Once your book is out in the unforgiving world, it’s time to cross your fingers and pray that, firstly, readers leave ratings (hopefully good) on Amazon, Goodreads etc, and, secondly, that book bloggers say nice things too. This will help spread the word and should in turn lead to more people checking out the book.
The bad news, however, is that getting bloggers to do a review is not easy. So far I’ve had three, with a couple more in the pipeline, but I’m still hunting around for others. And I’ve sent out a LOT of requests. The thing is, they are inundated, to the extent that many of them don’t even respond. I don’t mind that particularly, because I’m aware that they have other lives. Reviewing books is something they do simply because they love to read, which is fantastic. So if I don’t hear back, I don’t take it personally.
Similarly, if I get a reply but it’s just to say that they are already swamped, that’s okay too. I appreciate being told. It’s polite.
But there is something that’s beginning to grate. And that’s when I spend time looking at a reviewer’s website only to come across the stern warning: ‘I do not review self-published books.’
Really? And why would that be?
At first I didn’t care. The stark words were met with a shrug of the shoulders. I moved on. Plenty of others don’t seem to harbour the same prejudice. But then I saw it again. And again. And, oh look, there it is again. Now it’s irritating.
My recent Goodreads Giveaway was entered by 1340 readers in two weeks. More than 600 people now have it on their ‘to read’ shelf. I was blown away by the reaction, but then it got me thinking…
So now I’m wondering, is there a disconnect between some book reviewers and a reading audience that is not put off by the fact that this is a self-published novel? I realise not every single one of those 600-plus readers is going to buy the book, but there had to have been something about it that piqued their interest. The cover perhaps; the positive comments from other readers that I put on the Giveaway blurb; or maybe they checked out my blog. Perhaps it was a combination of these factors, or others – either way, the reaction was good. Open-minded. Willing to see what I had to offer.
It would be so easy for reluctant book bloggers to do a quick check when a request comes in. Again, look at the cover, read a couple of sample pages – see if the plot has possibilities, if the style of writing appeals. After all, we’re spending time and effort finding you and checking whether you might be ‘the right fit’, and it would be such a breath of fresh air if you met us halfway. Obviously I’m not suggesting that these reviewers should be forced to accept novels by indie writers, I’m simply curious as to what’s stopping them.
The publishing world is in a state of flux. Yes, there are no doubt some very bad indie novels out there, but come on, who doesn’t read a traditionally published book every so often and think, ‘Are you kidding me?’. In fact, a few weeks back I was freelancing in an office where a young lady was giving voice to her very firm opinion about a novel that was published by a mainstream house this year. Let’s just say that her comments were, uh, not positive. I’ve read the book too, and although it didn’t quite arouse the same level of antipathy, I have to say that it didn’t do it for me either.
Good reviews are like gold, they really are. They are the foundation upon which an author can build, something to keep them going on those days (and nights) when it would be so much easier to do something else, to switch off and find a less taxing and time-consuming activity. So it’s not a great feeling when reviewers – and hopefully it’s a minority – point-blank refuse to contemplate a novel that might in fact be brilliant, life-changing even, but they’ll never know because it doesn’t tick the right boxes. It doesn’t have a publisher’s seal of approval, and isn’t backed up by the marketing machinery that can give anything a glossy sheen.
So, in this season of goodwill, I would like to say to those lovely reviewers who are keeping the door firmly bolted: let us in. Please. It’s cold out here.
And if some of the reviews turn out to be negative, so what? At least you’d be giving us a chance, letting us play with the big kids. And at least the playing field would be a fraction more level.