Self-published (indie) fiction books: How to find diamonds in the rough

by Narelle Atkins

A few weeks ago I launched the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance http:www.acrba.blogspot.com with avid reader and friend Jenny Blake. We decided we would consider high quality self-published (indie) book submissions for blog alliance book tours.

In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of self-published eBooks, and the trend is likely to continue as more readers embrace new technology and purchase eBook readers. But readers have valid concerns regarding the quality of indie books. Traditional publishers have editors who work with authors to turn a good book into an excellent book. There are indie authors who have their books professionally edited prior to publication. The big question is how can we find these diamonds in the rough? Are there steps we can take to help us work out if a book is an excellent indie fiction read?

1. Read Chapter One or a sample of the book

The first step is to read a sample and see if the story grabs you. Years ago, when I first started learning to write fiction, I was surprised to discover that editors and agents could usually judge whether or not they were interested in a book by the end of page one. After judging numerous unpublished fiction writing contests, I have to agree with the industry professionals and I definitely know by the end of Chapter One if I want to read the rest of the book.

If the first chapter is boring, the characters don’t capture your attention or the writing style jolts you out of the story, the odds are the rest of the book will be the same. I no longer read on to see if a story will get better because I’ve learned from experience that it usually doesn’t. But, I’ve also read books where the first three chapters are great and the story falls apart in the middle, so judging the quality of a book by a sample is not foolproof. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Investigate the author

Search online to discover the author’s writing experience and publishing history. Many multi-published authors are self-publishing their out of print backlist titles that were previously published by a traditional publisher.

A lack of online information about an author is a possible red flag. Most fiction authors don’t publish their first manuscript and write numerous books before their writing reaches a high standard. Their writing journey usually leaves an online trail you can follow to investigate if they’ve taken steps to become a professional writer.

3. Investigate the publisher

An indie author may publish under their own name or choose a publisher name for their books. If you can’t find the publisher name in a search engine then it’s likely the book is self-published.

One word of caution: If a publisher website has a submission page, check out the guidelines. If they offer publishing packages that authors can buy, tread warily. Vanity publishers make money from author’s paying them to publish their book rather than from selling books. As a result, books from vanity publishers are often poorly edited and badly written.

4. Investigate book reviews

Book reviews are helpful if the reviewer explains why they have given a book a particular rating. A large number of 5 star reviews on sites where anyone can post a review will not guarantee a book is a good read.

Two and three star reviews can be the most insightful. We all have different reading tastes and an issue that bothered one reviewer may actually be an element you like in a story.

Check out the reviews of books on the indie bestseller lists. If a large number of people have downloaded or purchased a book, it’s statistically likely that some of those readers have posted reviews, both positive and negative.

5. Price does not necessarily equate with quality

Books sold by vanity publishers are sometimes more expensive than traditionally published books.

At the other end of the spectrum, indie authors may price a book at $0.99 or give it away for free as a loss leader. In the same way retailers sell certain items below cost to entice customers into their store, indie authors may provide cheap or free books in the hope readers will take a chance on a new author. Their goal is to gain new fans who will love their writing and buy their higher priced books.

I hope you’ll be able to find the indie fiction gems, those diamonds in the rough and the indie authors who write great books. Good luck!

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Hannah, David and Bathsheba Bible Study eBook giveaway

Narelle here. Today we are giving away free eBook copies of the leaders guide for our August Featured Studies of the Month.

All you need to do is visit our Smashwords page and use the coupon code GA39M at the checkout. The coupon code is valid today. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/210081

Smashwords may ask you to sign in or set up an account to enable the eBook to be stored in your Smashwords account. You can download the eBook in multiple formats including PDF, Epub and .mobi for Kindle.

If you’re wondering how to transfer a Smashwords eBook to your Kindle, please refer to my blog post How to read eBooks from Smashwords on Kindle Enjoy!

