A Year of Paying It Forward

Pay it forward

A year ago almost to the day I had an epiphany. At the time I was spending an awful lot of effort encouraging people to buy my recently published book, Second Chance, but realised every book I’d bought myself up until that point was published by one of the major publishers. I’d not bought, or read, an indie book, yet here I was trying to persuade others to buy mine.

The reason for not buying indie wasn’t snobbery but laziness. I bought books from authors I knew. I rarely tried anything new, and it was even rarer for me to read outside of my favourite genre comfort zone. Yet I’d received lots of support from the indie writing community, both how to write and publish a book, as well as lifting me up when my spirits were down. I knew I wanted to do something to pay the community back and support my fellow writers. This was when Pay It Forward was born.

The concept was, and is, simple. I buy books from my fellow indie authors. I started with those that supported the writing community (although not necessarily me specifically), giving them a much needed sale and chart position boost. As a bonus, I would promote those books I really enjoyed on this blog as well as leaving reviews on Amazon (.com & .co.uk) and Goodreads.

In the year since I’ve bought sixty-one indie books and been given another three for free. Of those I’ve read all but seven. They have varied in genre and style from thrillers to chick-lit, cosy mysteries to literary fiction, along with a number of books from my beloved fantasy and science fiction. Most have been novels but I’ve also discovered a love for the short story form I never knew I had.

There isn’t a single book I’ve regretted purchasing.

That doesn’t mean I’ve enjoyed them all, but I know each purchase has given a boost, if just a small one, to writers who deserve it. Pay It Forward has been a wonderful experience and one I recommend for any indie author. I’ve not only enjoyed some wonderful books and broadened my reading palette, I’ve also got to know some of a number of those writers along the way and consider some of them as friends.

Out of the 54 books read, I’ve loved 32 of them enough to recommend them on this blog, which in my eyes puts paid to the nonsense that all self-published books are rubbish. In fact, as time’s gone on my criteria for recommending a book has tightened, and while I stand by every recommendation I’ve made, there are books I’ve recently read and haven’t recommended that may have made the cut when I first started this process, which shows just how good many of these books are.

The other thing that’s changed is that I now also Pay It Forward to books by supportive authors that are published via a small press as I’ve learnt in the past year that it’s just as difficult for these authors to get noticed as it is for us indies.

So if you’re an author who’s benefitted from the wonderfully supportive indie community and would like to give something back, I cannot recommend Paying It Forward enough. All you need to do to get going is purchase one book. Start with a book an author who’s supported you in some way, either directly or indirectly, and then broaden from there. Don’t be afraid to try genres you wouldn’t normally read, you might be surprised. I’m not guaranteeing you’ll enjoy every book you buy, but I’m sure there’ll be many you will, and if you do, don’t forget to let the world know.

My favourite Recommended Reads from the past year

Below are my favourite indie books from the past year. This doesn’t mean I enjoyed them more than any of the others that I’ve read but they are the ones that have somehow stuck with me and that I’ve thought of most often. I heartily recommend you give them a try.

The cover of the book Duck, showing a picture of a bomb on an orange backgroundDuck by Stephen Parolini

“Duck is a short story about Thomas Lingonberry, a young boy growing up in 1950’s USA who’s life changes when a bomb lands on his desk. We follow Thomas on his journey of love and discovery, as the fallout from that day resonates through. It is a wonderful and warmly written coming-of-age tale. Stephen Parolini draws you into a world which while alien to someone of my age and nationality was also strangely familiar. He brings to life beautifully the memory of young love and my only complaint was that it ended.”

You can buy Duck from Amazon.co.uk here and from Amazon.com here.

othellasmallerOthella by Therin Knite

“This book works on two levels. On the one hand it is a fast-paced, science-fiction thriller, on the other a treatise on the moral grey area of the good of the whole over the good of the individual. Knite’s writing style is tight, hard-edged and uncompromising; as if Raymond Chandler decided to have a go at re-imagining Hunger Games. I was hooked from first page to the brutal finale.”

“I’ve read and enjoyed many self-published novels but this is the first one I wish I’d written. I cannot wait for its sequel.”

