Finding That Rare Gem
Just because the world hasn't discovered a book yet, that doesn't mean it's crap. Some amazing things are being written every day but not getting discovered because most indie authors do not have the kinds of resources for marketing campaigns that big publishing houses have. Don't be afraid to take a chance on an obscure book. You never know, that author could make it big years down the road, and you will be able to say you've been a fan since the beginning.
If you're a part of the indie publishing world, then you are probably connecting with fellow authors on all your social media platforms. That's great! That's what you need to be doing. But at the end of the day, the thing indie authors really want is for people to buy their books, so if you're not doing that you're not truly building relationships with your peers. Retweeting them and liking their Facebook posts is great, but if you want to make a friend for life, read some of their books.
Boosting Your Own Sales
Let me make one thing clear. I am not advocating a review swap. That gets into some really sticky territory that could potentially border on the dishonest and the unethical. If you like a fellow author's book, go ahead and write a glowing review, but don't ask for a review of your book in return. Let them make their own decision about your writing.
I'm also not advocating that you beg fellow authors to buy your book, promising to buy theirs as well. Just buy their book. It will get their attention, and maybe they will return the favor. Maybe they won't, and that's their choice, but it's a chance worth taking. And even if they don't buy your book, you'll still (hopefully) get an enjoyable read out of the bargain.
Learning How to Write
If fellow authors are successful and are getting rave reviews, then you need to know what they are doing. You need to read their books, taking careful notes on their writing style, the pacing of their stories, character development, etc. Yes, you can learn those things from traditionally published books as well, but if you know the author is in roughly the same boat as you, you are more likely to pay attention.
Learning How Not to Write
Self-publishing does not carry the same stigma it did in the past. The advent of eBooks has had an enormous impact on the way things are done, and indie-pub is now all the rage. The fact remains, though, that indie publishing is an unregulated business. Though it is in an author's best interest to make sure a book is well-written and free of glaring grammatical errors before publishing, it is not a requirement. People can publish basically anything. It could be amazing or it could be...well...not. If you've read a lot of indie books, I'm sure you have come across a few that were so bad they made you cringe. Reading the bad ones is just as important as reading the good ones because the next time you sit before your computer screen ready to compose your next masterpiece, you will be keenly aware of the poor sentence structure and awkward dialogue you've just been reading. If you make the same mistakes in your own writing, they will jump off the page at you and you will vow to do better. Reading someone else's "bad" book will open your eyes to similar problems in your own writing you may have never noticed otherwise.
These are just a few reasons why you should be reading indie books. If you can think of any more, I'd love to hear about it. Feel free to leave me a comment!