Please Review My Book

I don’t mean my book. Well, actually, I’d love it if you reviewed my book. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about are posts like this– posts from book reviewers and bloggers that say, in essence, that most authors approach them with the tact of a pyramid scheme on speed (there is really good advice in that post, BTW). Reviews are, of course, the lifeblood of book sales- we need people to review our books if people are ever going to hear about them (and, hopefully, know the book is good).

My original thought for this post was that I would share some things I’ve done that have been effective, but most of it was covered in that BookSluts post. So here’s what I’ll do: emphasize how easy that is to put into practice. I’m hitting up some new people for reviews today, so I’m going to keep a journal of what I do.

9:30: I put all the links into a document. The way I do it, there’s a lot of copy/paste, so I put all that in one place. Note that this is not the review request, just the links that go into it- the Dropbox (contains mobi, epub, pdf, plus jpg of the cover art), synopsis & buy links, specifically.

9:45: I’ve worked my way through the better part of the original list I complied, so to teh Googles I go. I end up at this list, and start working through after refilling my coffee.

The process: The first thing I do when I go to a new blog is to see when the last post was. If it’s from 2011 or something, sending them a review copy is, at best, not helping either of us. At worst, it simply won’t get there. A lot of blogs just get left to float in the ether, so I make sure I’m sending it to a live blog.

Then I skim a couple posts- see what their tone is, what they like. I might be snobbish, but if someone is going to review my book, I want to make sure they have a solid grasp of English, and that they don’t give five stars to everything that comes across (or worse, one star to everything that isn’t vampire erotica). I know it’s not much, but I am giving away $4 here, so I want it to at least be appreciated (while I am asking for something in return, I want that return to be worthwhile).

After that, I find the ‘about’ page. This is where I really try to pay attention, for a variety of reasons. A lot of these are more than one person writing, so who will my email go to (note: get names right. As someone who constantly has an S put on the end of their name, this is annoying). Get to know them a bit, as best you can from what they provide.

After that, it’s on to the contact page and sending them an email. I write every email individually. Even if they all turn out more or less alike (“here’s my book, pls review”), this gives me opportunity to be warm and conversational and add in a couple details to each one that the others don’t have. They might not know this, but hopefully it comes across in the tone. I hate writing emails with the whole of my being, and it gets tedious, but smile through it and press on.

Back to the journal:

10:00: The first two three four five haven’t been updated in over a year or are defunct. Awesome start.

10:10: A real blog! Praise the lord! The Book Smugglers. Anyone who smuggles books is my kind of people. A quick read of the site & about tells me that they really are. A quick email and it’s on to the next (not before the site is bookmarked, I like it a lot).

10:17: The next one only updates about once a month and has a meager following. I’ll come back to it.

10:20: ‘Dreaming About Other Worlds‘ catches my eye, for obvious reasons. Holy cow does this guy have a book collection. He reads a lot of rare stuff, so it seems a bit of a long shot, but hopefully I can appeal to his sense of quality. Email sent.

(I update this post for a few minutes)

10:40: Next up is SpecFic Romantic. 3024AD might not be for them, as romances in my work generally do not go so well. According to the about page, I’m against two things: 1) she likes romantic/happily ever after. That’s not me, but she does say she likes straight SF, SO. 2) No self-pubbed, with exceptions. I’ve lived my entire life as an exception, so I’ll take a shot, but this email will get a little more detail than others might. I actually forwent the official synopsis in favor of a more personal explanation of why it would appeal to her.

10:55: NEED MOAR COFFEE

11:00: Eight nine ten a bunch more duds. This list kinda sucks.

11:10: OK, we’re done here. I’ll dig up some more this afternoon. There are tons of lists like that (most I’ve found are more up-to-date, at least). Basically, in an hour and a half, I sent off three review copies and wrote this blog post (~900 words). So maybe 45 minutes of actual work. Obviously, I have no idea if those will pan out, but that’s always the case.

One small aside, in conclusion: I have had nearly as much success just offering it on social media. With digital publishing being what it is, reader reviews carry as much weight as anyone. It’s often worth it just to send out copies to readers who will leave reviews on GoodReads and/or Amazon.

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The Real Issue Facing Self-Published Authors

Yesterday I went on a little bit of a rant regarding how some people talk endlessly about self-publishing, with little or no actual information such as how to tell a good story, how to edit or market or anything else that might actually be useful to the author. This is frustrating to no end, because it creates division where there should be none, this line in the sand between self and traditional publishing that simply should not exist.

Exactly what we do not need

The largest problem is not that you can make money self-publishing- everyone knows that- but recognition. If you’re self-published and looking to get people to review your book, how often do you see some variant of “we do not review self-published works at this time“. And you rage and think why not?! My book is every bit as good as any traditional book, and certainly better than Twilight. Maybe it is. But the book on the digital shelf next to yours probably isn’t- because it’s all one giant slush pile, and readers are supposed to sort through that.

Now, that’s certainly possible, and I have made the argument that it’s a good thing- the cream will rise to the top via more reader involvement, but for the vast majority who just want to grab a book and steal a few moments from real life to read, is that the best thing in the world? To be agitated and annoyed that you grabbed what is billed as the next Lord of the Rings only to find that the author doesn’t know what an apostrophe is for?

If you really care about self-publishing as a viable and sustainable method of publishing, work to make it better, not bigger. Help improve the quality of the works that are distributed that way. If you want to hitch your wagon to it at the exclusion of everything else, that’s your deal. But don’t hail it as a get-rich-quick method that requires no real effort beyond simply writing a manuscript. Make it better and address the issues that are actually issues.

-DESR

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