Othella by Therin Knite is available from all major ebook retailers. To buy click here

yesterday road small-coverYesterday Road by Kevin Brennan

“This is a beautiful book. In Yesterday Road, Brennan has created a unique tale that is warm-hearted and generous in spirit. As the story progressed it became very easy to form a bond with each of the main characters: Joe Easterhouse conveys the warmth and love like so many people with Downs Syndrome have, and Ida Peevey is the person we all hope we would be in a similar situation. But the true strength of Brennan’s writing comes is shown when we travel with Jack and see the world through his eyes. This combination of childlike wonder and regret at what he has forgotten, gives the story it’s warmth, humour and poignancy.”

To buy Yesterday Road from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Yesterday Road from Amazon.com click here

The Me You See largeThe Me You See by Shay Ray Stevens

“Stevens has successfully pieced together a compelling narrative based around the memories of Stefia’s friends and family. The timeline jumps back and forth, covering important events from Stefia’s life, each a step along the path to the opening shooting. What would be confusing in the hands of another author flows effortlessly due to Stevens’ skilful handling of both plot and characterisation. Each new character’s perspective feels real and unique, not an easy thing to do. It was very easy to become engrossed in the mystery of what happened. As new aspects of Stefia’s personality and life were revealed, I found myself racing through the pages to find out more.”

To buy The Me You See from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Me You See from Amazon.com click here

gzcoverfinal-smallerGreen Zulu 51 by Scott Whitmore

“Green Zulu 51 (and other stories from the Vyptellian War) is listed as a set of short stories set in a future world where one of old Earth’s colonies finds itself embroiled in a war with a relentless alien aggressor.”

“Whitmore has a wonderfully natural style, clearly bringing in a lot of his own military experience to the fore in painting the very ancient experience of life on the front line in a futuristic war. Each character has their own perspectives, are well rounded and immediately draw you into their world. While the battles (whether in space or on the ground) are well written and compelling, it is the human stories that make this book a stand out.”

To buy Green Zulu 51 from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Green Zulu 51 from Amazon.com click here

The Whisper of StarsThe Whisper of Stars by Nick Jones

“With The Whisper of Stars, Nick Jones has combined detective, espionage and near-future dystopian thriller genres to produce a cracking story that is both compelling and makes you think about the challenges we face in the future. Each chapter draws you into the world Jones has created, one that is both futuristic and very, very real, with neural implants rubbing shoulders with a night down the pub with friends. As the story progresses Jones gradually reveals a dark vision of the future, where those in power are forced to make difficult decisions which in turn become further corrupted by the desire to manipulate and control.”

To buy The Whisper of Stars from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Whisper of Stars from Amazon.com click here

On hearing of my mother's death six years after it happenedOn Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened by Lori Schafer

“A heart-wrenching look into life of the author, as a teenaged girl, being raised by a mother with mental illness, written plainly but beautifully, with no embellishment or self-justification. By the end you feel in awe of the author for having survived the ordeal, although as is made clear, it’s not clear if the effects of the experience have ever actually ended.”

To buy On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened from Amazon.com click here



79 thoughts on “A Year of Paying It Forward

  1. What a lovely idea, Dylan:)). I’ve been inspired to download Othella and give it a go… And then I MUST get down and start in on the loooong list of books on my Kindle yammering to be read!

  2. Hear hear. One of the things reading Indies has done for me is get me out of my usual genre. I tend to gravitate to thrillers or literary fiction, but since I’ve started reading more Indies, I’ve read romance, cozy mystery, young adult, dystopian (like your great books!), and more. But the downside is my bookshelf has too many traditionally published books waiting their turn in line, so lately, I’m trying to catch up on some of those. Plus, I’m in a book club, so that’s another area I choose from. If only we could get to them all, right? 🙂

    • I was quite surprised when I tallied the books up, just how many I’d read. I’d not given up on reading books by major publishers and have managed to (mostly) keep up with the authors I love, but there are a number of books I’m dying to read by new authors that I haven’t as yet, Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie being one…

  3. Out of your list here I have only read Yesterday Road and it was fantastic! I have recommended it to several friends. On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened by Lori Schafer is speaking to me now so I’m off to Amazon to pick up a copy! Like you, I’ve never regretted any purchases I’ve made of my fellow indie authors books. It is true some did not stick with me as others did, but that is true for all books. Thanks for your list Dylan. ~Elle

  4. The whisper of stars sounds good, but maybe because it sounds vagely similar to your books.

    Since I broke my ankle last year and couldn’t hop to the library, I’ve read shedloads of indie books. Some to review, some to edit, some to read different genres to widen my reading base (sounds like you), and some for sheer pleasure.

