The Horribly Incomplete DIY Publishing Guide - Part 64a11
A bit of a departure last week when I sent you all hidden messages in the form of a parable. Gee, I really hope some of you read it and got it and then thought deeply about it. But you were probably more interested in picking your nose and wiping your treasure under the couch. Which, I guess, is actually a time capsule of your nasal passages. Who knows who might clone you in the future? Unfortunately, I'm guessing a malevolent alien race who are either low on food or mating options.
But today I thought I would focus on getting reviews and then dealing with the results of those reviews which could either be glowing endorsements or scathing criticisms.
Reviews you snort, I don't need reviews!
Well, I've got news for you rookie - you need as many as you can lay your hands on and as soon as you can manage it.
Reviews are the bread and butter of the author. Careers are made or broken by favourable reviews and frankly, if you don't have any reviews - you have no sales.
Sure it's not a big deal if you are, in fact, a big deal. One of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, who I really admire, could probably wrap a cover around one of his turds and hit the best sellers list. Ditto for the likes of Stephen King or Anne Rice. I'll bet Anne's turd would have lace around it!
If you are just starting out, then the only people interested in your book is your family (maybe) or your dog or your cat. Your dog loves you unconditionally and your cat just wants to scratch it to bits - just to spite you.
You could publish your book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble etc and hope for the best. However, if an ebook could collect dust - that would be the only action related to your book that you could hope for.
A book without reviews is like a child without any friends.
Doesn't that make you feel sad?
So, how do we make friends especially when no one wants to make the first move?
You, the author, must take the first step.
The options are many.
Pay for a review.
There are a plethora of companies out there who are only too happy to write a review of your book for a fee. Be cautious as they may not be blatant and may lure you in posing as legit non pay-to-play reviewers. Personally, I have not paid for a review. It would seem, from doing a bit of research on the internet, that posting a paid for review is considered very bad form as anyone with a few bucks can get a review. You will be pooh poohed unmercifully by other writers and the book buying public. My advice is don't do it! You're better than that and no one wants to see a lot of pooh being thrown around.
Ask your family, friends and your dog.
This is trickier than you might think and it depends on which platform you publish on. For example, you can gift your ebook to people you know or people who have agreed to review your book on Amazon KDP. However, Amazon has very annoying algorithms that are finely tuned to sniff out any family hanky panky that might be going on. A review will be disqualified if the software detects some relation to the author even if everyone involved has a separate Amazon account. A case in point, my brother bought my ebook (bless him) and his review was disqualified. Our names don't match, as I use a pen name, but we officially have the same address. This however, is but the tip of the iceberg and you can read many forum threads and blogs to find out more.
Request a review.
There are websites that will provide you with a list of possible book reviewers. All you need to do is sort through them and then ask nicely for a book review. Again, be cautious.
Once you start sorting, you will find that many of the reviewers have no interest in your genre. You will also find that many reviewers have moved on to greener pastures but have neglected to tell the hosting website. I find this very aggravating but alas, this is the big leagues and you can't allow a few irritating moments to ruin your quest. One other thing that you will find out is that a large percentage of reviewers no longer accept review requests because they are swamped or some may refuse you because you've self-published. Snotty bastards!
If you are lucky enough to get a positive reply and you send in your paperback or ebook - be prepared for a long wait. It may take months. Be patient. Don't wait around for one or two reviews to come back! You need as many as you can get so keep making requests.
Sites like Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/
This is one of my favourites.
As an author, you can create an author page on the site and post your book and description and go on and on about how great you are. It's also free.
This is a very popular site with readers and should they buy your book, they can post reviews on Goodreads and rate you from 1 to 5.
This is also the place for anyone who didn't buy from Amazon to post their review. Another plus for this option is, let's face it, many people hate Amazon.
This is also a place for family and friends and your dog to post as no one cares about who is connected to whom. If you gifted your book, it's only fair that the receivers of that gift, post a review here.
Promotion sites like NetGalley. https://www.netgalley.com/
This one you have to pay for but it's different than paying for a review. There are companies that will promote your book and post it for you on sites specifically designed for reviewers wanting to review free books. Yes, you will be giving your book away for free but just to vetted reviewers. What? How does this work? It's quite simple. You send your ebook via these companies to a site like NetGalley which as far as I know is both trustworthy and secure. Reviewers have the option to download your book and send a review.
