A few months ago, I submitted The Admiral’s Wife for an indieBRAG medallion and was delighted to receive their endorsement. If you are serious about your self-published novel, you should consider indieBRAG as a way to get the word out. Today, Geri Clouston, founder and president of indieBRAG, provides background on indieBRAG, the review process involved, and some great advice for indie authors.
Thank you so much for having me and giving me an opportunity to tell you about indieBRAG.
How indieBRAG began
A little over 10 years ago my husband self-published a book, besides a great story (isn’t everyone’s?) a lot of “professional” help was used to make it a good book – a graphic designer, editors, and a book club we used as Beta readers. We found that even though the feedback we got was very positive, this book was now part of the avalanche of self-published books falling into the marketplace. Our question was “how do you get quality self-published books to rise above the huge pile of books being published each year?” We knew we needed to find a way to make worthy books stand out and indieBRAG was born.
When we first began, submissions were free and we got the books out to book clubs and provided them with free books. Not a very sound financial situation but we wanted to help and only thought it would be for a few books. In no time we had our own avalanche of books! We began charging the cost of sending the eBooks out and began searching for readers.
Who are the indieBRAG readers?
Today we have nearly 200 readers globally and so many submissions that we can only keep the submission period open 2 -3 times a year. Ours is a slow process since we allow the readers to choose the books they would like to read and ask them to finish in 4 weeks. As you can imagine some books take a long time to get the required number of readers and this slows the process. The low price to submit meant that everyone who wrote a book submitted it and we were rejecting 95% of all books submitted. With the increase in price, the quality of books also increased. It would be foolish for an author to submit a book that hadn’t been published in the best form possible. We now are rejecting about 40% of the books submitted. We do not judge books against one another, there is no “best” book, the books submitted to indieBRAG are judged as to whether readers would buy and enjoy the book and there is no limit on the number of books that receive the B.R.A.G.Medallion each year. The B.R.A.G.Medallion on the cover of a book signifies to readers that this is a book worth their time and money.
Our reader base is made up of editors, bloggers, educators, and people who just love to read – this last group is very important because they are also the people who will be buying books and talking about books providing the much desired “word of mouth”.
We are proud to say that we are now one of the most respected awards for self-published books.
Why e-books for indieBRAG submissions?
We only evaluate eBooks because of the cost. Ebooks have opened up a whole new world to readers. The convenience and the cost have made reading available to many more readers. Although many of us still enjoy reading a print book, I think most readers do have eBook readers or read on their phones or computers. These choices have made it popular to read again. Any author who doesn’t publish their book in eBook format, is losing a huge potential audience. eBooks are less expensive, convenient, and eco-friendly. I think the availability of digital reading has had a great impact on reading in general. The advent of ebooks has provided a reader with less expensive books that they can take anywhere and provides them with a very small bookcase to store them!
Advice for authors
Unfortunately, it seems that everyone with a story thinks they can write a book and sadly, this is not true. Simplistically saying, there are 3 things that make a good book:
- a good story
- a good storyteller. Stephen King says that you can be taught to be a good writer but being a great storyteller is a gift.
- a professional product – this includes an appealing cover and title, a catching blurb, and a well-edited book, which usually requires professional help. Authors who feel they can edit their own book or depend on family and friends are already at a great disadvantage.
Readers who are looking for a specific author or genre find it very easy today with online bookstores such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble- and of course indieBRAG! However, just browsing to find a “good” book to read can be daunting due to the enormous number of books available. We think this is a service that indieBRAG provides — all our books are vetted and deemed worthy of your purchase. Not every book is aiming for a Booker Prize or a Pulitzer and most readers are looking to be entertained or to be transported to a different time or place.
What trends do you see?
Trends on what people are reading fluctuate and we can judge the changes by how fast books in certain genres are chosen from our reading list. Cozy Mysteries and Romance seem to be the fastest for us to find readers for at this time. Interestingly, more men are choosing Romance books than previously. Romance books have probably changed the most also. After the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, Erotica has joined the mainstream. In fact, it seems, that most Romance novels now have some explicit sex. It has become harder for us to draw a line between what is acceptable and what is not. Anything involving children is obviously immediately rejected. One thing our readers have become tough on is graphic sex that is not needed or doesn’t move the story forward. They try to judge it not on sex alone but on how it is written.
Thrillers are still popular and, again, there is a trend for more graphic violence, which is treated the same by our readers as sex— is it needed, is it well-written, and does it move the story forward?
Most of the other genres have specific audiences and are probably not picked up by readers just browsing for a good read. These books compete within their genres rather than with all books in general.
There are many reasons someone writes a book— it is a subject they love and are educated in (Historical Fiction), a genre they themselves love (Sci-Fi, Paranormal, Horror), or many educators seem to write Children’s or Middle-Grade books. These are all very good reasons to write, you must love what you are doing. If your goal is to make a living as an author, there is a great deal of information that will tell you that that is the worst reason to write a book,
Additional advice for authors.
I do have a few suggestions for authors looking to sell more books:
- Know your audience. This isn’t a new concept and authors hear it all the time, but it is a waste of time to advertise or promote your romance novel to thriller readers. Although a book might fit into several genres, stick to the one that is most prominent.
- Have a good (great!) cover. Even on the mega book sights, a good cover can catch a reader’s attention.
- This also goes for the title — it is important. The title needs to be interesting and say something about the book — give the reader a reason to check out your book.
- Some books sit on our reading list and it is hard to get readers to take them. We provide a link for each book on our reading list that allows a reader to check out the book before choosing it. It is not fair to a Paranormal book to ask a reader who is not interested in Paranormal to read it. When a reader goes to a book to check it out, they see the cover, the title and they read the blurb. A good blurb is essential to selling a book! It needs to give the reader some idea of what the book is about and grab their interest. This is as difficult a task as writing a book. I would bet that more books are rejected by browsing readers because the blurb didn’t interest them than any other reason.
It is disappointing for an author to have their book rejected. We make a point of telling authors that this is what readers thought and not an indictment of their book or their writing. We provide a “report card” rather than a review. Our readers provide feedback that we hope will help the author. Some books our readers rejected had won other awards. This information and other reviews are not taken into consideration when judging a book. We also assure authors that no one knows their book was not awarded the B.R.A.G.Medallion other than the author and our indieBRAG team. Not even the readers are given the final decision and they do not know who else read the book for indieBRAG. It is not our purpose to hurt any book, but it is our goal to shine a light on quality books.
Again, thank you for inviting me to your blog. I hope I was able to provide your visitors with some interesting and helpful information.
May I also add that indieBRAG is so pleased to include your book, The Admiral’s Wife in our library of wonderful books.
Many thanks, Geri. I’m so delighted you stopped by to talk about indieBRAG – and I’m honoured to have your medallion on The Admiral’s Wife. The work you and the team at indieBRAG do is amazing!
FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY
M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.