    And, just as you prefer sci fi/fantasy, I like thrillers/suspense/mystery/espionage. And British humour. So if a book has any of those aspects it’s a good start. but if it’s well written, I’ll read almost anything. It is nice to read best-sellers sometimes though, or rather, well-known authors. My neighbour passed on a bag of books at the weekend with two Pullmans included. A treat to look forward to.

    I’ve read a few extremely good indies, quite a few decent to good ones, and some totally appalling dross. But you could say that about trad published authors. Certainly I’d include your books in my favourites/better ones category. I like your idea of a few faves though, I might do that too.

    I bit the bullet and wrote a negative review the other day. That’s a story in itself …

    • A Whisper of Stars covers very similar ground thematically to Second Chance but in a very different way. It will also hit your spy/espionage buttons, so I think you’ll enjoy it.
      Which Pullman’s have you got? I loved ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, especially as I used to drive through the part of Oxford Lyra emerged into at the time I read it.
      I look forward to hearing the story of the review …

      • It was the book that stood out for me, but we all have different tastes.

        I read Northern Lights from the library. I may have acquired a paperback a while back, but these two are the rest ofvthe trilogy. I had to just check to answer your question. I daren’t even open them right now. I want me a daemon. I thought that was a wonderful creation.

        I’ve got a couple of things on before I can write on roughseas. Objectively, I think it is an interesting one.

        More later on that …

  5. I love reading Indie authors the stories are fresh, original and the best ones stay with me for days. I still read traditional books too, but these tend to be borrowed from my local library. I’ve bookmarked this page so I can gradually add these books to my ebook library. Thank you for sharing.

    • You’re more than welcome.
      I read traditionally published books too. I’m not anti- any form of publishing, I just like good books. If you get the chance, click on the Recommended Reads menu at the top of my page. There are some great books in there, not just the ones I’ve highlighted on this post, and you might find some more gems that stick with you 🙂

  6. What a wonderful thing to do. I’ve starting reading more indie books and will rev it up now – inspired by your blog. I also make a point to purchase the indie books I read. It’s usually only a few dollars and I know how good it feels on the author’s end.

  7. The last trad pubbed book I bought was The Hunger Games when it first came out. Since then I’ve only bought Indies, always have a long list of them to read, read EVERY night when I go to bed, so that is a lot of Indie books read, and can honestly say that, while some are better than others, I’ve only come across one which was bad. The standard is certainly no worse than trad pubbed, as they would have us believe, in fact, most have been pretty damn good!

    • I’ve really enjoyed so many great indie books this year. I still enjoy reading traditionally published books as I enjoy a good book regardless of who wrote or published it, but I’ve not read so many works by authors new to me as I have this year. That’s probably the best part of Paying it Forward.

  8. What a wonderful plan you have.
    I’ll read anything and everything. I started with cereal boxes at the breakfast table if I didn’t have a book handy. The trouble is all those wonderful books waving to me need to wait their turn. Time is the problem. I want to read them all, but cannot keep up. Don’t you sometimes feel the same?

    • Always! The one thing I do to relieve the pressure is to only buy a book when I’ve just finished my last, and not before. That way they’re not stacked up on my kindle or my bedside table.

      • I volunteer at a charity bookstore. I need to grab titles as they are available at a super-duper price. I DO want to read every book adopt but cannot keep UP though I try. Kindle books are also adding to my staggering TBR list.
        I admire your decisiveness. ❤ ❤

  9. A year already? Fantastic! I’ve been tracking your recommendations, and I’ve read a lot more indie books this year than I ever have before. Like many others, my only problem is time. I’ve had to put a halt on things until I catch up!

