented to me sets my expectations. It's like a restaurant. You may be facing the same plate of food, but you're willing to pay more if there's candles, a tablecloth, and people speaking in hushed voices.

What do you folks think? Readers? Indie writers? Do these nicely presented third party websites that cater to a niche already exist and I'm just missing out? I'm open to being enlightened
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Old 03-19-2011, 06:39 AM   #2
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I read almost exclusively indie books these days... and I review them on my website. It doesn't sound like exactly the kind of experience you're looking for in your description, and I don't have the time or energy to do much more than I do on that site, but I am a big proponent of indie authors. I've found some great authors/stories, and I'm definitely a fan.
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Old 03-19-2011, 07:15 AM   #3
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Hi GraceKrispy,

Wow, you certainly read a lot of indie authors! Your blog looks terrific. No, it's not exactly the experience I'm looking for, but the more ways I can find third-party representations of indie works the better!

I find that I don't really read reviews by people or groups that I am well-acquainted with unless I'm actually already contemplating looking at the book. I guess what makes me convinced to look for a book is (A) my trust in whoever is recommending the book to me, or (B) how well it fits with what I'm exactly looking for at the moment. (B) can only be satisfied with good search matches, but (A) is all about online community building.

I'm only part of one online community right now where I'd actually follow up some of the recommendations. It's a facebook group for Decoder Ring Theatre. I don't know anyone there, but I pay attention to the recommendations because I trust that the niche will recommend quality stuff that other people in the niche would approve of. Occasionally the writer himself would drop in and vet recommendations or make comments. Even though it's an indie podcast/OTR/pulp community, most of the recommendations and discussions have centered around classic pulp works (which makes sense, it's an OTR audience afterall), but no contemporary indie pulp. I guess what makes this niche appealing to me is that there's a good balance between specific interests with variety.

Hopefully my honest rambling will help out some of the indie promoters out there. I am an audience, and I want you to reach me! Please aggregate into vibrant online community-niches that I will want to check out and perhaps interact with on a weekly basis
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Old 03-19-2011, 08:31 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bashfulbanshee View Post
I want a nice professional-looking website, at minimum looks as nice as ManyBooks.net, with covers and reviews on it with easily downloadable samples. I want a relevant portal to which I can find indie authors that I like, rather than navigating through general-purpose forums... but it sometimes feels like those forums just have indie authors promoting their works to each other instead of finding that relevant audience.
Welcome. Yours is the most sensible post I've read here for some time. Hope you stick around.

Just a thought... You seem to have a very clear vision of what you want. Have you considered starting this website?
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Old 03-19-2011, 11:19 AM   #5
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I recently took the cover art and clicky-links off my website. It was just way, way too much work to maintain. A more techie person than me might find ways to automate some of it, but for me it was a lot of manual cutting and pasting of bits of things and I just don't have the time. If you can give up some of the aesthetic features, you'll find that a lot of people are already doing what you want. My website for example does not list a book unless it has three independent reviews---the idea being that such a book does have a 'stamp of approval' on it by the larger group. It's a starting point.
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Old 03-19-2011, 01:50 PM   #6
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I read indie books, I listen to indie music, and I play indie games. I also dabble in the mainstream occasionally.

The thing about indie content is that its indie content. Niche by definition, any site created for indie content will be heavily slanted towards the preferences of the sites creator. An aggregated indie site, with multiple contributors will be created eventually though.

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Old 03-19-2011, 02:03 PM   #7
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Depending on your definition of "indie," I may read only indie books. I don't read anything by the Big 6 publishers anymore, because I strongly prefer ebooks to pbooks, and I won't deal with DRM. I do buy from small publishers (Samhain, Circlet Press, Hard Shell), but I buy more from self-published authors.

I love what's available at Smashwords; I despair of being able to find what I like there.

There's definitely a growing need for indie book recs & reviews.
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Old 03-19-2011, 04:24 PM   #8
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The indie scene is still very fragmented. Many different epublishers and webtailers. I am told there are hundreds of indie shops. Locating and searching through them is time-consuming and frustrating.

