With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Amy Edelman
Amy Holman Edelman, whose background is in Public Relations/Marketing, founded IndieReader in 2009 as a resource for consumers looking for great self-published books. Since that time the brand has expanded to include the IR Discovery Awards (IRDAs), IR Publishing Services (IRPS), IR Publishing, IR Reviews and the just-launched IndieReader In-Store (IRIS), a distribution service for indie (authors) to indie (booksellers).
Can you tell our readers a little bit about IndieReader.com, “the essential guide to self-published books and the people who write them”? What inspired you to embark on such a lofty endeavor?
Back at the end of 2008 I read a piece in the book section in The New York Times about self-published authors being signed by traditional publishers. A few weeks later I read the same type of story by Lev Grossman in Time magazine. Then I sat down at my computer thinking there must be a place for readers to find great indie books. To my surprise there wasn’t. This was back in early ’09. So I started IndieReader mostly as a hobby (no aspirations to a “lofty endeavor”!).
What are the benefits of participating in the IndieReader Discovery Awards and what types of industry professionals are involved? Are more established professionals eager to judge the IRDAs for up-and-coming indie authors?
Authors who enter the IRDAs are looking for different things. Some are staunchly indie, so for them we offer the opportunity to be read by bloggers and publicists and media exposure via the winner’s coverage (resulting, of course, in more readers!). But most overwhelmingly, what authors want is an agent to pitch their books to a traditional publisher. For those we offer publishers from the Big 5, in addition to our first-look arrangement with the amazing Dystal & Goderich Literary Agents.
The industry professionals involved include publishers from the Big 5 (so far we have three signed up for the 2015 IRDAs), publicists, bloggers and reviewers. For a full list go to http://indiereader.com/irda/.
As far as the second part of your question, yes, they are totally eager since no one—not even the lit agents—know where the next bestselling author is coming from. We offer them the chance to read and discover a book before anyone else does
The site recently announced the IndieReader Discovery Award winners. How difficult was the judging process this year?
The winners are totally based on the final ratings numbers. But in the three plus years we’ve been doing the IRDAs, we’ve discovered some great books which has led to a brand new (no charge!) curation program for books that have received a 4+ star review. Right now we’re working with Scribd (http://www.scribd.com/), the new subscription-based book site (like Netflix for books!) but we plan to expand to other services once we’re established there.
What other services does IndieReader offer to authors?
Lots! IndieReader started its Publishing Services (IRPS) shortly after IR was launched because we had authors asking for help with formatting, editing, etc. Next came paid-for reviews, because we were getting inundated with books that we didn’t have time to review.
We recently created an App for finding curated books (in addition to other indie titles for sale), followed by a whole (no fee) curation program for books to which we’ve given 4+ star reviews.
And then there’s IndieReader In-Store (IRIS)…more info here…http://indiereader.com/get-your-book-in-front-of-37000-book-industry-professionals/…the first-ever indie (author) to indie (bookstore) distribution service.
What are some effective things an indie author can do to ensure that his or her book can be “discovered”?
To tell the truth, there’s really no way an author—indie or trad pubbed–can “ensure” that their book is discovered and, if it is discovered, that it will do well.
Crown published my novel, Manless in Montclair in ’07. I was a guest on The Today Show and People magazine did a positive, almost full-page review. You would have thought that would have been enough to get me on The New York Times bestseller list, but it was not. Fact is, there is really little correlation— especially these days—between cause and effect, particularly when it comes to something “lightning in a bottle” like a book.
That said, an author can help…putting their contact info on their website (you have no idea how many don’t!), submitting their book to the IRDAs and purchasing reviews. They can schedule on-line media tours, reach out to BookBub, do give-aways. They can make sure that their book is distributed everywhere, not just via Amazon’s KDP (nothing against Amazon, but why would you limit where your books are sold?).
Authors can also think beyond ebooks, putting their titles in the IndieReader In-Store program, the only service that gets indie books in front of indie booksellers (more info on that here… http://indiereader.com/get-your-book-in-front-of-37000-book-industry-professionals/).
Do you think taking a book directly to readers has been a successful process for authors?
How important are reviews for an indie author? What are some of your tips for garnering more reviews?
It’s not the review itself that counts (although I have seen indies that have received a ton of reviews), it’s who it’s from. So a pile of great reviews on GoodReads means less (to me, anyway) than a starred review from Kirkus. I’m not saying that it’s right, it’s just how I feel.
But you want to know something? None of the bestsellers (and I’m talking on The New York Times and USA Today lists) have paid for IndieReader or Kirkus or Blue Ink reviews. That’s what I mean by “if it happens it happens”.
What advice do you have for an author contemplating indie publishing? Is indie for everyone?
Basically publishing an indie book is the new slush pile, but with sales potential! My advice is to write the best book possible and then package it as best as you can.
And no, indie is not for everyone, but the writers who thrive on being indie are probably the ones who were meant to be (sounds very Zen, right?). You need a specific set of organizational skills to be really good at it. But then again you need to be a great writer too. Or not. There are many indie pubbed books out there that aren’t well-written…and some of them are even on bestseller lists!
I have a theory about indie publishing. An author will write a book, format it and offer it for sale, get onto the bestseller lists and get an agent. The agent will sell it to a traditional publisher for a nice sum, the second book won’t do as well (or there may be creative differences) and the author will go back to writing indie. Or perhaps the author will continue to do both as a hybrid. The thing about today is that it’s possible to do both!
What are some important characteristics for an indie author to look for in a freelance editor? A cover designer?
Ask to see examples of their work, prices and references. And then it’s just a matter of taste and what’s right for the individual book and author.
As an author, you republished your romance, Manless in Montclair, deciding to take the indie publishing route after it was traditionally published in 2007. What are the benefits of “repubbing”?
It’s basically getting a title out there that either didn’t sell well enough the first time or that may have a different audience than it did at the time of its release.
MIM didn’t sell enough copies to warrant a paperback, so I got permission from the (trad) publisher, looked for a sexy cover (which is more in line with what I saw in the first place…we only went with the cover it ultimately had “because the Barnes & Noble buyer loved it!”) and formatted for Kindle. Amazon gives authors (something like) three free days and at one point MIM was a “best seller”, which never made sense to me because it doesn’t really “sell” if it’s free. I made a little money from it, but making more money was never really the main objective, finding a bigger audience was.
IndieReader offers publishing services to independently published authors. What can an author expect to gain from working with IndieReader?
IndieReader really stands behind all the services we provide—from book reviews (which are done in service to the reader) to formatting, editing…the whole shebang. Plus, our services are very reasonably priced.
But the main thing is once your book becomes part of the IR family, it’s more likely to turn up on one of our editorial partners sites (The Huffington Post and USA Today), more likely to be included in our App and in the curation service. If we haven’t reviewed it, it’s not on our radar!
Do you have any upcoming engagements or projects that we can look out for?
Not really. Just trying to hold down the IndieReader fort!
Thanks so much for interviewing with us, Amy!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley is currently pursuing her M.A. in English at the University of Idaho. She graduated from Whitworth University with a B.A. in English and marketing and also has a copy editing certification from UC San Diego. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is an editor and a writer, and loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.