  10. How lovely! I was just writing a post about doing this myself–mind if I link to yours? This is a fantastic, fantastic thing, and I think we should all take a little time to pay it forward in the course of our years. Thanks for doing what you do. 🙂

    • Please do link to this post and thank you for your kind words. I’m not the only author doing this. I found after my initial post that a number of others are also doing the same and have been for some time. It’s just another example of how great the writing community is.

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  12. The idea is great and I’ve been doing it for a while now. The only main published books I’ve bought have been Terry Pratchett’s though I didn’t enjoy the Long Earth books. Nowadays if I go to a car boot sale I may buy a few books I like the look of- never new and the rest of the time Indies, many of whom have become great friends via the blog. There are some wonderful new ideas out there that could be hits given half a chance and hopefully we’ll help them get there.

    • When I first started Paying it Forward, I thought it was a unique idea. I was really glad to have found I was wrong as a number of people said how they did the same thing.
      I think it’s great that so many of us have the same idea. As you say, hopefully we can all do our little bit to help those great authors get the success they deserve.

  13. Since publishing my first novel, I have found so many, many TALENTED, really GREAT Authors on Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com, Smashwords, etc. – I have not purchased a book from a
    ‘taditional’ publisher, my favorite Authors; Patricia Cornwell, Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, John Grisham, etc. in over five years! I have purchased, read and reviewed over 140 books (both print and E-book) from INDIE AUTHORS. I have yet to find one that disappointed me. Thanks for your post.

  14. I read ‘The Me You See’ on your recommendation and enjoyed it very much. A couple more of your recommended reads are now on my To Read list too. I really admire your Pay It Forward stream but I’m seriously amazed at the number of books you’ve got through. Where do you find the time!

    • I read between half an hour and an hour each night before I go to sleep. That’s it. It’s amazing how quickly it all adds up. I have to say, though, that I too was surprised when I did the tally. I had no idea it was so many!

    • Thank you, Geoff. I don’t think it’s about volume, just giving something back, and as someone who’s been on the receiving end of a couple of your very kind reviews, I can tell you it does make a difference. Thank you.:-)

  15. Ok let me get one thing straight you read HOW many books in a year???? Slack jawed over here can only dream of reading that much right now! That is a thing of pre child for me! Although, you have now given a name to the thing I have been thinking I should do. ‘Pay it Forward’ I am currently beta reading a novel, but then I’m on to Geoff’s as my first, although I figure the recommendation I gave you ‘Disturbed Girl’ counts as indie – because it is. So actually I can lessen the self scalding I have indeed read indie books. The thing that I think I am going to do though, is buy them direct from the author, rather than through Amazon who thieve all the profits.

    • Having two children slightly older than your own, I know exactly how you feel. I’ve always read a lot so for me it was just a case of switching my reading from being all traditionally published authors to mostly indie authors. I think if most indie authors did the same, they’d be surprised how many indie books they’d get to read (as indie books tend to be a little shorter and a lot cheaper).

  16. I have to admire self-published authors like yourself, Dylan, who work hard to give back to the Indie community.

    As an employee of a brick-and-mortar book retailer, I have to keep up with what’s current in traditional publishing. I get quite a number of free ARCs (advance reader’s copies) from the big publishing houses, so that doesn’t hurt, either. (Although they do take up space!)

    On the other hand, Indie authors seem to be the wave of the future. Trying to keep up with both groups is a short path to insanity, but I’m giving it a go. Maybe I’ll try my hand at writing someday, but currently I’m content to connect readers with books they’ll enjoy.

    • Given the sheer volume of books published each week it would be impossible for anyone to keep up with all the latest releases, but even picking out a handful of books and promoting them is a wonderful thing to do, so thank you on behalf of us authors, 🙂
      As for writing a book, I’d very much recommend doing so. Write it for yourself, for your own entertainment and as a challenge and see what happens. If you write just 300 words a day, every day for a year (not including weekends and holidays) you’ll have written enough for a first draft of a novel. It’s that simple and that difficult.

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  18. This is a wonderful idea! It is incredibly difficult to get noticed, and incredibly demoralising when you realise your tiny voice is just white noise. But it’s lovely to think that readers make an active effort to buy outside of the mainstream publishers. I often buy the books by the writers I know…now I need to step outside of that into the wider world!

