3 Reasons You Should Give Indie Authors A Chance

Break Your Comfort Zones
Let’s face it, every major book store from coast to coast carries the exact same authors. Stephen King, James Patterson, Anne Rice, George R.R. Martin, etc. Believe it or not, those authors aren’t the only ones writing books! It’s true. Mind blown, right?
Book stores are a lot like Hollywood. They want to spit out dozens of books from their star authors. This doesn’t mean any of them are bad, but it does forcibly limit the reader to these authors. Sure, you can say “there’s a reason why they’re everywhere. It’s because they’re so good.” To which I can reply by saying, “Expand your horizons. You might be surprised by what you find.”

Hidden Gems
There have been some fantastic indie books out there that have really exploded. Still Alice anyone? It’s a bit rare for an indie book to reach such a high status, but that doesn’t mean they all suck just because they aren’t in the Hollywood cookie-cutter organized bookstores. I’ve read some fantastic tales from relatively unknown authors, from steampunk to horror. From science fiction, to murder mysteries. The works of Adam Dreece, J.C. Hart, Lindsay Buroker, or Leigh K. Hunt are good examples of authors I’ve enjoyed reading lately. Ever hear of them? No? Expand your horizons.
Sure, since the introduction of the KDP program, everyone and their grandmother tosses books up on Amazon and puffs out their chests saying “I am an author.” As a reader, just like when you are browsing the shelves at a brick and mortar store, I urge you to read a sample of the book you are considering. See how many books the author has published, too. If you like what you see, give that indie author a shot!

The Stars Are Not Aligned
Don’t go by the number of stars a book has on Amazon. Sure, the company has done a whole lot to limit fake reviews, but that’s not what I’m talking about. When you are browsing at the brick and mortar store, you get to make the decision yourself, without any influence, when it comes to buying a book. You read the first chapter or so, read the author’s bio, and make an educated decision based on your interest alone. Do the same thing on Amazon by disregarding the number of stars a book has (Unless it’s total rating is one star, there’s definitely something wrong).
The reason I say this is because everyone is different, everyone has their own personal opinion, and readers are the harshest of critics. I’ve seen an indie book of short stories get a one star review because the “The book didn’t flow consistently. It was just like a bunch of different stories crammed into one book.” Another indie book, written specifically for young adults, was criticized with one star. The reason? The reader said the book was just fine, but he doesn’t like to read young adult books.
Reviews are very important for the indie author because most people look at the star ratings, and if it isn’t five stars, they’ll skip right over the book.  It’s hard for the indie author to get reviews, too.  They may get one review for every 200 sales.  Why in the world would you as a reader rely solely on how many stars the book has when making your purchasing decision?
Don’t go by the stars on Amazon. You’re smart. You’re intuitive. Decide for yourself what you want to read, and you might be surprised to find a new favorite author.

Do you agree with my list? Did I leave something out? Let me know in the comments!

An Interview With J.C. Hart

AFC_LRGRegeneration_LRG   TFC_LRG

I’ve gotten to know J.C. Hart over the years, and met her on WordPress among an immense group of writers.  When she agreed to this interview, I wanted to pick her brain about the craft of writing because every writer is different.  The creative process is often like scattering puzzle pieces across a notepad and simply finding what fits, but sometimes there is more order and control to it.  When a writer finds that control, that perfect fit that works for them, stories are born.  

J.C. Hart is a founding member of both kiwiwriters.org and specficnz.org.  Her work appears in the Masters of Horror Anthology, A Foreign Country: New Zealand Speculative Fiction,Tales for Canterbury: Survival, Hope, Future, Regeneration: New Zealand Speculative Fiction II, and Baby Teeth: Bite-Sized Tales of Terror, among others.  For more information on the author, please visit just-cassie.com, where you can keep up to date with her projects past and future.    

What comes to you first when working on a new story: plot or character?


It’s almost always the character, and sometimes more broadly, the setting. I have very occasionally begun with a plot, and for me those are the hardest stories to write because you have to find the right character to tell the story – whereas if I have a character, it speaks to me and informs the way I’ll tell the story and that makes everything a whole lot easier.


Do the stories you write typically open with a person or a situation?


Well, I would say that they open with a character in a situation. I tend not to ‘set the scene’ in my openings so much as introduce a character who is dealing with something and then run from there.


Do you find your characters to be inspiring to you as an author?  What compels you to write them?


There are two ways in which I can be compelled to write a characters story – either they pop into my head fully formed and I can’t help myself from writing it, or they appear, a mysterious character who reveals themselves over time and captures my interest with intrigue. Funnily enough, there are the occasional characters that do both, appearing to be fully formed and then revealing small things that change the way I see them, and the way I write the story.

