“Best Indie Authors of SFF”

This was a panel at Archon, as you may recall. I would not do a panel like this again, personally. I’d add something to it. “Great self-published SFF authors and how you can discover them.” Or maybe “Favorite self-published SFF authors and what they do best.” Or “Successful self-published SFF authors and their strategies,” which of course puts an entirely different emphasis on the topic.

Nevertheless, this was a panel about the best self-published SFF authors. Of course I get all my recommendations through you all here, which is extremely handy. But considering that there are nigh unto infinite SFF authors tossing books into the vast ocean of self-publishing these days, wow, wading into that ocean, where do you even start?

Thus, I’ve collected some of the authors and titles mentioned in that panel. This is by no means a complete list because I’m not that great at taking notes and I’m specifically terrible at spelling by ear. If someone starts to spell a name, I’m probably going to write it down wrong, and if I can’t figure out who that is, well, sorry, that’s how it goes. But Jan Gephardt, also on that panel, kindly sent me her full list, which is a great help. I’d be particularly curious to know if any of you have heard of any of the new-to-me names.

Now, I’m going to start by mentioning a couple of names we will all recognize:

1) Andrea K Höst. Of course.

Hands down my favorite self-published-only author. It’s not even close. No doubt you all knew that already, what with Andrea K Host Week here a few years ago. Huh, maybe more than a few years. Wow, how time flies. If you weren’t here for AKH week, click through and read the posts. And recall that AKH is also writing, contemporary romance, more or less … under the name … what is it again … oh, right: Karan K Anders. She’s working on the sequel to that one now and I personally really hope it comes out this year. I wish she would just quit whatever else she’s got going on in her life, become a hermit, and write a lot of books really fast. Oddly, my favorite authors seldom seem inclined to do that. For anyone new to AKH, I have to suggest The Touchstone Trilogy. I don’t think it’s her best — that may be The Pyramids of London for fantasy and of course And All The Stars for SF. But Touchstone is the one I’ve read a million times and listened to twice.

2) Nathan Lowell. I think he’s an obvious choice. He’s been writing for a while, his books were good to start with, and some of his later ones are truly excellent and lots of fun, especially The Wizard’s Butler if you happen to want a low-stress fantasy novel. And these years, who doesn’t? Here’s my review.

3) Lindsay Buroker. Another obvious choice. She’s been around for a while, she’s still going, and she’s good. Her plotting is not always entirely believable, but her dialogue is snappy and delightful. I found her via The Emperor’s Edge series, which I have read several times. Here’s my initial review of the first book.

Everyone at the panel, I think, had heard of Nathan Lowell and Lindsay Buroker. After that, I don’t think we had any names where we overlapped. I’ll do mine first, then Jan’s, then one or two that came from someone else.

4) Victoria Goddard, for The Hands of the Emperor. I mean, obviously. I have not been as delighted by her other books. I am waiting with great anticipation for the actual direct sequel.

5) Alice Degan / AJ Demas, also obviously. From All False Doctrine was published under the first of those names, and as you may recall, this and Goddard’s book were my two favorite novels that I read that year. Here’s my review of From All False Doctrine. Under the name AJ Demas, she’s writing those delightful historicals set in an alternate Greece, such as One Night in Boukos. Here’s my review of that one.

6) JM Ney-Grimm, who as you may know, I’m just starting to read, but I’ve liked the one and a quarter books of hers that I’ve read so far. The one is of course The Tally Master, and here is my review of that one.

7) Alma Boykin, whom one of you mentioned for this topic and who I now want to try on the strength of your description. “Sort of rerunning the late medieval history of Central Europe” and so on, which sounded interesting. Here’s one: Merchant and Magic.

Tycho Rhonarida Galnaar trades hides—hides tanned, hides untanned, with and without fleeces, nothing risky. He prefers steady, low-key trade, a quiet home life, and reliable business partners. … [But] Tycho’s secret—his absolute inability to work or even see magic in a world that depends on it—may be the key to solving a mystery, and saving a city. I haven’t read it, but reviews look good.

8) MCA Hogarth, who I hadn’t realized was self-publishing, but turns out she is! I liked her Mindtouch series quite a bit. A nice, quiet series.

