Welcome to our new, and long-overdue list: The Best Indie Fantasy Books. It's been years in the making, but I've finally put my best efforts into giving a good guide to what's hot in the self-pub fantasy world. And there's quite a bit of hidden gems to find if you know just what to look for.
This Best Indie List has been thouroughly updated November 2017 to reflect new indie books that have come out since the list was first published in 2016.
The State of Self Publishing
There’s a lot of indie fantasy out there now with most of it available on the Amazon marketplace.
The past five years have seen a boom in the self publishing market, arguably, a revolution of the publishing model. Amazon, by allowing authors to self publish on the Amazon marketplace (and keeping 70 percent of the profits), have overturned the status quo of the book industry, toppling the monopoly held by the Big Six publishing houses who have, before this, acted as the gate keepers of fiction.
Hordes of authors, unshackled and unchained, are pouring through the opening gates, seeking fame, fortune, or maybe even just the thrill of seeing their books for sale, somewhere, and knowing they are, in some measure, a professional author.
Some of the biggest publishing success stories have been self published authors hitting it big. In some cases, really big.
Andy Weir self published The Martin. Millions of copies sold,a Riddely Scott Movie later, and now he's nearly as famous as Gandhi.
Hugh Howey, one of the most popular science fictions on Amazon (and arguably, the world), self published his original Wool Trilogy.
Anthony Ryan published The Blood Song – a book that many people have hailed to be the new The Name of the Wind.
And Michael J. Sullivan, indie publishing pioneer, started doing it over a decade ago, self pubbing his books back before it was an established model (I still have one of the original review copies he sent me back in 2008).
Take any genre and you can find dozens, hundreds of these success stories. And for every Hugh Howey and Andy Weir taking up the glory, there are hundreds or thousands of other authors silently making a full time income -- sometimes a ridiculously good income -- behind the scenes, selling digital book after digital book, laughing all the way to the bank.
So yes, Self Pub is a thing now.
A big thing.
Yes, there are many self published authors making six and even seven figures thanks to the Amazon market place – selling hundreds of thousands – even millions – of digital copies.
You may have never heard of these authors, may never see them in a bookstore, but they are indeed professional authors, making money that even their traditionally published counterparts, could only dream of.
Because a self published author keeps the lion share of profits (up to 70 percent) on Amazon and the easy ‘anyone can publish’ kindle marketplace platform which gives authors access to the huge Amazon marketplace, self publishing is, for many authors, a better choice than going the traditional route.
It’s not uncommon for traditionally published authors who sell more books than self pub authors to make far less money.
So these days, self publishing does not necessary mean an author is not good enough to get a traditional publishing contract – for many authors, it’s a better financial decision, one that gives them full control over their intellectual property.
Indie Fantasy: The Good, The Bad, and the Really Grammatically Incorrect
Welcome to the world of self-pub fantasy (also called indie fantasy or independent fantasy) – the wild, wild west of the publishing world.
It’s a great place for new authors, still learning their skill, to grow in. And for other authors, a method of freeing themselves from the iron grip of the publishing houses, and becoming masters of their own destinies and all that.
The problem is, there's so much of it to sort through.
Welcome to what's being called the Great American Slush Pile – also known as the kindle indie marketplace.
With the gates of publishing swung wide open, and every person who feels they have a novel in them able now to finally publish that novel, a rising tide of self published books have washed over us.
You’ll find a wide range of quality in the self pub world – from fiction that rivals anything you would find published, to stuff that even a grade 6 English teacher would fail.
With the gatekeepers of publishing toppled -- those that allowed a minimum sort of quality to pass through or at least ensured mandatory editing on the final products -- and independent books flooding the marketplace, it can be nigh impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff.
The onus to sort through the slush of bad indie books to find the good is now on the public to find the jewels buried beneath the trash: those hordes of free reviewers who get a kick searching for hidden gems, those book bloggers who love the thrill of a literary treasure hunt, and those publishers looking to find the next Andy Weir.
