While it was relatively rare twenty years ago, now self-published and independent authors make up a huge share of the publishing market. And romance readers have embraced indie authors more than any other genre. Indie authors are also wonderful to support because books are often cheaper and more of the money goes directly to the writer. Also, Indie authors are more like to be diverse because they don’t have to make it through the gatekeeping that has kept certain identities under-represented in mainstream publishing. But there are so many indie authors out there, sometimes it can be intimidating to know where to start if you are interested in exploring this type of book more.
There are thousands of indie romance authors. Maybe more – I did some googling, but don’t really know how to check exactly numbers. This makes it hard to narrow it down to just five. But I think any of the authors on this list would be a great place to start if you are new to reading indie romance or just want to read more in the category.
If you want to escape with a cozy and cheerful contemporary romance try Jackie Lau
Jackie Lau’s hashtage is #asianromcom and she lives up to it in each of her books. She’s written 18 romance novels and novels, featuring Asian Canadian characters. She often tackles issues of mental illness and complex intergenerational family dynamics head on. I would start with Grumpy Fake Boyfriend which is exactly as delightful as the title leads you to believe. In it, Will is a deeply introverted science fiction writer who must spend the weekend pretending to be his best friend’s little sister’s boyfriend on a group mini vacation. It is his version of hell. But he pushes through as a favor to his friend and ends up even more confused as his feelings grow for Naomi throughout the trip. Mr. Hotshot CEO, Not Another Family Wedding, and Her Big City Neighbor are also great books by Jackie Lau to start with.
If you like deeply emotional romances read Rebekah Weatherspoon.
In over twenty novels, Rebekah Weatherspoon has created happily ever afters for characters who are Black, plus size, LGBTQ, and disabled. Besides diversity in her characters, Weatherspoon has tackled a diverse range of romance subgenres from romcoms to paranormal and Westerns to BDSM. She has a mixture of self-published and small press novels and, more recently, is publishing some books through a bigger mainstream publisher as well. She is also the founder of the website WOC in Romance which advocates for women of color writing romantic fiction. If you want something on the lighter side, pick up Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny which tackles gender expectations and emotional labor through the story of a divorced surgeon and the career male nanny she hires to watch her six-year old twins. Treasure is also such a delight if you’re interested in a New Adult f/f romance. And for all the feels (seriously all of them) and BDSM look no further than Haven. Seriously, any Rebekah Weatherspoon novel will not disappoint.
If you watched Bridgerton and want Regency Romance that is feminist AF pick up a book by Courtney Milan (or … you know, download one).
Courtney Milan’s first books are traditionally published. But she quickly shifted gears and became a prolific self-publishing author. She has written almost 30 romance novels and novellas. There are two of her books that I think would be amazing to start with. The Duchess War tackles issues of social class, labor unions, and women’s rights with sharp banter, fake dating, and a secret identity trope. It also is the first in Milan’s popular The Brothers Sinister series. Courtney Milan’s latest book The Duke Who Didn’t is also a delightful read. It features a romance between the daughter of a Chinese immigrant trying to help get her father’s hot sauce business off the ground and a half Chinese Duke. It is different from any regency romance I’ve ever read but is so gentle and full of love and humor.
If you want something really sexy written from the male character’s perspective try Lauren Blakely.
Lauren Blakely has published over fifty romance novels and is a #1 New York Times Bestseller. She writes books full of dirty talk and hilarious, laugh out loud humor. And she has a huge talent for writing romance novels entirely from her male romance hero’s point of view. Big Rock is one of her most popular series. Spencer has a tabloid reputation as a rich kid, life of the party play boy. But when his dad needs him to help impress some conservative investors to help the family business, he sheds his bad boy persona and pretends to be engaged to his business partner Charlotte. I know I mentioned dirty talk already, but want to put out the alert that it is no joke. If you are sensitive to curse words, then this might not be the book for you. Otherwise, have at it.
If you’re interested in historical romances with suspense and LGBTQ characters read K.J. Charles.
K.J. Charles is known in the indie romance world for well-researched, very sexy LGBTQ historical romance novels. After twenty years working in publishing in the UK, she became a fulltime self-published writer. And now she’s written over twenty-five romances and counting. Think of England is a tongue-in-cheek, m/m gilded age romance with the back drop of a country house murder mystery. Archie Curtis attends a posh weekend party, hoping to find answers about a gun manufacturer who might be responsible for his injury while in military service. He immediately clashes with fellow guest Daniel de Silva, who is their conducting his own separate investigation. Each have their own goals, but soon frustrated banter turns into a sexual tension that neither man can ignore. If you are more interested in paranormal, check out The Magpie Lord a Victorian m/m gothic fantasy romance that is also a fan favorite.