How My Novel Became One of Publishers Weekly’s ‘Indie Stars of 2015’

Publishers Weekly is currently running a huge giveaway called The Great Indie Stars Book Giveaway. My latest novel, The Ghost Box, is included in that giveaway. The urban fantasy novel, first in a planned series featuring paranormal reporter Reagan Moon, was selected as one of PW’s “best indie titles” of 2015. (To read more about the giveaway, go HERE.)

I’m not fond of How-To articles for writers. In my opinion, there’s just way too many people giving advice, and way too many writers looking for a magic bullet to “success.” That said, shortly after I sent out my email newsletter announcing the PW giveaway, I was contacted by a writer friend who suggested I should share how I managed to accomplish this. Being that I’ve been asked that question about two dozen times, I figured I’d write more specifically how that came about.

As any indie author knows, getting recognition from mainstream industry reps is both rare and extremely coveted. However, with independent publishing becoming the chosen route for many established authors, traditional publishers have been forced to take notice.

In May 2014, PW announced it would be launching BookLife, a feature devoted to helping authors publish their own books. (At the time, PW Select was a monthly supplement dedicated to the self-publishing industry, news, and advertisements, and bound into the print and digital editions of Publishers Weekly. It has since been integrated into BookLife.) With the announcement came a change in how PW reviewed self-published books: 

Rather than limit reviews of self-published books to our PW Select supplement, we will allow all self-published titles to be submitted for review consideration through BookLife. There is no charge to participate in BookLife or to submit a book or receive a review.

Which is exactly what I did. I submitted The Ghost Box to BookLife for a possible review. (Here’s the Submission Guidelines for BookLife.) Anyone can submit their book for a review, but all submitted books ARE NOT reviewed. This is the first hurdle the author faces. (In fact, I had one book rejected for review by BookLife.) There’s no magic formula for getting a hearing, which is why the BookLife guidelines articulate:

You Should Make Sure Your Book Is Really Ready Before Submitting. Your books will be vetted by our editors the same way as professionally edited books from major publishers. 

Which means a crappy cover and unprofessional editing won’t get you very far. It’s also why I paid for both — a recognized, award-winning cover artist and a professional editor.
If your book is chosen for review, PW gives you the option (through PW Select) to pay for extended advertising in PW’s print and digital mag. The cost was $149. Relatively few books are starred. (In 2015, BookLife starred 18 fiction and 3 non-fiction titles.) Because I’d received a starred review, I paid. Which turned out to be really worth it. 

And now I’m part of The Great Indie Stars Book Giveaway

So as you can see, it wasn’t a very complicated process. The hard work, really, is what came before. Which I probably couldn’t stress

enough to my fellow indie authors — do YOUR work, develop your craft and don’t scrimp on packaging and presentation. Then let the chips fall where they may.

All said, it’s great to see Publishers Weekly catching up to Indie publishing and I’m hoping more industry presses and publications will follow suit.

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MIKE DURAN is a novelist, blogger, and speaker, whose short stories, essays, and commentary have appeared in Relief Journal, Relevant Online, BreakPoint, Rue Morgue, Zombies magazine, and other print and digital outlets. He is the author of THE GHOST BOX (Blue Crescent Press, 2014), chosen as one of  Publishers Weekly’s best indie novels of 2015 and first in a paranoir series, and a non-fiction exploration on the intersection between the horror genre and evangelical fiction entitled CHRISTIAN HORROR (Blue Crescent Press May 2015). You can learn more about Mike Duran, his writing projects, cultural commentary, philosophical musings, and arcane interests, at