Top Ten Tuesday:  Indie/Self-Published Books

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

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This week’s themes comes courtesy of submitted by Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits and is a celebration of those pioneers of literature, the self-published and independently published authors. In the world we live in, the access to blogs and to self-publishing opportunities and small independent houses means that the range of books and publishing has blossomed without the influence of the Big Five publishers. Without self-publishing, we might have never had the whimsy of Beatrix Potter or of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

There are times when – if I am honest – some of the self-published novels I have read might have benefitted from a stronger editorial eye in terms of both style and content and occasionally technical accuracy. If we glace at Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, would something so heavily derivative have been published save through the author’s parents publishing house? But that can also be said of some of the novels published by those Big Five publishers. But sometimes the traditional publishers can straightjacket authors – though straightjacket seems too strong a word for it; homogenise might be a better one if you can use that as a verb – and may exhibit a preference for those stories that conform to their perception of what is fashionable or likely to win prizes… and throw their formidable resources into that market so that the independent houses and self publication can struggle to gain traction.

Obviously, these are huge generalisations and there is a wealth of startling and unique and diverse voices published through the Big Five publishers; and there are some wonderfully crafted and written self-published novels. But maybe the independent publisher – often occupying niche or underrepresented aspects of the industry – is the perfect middle ground between originality and resources, so let’s spend this week celebrating some of those which I have become aware of – and lets focus on those which are located locally in the UK.

Influx Press

Influx Press is an independent publisher based in north London, founded by Gary Budden and Kit Caless. We are committed to publishing innovative and challenging fiction and creative non-fiction from across the UK and beyond. Formed in 2012, we have published titles ranging from award-nominated fiction debuts and site-specific anthologies to squatting memoirs and radical poetry.

The Trees, Percival Everett

The Trees is a page-turner that opens with a series of brutal murders in the rural town of Money, Mississippi. When a pair of detectives from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation arrive, they meet expected resistance from the local sheriff, his deputy, the coroner, and a string of racist White townsfolk. 

The murders present a puzzle, for at each crime scene there is a second dead body: that of a man who resembles Emmett Till, a young black boy lynched in the same town 65 years before.

The detectives suspect that these are killings of retribution, but soon discover that eerily similar murders are taking place all over the country. Something truly strange is afoot. As the bodies pile up, the MBI detectives seek answers from a local root doctor who has been documenting every lynching in the country for years, uncovering a history that refuses to be buried. 

Dead Ink Books

Supported by Arts Council England, we’re focussed on developing the careers of new and emerging authors.

We believe that there are brilliant authors out there who may not yet be known or commercially viable. We see it as Dead Ink’s job to bring the most challenging and experimental new writing out from the underground and present it to our audience in the most beautiful way possible.

Animals at Night, Naomi Booth

A woman feeding a baby late at night listens to the animal sounds in the city around her. A grieving widow encounters an injured jellyfish on a deserted beach. A young woman can’t shake the image of dying hare she finds at the side of the road. A dairy farmer hears her herd bellow with fear at night.

Animals at Night is Naomi Booth’s first collection of short stories. Collected here are stories that illuminate the strange nocturnal meetings between humans and other animals.

Gargoyles, Harriet Mercer

Six weeks after her fortieth birthday, Harriet is struck by a rare and life-threatening illness. An emergency hospital visit turns into an arduous, lengthy stay. Attempts at sleep only bring visions of soul-sucking gargoyles, the lurking demons manifesting Harriet’s fear of death, her relationship with her late father, and her dream of having a family.

A stunning blend of memoir and insightful essays on literary and film culture, from Giovanni’s Room to Anthony Hopkins, Tess of the d’Urbervilles to Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘Joker’, Harriet seamlessly interweaves personal experience with insightful cultural commentary that questions how we live, and thrive, with pain.

Gargoyles explores the power of illness, grief, love, loss, and memory, asking us to celebrate what is in front of us and to not take our lives and health for granted. Sometimes, this means we have to learn to live with the gargoyles.

Myriad Editions

Myriad Editions is an independent publisher based in Brighton. Since 2005 we have developed a distinctive style of publishing original fiction, graphic novels and feminist nonfiction.

Our original mission was to seek out home-grown talent and publish debut authors from Brighton and beyond. We have launched the careers of more than 100 authors whose books have been well-reviewed and lauded…. In 2017 Myriad merged with New Internationalist as part of a joint plan to reach wider audiences and publish books that push boundaries and embrace diversity. 

The Bread The Devil Knead, Lisa Allen-Agostini

Alethea Lopez is about to turn 40. Fashionable, feisty and fiercely independent, she manages a boutique in Port of Spain, but behind closed doors she’s covering up bruises from her abusive partner and seeking solace in an affair with her boss. When she witnesses a woman murdered by a jealous lover, the reality of her own future comes a little too close to home.

