Indie Books That Fooled Me Into Thinking They Were Traditionally Published

indie books published big 5 book list

Indie and self-published books often get a bad rap for being inferior to traditionally published books. I’ve been reading them for over a decade and have certainly run into my fair share of poorly written and edited indie and self-published books. But there have also been some absolute gems, some of which have fooled me into thinking they had been traditionally published (which sometimes are not better than some indie and self-published books) by one of the Big 5 publishers. As an avid reader of indie and self-published books, I’m very happy with having had to do double takes at the name of the publisher.

So what are these amazing indie and self-published books? I’m glad you asked!


The Memory Keeper by Jenny Hale

The Memory Keeper by Jenny Hale

Reading this book was like reading perfection. The writing is beautiful and tight. The world building is gorgeous and took me straight to Tennessee even though I’ve never been. The characters are real and flawed and have just the most perfect and real interactions ever. The romance was perfect and mature and I just fell in love with the couple. This book very much felt like perfection on a plate that I had to quadruple check to make sure it hadn’t been published by one of the Big 5!

And while we’re at it…Butterfly Sisters by Jenny Hale

butterfly sister jenny hale

This was just published a couple of months ago, and it does not disappoint. It’s just as gorgeous as The Memory Keeper in every way. Not only is there the most beautiful romance, but it’s also an incredible women’s fiction novel that perfectly captures two sisters and their thorny relationship. There’s so much goodness layered into this one, and a dog I just want to throw my arms around and never let go of (I am not a dog person). To say I could gush on about how amazing Hale’s novels are would be quite an understatement! I’m constantly surprised they’re not published by one of the big publishers.

Quaking Soul by Jennifer M. Zeiger

Quaking Soul by Jennifer M. Zeiger, a YA fantasy

In full disclosure, I’ve been following Jennifer’s blog for several years, so I might be biased, but I don’t think so. Quaking Soul is her first full-length novel and it absolutely does not disappoint. It perfectly appeals to a wide audience and balances so much so well. The prose is absolutely gorgeous and so incredibly rich, and the world building is so meticulous without being overwhelming that I actually thought I was living in a forest several times. The character development unfolds so naturally and the relationships between all of them felt so real. While I fully knew Jennifer self-published Quaking Soul, I still had to check a couple of times to make sure.

For the Love of Alison by Sahlan Diver

This was an incredible, twisty ride I couldn’t believe was self-published. When I checked for the publisher, I could hardly believe my eyes. The story is so clear and logical and so perfectly twisty and turny. I loved how it kept me guessing, and the details of how the main character traveled around was so detailed without getting bogged down. This was a huge pleasure to read with fantastic characters and an atmosphere that’s just so hard to come by.

Terra Haven Chronicles by Rebecca Chastain

This trilogy is fast-paced and action packed, but the magic, mystery, and romance are so perfectly balanced. The writing is tight and flawless, and I just couldn’t believe it hadn’t been published by one of the Big 5. The main character is so flawed, but I loved her growth over the trilogy and the ending was just sheer perfection. This trilogy is so well-written and truly came to life around me. I really loved how the overarching story bloomed over the three books, making it feel both episodic and continuous, and I’m really sad the series is over.

The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren

Book Review: The Dragon's Banker by Scott Warren

This is a really fun and funny slice of life style fantasy novel. It features things like business, economy, and commerce, which often went over my head, but it was exceptionally well-done. The story was clear and logical, the characters were amusing, and the world was fascinating. I did feel bad for the main character quite a bit as nothing seemed to go according to plan, but the writing really felt nearly flawless to me and I couldn’t believe it had been self-published.

The Worst Lie by Shauna Bickley

Book Review: The Worst Lie (A Lexie Wyatt Mystery, Book 2) by Shauna Bickley - a suspenseful mystery that takes place in the UK

This is the second book in the series, but the first one is just as good. I’m mentioning this one in particular, though, because it was my favorite of the two and just a bit better than the first, which isn’t saying a lot since both were practically flawless. This is a cozy mystery series set in a small town in the UK, and it absolutely delivers on everything it promises, and then some. It was an exceptional read and, for a while, I refused to believe I was seeing it was self-published. I fruitlessly went searching for the name of the publisher, but this is pure self-published gold

The Angel of Bishopsgate by Eloise Reuben

The Angel of Bishopsgate, an historical fiction novel set in London and Dublin by Eloise Reuben

How is this self-published?! I don’t read much historical fiction as it’s just not my thing, but I was utterly fascinated and enchanted by this novel. Everything about it was incredible, and I still think of it a couple of years later. I checked several times while reading and writing the review for a publisher name, but, no, it’s definitely self-published, but good enough to be in the ranks of traditionally published books.