Have I explored this option? Yes, I just did and immediately got 5 reviews with another 50 or so forthcoming. So, I would say it's worth the money if you have a budget to do such things.
So, that's the nuts and bolts.
But what happens when you do get reviewed? How does one react one way or the other?
The short and best answer is - don't! Don't react at all.
When you do get a glowing review - you know when the angelic choir appears and people fight to anoint your feet! That's a great feeling and bask in that glorious light for at least a few seconds, then go take out the garbage and boil the kettle and get writing. A glowing review sure feels like you've been vindicated as a writer and as I have mentioned before - just getting your book out the door and published is a huge achievement.
Is that wonderful review really that wonderful? Who created the review and what are their credentials?
Unfortunately, the BRG, Book Reviewers Guild, does not exist. There are no membership dues or fees and there are no laminated cards reviewers can carry around in their wallets. The reality is that anyone, including that vindictive cat or yours, can write a book review. Of course, there are well respected reviewers and many people use their sage wisdom in order to decide which book to purchase and read next. Many of these sage reviewers are themselves writers and a favourable reviewer from such a book magi would certainly be a feather in your cap. But there are way more reviewers who have no such credentials. They could be stay-at-home Moms and Dads, stamp collectors, lawyers, students, insane asylum inmates - you name it - it's a hugely diverse crowd.
Getting a favourable review is a good thing as other would be book buyers see that as a good sign and it might sway them to take a chance on your book. Just don't get too excited until you get more and more favourable reviews then you will know it wasn't just a fluke or random occurrence. The more 4 or 5 star reviews you get, the more sales you will have and the higher your rating on reviewed book sites. Your book will show up more when people just search for top books in that genre or best-sellers.
What to do when you get a scathing or unpleasant review?
Again, do nothing. Don't react!
It's not a personal attack on your character or family tree! It's someone's opinion. We all have these things called opinions and that's what can make the world a more interesting place to live in. So, reviewer A couldn't get into your book - so what? Reviewer B said it's not my cup of tea. So what?
I mentioned scathing reviews earlier. Now, that I've been thinking about it more - you will rarely get a review like this. Most sites that post reviews would not allow someone to post their review if it was nasty in a personal way. It may happen but I doubt it.
What will happen though is a reviewer will focus on something in your book which is their pet peeve.
Case in point.
I personally like to use dialogue to shed light on the character of my characters. If my character is a redneck then his/her dialogue will reflect this and the character may speak with local inflections or using slang and misspelled words.
"I ain't goin ta pet yer cat cuz that sonbich bited me last time!"
I like reading this and it's fun reading aloud especially if you're reading to someone else. I knew before I published my book that this kind of thing was pooh poohed but I charged forward anyway, knowing that at some point people would focus on it. The general opinion online is that your published book should not have any grammatical or spelling errors in it. Now, you and I both know that even the most highly regarded writers have a spelling mistake or two in their books - we all miss one or two. I took great pains to proofread my work and get it proofread by others many times so there might be one or two spelling mistakes in my book but in general it's water-tight. And more importantly, the spelling mistakes and misspellings are intensional.
If the grammar and spelling Nazi's had their way, this is what my dialogue would sound like...
"I'm not going to pet your cat because last time, that little scamp, bit me!"
Quite a few reviews of my book, focus on these intentional spelling and grammatical anomalies. When I first read the reviews I was stymied and couldn't figure out what in the seven hells they were going on about? What seems perfectly obvious to me as an attempt to make your reading experience even more enjoyable is not obvious to others. Or perhaps I give people too much credit and they really are that thick. Who knows? And that my friends is the point. You will never know because you aren't going to react nor are you going to try and contact the reviewers to explain your intentions. It's over! Suck it up and move forward.
You just never know who the reviewer is and what their likes and dislikes are and whether they read your book while recovering from a rather nasty hornet attack.
Take it all in stride and be grateful that you are getting reviews. The reviews will help you with your writing. Great reviews result in great sales. Good and bad reviews aren't very helpful as they are inconclusive. But a shitload of poor reviews may mean that you need to rethink and re-imagine your next creative adventure.
It's totally up to you because you are DIY self-publisher. Happy writing and see you next time.