9) Sabrina Chase, with The Last Mage Guardian and the space opera Sequoyah trilogy Here’s my review of the latter.

10) Mikki Samak / Michaela Ro — writing Light in Dark Places under the first name and The Magpie Chronicles under the second. I haven’t read anything by her, but since someone here suggested her, I’m certainly interested. Let’s pause and take a look at each:

Joan Kaas wakes up seven years after Misery took her. No one can explain why. No one has ever woken up from Misery before. She learns that while she slept, her older sister Seung-ri overthrew a corrupt regime and is now a King, possessing a rare Prodigy-Class Ash talent, all to protect Joan while she slept. Joan doesn’t know why she woke up, why she knows things she never learned before Misery took her, what her Ash talent is, or whether or not she’s her sister’s happy ending or her sister’s tragedy. But she knows Seung-ri has a lot of enemies.

The Red Dragon has been betrayed. Akaryu Masaomi is rightfully one of six rulers of the celestial world’s elaborate and repressive administration, and has taken his powers and privileges for granted all his life, but he has been framed for treason, stripped of his lands, and thrown in prison. Now, trapped in human form and without allies, all he can do is wait for his execution in the most secure prison in the land of Tenou.

Oh, look, a prison break! You know, I’ve always liked that particular trope.

11) Ankaret Wells, whom I also haven’t read anything by. One of you mentioned The Maker’s Mask. Here’s a snippet of description:

Tzenni Boccamera wasn’t a soldier or a diplomat. She was an engineer. But when Tzenni’s sister Catha was captured by soldiers from a rival Spire, there was no one else to go to Catha’s rescue. Tzenni didn’t expect the rescue to involve a sarcastic bodyguard, a plot to bring down the Spire, or an alien species. And she certainly hadn’t meant to fall in love…

I’ll be darned, look at that, that’s another trope I particularly like! Bodyguards! Okay, is Tzenni REALLY an engineer? Does that impact the story? Does she have engineering knowledge she puts to use? Because if so, I’m particularly likely to pick this one up.

12) Skyla Dawn Cameron, another author I don’t know. Looks like she has several series out. I’ll pick one at random … okay: Solomon’s Seal. Here’s part of the description:

Just as her daughter’s private school tuition cheque bounces, Livi gets an offer that could be the break she needs to return to some semblance of her former life. A powerful man wants her to travel to Ethiopia and retrieve the Seal of Solomon—a mythical ring said to control demons and djinn—and this bounty comes with one hell of a financial pay off. … The deadline: a week. The team: unreliable. The competition: her world-renowned archaeologist older brother. Nothing Livi can’t handle… Except the danger goes beyond a few subterranean serpent-dragons she might encounter or tangling with her employer’s deadly second-in-command. This client isn’t all he seems, and handing him the ring might be worse than what he’ll do to her—and her daughter—if she doesn’t.

This does sound promising!

That’s twelve, which is a nice round number, but I have one more I should have thought of much earlier:

13) Gillian Bradshaw, who of course is well known for traditionally published historicals, but her self-published fantasy that starts with Magic’s Poison is really good and also SUPER INTERESTING because of how she divided the protagonist / pov roles. Here’s my review of this series.

Okay! That’s from my list. Now I’m moving to Jan Gephardt’s list:

14) Jennifer Foehner Wells, with her Confluence Series that begins with Fluency

Here’s part of the description:

Dr. Jane Holloway is content documenting nearly-extinct languages and had never contemplated becoming an astronaut. But when NASA recruits her to join a team of military scientists for an expedition to the Target, it’s an adventure she can’t refuse.

The target is a drifting, derelict alien ship that, whoops!, is not as derelict as all that.

15) M. D. Cooper, who also writes space opera, it seems — here’s the first book of her Aeon 14 trilogy.

I’m done with Sol. The system is rotting, and I want out. The Terran Space Force has tried to hold onto me, but even they can’t deny the people behind the largest colony ship ever made. The GSS Intrepid can house millions of colonists, and its leaders have selected me as one of them. I finally have a way out of Sol. Except…there’s a catch.

16) AK DuBoff, who once again writes space opera! I’m sensing a theme to these recommendations. That’s great, as mine were very fantasy-heavy. This list expands recommendations to more thoroughly cover SF as well as F. Here’s the first book of her Taran Empire series, Empire Reborn.

With the future of the Empire hanging in the balance, Jason must find a way to unite the Taran worlds, including the lost colony of Earth, against the mounting threat. There’s just one problem: how do you fight an enemy you can’t see or touch?

17) Cheree Alsop, with — yes — another space opera: her Girl from the Stars series.

Life had never been easy for Liora Day – a half-human, half “mess-with-her-and-you’ll-die” Damaclan. She had been thrown onto a rough path at a very early age, and she didn’t get along with others. That all changes when she is broken out of a cage by Devren, a young captain of the SS Kratos. He shows her that not all humans are heartless.

And Jan notes that all those authors and titles are discussed more extensively at her blog post on Indie Women of SFF, which you can read here. I’ve pulled some description from that post, but click through to read the whole thing.

One more, and this time I don’t recall who mentioned this name:

18) Celia Lake, who’s written, looks like historical fantasy, the Charms of Albion duology.

Alysoun wants more than duty. Born into the aristocratic circles of Albion’s upper class, Alysoun has done everything expected of her. She has married well, produced two healthy children, and handled her social obligations with grace. It’s not enough. Her husband is kind but distant, and she lives with ongoing mysterious pain. Worst of all, she is frankly bored. When Alysoun spots something odd in a stained glass exhibition at the museum, she seizes the opportunity. Perhaps it will finally give them something to talk about.

Richard lives for honour. As a captain of Albion’s Guard, he spends his days solving problems. As Lord of the land, he makes sure his estates in England are thriving. It leaves little time for anything else, even his wife or children. He’s sure they understand. He was brought up the same way.

That’s eighteen! Whew! I’m sure I could come up with another eighteen, but on the other hand, I’m sure a lot of you could too! So

19) Your Choice Here

20) Your Other Choice Here

Who are a couple more self-published authors you’d like to add to this list?

Please Feel Free to Share:


27 thoughts on ““Best Indie Authors of SFF””

  1. Kathryn McConaughy

    W R Gingell, for her City Between series! She does everything that I like in urban fantasy while avoiding almost everything that I dislike about urban fantasy. Perhaps my favorite wrinkle is the character who refuses to speak anything but Korean – a language that the protagonist does not understand.

  2. Another self-published author that I have really enjoyed in the plague-times is Honor Raconteur. (I can’t believe that is her real name.) She started out as self-published and eventually created her own publishing house, so I think she still counts. She has a number of related and unrelated fantasy series starting with Advent Mage, and then an oddball series of the Case Files of Henri Davenforth (parallel-universe steam-punk police procedurals with talking cats.)

  3. I’m not actually sure if I know who is self published and who is not. However, I am guessing that many of the authors on kindle unlimited are self published. One of them who I like a great deal is Vanessa Nelson. Her Ascension series is terrific, great characters, family dynamics and plot development. I also like Jenny Schwartz’s Adventures of a Xeno biologist, a combination of space opera and politics with some romance. Lastly, I liked Meg Pechenick’s series about a linguist being the first to travel with aliens, and all the things that befall her. The alien she falls for is uber-competent, but she does suffer a little, not sure it’s for everyone .

  4. I very much enjoyed Ankharet Wells’ Makers Mask. And Tzenni does do engineering stuff! But a fun fantasy/SF style. Lots of fun twisty politics in an interesting world; with engaging characters to follow (the bodyguard is very fun).

  5. I’d not registered that Victoria Goddard was indie. And really need to finish Hands. I stalled out due to life and got lost when I picked it up again. Need some quiet time to get a running start back in.

    Beth Brower is indie and someone else besides me has recommended her Emma series here. They’re quietly excellent reads.

    The Teen likes Alydia Rackham’s work, which when I tried it was just off enough on language to not be enjoyable, but she clearly works for some readers.