I don't know how to improve the situation. Hopefully, the industry will discover a way to make it customer friendly.
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Old 03-19-2011, 05:08 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giggleton View Post
An aggregated indie site, with multiple contributors will be created eventually though.

I'm hoping it's coming soon!

@MartinC: Nah, I don't have the web skills, or the passion, or the audience. There's someone more qualified to start it. I'll just be the first in line to fully sink hours of browsing time on it when I should be writing essays for school.

@Ficbot: That's a great model. I'm now more convinced to check out your review site because of that minimum 3 independent reviews feature.


Niche and Variety

My ideal website strikes a balance between niche and variety... say, Speculative Fiction in Canada. Or Horror SF written by authors outside of Europe and North America. If I see something like "The Science Fiction Collective", I'm not going to even look at it unless it already made a name for itself because I already have Asimov.

On the other hand, I'm quite interested in looking at what my fellow Canadians are writing, so I would immediately check out some Canadian specified SF.

As a rule of thumb, if I don't know anything about an indie book, I'm going to assume it's (1) Badly written (2) by an American (no offense to Americans. I love a lot of American writers but there's a lot of traditional exposure for you guys, just sayin') (3) The worst supernatural romance werewolf genre one can possibly think of. Badly photoshopped covers give me that impression. Covers don't matter in the long run if you already have word of mouth, but if there's nothing but the cover and the blurb to go on, then don't get on photoshop fail! Don't get friends to draw/design your covers because your friendship will taint your judgment on the quality of the product.

I'm not hating on that specific genre, the point is, before I know the work, I just assume it's the worst genre for me, and I need to be convinced otherwise pretty quickly.


Proposed Indie Website Model

I changed my mind. I don't want indie e-book manybooks.net. I want indie e-book Pitchfork.

An aggregate of seven reviewers that write books reviews in the style of a magazine. Think Pitchfork. I'm not the biggest fan of Pitchfork, but it works for indie music. I think seven strikes a good community balance, not too big to be "Oh god I'm just reading the mob on goodreads.com", and not too little to be "Oh. Another personal review blog. How nice."

Ideally, at least two of the reviewers already have some name in the community niche, and NOT an indie author trying to muscle in the other indie authors. Someone who used to be an editor at a publishing house, or for a big magazine, or just some kind of relevant personality. If an indie sf reviewer was a writer for i09, then the individual lends credibility to the aggregate.

Each reviewer is in charge of some kind of turf. e.g. old school hard science guy, the witty feminist, etc. Indie authors submit books to be reviewed. If at least four or more reviewers think it's worthy to be reviewed, it gets passed on to the reviewer who's most interested in it.

What is worthy of being reviewed? It's relevant to the niche and (1) It's high quality work or (2) It's unique (3) It's uniquely bad and would be funny to write about.


The Article Format

Each reviewer has a quota of books to review with a rotating cycle, so there's at least two reviews per week.

I want reviews with:
-witty titles
-personality and frequent pop culture references or in-niche references rather than just objective "here's the news" style
-humour, cynicism, and above all--enthusiasm
-a fearlessness to absolutely trash some works. I'd rather have a site that's too picky than too nice. It can be controversial and hurtful for some authors, but it's exposure. Uniquely funny bad press could actually get people interested enough to see what your work is about. Again, with the Pitchfork example, they hate a lot of stuff for ridiculous reasons, but people still read their articles and check out what's being reviewed to prove Pitchfork wrong. Also, there's a reason why Simon Cowell is very popular. There just needs to be one or two Simons out of seven. As long as their reviews are entertaining, readers would keep coming back.
-a comments section, it's a community.

Quality over quantity. Why should I be reading these reviews if I could actually just go out and read Asimov? The reviews should be a quality product unto themselves. They're not competing with forums for my eyes, they're competing with more easily accessible traditional publications and other special interest magazines.


Website Design

Like an online magazine, I'd like there to be sort of big headline reviews (by anticipated releases by the niche) with a preview on the main page, and the other reviews off to the side. Having a online magazine experience makes me more keen on browsing quirky articles, rather than the linear blog style. Good design, and good pictures are important. Cover pictures aren't important (let's be honest, most covers are bad), but pictures that capture the humour/essence of the article are necessary. This helps too because the unit of the article could reach beyond the "one article per book review." No, the writer can throw out reviews of five books in one article if it's tied in really well to a theme (e.g. "Hollow earth extraordinaires!"). Don't give it more words than it needs.