Deborah and Ruth Bible Study eBook giveaway

Narelle here. Today we are giving away free eBook copies of the leaders guide for our July Featured Studies of the Month.

All you need to do is visit our Smashwords page and use the coupon code XK73C at the checkout. The coupon code is valid today. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/177800

Smashwords will ask you to sign in or set up an account to enable the eBook to be stored in your Smashwords account. You can download the eBook in multiple formats including PDF, Epub and .mobi for Kindle.

If you’re wondering how to transfer a Smashwords eBook to your Kindle, please refer to my blog post How to read eBooks from Smashwords on Kindle Enjoy!

How to read eBooks from Smashwords on Kindle

by Narelle Atkins

I recently received a free eBook from Ann Lee Miller after she visited my group blog International Christian Fiction Writers. Ann’s book, Kicking Eternity, is currently available for free on Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ReviewsByAnn

Ann sent me a lovely email which included instructions on how to download eBooks from Smashwords on to my Kindle. I freely admit I love my Kindle and as time goes on I’m choosing to read more books on my Kindle. When purchasing eBooks from Amazon, I press the “buy now” button and the Kindle eBooks magically start to download into my Kindle within seconds. After spending years waiting weeks for new releases to ship to Australia from the US, the instant gratification provided from a Kindle purchase still puts a smile on my face.

We have started selling Leader’s Guides to accompany the free Bible Study questions on our website through Smashwords. https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NarelleAtkins

Smashwords offer our eBooks in multiple formats, including the .mobi file format for Kindle. And it’s very easy to download the .mobi files and transfer them to your Kindle.

If you have “Kindle for PC” set up on your computer, the Smashwords .mobi files should automatically default to be saved in your My Kindle Content folder. The My Kindle Content folder is usually set up as part of your “Kindle for PC” installation and listed under “My Documents” in your computer.

Smashwords will save two files on your computer. The first is a Kindle Content .mobi file and the second is a .mbp file.

Once the Smashwords files are saved on your computer, your “Kindle for PC” program will be able to open the eBook and you can start reading straight away.

There are a couple of ways you can transfer the Kindle Content .mobi file to your Kindle. Firstly, you can plug your Kindle into your computer using the USB connection, open the Kindle drive and copy the Kindle Content .mobi file into the “Documents” folder in your Kindle drive.  It’s the same process as transferring a file to an external hard drive or USB memory stick.

If your Kindle has a wireless connection, you can set up a free email address in your Amazon Kindle account so you can transfer files directly to your Kindle. The format for the free email address is: yourname [at] free [dot] Kindle [dot] com

Amazon provides step by step instructions on how to set up the free “Send-to-Kindle Email Settings ” under “Personal Document Settings” in your Amazon account. I have set up my Amazon Kindle account so that the default destination for all files sent to my Kindle account is “Narelle’s Kindle”.

Once you have the free Kindle email address set up, all you have to do is attach the Kindle Content .mobi file to an email addressed to yourname [at] free [dot] Kindle [dot] com and the file can be wirelessly downloaded onto your Kindle device in the same way eBooks from Amazon are downloaded.

If the default destination in your Amazon account under “Manage my Kindle” is your iPhone, then the file will be delivered to the Kindle app in your iPhone.

When you email the .mobi file to your Kindle account, the eBook will be listed in your “Kindle Library” under “All Items”. Using the “Actions” button you can choose to deliver the eBook to a different device. This means you can have access to your eBook on your PC, Kindle and devices that have a Kindle app eg. iPhone.

Also, you need to set up an account with Smashwords before you can purchase an eBook. The eBook you purchase can be placed in your Smashwords library and you can download the eBook in multiple formats at a later date. If your computer crashes, you can go back into your Smashwords account and download the eBook to your new computer. You may want a pdf version of the eBook as well as a copy of the eBook on your Kindle.

I hope this quick overview will help you download Smashwords eBooks onto your Kindle. The process is straightforward and the instructions provided by Amazon are user-friendly. Happy reading!