    I was the one who brought up Boykin. The one you picked at random is one of the post ice age, Hansa-equivalent series. Series in the way of same setting, different characters, different time periods. The most recent one was also set earliest as the ice is still retreating (Noble, Priest and Empire). The drop central European history onto an SF planet series is the planetary Colplatschki (for Colonial Plantation XI) tales, which I find uneven. The first chronologically, if not the first written is pretty good, though Fountains of Mercy . Carrington Event wrecks electrical installations on the colony. Colonists work on survival. Engineering and farming types do better than bureaucrats who don’t realize the rules have changed. Events here lay the foundation for the Empire seen in later set installments, wherein the emperors, descended from civil engineer founders still personally (sometimes) maintain the city water/sewers and such like. ( I think that came up in the Circuits & Crises .)

    I can’t tell if Jo Graham is indie, or not. If not, she’s certainly small press. Her Sounding Dark was good, and also could fit the next request for an SFF story that takes religious belief seriously.

  6. I like the Amaranthine series by Forthwrite. It’s a fantasy series set in a contemporary-ish setting, and most of the plot conflicts have more to do with interpersonal issues and clash of culture sort of stuff, rather than actual antagonists. They’re relaxing reads, and I always know nothing too bad is going to happen.

  7. Goddard, Höst of course.

    I thought this series by Amanda Creiglow was smart, original, moving: https://www.amazon.com/Grimoire-Gamblers-Trove-Arbitrations-Book-ebook/dp/B0924PNVQP. More than that every word is the right word (well, I disliked the 1p present).

    Not aiming at perfection and way off the beaten track but I keep going back to The Phantom Badgers books by RW Krpoun: https://www.amazon.com/The-Phantom-Badgers-5-book-series/dp/B074C5TNXH. He’s a former MP and police officer and like Höst takes a lot of inspiration from gaming.

  8. Honor Raconteur (I agree about the name) and Forthwrite are both authors who used to appear in the also-boughts for many of my books when that was a thing at Amazon, so I think I have something of each of theirs on my (massive) TBR pile.

    I forgot Beth Brower was self-published! I’ve got two of hers because of that recommendation here, but (of course) I haven’t read them yet.

    Thanks, Meera, I’ve picked up The Maker’s Mask. I’ll be checking out everyone else’s suggestions but engineer + sarcastic bodyguard hits several of my buttons, so that one for sure.

  9. Kim M. Watt – she does a cozy mystery-fantasy series callex Beaufort Scales with dragons. Book one ( of Seven) is called Baking Bad. Here’s part of the official description: Beaufort Scales, High Lord of the Cloverly dragons … knows … that the modern dragon survives only as long as no one knows they exist. But he also knows friends don’t let friends face murder inquiries alone. It’s a low key soothing and sweet series, full of “copious quantities of cake and tea.” I read the first book and immediately bought the next six.

    Jana DeLeon has several series including the Miss Fortune series about a forcibly outed CIA assassin hiding in a small town in Louisiana who forms a posse with several senior citizens and solves murders. It’s pretty witty.

    I recommend both authors!

  10. Actually, I forgot you were looking for SFF works. So instead I should have mentioned Jana DeLeon’s other mystery series that starts with Trouble in Mudbug, because that’s the Ghost-in-Law series with the fantasy element. It’s pretty funny too.

  11. I don’t think anyone has mentioned J. Kathleen Cheney. I really like her Palace of Dreams and The Horn series. Even amidst some drama including murder attempts, you know the characters you care about will come out ok. I found the background setting very interesting, with one culture existing mainly underneath (literally) another and neat buried ancient technology. Maintained, of course, by engineers!

    Writing as Anna St. Vincent, she has two (so far) Mary Quirk books. I read the first not long after Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education and thought they were nicely complementary, both being magic boarding school stories. I had a similar feeling of cozy satisfaction from both, but Mary Quirk really is cozy and most people probably wouldn’t describe A Deadly Education that way!

  12. Rachel, that’s probably how I came across those authors – the almighty algorithms and all that.

  13. Huh. I haven’t heard of most of the people on this list, so thank you for hours of reading to come. But first? My great-grandmother’s (married) name was Alma Boyken-with-an-e, but I think I’ll have to put Alma Boykin at the top of my to-read list because … what a coincidence! Thanks!

  14. Okay, my TBR list is now spilling over like an over-yeasted, over-risen pan of dough. Several of my online friends have recommended Celia Lake’s books. I have a couple of them on my Nook app but haven’t read them. They are billed as kind and gentle historical fantasy, which appeals.