Bringing us her truth in an arresting, unsparing Trinidadian voice, Alethea unravels memories repressed since childhood and begins to understand the person she has become. Her next step is to decide the woman she wants to be.

Blackwood, Hannah Eaton

A pair of murders has occurred 65 years apart, uncanny echoes of each other, in the ancient woods beside Blackwood. Evidence and local lore suggest overtones of ritual or of the occult, but despite thorough police investigations, no charges are made. Peg, in her nineties, and her great-grandson, 11-year-old Mason, hold clues to the town’s secrets, but Peg’s dementia dismisses her as unreliable, and no-one wants to listen to a child. Hannah Eaton deftly handles her cast of townspeople with warmth, humour, and humanity, reserving special sympathy for the outsiders – both victims and investigators – who dare to penetrate the community’s closed doors.

Blackwood gradually reveals the dark soul of a town where local politics and the human heart conspire to preserve its way of life at the expense of truth or justice. Blackwood both harks back to days of folklore and is a harbinger of future times in the political landscape we now find ourselves living in.

Red Dog Press

 If you write thrillers, crime stories or mysteries with a unique voice, we want to hear from you. We’d love to find characters we haven’t seen before and new angles on traditional crimes. Our small team are passionate about bringing the best stories to market, and our personal touch is aimed at bringing new voices to the crime and mystery world. We accept submissions from authors with or without agents, whether you’re new to writing or already published.

As a small indie, we are actively trying to promote diversity in publishing. As a result, we are especially keen to hear from authors less well represented in traditional publishing — especially in crime, whether that be authors of colour, authors from the LGBTQ+ community, or authors with disabilities whether seen or unseen.

The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello, Chris McDonald

Wedding bells are chiming in the idyllic, coastal town of Stonebridge. For Sam and Emily, it should be the happiest day of their lives. But, on the morning of the ceremony, the best man is found dead. The police quickly write his death off as a tragic accident, but something doesn’t seem right to wedding guest and groomsman, Adam Whyte.

Armed with an encyclopaedic, but ultimately ridiculous knowledge of television detective shows and an unwarranted confidence in his own abilities, Adam and his best friend (and willing Watson) Colin, set out to uncover what actually happened to Daniel Costello. The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello is the first in the Stonebridge Mysteries series of cosy crime novellas.

The Witch House, Ann Rawson

Who can you trust, if you can’t trust yourself?

Alice Hunter, grieving and troubled after a breakdown, stumbles on the body of her friend and trustee, Harry Rook. The police determine he has been ritually murdered and suspicion falls on the vulnerable Alice, who inherited the place known locally as The Witch House from her grandmother, late High Priestess of the local coven.

When the investigations turn up more evidence, and it all seems to point to Alice, even she begins to doubt herself.

Can she find the courage to confront the secrets and lies at the heart of her family and community to uncover the truth, prove her sanity, and clear herself of murder?

Eye Books / Lightning Books

Eye Books is a small, independent publisher founded in 1996, with the original aim of publishing books about the extraordinary things that ordinary people have done, often with a strong travel or geographical element to their stories. More recently we have branched out into more general non-fiction. Our backlist includes Morgan Tsvangirai’s autobiography, an account of the first all-female expedition to the North Pole, the first books by adventurer Alastair Humphreys and the best-selling history of Trojan Records.

Lightning Books is our newer fiction imprint. Our first full fiction list was in 2017, when half the novels we published were listed for prizes. Our diverse list now includes prize-winning work from Australia and New Zealand, Ray Robinson’s Portico-shortlisted The Mating Habits of Stags and the bestselling Cockleberry Bay trilogy by e-publishing superstar Nicola May.

An English Library Journey, John Bevis

John Bevis is a writer and book-lover on an eccentric quest: to obtain a membership card from every library authority in England.

In a ten-year mission criss-crossing the country – from Solihull to Slough, from Cleveland to Cornwall – he enrols at libraries of all shapes and sizes: monuments to Art Deco or Brutalism; a converted corset factory; one even shaped like a pork pie.

With the architectural eye of Pevsner and the eavesdropping ear of Bill Bryson, he engages us at every step with anecdotes and aperçus about the role of the public library in our national life, while ruing its decline in the age of austerity.

As interested in the people he finds as he is in the buildings and their history, he is a humane, witty and erudite guide. The result is a book to be treasured by anyone who has ever used a library.

On Turpentine Lane, Elinor Lipman

At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her suburban hometown where she works in the fundraising department of her old school, writing thank-you notes to benefactors. Keen to get her life back on track, she buys a sweet but dilapidated bungalow on Turpentine Lane.