Someone Else’s Life by Kevin J. Simington

The thriller Someone Else's Life by Kevin J. Simington

Oh, this one was so much fun and so well-written. The mystery was incredible and the main character just an absolute joy to read. His humor was definitely a lot of fun. I’ve read another book by this author, but have to say I prefer this one more even though the other is a science fiction one that still rattles around in my head. This one was just really well-written and yet another one I spent too much time trying to find the publisher of.

Esperanza by Tommy Tutalo

Book Review: Esperanza by Tommy Tutalo - a fictional novel about illegal immigration and drug cartels

This book is just so good. It follows the lives of a mother and daughter, Gabriela and Sarita, with an incredibly realistic lens. At times, it was hard to read, but, at other times, just really struck a chord in my heart. This very much felt like a powerful story to me, especially since I probably call people like Gabriela and Sarita neighbors. It’s hard hitting, but also soft and emotional, and truly a beautiful thing to read. To me, this is an absolute self-published gem that shouldn’t be missed.

Kiss of Salt by Smita Bhattacharya

Kiss of Salt by Smita Bhattacharya

This is the first in a cozy mystery series set in exotic locations. It follows the adventures and misadventures of a young Indian woman, Darya Nandkarni, who stumbles into mysteries and, no matter how hard she tries, ends up having to solve a case. This one takes her to Goa, India, which sounds like an incredible and fun place to visit. I’ve only read the first two books so far, but I adore how atmospheric the books are and how reminiscent they are of Agatha Christie’s novels. These books are so incredible and impeccably written I still can’t believe they weren’t published by one of the Big 5.


What indie books have fooled you?

Pin this! (mostly a reminder to myself, but also an invitation to you!)

indie books traditional published

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8 thoughts on “Indie Books That Fooled Me Into Thinking They Were Traditionally Published

  1. Actually, lately, I’ve been shocked by what trad publishing is putting out so I’m not surprised when a book is indie published, as I don’t see indie books as inferior to traditional publishing in this current publishing environment. There is some serious crap out there being “traditionally published”… Virgin River anyone? I can’t even finish the first chapter. And books that are hailed as “NYTimes best sellers?” Well….the NYTimes hasn’t done much in the last few years to help their reputation so that just looks like a popularity contest and who can pay off who to get on the list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. P.S. I mean I don’t see “some indie books as inferior” because, yeah, there are some real stinkers out there! lol! But there are some real piles of garbage in traditional publishing right now so I don’t even listen when they say indie authors are pulling down their quality. Uh..no…you did that to yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, so true! I read some of those traditionally published books and just can’t figure out how they got published, and it’s so satisfying seeing other book bloggers give low ratings for those books, too. I haven’t gotten much of a chance to read more indie books the last couple of months and I am seriously missing them.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I haven’t heard of Virgin River, but, yes, there are so many horrible traditionally published books out there. They have me thinking my messy first drafts could be in the running to be bestsellers. Part of me thinks publishers have just started giving up, or are just getting careless in their attention to the books they’re publishing. Or maybe more really good authors are just preferring indie publishing. I still see the occasional book blogger who seems to exclusively review traditionally published books, but I hope the tide is turning in favor of all those wonderful indie books.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to agree with Lisa. While I haven’t read Virgin River, there have been a lot of books out there, traditionally published, that I’ve abandoned mid-read despite being hailed as a “bestseller”. The Big Five (or are we at four by now–they seem to gobble each other up often) are very concerned with sales figures and it requires them to push authors who have guaranteed followers and tried-and-true stories which will assure the sales figures stay high. Personally, I love an overlooked book that I feel I alone know about (as a writer I would prefer for everyone to find my books, so I recognize the dichotomy) and then slowly discover other people love it too. I think indie books give me that chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eventually we’ll be down to One Big Publisher and we’ll probably be subjected to more terrible books. Debuts tend to be much better because they have something to prove, but the authors with the followings just make me wonder if they’ve given up on their own writing. And yet there are so many authors and readers who seem to hold traditionally published books as some kind of gold standard. I love discovering those little known indie books and then getting to scream about them on my blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This post made my day, Kat! I know how much you read. You’ve seen a lot of books, good and bad, and to make this list just makes my heart glad!

    And I definitely need to check out the other books you mentioned here! I know you’ve posted about the Terra Haven books a number of times and I keep meaning to check them out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so glad! Yours was one of the books that made me think of doing this post. I’ve been so impressed with some indie books the past couple of years, and I hope to keep adding to this list. I love it when I have no idea who the publisher is!

      Liked by 1 person

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