  15. I second J. Kathleen Cheney. Her Golden City series is also good.

    Annette Marie’s Guild Codex series, four intertwined series actually, are quite good. I would call them new adult Urban Fantasy.

    But often I don’t really know who’s self-published, who’s not or who’s hybrid these days.

  16. Jeanine, I really like the idea of the CIA assassin in the small town. That’s an unusual idea for a cozy mystery series. I’m checking that one out…

  17. –Rachel, I’ve had two Boykin Spaniels! Katy and Chappy. They’re the best–I don’t care that the name is spelled with an I instead of an E. Totally worth it. I’m currently dog-less, but would get another Boykin in a heartbeat. (And, honestly, I’m just excited that you’ve heard of them, there are so many people who have not.)

  18. Ha, that’s great! You’re actually the THIRD person I know who’s had a Boykin. One of my reproductive vets has one, and someone who got a dog from me used to have one and was sizing down.

    I just like knowing all the breeds. I used to read breed books like novels, cover to cover.

  19. Everyone ought to! Especially before getting a puppy that turns out, oops! to be entirely wrong for them.

  20. Thank you for this list! I am bookmarking this page and will return to it often. I have yet to be led astray by any recommendation from you or your commenters.

    Speaking of engineers, is this the blog where I heard about a book (possibly a series?) with a medieval engineer protagonist, and the title was something like How to Build a Siege Engine (but not that). Ugh: i can picture the cover, it was yellowish, I think. Don’t know if it was an indie author or not, but I remember thinking I’d like to read it and now can’t remember author or title. Help?!

    (And speaking of Victoria Goddard, I, too, was disappointed in The Return of Fitzroy Angursell, but then I read the recently published The Redoubtable Pali Avramapul, and it was awesome, and completely changed the way I saw Return, which I have since re-read and liked much better.)

  21. I agree with Kim! I have read some of the recommended books since this post came out and particularly enjoyed the Alma Boykin books. The best recommendations come from this blog- I would never have found Victoria Goddard or Beth Brower without it. Vanessa Nelson’s last book in her Ageless Mysteries series, Ascension Day, comes out tomorrow.

  22. @Kim, from your description of the book about the engineer, it sounds like it might be one of the three books by Carla Kelly that starts with The unlikely master genius, about the former workhouse boy who becomes a master seaman and then teaches math at a navy school in the regency period in England.

    I’ve read the first two Tamora Pierce books of the Beca Cooper trilogy, as it looked interesting enough on the post here last week, and was so upset about the second that I’m not sure I will ever read the third even though I bought the trilogy.
    The way that the good guys, the police called “dogs”, and the good magistrates and all of them consider it entirely routine that any suspect that gets picked up and taken to the police station gets seriously tortured (including waterboarding) really upset me.
    Some callousness in such a supposedly medieval fantasy setting is to be expected, and some harsher penalties after conviction too, and the bad guys going in for doing bad things is usual in such stories. But any lockup jailers routinely torturing those that are ‘in the cages’ (temporary jail at the police station) waiting to see the magistrate is a big jump too far for me. The magistrate only hears cases once a week – not unreasonable for the setting unless you add indiscriminate torture unless good treatment is bought for you by your family or friends, for that means that anyone picked up the day after runs a real risk of being tortured for days into confessing all sorts of other things, maybe incriminating innocent others and starting wild witchhunts, or dying or becoming crippled. It’s bad enough if that is an evil aberration, but then I can tolerate it (sometimes) if the evil gets routed; but that is not how it gets portrayed in book 2. If that is what the police and supposedly good magistrates are party to, institutionally, I do not want to read about such a world.

    I’ve never liked torture scenes in books, and they seem to have gotten a lot more common in the last decade or so. Torture should not be normalised this way. With the Russian invaders presently torturing captured Ukrainians in any village or town they occupy, that imagery is too present already, and hits too close to the bone for me.

    Sorry for the rant, but this is something I would have liked a warning about.

  23. Sorry, Hanneke, I didn’t remember that element of the worldbuilding. It’s been a while since I read them and the books impressed me in other ways, so I know I mention them from time to time.

  24. You’re way ahead of me, Alison. I guess I better pick up one of the Boykin books now so I’ll try it eventually …

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