Hi, my name is Connie Almony and I am a creative problem solver. If you give me a problem that should be solved, I will shake inside until it is. That’s just how my brain works, and THAT’s why I created the Indie Christian Fiction Search site—Ickfuss (ICFS) to its friends. I saw a problem and I had to solve it.
The Problem …
What was the problem, you ask? Well, there were a few.
1) Avid readers needed to find loads of books that would feed their insatiable need and target their interests, all without breaking the bank.
2) Christian readers needed to find a greater breadth of story, not often available through traditionally published books, while being within a biblical framework.
3) Christian readers needed extra information—that which is often missing from online retailers—before making the decision to buy.
4) Readers needed a way to search through lots of material that is easy, non-cumbersome and directs them right to books that interest them through search criteria and scrolling mechanisms that allow the reader to sift quickly through blurb excerpts.
Why were these my problems to solve? Well, because I knew it could be done, and yet no one was doing it.
The Focus …
Why focus on indie fiction, you ask? … (Sigh) … My, but you’re an inquisitive group!
I haven’t always been an ardent supporter of indie fiction. I believe an author is well served when many eyes see her work before it is published. I also believe any product is best when it is formed by a group of people using their unique gifts (ie. The Body of Christ). So Indie always looked like someone who just didn’t want to play by the rules. (God often humbles me when I get too opinionated). I worried the work would suffer for it. But then the new era of indie publishing steam-rolled into being. A world of critique partners, beta readers, freelance editors and cover artists, Facebook writers’ groups, search engines and social media platforms. Not to mention the low cost (I mean, how much lower than $0 can you get) of uploading your ebook to an online retailer. All these factors increased the ability to create a better quality book with a smaller investment.
The game has changed, and so has the breadth and quality of fiction.
I didn’t mean to be an indie author myself. I sort of got conned into it by my critique partner, Mildred Colvin, and discovered there is a world of fiction out there that is feeding a need not met by the traditional houses. I have found a plethora of Christian fiction which has been deemed unsellable by publishers for a variety of reasons, be they time period (medieval), character choices (Viking, pirate, multi-cultural), settings (universities, cities, space) or subject matter (mistresses, drug addiction), and discovered worlds like the one in which I live, replete with sinners in need of a Savior. Additionally, I discovered that many of my favorite authors, when given the chance to write from their hearts instead of a marketing team’s idea of what “the public” wants, are EVEN BETTER when writing this way. Yes, you read that right—EVEN BETTER. And as an avid reader, indie fiction is a lot less traumatic to my credit card.
Quality of Writing or Marketing Guts?
So what’s not to like?
I’ll tell you what? Many are concerned that because indie authors have not been vetted by the process of acquiring an agent or catching the eye of an editor, their work is not as good. The truth is I STILL suggest authors go through this process and hone their craft, before making the jump. But there is a point where the author realizes it’s not the craft, but the perception of the general marketplace that is holding him back from publication. Yes, it is nice to have someone “important” like you, but just because that someone doesn’t like you, doesn’t mean the rest of the world must ignore you as well. Many novels are rejected because the theme of their work has not been tested in the marketplace. However, in these tough times of the publishing industry it is likely nothing new will be tested until someone has the guts to do so. Therefore, lots of extraordinary ideas fall by the wayside.
Not with indie!
With indie publishing the READER is the gatekeeper, not the executive, nor the marketing team—honest-to-goodness readers who have a love for the written word, and a great story, just like you do. Independent authors often offer early books cheap (and even free) so YOU, the reader, can get a sense of who they are and what they write. Then YOU can decide whether or not you want to continue reading them.
It’s just a matter of finding this new breed of author.
Sifting Through the Muck …
But there is another problem. Traditional Christian publishing didn’t just vet for quality, it also vetted for biblical content. If you’ve ever gone “church shopping” in a very secular area (as I have) and you’ve seen the variety of agenda’s that come from groups that label themselves “Christian,” you will know not all people wearing that moniker promote the same sort of faith. In fact, in one of our independent author Facebook discussions, one of our members found a “Christian” group writing very decadent—and painful—forms of erotica. In these gate-keeper-less times, someone needs to step up and help us wade through the muck. Indie Christian Fiction Search (ICFS) is designed, asking the author to ensure a level of standard outlined in its Statement of Faith and Content guidelines, while informing the reader so he or she can make a decision as to whether or not the book is right for them. I also hope readers will return to ICFS to comment on books they found either exceptionally inspiring or not quite their cup of tea—respectfully, of course. Again, the reader is King here!
Finding the Right Books for You…
So now readers will have access to information on a larger breadth of biblically-centered fiction in one place. The next trick is how to search through all the titles to find the one for you.
This is the fun part!
I had a vision from God. Or at least, my mind kept playing images of an old template I’d used for my blog and the many “views” it allowed that would make a quick search of a large amount of material very easy. So I decided to try it out by posting a bunch of friends’ books to the site. I’d been pondering how to do this because, frankly, I find most book retailer sites cumbersome and less fine-tuned to my needs, requiring lots of clicks into things I eventually have no use for. The largest online book retailer comes close, but does not allow for a page full of blurbs under search criteria ready to be scanned. It only gives a page of book titles, cover art and price. With Indie Christian Fiction Search (ICFS), you can plug in search criteria and watch the cover art float across the page.
Then you can change the “view” of the site and scroll through book blurbs selected by genre or search criteria and pick through the ones that look good to you. There are a number of ways to do this. It’s just a matter of finding the one view that works best for you.
So if you are an independent Christian fiction author and would like to have your novel listed on Indie Christian Fiction Search (ICFS), please enter the site, read through the Statement of Faith and Author Guidelines, and if it’s a good fit—submit. Please review the guidelines each time, as they may change. I will be adjusting things to streamline the site’s functionality.
If you are a READER, looking for something reasonably priced and potentially unique, please check out the “How to Use This Site” page and see how much fun a book search can be.
Try out all the views and feel free to tell me what works best for you. Indie Christian Fiction Search (ICFS) will be growing vastly over the next few months so make sure you drop by again. There is also a newsletter you can sign up for that will include links to new titles, and hot-picks, keeping you regularly informed of the latest in indie Christian fiction. I promise, it will not be sent out more often than quarterly. And don’t forget to come back and let us know what you think about the books you read. Remember, YOU are the gatekeeper. YOU have the power. Use it wisely ;o).
Sign up for the newsletter NOW and be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card. The winner will be announced on November 1, 2014.
Connie Almony is trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. Her newest release, At the Edge of a Dark Forest, is a modern-day re-telling of Beauty and the Beast about a war-vet, amputee struggling with PTSD.
You can find Connie on the web at ConnieAlmony.com, writing book reviews for Jesus Freak Hideout, and hosting the following blogs: InfiniteCharacters.com, IndieChristianFictionSearch.Blogspot.com, and LivingtheBodyofChrist.Blogspot.com.
You can also meet her on the following social media outlets: