Dispatches from Indieland

The state of the industry

Kirkus started its self-pubbed section in 2005 (it was then called Kirkus Discoveries and is now Kirkus Indie). Since then, Indie reviewers have critiqued thousands of memoirs, novels, mysteries, thrillers, etc., and have good insight and advice to share from the front lines of self-publishing. In this issue, several veteran reviewers note a few changes they’ve seen—better editing, more literary work and increasing diversity.

Steve Donoghue, who also writes for the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe, appreciates “the endless, unpredictable variety of the books” at Indie. After evaluating more than 500 self-pubbed books, he’s noticed the effects of the “proliferation of editorial services,” which have raised the quality of self-publishing. “The era when sloppy mistakes of any kind were par for the self-publishing course is firmly over,” Donoghue says. “The books are more professional and more ambitious—indistinguishable in quality and presentation, in many cases, from books published by traditional houses.” 

Stephanie Cerra has reviewed more than 300 books and has observed a shift from paperbacks to e-books. “A good trend in my view, because e-books are easy to mark up, comment on, and search in for passages that I'm likely to use in my review,” she says. “Also, I’m seeing literary fiction and nonfiction more often now, as opposed to mainly genre (fantasy, mystery, horror) fiction. And the genre fiction itself is more complicated and ambitious.”

After having reviewed about 70 Indie titles, including fantasy, memoir and self-help, Hannah Sheldon-Dean thinks self-pubbed works have “gotten bolder and more self-assured over time.” She says, “I see a lot more high-concept fiction and nonfiction these days….As indie publishing has grown more mainstream and accessible, it seems that an increasingly diverse group of authors has been able to get their ideas out there.”

Karen Schechner is the senior Indie editor at Kirkus Reviews.  

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