It’s a crazy book-buying world we live in right now. Far from the days where we’d have to travel to a store and purchase a physical product, we now have access to millions of books at the tap of a finger. For those of us who still prefer paper and ink (let’s face it—most of us do, even if we’ve moved on to a hybrid of physical and e-book), we can order from websites halfway across the universe and have them delivered in a week.
Just as our purchasing options have increased, so to have author’s publishing options. No longer confined to submitting to the gatekeepers and restricted to tight criteria (those that add up to maximum sales) or prohibitively expensive self-publishing costs, authors can now easily create saleable products at no cost to them other than what they choose to spend on editing and cover design.
What does this mean for the consumer? Ultimately, more choice. That urban fantasy with an ‘unsaleable’ gay protagonist? The wheelchair-bound superhero who might only appeal to a narrow audience? You’ve now got a much higher chance of that book getting to print.
Costs are dropping too. Because Indie publishers make a much higher percentage of each book sale (and maintain their own rights, along with other benefits), most charge a lot less per book than major publishing houses who are only now starting to drop prices a little to stay competitive.
This sounds like god news for readers, right? Well, yeah. For the most part. It comes with a drawback, though. By removing the gatekeepers, any author can now publish anything. Literally anything. A one-page leaflet consisting of incomprehensible words can be sold as a self-published e-book if you boil it down.
This means that readers are getting caught out. They’re buying books that… well, they’re not that good. They feel ripped off and burned, and they stop giving indie authors a shot. In some ways, it’s just not fair—not on the authors and not on the readers. Rather than ditch self-published authors completely, though, there are ways to seek out excellent quality books and reduce your risk.
Read the preview. Seriously, read it! If it’s riddled with errors that suggest an editor hasn’t been used, if the style or flow don’t suit your taste, if you just plain don’t like it… don’t buy it. Save your money and support someone you’ll love. The upshot is that it’ll encourage that author to write more of the stuff you got so much enjoyment out of.
Unsure about the preview or it’s unavailable? Read the reviews. Read them with a critical eye- if an author has only a handful of reviews and they’re all gushing, 5-star ratings it’s entirely possible that all those reviews are from friends and family. Though Amazon is trying to crack down on those gaming the system like this, try for a book that has a lot of reviews, or a balance of insightful, less-than-five-star write ups. If a book got 3 stars because it has too much prose and you LIKE a lot of prose, that can be more useful than the standard ‘5 stars because it’s just really good’. When you’re done, help out other readers by leaving your own review.
Check the author’s website and social media. This can give you a clue as to their leanings, writing voice and personality. Though this doesn’t guarantee their fiction-writing voice will be the same, it does give you a feel for the person writing it. Someone who goes on a four-page tirade because they got one less-than-stellar review? Yeah, that arrogance might come through in the book as well.
Read Indie Review sites. There are so many out there, both on websites and as podcasts or YouTube channels. Find a couple you like and follow them. It can be a bit of trial and error. Some reviewers will only be out to support friends. Others will give a 5-star review to anyone who pays for it. Make sure they have a balance of good and bad with each review and that the things they rate highly are the ones you care about.
Buy from a site with a refund policy. Most major book retailers like Amazon will let you return a book within a certain time if you don’t like it. Easy as that. Another option is signing up for a subscription service like Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited or Overdrive (available through your local library’ that allows you to ‘borrow’ e-books for free).
Authors decide to go down the self-publishing route for many reasons. Sure, sometimes it’s because they can’t get traditionally published; but other times, it’s so they have creative control over their work, or because they have an excellent book that only has a small target audience. Sometimes it’s about money—self-publishing is fast and a prolific writer can often make a lot more by pumping out novels a few times a year under a self-publishing setup than by waiting for publishers to release books annually. As long as they’ve done the work, sourced quality editors and beta readers, invested in quality art and formatting and produced a quality piece of writing, indie authors are well worth your support.
Go on, buy an indie book today.
Write Strong Women. It’s shouted from the rafters and pushed as an agenda for and by so many writers. What does that even mean? Women who can bend steel bars with their eyelashes? Women who can lift cars with one hand?
The phrase ‘strong women’ means something different to everyone. To some, it might mean a woman who ‘does what men do’, who hides her emotions and uses tough language. Maybe it brings to mind women who could take down the average Joe in a fistfight, or beat the bad guy one handed.
I think ‘strong’ can be used where ‘real’ might work better. Do we want women without flaws? Who don’t have a feminine side? Who don’t cry, aren’t romantic, don’t think about having kids? Sure, sometimes. Some women are like that. That shouldn’t be the only definition, though.
Rather than set out to write strong women, I like to write women who are real. Not just Emma, my main character. It’s easy to flesh out a main, make her deep and complex, give her reasons and motivations that seem genuine. Often, female side characters are a little… less so. You know the ones who drop in for a scene or two? They might be recurring, but they’re only there to serve a function: deliver the evidence, report a crime, lead the mercenaries, cook for the prisoners. They don’t have a story. Often, the women are more likely to be missing their story than the men.
Other than Emma, my main characters are mostly men. Harrod, the rich, privileged Talent Lord; Martin, his Talentless brother; Greyson, the charming-but-overworked O.C.U. detective; Gibble, the boggart shop assistant.
