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?

Authors Helping Authors – Reena Jacobs on Proofs

So I thought a Vlog would be fun this time around. Today we’re going to address proofs, and the importance of ordering them by comparing the proof copy of I Loved You First versus the copy actually on the market.

A Recap:

Always check for typos. Whether it’s the inner works or the  cover, be sure to proofread.

  • Assess the cover.
    • Is everything in the proper place?
    • Are there any glitchy items?
    • Is the wording correct?
    • Is it aesthetically pleasing?
  • Front matter
    • Are the pages in the proper place?
    • Title page in the front?
    • Do you have enough blank pages?
  • Proofing (after all, it is called the proof copy)
    • Are the pages numbers in the proper place?
    • Did you suppress the pages number on the chapter pages?
    • Read through for typos, grammatical errors, etc.
    • Cost assessment: Is it cheaper to order a proof copy for editing rather than print out the manuscript?
    • Do you have any funky pages with widows, orphans, or other oddities?

Authors Helping Authors – Gerard de Marigny Talks Quality Standards

A few weeks ago, you might remember my writer friend, Gerard de Marigny visiting. 🙂 He shared with us an excerpt from his novel, The Watchman of Ephraim. Today he’s here to share his thoughts on publishing.

Why Self-Publishing Needs Quality Standards

Gerard de Marigny

EXAMPLE #1: Here’s a review of a work published not too long ago on Smashwords …

“Sorry, this may or may not be a great story but there are too many spelling, grammatical & punctuation errors to find out.

“I really dislike giving up on a book but in this case the many very simple spelling errors (fealt instead of felt for example) are simply too distracting so whilst the plot description intrigued me I gave up pretty early on. A simple spell check would have picked up most of the spelling mistakes; if the author can’t be bothered to do that how can he expect us to read his work?[Emphasis mine]

EXAMPLE #2: Here’s the short and long descriptions one author gave for his work:

Ebook Short Description

Children’s fantasy…

Extended Description

Children’s fantasy…”

… And here’s the one and only review that author’s work was given:

“I would find it much easier to decide to download if it actually had a proper description and tags to tell me whether it is worth it!! So in conclusion I have not downloaded it because of the reasons above!!”

EXAMPLE #3: Here’s one more piece of a review – keep in mind that all of these reviews were taken recently from Smashwords.com:

“It is difficult to review when I can’t tell what is a typo and what is supposed to be slang.”

I think I speak on behalf of ALL self-published authors (as those examples above were obviously all self-published) when I say that I’m embarrassed … embarrassed and frustrated at being included in the same light with those lazy, unprofessional writers above!

Anyone who has ever been the victim of bias can relate to the frustration experienced by professional self-published authors because of the poor perception most readers have about self-publishing in general. Growing up half Spanish-half Italian in a tough area of Brooklyn, NY where the Italians and Latinos pretty much hated each other, I can tell you from experience that perceptions can be a POWERFUL force. Negative perceptions can prove to be a profound disadvantage for anyone affected by them.

It’s difficult enough for a self-published author to learn the crafts of writing and publishing. You spend the money, time and effort on creating written works that are polished and professional, only to be dismissed by a growing mass of people simply because you are self-published. They haven’t read your works or even looked at your cover or summary – many won’t even do those things if the work was self-published. They’ve just dismissed all self-published works from the onset.

Here’s the really bad thing … I don’t even blame those people – because I’m almost one of them! Being a SelfPubber, that really pains me, yet, I cannot say that I don’t have a certain bias against self-published works. Now, I don’t dismiss them – of course I don’t – but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I do wonder about the QUALITY of a work when I know it’s self-published. That’s not something I concern myself with, when it comes to a traditionally-published work … and that’s the real point of this article.

With a TRADPUB work, I concern myself with the normal, subjective things like genre, topic, and author but with a SELPUB work, my primary concern is about an objective thing … QUALITY!

I’ve heard that self-published authors contend that some of them are too poor to be able to afford professional editors to edit their work … to which I say, “If you can’t afford an editor, find another way!” By the way … spell checking is free! Bottom line: those people would still be able to publish (if my proposed quality standards process went into effect), they just wouldn’t be able to receive the “Quality Approved” seal. Would that potentially hurt their ability to sell their work? I’d say, “Yes!” At least I hope it does, for the folks sake, that it is!

I was raised in a relatively poor family – a family that did not give quarter to laziness and a family that did not accept excuses! My Dad was a U.S. Marine. He taught my brother and me the same things he learned in the Marine Corps. When you face a problem and you can’t solve it easily … improvise and adapt so that you can overcome!