Audience

I want a website with a reader audience in mind, not an indie writer audience. If it's a website about indie writing with only indie writers checking it out, the reader won't care, because it's the same as the forums with the indie writers trying to sale their wares to each other and no one biting. Don't promote how-to-write self-help books and workshops on the website, that's a deal killer. It's like, great, everyone here can't write to begin with, why should I read these reviews again?

Instead, promoted material should be stuff that ties into the niche. If the niche covers steampunk, have some cross-over indie promotion with a steampunk group at etsy. If there's humour and sf, promote the indie artist that's been doing 1001 things with "Don't Panic" screen prints. Book promotions are okay if if 1 in 2 of the audience will like it. If it's just random book promotions on the website, then the credibility of the website goes down. Please think of the audience!

C'mon indie book reviewers! Aggregate!
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Old 03-19-2011, 05:54 PM   #10
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Myself, I'm open to the possibility of reading and buying indie books and have in fact downloaded quite a lot of them to try.

But the actuality works out that I've read practically none of them and I personally would not pay money for any purely self-published indie work (I cheerfully give money to "backlist" indies, who are established authors who're republishing their old previously printed books themselves and/or writing new stories for e-release) unless that author were:

a) very good and of a professional standard when it comes to editing, grammar, and storytelling ability

b) had a work with a theme/setting/genre/storyline which specifically interested me (I don't care how good your writing is, if you write a story I'm just not interested in, I won't be paying to read it though free giveaways to try out are still welcome)

c) provided at some point an entire full-length work at no cost to myself (regular teaser freebie, time-limited promo giveaway, whatever) besides time to be assured of sustained overall quality (some stories start off very polished and promising, then rapidly degenerate into WTFery once the initial sample-equivalent portions are over)

d) didn't act like an arrogant self-aggrandizing spambot idiot online (this last is a nicety I'm willing to skip, but I have a "you must be thi-i-i-s talented before I let you get away with stupid stunts" metric which I count in milliHarlanEllisons)

The commonly-cited low price point of many indie books is not even a consideration for me. I freely admit I'm both stingy and picky when it comes to books that I choose to actually spend money.

If I'm not willing to shell out $1.99 for those special promo-priced introductory 1st-in-series novels by established Big 6 authors whom I haven't already read and enjoyed, or at least had recommended from a very trusted source and and read a very promising sample, I'm certainly not going to splurge on a total unknown who probably hasn't even taken their work through the editing process.

Of course, getting things cheaper is always nicer, but a mere 99 cent price tag alone will not entice me to buy, although if all the other factors seem very favourable, it might entice me to try.

And once an author is "proven" to me, I often go and scoop up all their reasonably priced works which look like they're of interest to me. (I've done this for R.A. MacAvoy and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough in recent months, both of whom I'd never read before getting one book each from them at 50% off during a Fictionwise sale to try out; but of course they already had very good reputations in the field and I'd tried a sample first).

As for Canadian SF recommendations, my favourites are Robert J. Sawyer (plenty of free stories on his website, very Asimovian), Tanya Huff (more for fantasy, though her MilSF is pretty good), Peter Watts (kind of like an angry punk Arthur C. Clarke), Jo Walton (Welsh-born, but Montreal-resident and truly excellent) and Monica Hughes for YA.

I've also liked some works by Spider & Jeanne Robinson, Edo van Belkom, Robert Charles Wilson, and Margaret Atwood, for all that she protests that her most sfnal works don't belong in the sci-fi ghetto because they're "speculative fiction". And I've got some Élisabeth Vonarburg and Jean-Jacques Pelletier in the original French, which I'm slowly reading through.

Try finding some of the Tesseracts anthologies from the library; they showcase Canadian speculative fiction authors (both anglo- and francophone) and chances are anyone who's gotten into one of the volumes will have written other works which you can have the fun of tracking down.

If you're willing to expand into fantasy, Michelle Sagara/West is also pretty good from the short stories of hers that I've read (no idea if she falls apart at novel length), and Welwyn Wilton Katz and O.R. Melling do some very good YA (Celtic, Shakespearean, and First Nations-based).

