I am pleased to welcome Geri Clouston to my blog today! Geri is the founder of indieBrag, an organization that brings together individual readers and members of book clubs located throughout the United States and in ten other countries around the globe. “Indie” refers to self-published books, while B.R.A.G. is an acronym for Book Readers Appreciation Group. Their mission is to discover talented self-published authors and help them give their work the attention and recognition it deserves. Sounds great to me!
Spotlight on Geri Clouston of indieBrag
Please tell us a bit about yourself and background.
As president and owner of indieBRAG, I came to the business world a bit later in life, which was probably for the best since I doubt I could have had the success I’ve had at indieBRAG in my younger years. My education and early career were as a registered nurse in Philadelphia, PA. I have lived in several cities in the United States and Canada and have travelled internationally a great deal. I have loved books my entire life, so to most people who know me, ending up with a “book” business was no surprise!
What is indieBRAG and the B.R.A.G. Medallion program?
My husband spent his career as a business executive but always found time to write novels–his real passion. After having experienced numerous rejections from traditional publishers, like many authors, we decided to self-publish his work. With the advent of self-publishing companies and Print-on-Demand technology it was possible for virtually anyone to publish a book. And the explosion of books being SP was deafening. Unfortunately, most of these books were of poor-quality and they gave SP a very bad name. We quickly saw that there was no independent source to advise potential readers which SP books merited the investment of their time and money.
That was the reason IndieBRAG and the Book Readers Appreciation Group was born. We are a quality standards certification service. We began with a couple of book clubs. We now have over 200 readers globally and have considered thousands of books. It is important for authors to know that they will rarely get a chance for a second great first impression. A bad book, editing, story, writing skill, will most likely get the kind of word of mouth they do not want? So, after working hard and spending the money to put out a quality book, how does an author let readers know that it’s worth their time and money? That’s where we come in.
How does indieBRAG help readers discover new books?
As our reputation has grown, so too has the number of books being submitted each week. As a result, we now have had to limit our open submission times to approximately every other quarter. After a book is nominated to us by its author, we send digital copies out to several readers who have chosen it from our library of submissions. Once our readers have finished the book, they fill out an online report card in order to provide constructive feedback to the author. If the book is of high quality, we award the B.R.A.G. Medallion, which the author can display on their book cover and anywhere the book is sold to tell the world that their book is one that our readers would recommend to their friends.
The authors are also invited to join our indieBRAG “Family” of authors. We have a private Facebook page for our authors only and we encourage all the authors to support each other by sharing news, information, and ask questions. IndieBRAG does promotion through our social media and our website.
It is important for indie authors to understand that they are not just competing with other self-published books but with all books. Most readers never check to see who or how a book is published. And, to that end, the B.R.A.G.Medallion has quickly become a recognized as a seal of quality.
Do you work with a core group of reviewers or can anyone become an IndieBRAG reviewer? How many books does a typical reviewer read per month (on average) and how do they decide which books receive a B.R.A.G. Medallion?
Our readers are made up of both professionals–editors, writers, academics –and ordinary people who love books. This latter group is very important to us because these are the people who will be looking for a book in a bookstore or online. These are the people who are the heart and soul of an author’s audience.
Our readers are hard-working and dedicated people and indieBRAG would not exist without them. Anyone can join our readers group by going to our website. To assure that readers are fair and competent, we track every book and every decision a reader provides. Importantly, our readers a kept anonymous from the author and other readers in order to allow them to give an honest decision without fear of pressure to make a decision. Authors cannot request specific readers. Every report card is read by our team to assure that comments are appropriate.
The number of books read per month varies widely: some of our most diligent readers read one or more books a week while others read only one a month. We don’t put any pressure other than to ask that they finish a book within four weeks.
The way they decide which book they recommend for a B.R.A.G. Medallion is to rate it across a proprietary list of ten attributes and then add qualitative comments if and where appropriate. This feedback is aggregated across all the readers who have considered a book and provided to all authors regardless of whether they are chosen to receive our Medallion.
How do authors go about submitting their work to indieBRAG?
It is simple: they go to our website and fill out the online submission form and pay our one-time fee of $75.00. That’s all there is to it.
How does indieBRAG support authors?
We support our authors by attending book conferences where we can let the literary world know about our medallion and encourage them to seek out books that have been honored. We do the same at book fairs and other book events. We also work with Written Word Media, book bloggers and reviewers. Written word is a book promotion site that gives medallion books to skip the evaluation step. We have 2 unique blooger partnerships:
Novel conversations features interviews with the main characters of B.R.A.G.Medallion Honoree books- a great way to learn about books.
Foodie Lit is another interesting way to support authors. Susan is a chef with a popular website. Susan does a book review and works with the author to come up with a recipe that fits with the books theme, era, location, etc. It reaches a whole new audience. People searching for recipes on her site are surprised and pleased to find books!
We hope we are a service to both authors and readers. All of our medallion books are on our website along with info on the author, video trailers and buy links. We also have social media pages- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest all listed under indieBRAG. We also have subscription to our book mailings that can be subscribed to on the website. We send out books suggestion that are appropriate to themes and time of year. We recently send out suggestions for Easter, Passover and Children’s Book Week. It is great to get these award-winning book suggestions right to your email!
What are your future plans for indieBRAG?
All the indieBRAG team work to find new ways to give quality books to readers and to tell the reading world about great books. We will continue to seek out partnerships we feel will help to do this, we are planning our travel schedule now for the rest of 2019 and have some ideas in the planning stage I think authors and readers will find worthwhile.
In conclusion, I hope both readers and authors will stop by and visit our website, sign up for our emails and support our social media sites by following us. Your support is greatly appreciated!
I hope this gives everyone a better idea of who we are and what we do. Thank you, Jennifer, for letting me “Brag” a bit about indieBRAG.
My pleasure, Geri! Thanks so much for sharing more about your fascinating life and indieBrag.