Put the word “independent” in front of anything and its coolness factor doubles. Cheaply made films and music albums can pass for high art with the right amount of vision. But put the word “self-published” in front of a novel, and readers instantly think “inspirational poetry that hasn’t been proofread.” IndieReader, based in New Jersey, is an online resource for lovers of independent books and the people who write them. IndieReader might not be the first publication to review self-published books, but it is bold in its similarity to the “critically-acclaimed independent films” category on Netflix.
Indie Reader founder Amy Edelman created the site for “literate people who are looking for something other than the latest James Patterson novel,” she said, adding, “not that there’s anything wrong with James Patterson.” IndieReader reviews and rates self-published books to help readers find the ones that are worth reading. After a year and a half of Beta testing, the site was relaunched last month to include news, commentary, interviews, and IndieReader Selects, a special page for indie bookstores to find local authors.
To cover the emerging indie book scene Edelman assembled a small team of contributors including Scott Nicholson, author of The Red Church and numerous other novels, short stories, and screenplays. The site has interviews from notable people like Pandora founder Tim Westergren, Time columnist Joel Stein, Savage Love columnist Dan Savage, Paper magazine publisher Kim Hastreiter, film director John Waters, and clothing designer Isaac Mizrahi, all of whom had something to say about the books that changed their lives. There are articles on authors who could have book deals, but don’t want them (Barry Eisler), and authors who do have book deals, but perhaps shouldn’t (anyone from the cast of “Jersey Shore”). IndieReader also gives the back story on self-published authors who have made it big, either by staying independent or selling out to a major publisher.
Is there a market for indie books? IndieReader’s revenue stream combines advertising, paid book reviews and an affiliation with Amazon and other booksellers. Basically, when readers buy a book they discovered on IndieReader, the click is tracked so that IndieReader can take a percentage of the sale. It will be interesting to check back with Indie Reader to see how many indie best-sellers they’ve helped create.
The book review service is a sort of freemium model, with paying customers getting priority. Because the site is new, Edelman says most of the reviews are done for free. On the right side navigation she keeps score of how many indie books they’ve read. (As of the time of this post: 169.) Edelman can’t deny that the quality of the books she receives varies, but she said it doesn’t detract from the experience of being an indie reader. “It’s like American Idol,” she explained. “We like the good people, but we like the bad people even more.”