If you start reading enough self published fantasy, you'll see why not everyone who has a novel in them should share that novel with the public. There’s a lot of trash to be found indeed: unedited dreck, clunky dialogue, and horrific plots abound. For every hidden jewel, you'll have to dig through a lot of dirt.
And this is the problem with the self publishing landscape – the quality is so variable and the quantity so vast. It is very hard to sort out the jewels from the trash. But yes, if you dig down enough, you can find those books that make the hard hunt worth the effort.
So Why Read Indie Fantasy
Because you never know what you might find hidden in the heap. You could discover the next great book before anyone else. The thrill of the hunt can sometimes be just as pleasurable as finding what you seek.
And you may find a wide variety of eclectic fiction that you'd never ever see published the traditional way -- exotic stories and setting that are bursting with creativity and imagination -- books that NEED to be read.
And finally, a financial decision -- because you can read books for cheap or even FREE. Indie fantasy also tends to be incredibly cheap – you can find some of the books given away for FREE, while others may be .99 or 1.99. Indie fantasy tends to be under a couple bucks – at least half the cost of traditionally published authors, and sometimes a third or even less.
Our Guide to Self Published Fantasy
And so finally, this is where our new list comes in: The Top 25 Best Indie Fantasy Books.
We give our best efforts at pointing you to some of the better independent fantasy on the kindle marketplace – stuff that stands out, the wheat among the chaff.
We’ve looked at hundreds and hundreds of self pub fantasy to bring you what we feel is the best out there. Compiling this list was rather difficult. First finding the books to check out (the indie marketplace is like an ocean with the available books as numerous as fish -- and we are trying to find a specific kind of fish here...) was a challenge, then sorting the more stand out ones from the pack even harder. Then actually having to read the books, even more time consuming.
I found Mark Lawrence's (you know, author of The Broken Empire series) Great Self Published Fantasy Blog Off contest immensely helpful for helping to point me in the direction of some of the stand out picks. Other books came from my own readings and recommendations from other blogs / readers.
I fully acknowledge that this list is, by nature, limiting – there may well be a lot of excellent fantasy that is not included in this list. But such is the pitfalls of this list.
I don’t want to claim these are the best of the best, but I feel these do stand out about many, many of the rest of the self pub fantasy. So at the very least, use this list as a starting road map into the landscape of independently published fantasy.
I will be keeping this list updated from month to month to point out NEW recommendations -- so it's certainly not a final list.
You’ll find that many of these books are well known by some readers who keep their fingers on the pulse of indie fantasy, while other books may be relatively unknown. But just maybe, one of these authors may turn out to be the next Andy Weir, the next Anthony Ryan or Michael J Sullivan.
So if you are ready to explore the wild west of indie fantasy, follow our guide into the wild then start exploring – you’ll never know what undiscovered jewel you just might find.
Note, that we only list self published authors, not originally self published authors who are now published with the big traditional publishers after they found success. Authors, like Michael J Sullivan (Riyria series), David Dalglish (A Dance of Shadows series), Anthony Ryan (The Blood Song) and other such fantasy authors will not be listed here on this list because I don’t consider them strictly self-published anymore.
Also, note that some of these authors on the list will probably land publishing contracts at some point and may cease to be ‘self-published’. However, at the time of this list, they are self-pub authors or nearly so.
And For More Recommendations...
Don't be limited ONLY by my list here. It's my personal pick of best, but you WILL find a lot more if you go hunting. So use my list as a guide, but not the ONLY guide. You'll have to do some digging on your own as well!
Here are some MORE resources to help you find Indie fantasy.
Check our new 2017 list of the best LitRPG books -- one of the newest and most popular new SFF genres right now.
' Read the comment section on this list below. Readers will leave their own indie recommendations there.
' Look for indie fantasy recommendations over on the Reddit Fantasy forums: https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy
' Check out Mark Lawrence's awesome Great Self Published Fantasy Blog Off for a Top 10 sorted by review ratings: http://mark---lawrence.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/final-round-self-published-fantasy-blog.html