2815306040_bb5605976c_z I’ll be blunt here and say that I used to have little faith in self-publishing and small press publishing. There seemed to be so many terribly edited self-pubbed books out there, and I also used to believe that a good writer could find herself a major publisher. I mean, it only made sense. How many bad (really bad) writers have I had the pleasure of reviewing over the years, all of them with larger publishers? Yet recent events have shaken my faith in that fact. Connie Brockway, a favorite among AAR readers, had considered self-publishing before serving as the launch author for Amazon’s Montlake division. It took Diana Miller six years to find a publisher (again Montlake) for her 2006 Golden Heart Award Winning manuscript Dangerous Affairs. I couldn’t help but emphasize the word winner in that sentence. It seemed so ridiculous that a winner for excellence in an unpublished manuscript would then be unable to find said manuscript a publisher.

I wonder, perhaps, if this doesn’t have something to do with the type of books disappearing from the market. Lynn discussed the narrowing historical romance market in her May blog. Numerous posts have been made on the Mystery and Suspense Books Discussion thread on the Let’s Talk Romance Novels forum message board regarding the lack of romantic suspense books. While the market seems flooded with paranormals and small town contemporary series, there seems to be a near drought in other sub-genres of romance.

To me this has resulted in good authors being forced to find new ways to reach readers. It has also resulted in a change in the way I read and purchase. I had always checked publisher when I bought on the internet. Years ago, I had been convinced the surest way of getting a high quality book was with sticking with a publishing house large enough to hire good editors. But with the shakeup in the industry resulting in fewer books I liked being published, my mind opened up. It began, oddly enough, with a sub-genre I typically don’t read- historical romance. Readers were so complimentary of Susanna Fraser’s The Sergeant’s Lady that I couldn’t help but purchase the inexpensive e-book and find out what all the fuss was about. The book was terrific – funny, poignant, heartfelt – it was exactly what I had found lacking in many of my other historical reads from the major print lines. I couldn’t believe that major print publishers hadn’t snapped this manuscript up. It didn’t quite force me to start combing the Amazon site for indie books but it certainly showed me that large publishers by no means have a monopoly on quality romance.

Then Melinda Leigh began to advertise on All About Romance. I was intrigued enough by the advertisement and the review Jane wrote of She Can Tell that I purchased several of her books. Some of them have worked better for me than others but I liked them enough that I began a glom of Montlake authors such as Kendra Elliot, who wrote Hidden and two other novels for her Bone Secrets series and the aforementioned Diana Miller’s Dangerous Affairs. It has also led me to Dangerous Waters by Toni Anderson. The opening pages of this novel, which involved finding a murder victim while on an underwater dive, had me on the edge of my seat. What sets this novel apart even more is that it involves a Canadian Mountie, a pleasant change from the usual FBI and American detectives that we normally encounter in romantic suspense.

While I have loved the luck I have had with Montlake, my biggest lucky surprise came from the self-published novel I read this weekend by author Lisa Clark O’Neill. Forbidden is the second book in her Southern Comfort series but you don’t have to read book one to thoroughly enjoy this novel. I fell instantly in love with the characters and mystery plot of this book. Special Agent Clay Copeland has always been devoted to his job. A psychologist who has put his learning to practical use as a behavioral specialist with the FBI’s Investigative Support Unit, he spends his days helping law enforcement agencies around the country deal with their most challenging cases. Clay isn’t just good at what he does, he loves it. While the details of his business may be dark and rather gruesome – not to add downright disturbing – he has always maintained a cheerful, rather sunny disposition. But when a stint as a hostage negotiator goes dreadfully wrong, Clay finds himself questioning his ability to do his job. Figuring a vacation to somewhere warm and sunny is just what he needs he joins his friend Justin in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. If beautiful beaches and bikini clad babes can’t cure his blues, nothing will.

Tate Hennessey is a hard working single mom hoping to give her son a fun afternoon at the beach. When a hot, built blonde offers to help her with putting sun tan lotion on her bare back she is enchanted with his persistent, funny pursuit. She is also not in a position to be anyone’s vacation fling and firmly sets the flirt back in his place. When the two encounter each other again, sparks fly hot and heavy between them. Should Tate see this second encounter as a second chance? Or should she brush it off as coincidence and proceed with her regularly scheduled life?

I loved nearly everything about this novel. The way the author has her characters think through their possible relationship in the same manner real life adults would be forced to do, the fact that the early chapters focused on the couple and only slowly added the mystery, and most especially the way the HEA didn’t come with ease but involved some sacrifice on both characters’ parts. Why, I couldn’t help wondering as I set my Kindle down, was this author not with a major publisher? In the end, for me as a reader it didn’t make a difference. I still got an excellent read and happily went back to Amazon to purchase the next book in the series. Maybe it will let me down. But at the price Amazon is charging it won’t be near the letdown some major publishers have dealt me in recent years.

It has been a surprise to me how publishing has changed in the last decade. Sometimes I find myself longing for the old days when it was easier to keep up with everything being released. And yet there are many great things about the industry right this minute, including the fact that books bucking the trend are easily obtainable when you use alternate reading methods such as self-published books or smaller, indie presses. How about you – have you found yourself trying smaller publishers and self-published books in recent years? Or are the big publishers still producing all you need?

– Maggie Boyd