Eileen Kernaghan may be a bit hard to find, but she's well worth it, and of course everyone knows Guy Gavriel Kay (though his mid-career works are much better, in my opinion). I've currently got some Dave Duncan out of the library; he's generally well thought-of and has an extensive backlist available via e-Reads, but I've yet to try him out myself.

Anyway, it sounds like you might want to be setting up your own site. You seem to have a fairly clear idea of what you want to see, and quite frankly, I don't think you're likely to see it anytime soon from anyone else.

"If you want a job done well…" and all that.

Hope this helps, and welcome to MobileRead, fellow Canadian!
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Old 03-19-2011, 06:20 PM   #11
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I would suggest setting up your website to attract indie authors who are interested in giving away their books for free in order to build up an audience for your site as well as for your authors. It's easy to put a paypal link in the back and perhaps the front of each book that links directly to a donation page.

All books for free for everyone!!

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Old 03-19-2011, 06:22 PM   #12
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@ ATDrake: Thanks for the recommendations! I like Robert J. Sawyer, I had no idea he was Canadian! I've saved your post on my to-read text file list

Just to further analyze why I already trust your recommendations even though I don't know you: (a) you demonstrated your need for standards (b) you address the niche I'm looking for (c) you mentioned an author I already like (Robert J. Sawyer).

I agree with you on all fronts regarding your standards with indie publishers. Quality needs to be on par or better than any of the traditionally established authors I could read instead. I need to be convinced that it's not something that I could just read off Fictionpress.

I think indie publishers are racing to to get the audience. The big publishers came semi-ready made with an audience, but indie publishing doesn't. Not everyone can reach relevant people through social media, it's just so fragmented. I'd pay more money for an indie book that got a stamp of approval that I respected (haha like free trade products!). Will there be the rise of pseudo-publishing house logos? I need someone to simplify and inform my consumer choices
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Old 03-19-2011, 06:26 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giggleton View Post
I would suggest setting up your website to attract indie authors who are interested in giving away their books for free in order to build up an audience for your site as well as for your authors.
Haha as a reader, I wouldn't be interested in a website like that yet, unless someone well known/credible is involved in it. If it's just another indie writer aggregate, I'll just go read my trad published books. It needs to be built on established trust networks!
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Old 03-19-2011, 07:25 PM   #14
Prestidigitweeze
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One problem with indie books is the fecundity of previously unpublished writers. It isn't necessarily a paucity of quality that creates this sense of demoralizing abundance. The problem is the difficulty of organizing a clear path through the enormity no matter how organized an indie site might be (Scribd and Smashmouth being two of the more famous examples).

Commercial sites often privilege books according to an hierarchy of sales, advertising, prominence or publisher. This is unjust and says little about ultimate quality, but it does impose order on the chaos and offers a less-threatening path though a smaller list of texts.

Personally, I prefer sites that convey a particular aesthetic or involve particular schools of writers. There the reader can familiarize themselves with specific concerns and objectives, and judge accordingly which writers do the best jobs of meeting or attempting to meet them or even rebelling against them.

As in the novel, so in the list of novels: Discernible form is more effective -- not just visually or sonically but temporally, as one navigates the material through time.

Last edited by Prestidigitweeze; 03-19-2011 at 07:28 PM.
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Old 03-19-2011, 07:48 PM   #15
ATDrake
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Originally Posted by bashfulbanshee View Post
I'd pay more money for an indie book that got a stamp of approval that I respected (haha like free trade products!). Will there be the rise of pseudo-publishing house logos? I need someone to simplify and inform my consumer choices
Sounds like you need a "Bashful Banshee's Book Club" sticker system.

Short of setting up one yourself, probably your best bet is to find someone whose reading selections/tastes are pretty much like your own, but for whatever reason (bigger book-buying budget, more leisure time, sheer perversity), they read and comment at greater length on more/different books than you do. Then stalk their posts liek whoa.

If you haven't already noticed, we've got a Reading Recs forum and generally people who start threads asking for particular personal recommendations on any subject matter get a fairly good response
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