Never mind that her fiancé is currently ‘finding himself’ while walking across America and too busy to return her texts, that her witless boss has accused her of fraud, or that her father is going through a mid-life crisis that involves painting fake old masters and hooking up with a much younger woman – Faith is looking forward to a peaceful life in her new home.

But when a policeman knocks on her door asking to look in the basement, she discovers that the history of 10 Turpentine Lane is anything but peaceful.

The Arcadian Incident, Andrew Stickland

It’s 2312 and Leo Fischer is a fifteen-year-old computer whizz on his first ever journey off Earth. He’s heading to the moon colony to help his mother Lillian with her scientific work. But before he can reach her, she is kidnapped.

Determined to find and rescue her, Leo has no choice but to accept the help of his newest friend, Skater Monroe, the daughter of a shuttle pilot and already an experienced space traveller.

Dodging space pirates as well as a ruthless assassin in the pay of the soon-to-be president of Mars, they stumble upon a secret that could lead to all-out war in the solar system.

Cipher Press

Cipher Press is an independent publisher of queer fiction and non-fiction. Our aim is to amplify queer voices and to champion LGBTQIA+ writers in the UK and beyond.

We want to publish authors who are creating a new literary canon by disrupting existing narratives and retelling them in new ways. We want to publish the many different stories that make up our community, and we want to make those stories accessible to everyone.

We’re entirely queer owned and run because we want the publishing industry to be more inclusive at every level. We have over a decade’s worth of bookselling, publishing, and editorial experience under our belts. We still don’t often see the kind of books we want to see on shelves, and we’d like to change that by finding authors who excite us and by publishing books that we love.

We’re especially keen to publish those who are further marginalised within our own community: people of colour, working class, trans and gender non-conforming authors. 

Nettleblack, Nat Reeve

1893. Henry Nettleblack has to act fast or she’ll be married off by her elder sister. But leaving the safety of her wealthy life isn’t as simple as she thought. Ambushed, robbed, and then saved by a mysterious organisation – part detective agency, part neighbourhood watch – a desperate Henry disguises herself and enlists. Sent out to investigate a string of crimes, she soon realises that she is living in a small rural town with surprisingly big problems.   

When the net starts to close around Henry, and sinister forces threaten to expose her as the missing Nettleblack sister, the new people in her life seem to offer her a way out, and a way forward.  

Is the world she’s lost in also a place she can find herself? 

Told through journal entries and letters, Nettleblack is a subversive and playful ride through the perils and joys of finding your place in the world, challenging myths about queerness – particularly transness – as a modern phenomenon, while exploring the practicalities of articulating queer perspectives when you’re struggling for words. 

Bloodaxe Books

Bloodaxe Books has revolutionised poetry publishing in Britain over four decades. Internationally renowned for quality in literature and excellence in book design, our authors and books have won virtually every major literary award given to poetry, from the T.S. Eliot Prize, Costa Book of the Year and Pulitzer to the Nobel Prize in Literature. And books like the Staying Alive anthology series have broken new ground by opening up contemporary poetry to many thousands of new readers.

Penned in the Margins

We are Penned in the Margins. We believe in the power of language to challenge how we think, test new ideas and explore alternative stories.

From modest beginnings as a reading series in a converted railway arch in south London, Penned in the Margins has grown over the last 15 years into an award-winning small arts organisation producing new work live, in print and online.

Have you come across these or other independent publishing houses? What self-published books or poetry or independent publishing houses might you recommend? Please do comment!

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

April 11: Titles with Animals In Them and/or Covers with Animals On Them (submitted by Rachel @ Sunny Side)
April 18: Non-book Freebie (choose your own topic that’s not related to books! This could be hobbies, TV shows/movies, bands/singers, food items/recipes, top ten things about you, your top ten favorite things, places you’ve visited, favorite fashion designers, etc. Take this time to let your readers get to know you a little!)
April 25: Favorite Audiobook Narrators (or, if you don’t listen to audiobooks, name people—celebrities or otherwise—who might make you reconsider.)

12 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday:  Indie/Self-Published Books”

  1. There are some really intriguing books on this list! I appreciate how you also highlighted the publishers. (Although it’s worth noting that sometimes, what looks like an indie press is actually a self-published author’s own imprint or company.)

    I also agree with you that some indie and self-published books would benefit from better editing and/or proofreading. Some authors do hire a professional editor at some stage in the process, and it generally makes for a better book. But you’re also right that there are books that wouldn’t get published at all by a traditional publisher, or would be changed out of all recognition, because they don’t fit what the publisher believes to be the current market, or they cross genres in ways that the publisher is uncomfortable with or doesn’t know how to sell. (Thankfully, genre-blending is becoming more accepted by traditional publishers.) Small indie publishers and self-publishing offer a path to publication for those books.


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