If you look closely, however, you’ll see an array of women who all serve their purpose, but do so much more. They’re real, so real I feel like I know them.
Meet the Girls
There is, first of all, Melanie. Mel isn’t a half-blood like Emma, but life in a wheelchair has shown her what it’s like to be looked down on. She’s a beautiful person, bright and bubbly and generous. She loses her heart easily and is a true and loyal friend. She’s brave and confident but sometimes tries to shoulder too much responsibility for the things going on around her.
Trainor is Greyson’s 2IC. She’s smart and in control, the perfect person to back him up in the busy department. In fact, he’s grooming her to be his replacement and has absolute confidence that if the politics of his position see him fall, the O.C.U. will be left in very competent hands. She struggles with allowing herself to show her real personality, having clawed her way through a very male-dominated job.
Sallaway only pops up for short scenes but she’s one of my favourite humans in the books. Making her debut in book 2 as a rough, coarsely spoken police officer, she has a surprising penchant for high fashion and loves her three kids to death. She’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind because she knows her line of work is dangerous and if she doesn’t speak now, she may never get the opportunity.
I can’t wait to get further into the books and explore these characters more. There’s already so much I can say about the three of them (spoilers!) but like any real person, they each have a whole life story behind the scenes. I haven’t set out to write strong women but I think I did it anyway. They’re characters that I feel like I could bump into on the street, they forge their own paths through my stories and they’re so much more that just a function. Of course, I can’t wait for you to meet them too.
(If you haven't read my books, start with Dream Stalker. It's free on most platforms!)
HI there! My name is J.L. Hendricks and I am a mostly clean author. I say mostly clean because I do write romance. My characters never cuss, well at least not in any Earth languages. And while I don’t write anything “behind the bedroom door,” I do have a few make-out scenes in my Sci-Fi Adventure/Romance series (Worlds Away is book 1 in this series). People have asked why I write PG-13 or less. The quick answer is that I started out as a YA author. I didn’t want to lose any of my readers if I went above that. But the longer answer is that I believe there are a lot of readers out there who don’t want to read steamy novels. In fact, if you were to look at my reviews for Worlds Away (Sci-fi romance book), you will see that a lot of them have commented on how much they liked and appreciated a clean read. I even have a few men who read the book because it was more adventure than romance.
There are a lot of mothers and daughters who share books. I would imagine that a mother wouldn’t share a steamy novel with her teenaged daughter. So by writing clean, I can get two new readers who might like my books, while giving a mother and daughter something fun to do together. I also think that there just might be a movement to go back to cleaner books. When I read my first sci-fi romance, it was pretty steamy and I felt awkward reading those scenes. Then the next one I read was clean. I really enjoyed the alien action and adventure. However, I have only found a couple of clean books in this genre.
But most importantly, I hope this will give a teenage girl the strength to say no and stick to her guns if she isn’t ready for her relationship to enter the bedroom. I have seen too many news reports about girls being forced to go further than they are ready for. Mostly because society today says that they should. I think it is time we show everyone that it is OK if you want to wait until you are married. And boys need to be shown that it isn’t alright to expect sex. So the men in my story never push the women into anything they aren’t ready for.
I have been a sci-fi fan for as long as I can remember. Hello Star Wars and Star Trek? Sure Capt. Kirk was a ladies man, but we never saw anything too steamy. I wanted to catch some of that with a fun sci-fi adventure romance.
J. L. Hendricks is the author of the new SF Romance, Worlds Away.
Slavery, or mate to an Alien Commander? Which would you choose?
Paris had lost her parents at a young age and instead of going into the foster system, she ended up on the streets. Sure, life was tough for a 17-year-old girl with no one to turn to, but she made her way on the streets of Los Angeles for years. That is, until one day when she was no longer on the streets.
Commander Venay of the V’Zenian Empire was a man on a mission. It was his responsibility to ensure a good lot of human slaves made it back to his planet each year. But this time it was different, he saw her across a field and knew he had to have her, at all costs.
The choice was simple, Paris could be a slave on the V’Zenian home world, or she could become Venay's mate and provide him with the offspring his people so desperately needed! Until the V’Zenian's most venomous rival, the Zateelians, attacked Venay’s ship and forced them to crash land on a distant planet. Paris had a new choice to make: save herself or help Venay exterminate aliens who have a sinister plan for the humans.
You can grab it here: http://amzn.to/2fN6sL5
The Goodreads Choice Awards are open for voting! The Fantasy category has some great picks this year, so head on down and check it out. If you don't see the book you really want to win, there's an option at the bottom to add a write-in vote.
There's been a ton of controversy over the past two years about awards and how they're voted on. Slates, boycotts, and no-confidence votes have exploded due, in part, to the ability for a person or group to incite fans to make a point by voting for a selected list of books. As disappointing as it can be, where is the line drawn? Should a book only be promoted for votes by the author? Never by the author? Only if there isn't an underlying reason for it?
It's a slippery slope and one I hope we don't go down. As rotten as it smells, the only way to combat practices that hijack votes to make a point is to stand up and VOTE. Whether it's a simple reader's choice award or electing the head of a nation, VOTE. If you care, you need to do the thing that most shows that you do: Vote.
(Please note this was actually written before I realised you folks in the US have to, like, Vote soon. This post wasn't supposed to be about that... but hey, serendipitous timing and all. GO VOTE!)