Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Indie-friendly Book Reviewers

Last year at this time, as a debut author with the Triskele Books collective, I discovered a new world: the world of book bloggers. Before publishing a book I was not even aware of this vast and increasingly influential network of reviewers. I didn’t even know I would need to discover this brave new world.

A year later, I am certainly glad I did. Not only have reviewers provided me with valuable feedback on my book and lent weight to my Amazon listing, but many have also become incredibly supportive friends, spreading the word about my novel, and even nominating it for indie awards such as the EFestival of words awards: best novel category: and historical fiction category:

Another friendly blogger nominated it for a Goodreads group, Sisterhood of the Traveling Book which has led to more reviews, and meeting even more lovely bloggers:

I have heard self-published authors moan about the difficulty in finding reviewers, and while there are certainly many bloggers who will not review self-published books, I’ve discovered many who will. Here is the list of reviewers I have found very helpful, as well as my original post on this subject:

Firstly, it’s good to know what your readers think. Secondly, it’s often a critical part of the decision-making process for book buyers and thirdly, it lends weight to your Amazon listing.

Nowadays, most authors - not only indie-published ones - are their own sales reps, marketing managers and publicity departments. Review bloggers, who are gaining more and more respect among readers, booksellers and industry professionals, are responding to this self-publishing need to secure high-profile reviews from successful review bloggers. 

I’ve heard complaints from self-published authors about the difficulty getting their book reviewed. While there are certainly many bloggers who won’t review self-published books, I’ve discovered many who will. There are literally thousands of websites and blogs where people offer to review books free of charge. Certainly, you’ll need to spend some time searching for suitable ones, and you’ll need to approach them the right way. I’ve sent out dozens more requests for the replies I have actually received, but I’ve learned not to take it personally. Book reviewers are just as busy as the next person.

Before I list the best way I’ve found to get an indie book reviewed, I’d like to mention a few, fairly obvious, ways NOT to get your book reviewed:

  • Ignore the reviewer’s preferences and guidelines. If they say they don’t review self-published books, or chick lit, sending them your self-published, chick-lit novel is a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Send out mass emails such as: ‘I just published a great book. Let me know if you want to review it.’ Or, ‘If you want to review my book, click here.’ Nothing turns a reviewer off faster than an impolite, demanding request implying you are doing them a favour by giving them the opportunity to review your masterpiece. Don’t forget they are doing you the favour.
  • Think the book blogger cares about you and your book. You have to entice the reviewer into devoting many hours to reading something written by someone they’ve never heard of before.

So, how does an indie author go about getting reviews? 

Make a list of possible reviewers. This takes time, but Google is fairly efficient at finding this information. Also, many authors and websites have already compiled lists through which you can scroll.

Don’t send requests to anybody and everybody. Most reviewers have submission guidelines clearly stating the genres they are interested in, and the way in which they operate.

Formulate a polite, typo-free review request document, giving the reviewer the following information:
  • Who you are
  • The genre of your book and the blurb 
  • How, when and where your book was published  
  •  If you’re offering an e-book or a paperback
  • Any additional information such as extracts from existing reviews, interviews you may have done (with links) - anything that might be of interest to the reviewer. Bloggers receive so many review requests that they are overwhelmed. Don’t make your book look like just another one “on the pile”.
  •  A last line thanking the reviewer for their time and details of how to contact you if they want to review your book.
  •  Keep track of reviews you’ve requested, and replies. I use a spreadsheet. Reviewers don’t want to receive a second request - and only follow up (after a lapse of at least four months) if you don’t get a response.  
  • If the reviewer informs you they would like to review your book, send them a “thank you” email and explain what type of file you are attaching, unless you are sending a paperback. 
  •  Then wait, or preferably get on with your writing. It could be months before you hear back.  
  • When the review is posted, write and say thank you. Even if you hate or don’t agree with the review, you still need to say thank you. And don’t bother arguing with negative reviews. No author can be a crowd-pleaser and it’s not worth your time. Again, just forget it and get on with your writing.
Enjoy it! Most book bloggers are nice people, and I’ve met some really lovely ones. If they like your book, they will spread the word. Review bloggers are worth getting to know not only for reviews, but as a long-term support group for your writing career. 

1. A list of review bloggers we have found helpful for our Triskele Books indie-published novels.
2. A (non-exhaustive) list of sites compiled by other authors and reviewers you might want to check out. http://booksbythewillowtree.blogspot.com