Authors Helping Authors – Reena on Book Reviews

I come across quite a few indie authors with low sales. Let’s face it, low sales are the norm, big success is the rarity. In the end, majority of us remain in dismal obscurity. Even so, there are low cost methods authors can use to get their books a little publicity, reviews being one of them.

One of the first things I tend to notice when I hit an author with low sales are the lack of reviews. I’ve yet to find a book with an abundance of reviews doing poorly. Some might say, of course high selling books have lots of reviews, they’re selling books like crazy. No book sales, no reviews. No reviews, no books sales.

People! This is not a catch-22 situation. You don’t have to have book sales to obtain reviews. In fact, your work doesn’t even have to be available to the public in order to start earning those reviews.

Ever hear of Advance Reading Copies (ARCs)?

ARCs are not just for authors who go the traditional route. I started sending out ARCs for my latest release (I Loved You First) about a week before publication. Why an ARC and not the final version?

Here’s the thing about ARCs. They don’t have to be perfect. Now I’m not talking about sending your first draft. The ARC I sent had received outside editing and a read through by me. However, I knew it needed one more read through, plus I had a few copyright issues in the air which needed to be settled before releasing it to the public. For the most part, the ARC was pretty solid.

If you’re pretty confident in the quality of your work, but aren’t quite ready for publication, I highly recommend sending out ARCs to reviewers. But remember, don’t send crap. Reviewers will still call you on your typos, grammar, and misused words.

So, you’ve got an ARC or final version.

Now What?

Well, you can continue to wait for folks to find your works and review them. This method might work for established authors, but I doubt it’ll work for many debut authors. If you want those reviews, you’re going to have to go out and get them, my friend. And I don’t mean sitting behind your blog asking folks, “if you’re interested in reviewing my work, send me an email.” You can try that (I certainly have), but that’s not enough.

Remember your querying days? Researching agents, following submission guidelines, and sending out letters. Welcome back to the grind. Great thing about sending queries to reviewers is the success rate is far greater than seeking representation from an agent.

A few notes. Don’t send queries arbitrarily or in a mass email. Use the same care in picking out reviewers as you would an agent. Just as agents only represent certain genres, reviewers only read certain genres.

Research is beneficial

I came across more than a few dormant review sites. It doesn’t make sense to put together a review packet for an individual who isn’t serious about reviewing your work. Some of the things I look for:

  • Review Policy – Starting here is a given. Not all reviewers have them. I’ll be honest, if I don’t find a review policy or verbiage giving me a clue to their likes and dislikes, I’ll often bypass the review site.
  • Number of followers – It’s great to get a reviewer with a huge following. After all, the point of a review is to get some publicity. However, reviewers with smaller followings have pros also. For one, their reading lists may be shorter, which means they may be more willing to commit to a review and do one sooner than later. And their review policies might indicate they post reviews in places other than just their blog/website. For me, this is huge, particularly if the review is posted on a retail site.
  • Post consistency – This goes along with dormant sites. If the site is dead (most recent post is a month or so ago), I move to the next blog. How often a blogger posts is important also. Large gaps between posts gives me the impression the blogger isn’t serious about blogging. And if the blogger isn’t serious, chances are, folks aren’t serious about checking in either.
  • Accepted formats – I prefer to send out digital copies due to the costs associated with print copies. And with so many reviewers accepting eCopies and even preferring them in some cases, digital is the way to go (at least for me and my purse).
  • Indie authors – Some reviewers don’t accept self-published works. Simple response to that is to move on to the next reviewer.
  • ARC versus Final – Can I send out an ARC? Some reviewers will take into account the ARC isn’t the final version. Others won’t. Make sure whichever version you send is the one you’re comfortable with them reviewing. Don’t be surprised if a review rips your work apart because you sent the wrong version.
  • Where they post their reviews – Their blog only? Goodreads? Retail sites? The more places, the more publicity.
  • Time line – Many reviewers have reading lists a mile long. 3-4 months isn’t unusual. If you know your release date, consider making arrangements early. Don’t discount the reviewers who take a bit longer. Early reviews are great, but latter reviews can act like a revival.
  • Other Features – Does the reviewer participate in blog tours, interviews, giveaways, or other events? If so, make your availability known at the time of submission. If your work is accepted for submission, be sure to put in a reminder in your response.

Where the heck are the reviewers?

I hit two spots when it comes to reviews. First, because I’m an indie author, is Simon Royle’s list of indie reviewers. The list isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a great start. All the individuals on the list review indie work for free. However, some on the list have guidelines so strict, it’s difficult for an indie author to get a yes. For example, some only review indie works they’ve previously reviewed/read in the past. So that’s something to keep in mind.

My second stop is the Book Blogger Directory. I love this place. The bloggers are categorized, and the database is HUGE. Indie authors do have to pick through since there are no indicators as to whether a blogger accepts indie work or not, at least not at the time of this post.

The bottom line

Using the methods above, I found plenty of reviewers willing to take a peek at I Loved You First, enough that I managed to fill a month and a 1/2 long blog tour. I’m not going to pretend like my sales are all that grand, because they’re not (at least not yet <wink> <wink>). And if we get to the truth of it, I’m not all that great at marketing either. But I will tell you, reviewers are out there waiting to pounce on a good read. If you don’t tell them your book is available, who will?

0 thoughts on “Authors Helping Authors – Reena on Book Reviews

  1. Great post and very informative!

    I put a lot of time into finding reviews for Shades of Gray but I’m not sure it made any difference, so I didn’t bother for the second book. Alas, I’ve tried so many random things that I Have no idea what’s worked and what hasn’t! 🙁

  2. My sales for I Loved You First (ILYF) aren’t… well, they just aren’t. 🙂 I’m telling myself folks are waiting until the end of the blog tour to see if they’ve won before they go out and purchase their own copy. I will say that I have more Amazon reviews for ILYF (released July 30, 2011) than for Shadow Cat (released January 7, 2011), and people seem to add ILYF to their Goodreads list daily. Time will tell though, right?

    I wouldn’t throw in the towel with new releases though. I’m thinking if you put the same effort into each book, the results you receive each time will be more noticeable. The first book you started at ground zero (unknown). The second book you start where you left off for book one (especially since you’re writing in the same genre, same series even).

  3. Pingback: TOP 10: People (who are not fans) | Chazz Writes

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