Meet Geri Clouston of IndieBRAG

Geri CloustonToday, I’m delighted to welcome Geraldine Clouston, founder and president of IndieBRAG, an organisation whose mission is “to recognize quality on the part of authors who self-publish both print and digital books.”

One fearsome, but in a way reassuring, statistic is that IndieBRAG rejects 90% of books that it considers. Not quite two years old, it already has an excellent reputation as a serious “Guardian at the Gate”. At the recent Self-Published Book Expo in New York, IndieBRAG presented an authoritative report on self-publishing and was the only panel out of 17 filmed by C-SPAN’s Book TV.

Welcome to Roma Nova, Geri.
Thank you so much for letting me tell you about my passion – indieBRAG!

Brag logoWhat is the background to you starting IndieBRAG?
Several years ago my husband and I attended the Self-Publishing Book Expo in New York City for the first time. We were, of course, not surprised to find many self-published authors at the Expo who were looking for help. However, we were surprised to discover that after these authors had published their books very few of them knew what to do next. We quickly realized that with the explosion of self-publishing, it is very hard for an indie author to get any attention for their book. And more to the point, given that much of what is self-published is not worth a reader’s time or money, it is a major challenge for a good self-published book to rise above the rest.

Tell us about your process for evaluating self-published work.
After a book is nominated through our website it is subjected to a rigorous selection process. This entails an initial screening to ensure that the author’s work meets certain minimum standards of quality and content. If it passes this preliminary assessment it is then read by members drawn from our reader group. We have over 150 readers in 11 countries who regularly read self-published books for us. They judge the merits of the book based on a comprehensive list of criteria, the most important of which is whether or not they would recommend it to their best friend. If a book meets our high standards, we award it our B.R.A.G. Medallion and present it on our website.

There are two important things to note about our process- First, we are not agents, literary experts, or publishers. We are simply ordinary people who are passionate about reading books; the same people who buy books. And second, we do not permit any contact between our readers and authors, or other readers. This gives the reader an opportunity to make a decision without any undue influence from anyone.

At the SPBE in New York, you gave a major presentation called “THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY” of self-published books. I understand this was based on surveys and interviews with your readers and BRAG Medallion authors. What were your main findings?
At SPBE, New YorkYes, in September we conducted surveys among both our readers and Medallion authors, the key findings of which were presented at the Expo. The results covered a broad range of topics, but perhaps the most significant finding was that while good editing won’t make a book successful, bad editing will almost certainly kill it. The adage that you rarely get a second chance for a first impression holds especially true in self-publishing!

We also found that over 70% of readers download a free sample of a book, or peruse it in a book store, before they buy it. Importantly, most will only read a few pages before they decide to buy it so it is critical to grab their attention right away. A significant finding from our authors was that over 80% use social media to promote their books, and most believe the degree to which this helps them is directly proportional to the effort they put into it.

More of our results can be found in my blog on our website.
(Read through all of Geri’s posts from the SPBE – well worth it!)

Should self-published books be priced at rock-bottom to encourage readers or would this give a false message?
Pricing has been a major topic of conversation lately in the self-publishing industry and we addressed this issue in our surveys. Again I would suggest that you check out our blog for more details. The most striking finding was that many authors are pricing their books too low. We learned that most readers are willing to pay at least $5.00 for an eBook and up to $15.00 for a trade paperback. Moreover, a price of $.99 often red flags a book as being self-published. Although this is becoming less of a negative, an author should want their book to be judged by the quality of the writing not how it was published, and such a low price may give the wrong impression. Also offering it a higher price gives an author greater flexibility in running reduced price promotions.

INCEPTIO with BRAG stickerWhat is the chief benefit of B.R.A.G. MedallionTM books for the reader?
The B.R.A.G.Medallion is quickly becoming recognized as a sign of quality in self-published books. It attests to the fact that a reader can be confident that a book bearing the B.R.A.G.Medallion will not be a waste of their time or money!

How do you think readers are going to find books in the future with more digital books and fewer physical bookshops? And with ever more books coming on the market each year?
I believe this speaks to how the B.R.A.G.Medallion best serves the reading audience. Instead of perusing the thousands of books online, a reader can go to our website, pick a genre and find a book other readers recommend highly. Or, when they are shopping elsewhere, such as at or, a reader who sees the B.R.A.G.Medallion will know that this is a book worthy of consideration.

And how will you be spreading the message about IndieBRAG in 2014?
We will continue to actively promote our B.R.A.G.Medallion books, as well as indieBRAG itself, on social media, and by attending book events and expos. We also encourage bloggers like you to continue to help us get the word out. We are optimistic that 2014 will be a big year for indieBRAG and we are currently working on several new and exciting ideas to help deserving self-published books rise to the top!

Thank you for being my guest today, Geri, and have a successful 2014

I’m very proud INCEPTIO is a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM honoree. You can find more excellent books on the IndieBRAG website.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is out early summer 2014.

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