    • As I said above the line, I’ve loved every minute of Paying it Forward. What started as a way of me giving something back has actually given me so much in return. I’ve discovered many great writers and enjoyed genres I never thought I would. Enjoy!

  19. I’ve started a Pay it Forward in a small way on my blog. Once a week I feature an author, generally Indie or small press, with the idea they will reach a hand out to others of the same ilk. It’s a small effort but it’s helping one who will help another

    • It may be a small effort but it really helps. It only takes a handful of people to read what you’ve done and buy the author’s book for it to appear in the charts and suddenly become visible to millions. What you’re doing is a wonderful thing. Thank you. 🙂

  20. Reblogged this on taramayoros.com and commented:
    Below is a fantastic blog post and I vow to follow suit. I have bought many books from indie and small press authors. I made the connection years ago within the music industry, too. My tastes have never been the top 100 Billboard list or what you hear over and over on the radio. I’ve always enjoyed new music and singer/songwriters.
    The same goes for books. The writing community is like a large family. I love supporting others like me who work hard and don’t necessarily do this for fame and fortune, but because an unquenchable fire burns inside us and the only way to release the flame… is by words.
    Glad to see others doing the same thing. Now I will go and check out some of the recommendations.

    • Thank you. The more people who do this, the more it adds up. I’ve seen this work so well within the indie music community and I truly believe us indie authors could learn a lesson from our musical brethren. Thank you for reblogging this and spreading the word and good luck with your own voyage of discovery!

  21. You are a good egg!!!!! I don’t know why I never thought of this. That’s what I am going to do from now on!!! Thank-you.

    • Thank you. I think you’ll really enjoy the process. There will be books you like and books you don’t, but that’s no different to walking into a book shop and picking random books off a shelf. I’d thoroughly recommend broadening your horizons and reading outside of your comfort zone. It may not work every time but if you’re like me you’ll end up surprised by what you enjoy. 🙂

  22. Reblogged this on Scott Whitmore, writer and commented:
    First, thanks much to Dylan for including my little novella in his list of recommendations. Second, I can’t agree more with his idea of supporting Indie authors. Finally, another thanks to Dylan for giving me a short list of diverse books I now very much want to read.

    • You’re more than welcome, Scott. I thoroughly enjoyed Green Zulu 51, both the stories themselves and the clever way you structured them to form a cohesive whole. I hope you enjoy the other books as much as I enjoyed yours. 🙂

  23. Thanks again for the mention, Dylan! I’ve actually had a similar experience with indies in the last couple of years. I mostly read classics, as well as a lot of nonfiction (especially history) and it never would have occurred to me that there are also a lot of great books being written right now! But once I started using Twitter, I found so many Kindle books that piqued my interest that I started reading indies as well, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how good some of them are. The kind of books you figure couldn’t get traditionally published not because they aren’t worthy, but because they push the envelope on what’s saleable.

    • It’s funny how fixed we can be in our behaviours. It only takes one mental leap to discover just how constrained we once were.
      I’m glad you’re enjoying the process as much as I am.
      One of the best things about indie books is that they can be quirky or hard to market. I understand why large publishers won’t touch them, because they need to see in such large volumes, but a lack of commercial appeal doesn’t stop a great book being a great book.

  24. I agree wholeheartedly. I do still read a number of traditionally published books because I love particular authors, but when I am ready to try someone new, I have been leaning toward the indie author whenever possible.

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  27. Hi Dylan. Thought you might like to know that I’ve added a link to this from my blog, http://www.inkwrapped.com
    I wholeheartedly agree with what you said, in that I’ve been blogging for a while but haven’t really read many indie authors. Just one or two here and there, which I always felt was somewhat hypocritical. Now I’m on my third in a row, and intend to add many more (no doubt helped by your list).
    It’s a whole load of white noise out there, and trying to make yourself heard is a constant battle. The decent indie books need all the help they can get.
    All the best,

    • That’s wonderful to hear and thank you for linking to my blog. The best part of Paying it Forward is you get to read a whole load of great books and discover wonderful new authors. Quite a hardship, eh?!

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    • Thank you. I highly recommend you give it a go if you don’t already. You get to pay something back to the writing community and discover some wonderful authors too.

  30. Pingback: Yesterday Road is now just 99 cents | Suffolk Scribblings

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