Book Reviews and Book Reviewers
For an independent, first-time author the big question after actually publishing a book is “How is the world going to know?”
One of the new literary genres can be summed up as “how to sell your book.” There are dozens of such books available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble – self-published e-books, of course. They all recommend using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, a website, a blog, and cultivating book reviewers.
Until I started looking into publishing my novel, I had no idea that there were so many websites devoted to books. Thousands of independent bloggers as well as for-profit sites, such as Night Owl Reviews and Goodreads, attract millions of readers. People go online looking for something to read and many of them discover other people they can interact with. I’ve discovered whole social communities on Goodreads and Shelfari that are the literary counterparts of Facebook.
Many book bloggers and reviewers cross-post their reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads and Shelfari. Goodreads will pick up this post on my blog and list it on my author page, automatically, and reviews for my books posted there will magically appear here on my website.
And the reviews are the primary way many readers use to decide to buy my books rather than “Dumbbell’s Wonderful Adventure”, “Goblin Gangbang”, or “War and Peace”.
Recently, book reviewers have become a major topic of conversation in the literary world, even sparking a debate on The Huffington Post. A group of anonymous but suspected to be independent authors upset about bad reviews have started a campaign to rid the world of churlish reviewers who don’t love certain authors’ books.
I won’t provide a link or more publicity for these disgruntled people who feel they’ve been wronged. Their charges are that gangs of malicious reviewers are targeting innocent writers on Goodreads, showering them with 1-star reviews out of spite.
Back to those books telling you how to market your book. All of them say the same thing: “don’t ever respond to a bad review.” Not only does it make you look bad, it dignifies the author of the review and makes them seem more important than they would be otherwise.
Almost all review sites have a posted policy telling what kind of books they accept for review and how they structure their reviews. If not, you can look at some of their reviews to get the flavor. Some say they won’t post negative reviews. Some sites are renowned for posting scathing reviews on books they don’t like. I can tell you from experience that it’s a moment of truth when you hit ‘send’ to request a review from a site called “Snarky Reviews” or “Bad Authors’ Hell.”
From the reviewers’ side, I’ve read some inexpensive self-published books that are so poorly written and/or poorly edited that I couldn’t stand it. I’ve spent $0.99 on books I couldn’t finish. If you check Amazon, you’ll find 1-star reviews on self-published books by readers who were outraged at spending their money and time on a book that wouldn’t get a C grade in a high school class.
I’ve found typos in books from the big-6 publishing houses, but it’s fairly common in books from independent publishers. Many of the self-published works are terrible for errors in spelling, grammar, word usage, not to mention cardboard characters, holes and weird turns in the plot, and simplistic story lines. But I’ve also struggled to finish hardback books with plot and character problems.
Getting my books in front of people has been a struggle. I’m dependent to a great extent on book reviewers to tell their readers that my novels are worth reading. A huge number of review sites that used to review self-published books no longer do so. They cite three reasons: 1) The quality of the editing, 2) nasty responses from authors, and 3) the sheer number of requests they receive has become overwhelming.
Many people bash self-published authors. Those same people also bash Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, The Trylle Trilogy, and anything else that doesn’t meet their personal standards of literary quality. Many of the great recent successes have been Indie authors who hit it big and subsequently were picked up by large publishers.
This latest flap, with reviewers’ personal information posted on the web, including where their children go to school, will decrease the number of reviewers available to me and other independent authors. It’s only a matter of time before some whacko publishes drivel, asks a 14-year-old blogger to review it, and does something over the top when the blogger doesn’t like his/her book.
That will be a real pity.