Monday, April 2, 2012

Indie Publishing: Book Reviews

So my first book is out and getting decent sales, but it’s not flying up the charts like a rocket. You’d think I’d be disappointed, upset that thousands of people aren’t rushing out to read my baby. But I’m not surprised. I’m a realist and I know my book is one of thousands (millions) out there vying for readers’ attention. So how do I get them to notice my book if it’s buried in Amazonia Land and no one knows to look for it?

One way to get the word out is to get reviews. Hopefully good ones from objective readers who will post them on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, Shelfari, and other such places. Readers are a savvy bunch and they can tell when an author has persuaded their mother, sister, cousin, neighbor to post glowing 5 star reviews. Many authors have told me that a book’s reviews aren’t taken seriously until it’s received at least a few 3 star and below reviews. We all know not everyone is going to love our books, so while getting that first 1 star review hurts, many consider it a badge of honor and a validation that it isn’t only your friends and relatives reviewing your books.

So how do you go about getting reviews? It’s not really that hard, but it is very time consuming. I was lucky enough to have a fellow indie author give me a spreadsheet she’d made of reviewers. It had 188 web sites listed. Since then, I’ve added more as I’ve scoured the web and it’s up to 240 and growing. Am I sending my book out to 240 reviewers? Heck, no. Here’s where the time consuming part comes in. Just like when you were hunting for editors and agents to submit your book to, you need to evaluate each reviewer to see if they’re a good fit for your book. Yes, you could sling your book out to reviewers like wet noodles on the wall and see if it sticks, but that’s not the smart way to do it. So here’s what I’m doing…

Does the Reviewer Take Print or E-books?

Yes, my book is out in print, but I can’t afford to send a print copy to every reviewer. At $5.14 per book (that’s my print cost) plus shipping, it adds up. A lot. So as soon as I see a reviewer only takes print books, they’re crossed off the list.

Does the Reviewer Review Indie Books?

Some do and some don’t. Most reviewers have a review policy on their web site or blog. Read it. It will often tell you what they will and what they won’t review. If it doesn’t say specifically that they don’t take self-published books, look through their past review posts. Do you see any indie books among them? If you do, it’s pretty safe to say they may take a look at yours.

Does the Reviewer Review Romance?

There’s no sense sending a review request for an erotic ménage romance if they only review Sci Fi, YA or literary fiction. Again, check their review policy and past reviews. This will tell you a lot about the reviewer’s reading preferences.

Does the Reviewer Review Your Type of Romance?

Yes, there are a lot of review sites that review indie romance. But I write paranormal romance and that’s not always everyone’s cup o’ tea. And while I love me some Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter, my paranormal books are nothing like theirs. There are several review sites that I’ve marked ‘maybe but probably not’ because it’s obvious from the site design and past reviews that they prefer the dark, borderline erotic, paranormal romance that’s all the rage these days. I love to read them too, but that’s not what I write. My books are more on the light paranormal side with a few steamy scenes, but nothing that would get it an X rating. If the reviewer only goes for the dark, bad boy, immortal alpha warrior type, she’s probably not going to rave about my handsome guy next door heros.

Request a Review

Unless their review policy says to send them the e-book directly, it’s always polite for you to contact the reviewer first. In your email, give them a mini synopsis of your book (a blurb/back of the book type of synopsis), tell them the genre, page count, release date, available formats, and ask them if they’d like to review it. Most will get back to you within 24 hours and let you know if they want to see it and what e-book format they prefer.

Reviews Take Time

Just as with the freelance editors I talked about in my previous indie publishing post, many reviewers are booked out months in advance. Some have a notice on their web sites that they’ve temporarily stopped taking review requests because their TBR pile is the height of Mount Everest. It takes a lot of time and effort to read a book and write a detailed review (not just a “great book, 2 thumbs up” kind of review). While one of the reviewers I contacted was able to read the book right away (4 out of 5 flames at Book Lover’s Haven! Squee!), most have told me they won’t be able to get to it for a month or two at least. Nothing I can do about that. But if you want reviews to coincide with the release date of your book, you should plan to get advance review copies out there 3-6 months before your release date.

So there you have it. My 101 Class on getting book reviews.

19 comments:

  1. Good post, Lori. Research, research and research. There really aren't any shortcuts.

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  2. Great blog. I couldn't agree more. I know there are some reviewers that are booked through 2012 and so are not taking any more books at this time. There are also reviewer that I would never send my book to because they are known for giving only bad reviews.

    Thanks for a really interesting blog.
    Cindy

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  3. Poor next door heroes. They just get no love! I mean, except from our heroines :)

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  4. This is good. I have found that it is time consuming, along the lines of learning how to publish at e-book distributors. Hard, but necessary. I have a list too. Thanks for posting.

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  5. Great advice, Lori! Thanks for the tips.

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  6. I would love to see your spread sheet. Any chance you'd be willing to share? If so, you can contact me directly at kristywords at yahoo dot com.

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    1. Kristy

      I tried to send it to you at the email you gave me but it bounced.

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  7. Wonderful information. Thank you!

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Lori, thanks for the lowdown on reviewers. I've been putting off trying to find some for my book and now I have better information to go on.

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  10. Great post, Lori! Which reminds me... I finished your book last night - awesome read! Review coming soon, after I get my next book out!

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  11. You and I must be psychic twins, Lori. I did exactly the same things as you! Woo hoo! Great minds and all that. ;-)

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    1. Yep, me and Kendall. Separated at birth.

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  12. Thank you for all your information, Lori. I self-pubbed a novella last August as an experiment, and I keep telling myself it is a marathon, not a sprint. Your post reminds me that there's a lot more to be done!

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  13. As a writer, I wish I had known this in advance. Trying to get a review now is like trying to find a peach in Decemeber. You can find one but it's coming from Chile so it'll be a few months.

    Cora Blu

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  14. Does your spred sheet have reviewers listed by catagory or did you just have to look into the history of each person? My book, "Immortal Relations" has been called Romance w/erotica as well as Supernatural (Vampire) Fiction with war between guardian vampires who try to safeguard humans and animals from "evil" vampires and criminals. While I've had one really great review from a stranger (and several from family) I'd like to get a few more reviews. But I worry sending to folks who hate ALL vampire stories or supernatural, war, military, et al., will give a negative just based on their own bias. I'd like a copy of the list if you can get my eMail address to work: gog6692@msn.com

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  15. This is very helpful. Thank you.

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