24 May 2014

Angela Cleland teaches us how to be an Indie-hound!, shares the first paragraph of her book; Sequela + giveaway!

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Kester Lowe is the next big thing in viral fashion. For the price of a Brinkov suit you could be wearing one of his exclusively engineered STVs. And once you put it on, almost everyone will want you...

At least, that's the plan. Alexis Farrell will stop at nothing to make her new designer a star, but not everyone is a fan; those offended by what he represents, those he has betrayed, his own suppressed ambitions and forgotten promises - Kester is racking up enemies and they are about to come together in an attempt to destroy him.

Sequela is a solid debut from a fresh new voice in science fiction. Set in London in the 2080s, it follows the story of virologist Dr Kester Lowe as he rockets to fame as the first fashion virus designer.

As events unfold, the reality of Kester's fame and desirability bring him to crisis point, forcing him to deal with the consequences of selling his services to the highest bidder and reawakening his ambition to use his scientific talent to the greater good. A potent mix of nanotechnology, terrorism and sexual politics.

When Farrell opened her mouth to speak, her tongue was black. Kester glanced at the two male members of the interview panel to see if they were wearing the same symptoms, but both had their mouths closed. Farrell tipped her head back, revealing two lines of sores that stretched down from beneath each ear and disappeared under the band of her broad-knotted cravat. Kesterrecognised the patterning: she was wearing Emerna-B, a mod of a street STV, cultured in-house to provide a more focused patterning. It had been commissioned by the MD of V Global in New York and had only been spotted on two or three wearers since. All were internal to V and all were high-worth individuals. It was evidence of Farrell's selective promiscuity and she was wearing it like a diseased peacock tail, her feathers raised and shuddering. 
  Kester tried his best to look impressed – Farrell was clearly powerful. Within a few months the mod would make it back down the shag chain to the streets, perfect evidence of the desirability and ambition of everyone in its infectious family tree. Along the way it would cement relationships, ease promotions and secure interviews. When the MD's exclusive contract ran out, wearers would rush to buy it from the Pigs in the hope people would think they'd caught it from a prestigious individual, but for now it was the equivalent of a catwalk disease. Farrell was the principal interviewer and Kester's prospective new boss. She would expect him to want it.

So you want to be an Indie-Hound?
What's the secret to seeking out the best independent and self-published books? How can you sniff out the juicy bone in the pile of carcasses?

 For independent authors, finding readers can be a big challenge, but for readers who want to seek out good independent fiction, the challenge can seem even greater. After all, it costs a writer nothing if someone who can't read properly reads their book, but if you, as a reader, find that a writer hasn't written their book properly, that's another matter. It costs you time and money each time you pick up a new book. If that book turns out to be substandard, it can leave you feeling like you've been done.

With that in mind, here are my tips for getting into indie without getting too much muck on your ereader:

Check out book recommendation services 
The Fussy Librarian and BookBub both provide daily emails with genre-specific recommendations for your ereader. Both have minimum ratings requirement for the books they recommend. The books they recommend are a mixture of traditionally published and indie titles, but indie authors are heavy users of these services, so if there's something out there for you, chances are it will pop up on one of these at some point.

Keep an eye on the freebies 
Many indie authors periodically run free promotions on their ebooks, or will offer some of their books for free permanently as loss leaders to hook new readers. Look for highly rated books on the listings, some of which will be indie titles, but be sure to…

Check the three star reviews 
When you've found something that seems worth a look, check its ratings (on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing – wherever you frequent), paying most attention to the three and four star reviews. Three star reviews tend to be the most balanced reviews. Also, no-one's friend or relative is going to give them a three star review, so you know that you are reading the words of someone who is most likely impartial. Of course, check out the one and two star reviews too – but if they're not criticising the craft of the book and boil down to "I didn't like it", don't discount the book.

 Make use of free samples
If you're not 100% sure about a book, start by reading the free sample. Amazon, kobo, and other providers offer these on most titles and they're a great way to check out a book without committing fully.

Look for third party recognition 
Organisations such as Awesome Indies and indieBRAG provide a service to readers and writers by assessing the quality of books put forward to them by independent and self-published authors. Only small numbers of the books submitted (just 10% for indieBRAG) make it through their rigorous selection processes, so these sites are a great place to start looking for books. IndieReader also has a great book reviews section and awards "IR Approved" badges to books that get four stars or more. US industry publication Kirkus Reviews also carries reviews of indie titles – check the search categories on the website and the best of year lists – also, look out for the blue Kirkus star which they award to exceptional titles.

Also keep an eye on the Guardian Legend self-published book of the month competition. The first winner of this new competition from Pulitzer-winning British newspaper The Guardian is still to be announced, but their screening process looks to be rigorous and they purport to be looking for things that really stand out from the crowd – fingers crossed they will turn up some good stuff, though it's yet to be seen whether they will major on "literary" books, or whether there will be good cross-genre representation in the winners pool.

Don't be put off by one bad book
There are lots of indie gems out there to be found. If you don't enjoy the first one you read, don't be put off by that – you wouldn't stop reading traditionally published books just because you didn't like one of them.

And finally, support the gems you do find 
When you do find a book that you love, help other indie-hounds to find it by talk-talk-talking about it to friends and fellow readers and by adding a review on Amazon/Goodreads/LibraryThing or similar. This also helps out indie authors as every review counts in their battle to be discovered. I promise there will be warm glowy feelings all round, and when the book you recommended hits the bestseller lists you can enjoy feeling like a maven. Have fun getting your indie on!

 Cleland Smith's debut science fiction novel Sequela was named to the Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2013. It is available in paperback and on Amazon Kindle. Visit her blog at gauge.ghost.io.

Now on to the giveaway. Angela is giving 5 ecopies of Sequela away to 5 lucky readers - all you have to do is answer a single question as usual - and don't forget to include your email address in the comment! The question is; if you could choose the ultimate book, like choose the plot, the characters,  everything - what would it be like?

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