In order for the bias against self-published works to ebb, there is a need for quality standards to be established and maintained, and then for some sort of ‘Quality Seal” to appear on works that meet the established benchmarks.

What would this do? Well first, it WOULDN’T prevent any lazy fool from self-publishing … and you know something … I don’t want to prevent people from having the freedom to self-publish. I’m all for liberty and the freedom to do things like publish your own written works, even if they are garbage. I believe in the capitalist system of allowing the consumers to decide on what they will and will not consume.

HOWEVER … we must address the concept of “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware), when it comes to self-published literary works. That’s correct – we need to protect the folks first – NOT OURSELVES (read: self-publishers). People should have a quick and easy way to see that a self-published work meets certain quality standards with respect to the objective craft portion of the work – namely, proper grammar and spelling. A Quality Seal that represents that a work has met the criteria set out in established quality standards would be just the thing.

Now, I’m NOT talking censorship here. I do not believe that any subjective portion of the work should be considered in a quality standard. Subjective aspects of writing are things like storyline, characters, settings, etc. Dialog would also be included as a subjective aspect – so, writing dialog that utilizes vernacular or slang would not be subject to review by the quality standard review process.

Self-publishing needs quality standards so that readers can easily determine whether a self-published work meets a certain level of professionalism. Currently, when a reader purchases a book published by a legacy publisher, the very fact that the book was published traditionally serves as a quality-approved seal. Until readers can make that quick of a determination of whether a self-published work is of acceptable quality, ALL self-published works will be circumspect.

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About the Gerard de Marigny

Gerard de Marigny is the author of the geopolitical thriller, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, Book 1 of THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM series. The sequel, _Signs of War_ is scheduled for release in September 2011.

Gerard de Marigny resides in the beautiful foothills of Las Vegas, NV with his wife Lisa and his four sons. When not bending an arm with friends at the local pub, he’s putting to paper the stories and characters that are alive in his mind.

Connect with Gerard de Marigny online: Website, SelfPubber’s Pub, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and MySpace

Find The Watchman of Ephraim by Gerard de Marigny at:

Barnes & Nobles

The Book Depository

Smashwords

Amazon

Signed Hardcovers and Paperbacks

Authors Helping Authors: C.A. Kunz — A Book Is Born!

Normally, I try to do an introduction, but C.A. Kunz gives one far better than I could possibly. So  I’ll just let them have at it. 🙂

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Hello Blogosphere,

First of all we want to thank Reena Jacobs for allowing us to infiltrate her blog and plant this little number on here! So, I guess a little introduction is in order here. Well we are Carol Kunz and Adam Kunz, the mother and son author duo known as C.A. Kunz. Our debut YA Paranormal/Fantasy novel, The Childe, was published back in February of this year, and is the first book in a planned five book series. The Childe introduces the reader to our main character Catherine Colvin, AKA Cat, a fifteen-year-old girl entering her freshman year at Astoria High School. Like everyone else, she has her typical high school drama like a mean-spirited math teacher, a Goth clique that seems to dislike her instantly, and a popular trio, known as the Trifecta, who wants to be her to be their BFF. Unbeknownst to Cat though, she is also metamorphosing into the Childe, which only adds more complications to her list.

A Little Bit More About Us:

A total love of all things supernatural is what inspired this fifty-four year young mom and her twenty-six year old son to put this story on paper.

Carol Kunz was born in New Ferry, England. Her interest in the supernatural was first sparked upon meeting a ghost at the age of eight. As a teenager, she was always fascinated by the mythology behind vampires, werewolves and witches. Being an avid reader, Carol finds it easy to spend several hours wrapped up in a great fantasy novel.

Adam Kunz was born in Newport News, Virginia. Growing up, he was a huge fan of creature features and books about things that go bump in the night. When he is not busy writing, Adam enjoys his job at a certain theme park in Orlando, Florida as a décor consultant. This job brings him face to face with all sorts of nightmarish creatures, especially when he decorates the haunted houses for the park’s annual Halloween event.

Now, Onto The Meat And Potatoes Of Our Guest Blog Post! We’re Going To Spill Some Tea (Gossip and Details) About Our Writing Journey Together As A Mother And Son Author Duo. So, Without Further Ado…Consider Our Tea Spilt:

Carol: We started our adventure back in March of 2009, when Adam called me and said we were going to write a book together. Adam knew that my dream of writing a novel was something I had often talked about, but always put on the back burner as my ‘someday project’.