Are they inspiring? Sometimes. I admire their strength, their courage, their determination, but then I know that in some way my characters are like me, and that I possess some of those qualities. And in the same way that they have their positive attributes, they are also flawed. Human.


Does writing dialogue come easy to you, or is it something you have to work at? What are some of your strategies for writing the strongest possible dialogue for your characters?


I find writing dialogue comes fairly naturally to me. I’ve spent a lot of my life watching other people, listening – the bonus of being an introvert 😉 So my best advice would be to think about how people actually talk. Yes, yes, we need to get information across sometimes in a story that people might not normally talk about, but you can make it come out in a natural way. Think about what kind of world your characters are operating in, and that will affect the way they speak and interact, and then make sure you’re consistent and that your characters don’t all sound like the same person.


You are a founding member of SpecFicNZ.  Tell us a little bit about that.


SpecFicNZ is an organization that we set up a few years back, designed to support and promote speculative fiction authors in NZ. Back when we began, there wasn’t anything else around, and we created a community where authors can get to know each other, promote their work and look for opportunities. While NZ is a small country, we’re also quite spread out, and for the likes of me, in a small city, it’s nice to feel like I’m part of a wider community of authors who are all working with the challenges that face writers in a small country.


With the emergence of e-books, what are your thoughts concerning the self-publishing market today?  Do you consider self-publishing to be a stronger decision than approaching traditional publishing houses? 


That’s a bit of a loaded question isn’t it? Lol I think self-publishing has come a really long way in the last decade or so. I remember the days when it was like, the worst decision ever to self-publish, something akin to signing your death warrant and you best forget about traditionally publishing after that because they won’t touch you now, kind of attitudes around it. The landscape is vastly different these days, to the point that friends and family often ask me why I don’t just self-pub my work – it’s a viable option, it’s no longer going to ‘ruin’ your career, and even the non-writers can see the benefits of it. It’s definitely an option everyone should at least consider.

All that aside, I don’t know that I’d call it the ‘stronger’ decision. It really comes down to what you want as a writer. If you want books on shelves in bookstores or literary awards, then you’re best bet is probably still traditional publishing. But if what you want is a career, and for people to read your books, then self-publishing is definitely a good way to go. That said, I would caution that you still put in the hard work, write an awesome book, polish it until it’s the best it can be, and make sure you’ve got a kick ass cover before doing so. If you’re going to self-pub, do it right, give it the same time and effort as if you were going to submit traditionally.


What advice do you have for aspiring authors hoping to make it through the slush piles?


Aside from the obvious – write an awesome book and edit it well – the best advice is to follow the guidelines! Every market/publisher/agent is different, and your best bet at getting read in the first place is making sure you read the guidelines and follow them to the letter. Some places are okay when you forget one or two things, other places are very firm about rejecting without reading if you haven’t followed instructions. Alongside this, do your research, not every market is going to be a good fit for you, so focus your efforts and approach the places that would be.

But really, just write great stories, and don’t take rejection too personally. There are so many reasons a story/novel might not get accepted, and not all of them are that your book was bad.

Writing and Parenthood

ImageHello my crazy writing friends!  So, it’s been about a month since my last posting (terrible, I know) and you should all know that I am indeed still alive.  The pic above should help you to understand what I’ve been up to the most lately.  She was born 9.8 pounds, has a pair of lungs like a banshee, and the sweetest little smile that warms my heart on these surprisingly cold fall days.  There hasn’t been much progress on the novel since her birth, and I hear that is something that should be expected.  J.C. tells me that things should return to normal, and that I will be writing again soon enough.  I certainly hope so, of course.  It’s a good thing that at 2 months old, this little one is already sleeping through the night. 

Speaking of J.C. Hart, anyone who follows this blog or my related Twitter account should check out her blog and when possible, her published work.  She’s a really great writer, and friend, so turn your peepers over to the left hand column, scroll through the list of names until you find hers, and enjoy.

Now, I wanted to say that the novel has not been totally neglected during this period of my life.  Some of you know that the book has two story lines throughout that take place at different time periods.  I’ve well over 20k written on the investigation story arc, and have found a good pausing place to delve into the other.  It follows our mysterious killer at a young age, and tells how this person came about and what the circumstances were in his/her life that lead to the novels conclusion.  It’s been an interesting adventure, writing about a child, and I’ve had to shift my focus and style to accommodate the person’s age. 

I’m only around 2 thousand words into it, but at least I’ve found time to do so.  That being said, writers who are also parents of small children, certainly have their hands full.  There are times of doubt, times that I feel as though this book will never be finished by my deadline, but luckily I have some good friends that encourage me to believe otherwise. 

Now, it’s time to go change a diaper.  Have a productive day, and write on!