Adam: I knew my mom had this dream, and I wanted to write a story that I had already vaguely outlined. When I called her, I had decided that I wasn’t going to take no for an answer, and to my surprise she immediately said yes. I sent an email that night to her with the story idea and a rough outline. Then as she began writing down her own ideas, adding to my outline, and our story The Childe was born.

Carol: Our initial outline was only thirteen chapters. We agreed to each do six chapters, (alternating every two chapters) and then work on the last one together. Our first rough draft was 194 pages. Recently, I perused our first draft, and boy was it ROUGH!

Adam: Our first get-together, after finishing our six chapters each, lasted a whole week while I was off from work. We added, changed, disagreed, agreed, and then added some more. It was definitely an experience neither one of us had ever experienced. We ended the week with more notes of what we needed to do to improve our chapters, and then spent the next few months doing just that.

Carol: We had numerous mini meetings over many weekends, where we were holed up in my spare room (office), being fed by my wonderful hubby, and Adam’s awesome dad, Bob. Bob is also our brilliant illustrator. Stephanie, our daughter, was the first illustrator, but she moved and it was really difficult being so far apart. Then Bob stepped in and took over with a talent that Adam and I didn’t even know existed in him.

Adam: Yeah, good old Dad stepped in and saved the day, or days, as it were. Over those few months we worked very hard, calling each other everyday (thank goodness we have an unlimited family phone plan, haha). We finally (and I do mean finally) finished our novel in about nine months, and then shipped it off to one of our many editors/critics. We had a total of four people help us with this phase, and they were such a help indeed. Amanda Lynch, Charlie Steffy, Tim Coleman, and good old Dad, all gave us their honest opinions and much needed critiques.

Carol: Finally Adam was ready to format and publish our novel. The day he received the first proof he called me and told me how awesome it looked. He lives about 45 minutes away from us, and when he said he couldn’t bring it until the weekend, I almost had a meltdown. So jealous was I that he could hold our accomplishment, but I had to wait.  Now is the time I tell you that I have a very caring and loving son. One that wouldn’t dream of letting his mom wait a couple of days to see our creation. He tried to sneak into our house that evening, which is a little hard to do because of our three noisy, four legged babies (dogs), and brought me the book. I walked around with it all night, and it even laid next to my pillow that night while I slept. I couldn’t believe I had finally held my dream in my hands. Next to having my children, this was one of the best days of my life. Oops, sorry, have to mention marrying the hubby 35 years ago, don’t want him to think it wasn’t one of the best days of my life.

Adam: Yes, mom’s right, it’s practically impossible to sneak into their house with those four-legged alarms going off. I loved watching the joy on my mom’s face when she held our book in her hands, as both of us chanted ‘we wrote a book’. We’ve come a long way from March of 2009. We actually started working on the second book in The Childe series about five months ago, and now it’s been in the hands of our editing team for a few weeks now, so it will probably be published within the next couple of months or so. Also, I am working with my friend (an engineer and aspiring musician), Lee Wilson, on putting together a companion soundtrack for our series. Volume one of the soundtrack spans the first two books in The Childe series, and will contain 11 (or more) full length songs. The songs have full lyrics and were inspired by the words of the novels. They span several genres from pop, rock, r&b, punk, classical, and country. The Childe companion soundtrack will be available soon.

Thinking Of Writing Your Own Story…Well, Here Are Some Encouraging Words That Helped Us Get Through Our Tough Times:

If you have a story to tell, believe in it, and write it down. There will always be people who are critical of your work, listen, if it makes sense, learn from them.  If you are rejected, do not become disheartened! It only takes one person to accept your work. Remember, there are people who have been rejected numerous times, but persevered, and are now read worldwide.  Live your dream! Believe in your story and in yourself, you can make it happen!

Here Are Just A Few Places Where You Can Connect With Us:

Goodreads
Facebook (book page)
Facebook (author page)
Twitter
blog/website
The Childe (Book One in The Childe Series) is available at these locations:
Amazon.com (Paperback edition)
Amazon.com (Kindle edition)
Amazon.co.uk (Paperback edition)
Amazon.co.uk (Kindle edition)
Barnes and Noble (Nook edition)
Barnes and Noble (Paperback edition)

 

Well this has been tons of fun, and thank you again Reena for having us on your wonderful blog! Happy Reading Everyone! 😀C.A. Kunz (Carol and Adam Kunz)