This article is a return to my experience since publishing The Red Room back in February and I hope that it will provide a little guidance to other self-published writers who are just starting to make their way into the world of books. Any world-weary, battle-hardened self-publishers reading this will probably be shaking their heads and tutting loudly at the fairly basic school-boy error I am about to describe.
I know best…
During my research for self-publishing, quite a lot of the information I read said about getting the book out there a couple of months prior to the date you select for release. This included printing proof copies and sending them out to bloggers and beta-readers. Pfft, I decided I knew better and why on Earth would I want to give away free copies of my books, especially since the cost of it was coming out of my own pocket? Sod it, I’ll just wait until it’s released and make everyone pay for it.
Boom! Big mistake. Trawling through my Twitter feed, it wasn’t too hard to find book bloggers with tens of thousands of followers. “I know what I’ll do,” I thought to myself proudly, “I’ll go onto their website, find their email addresses and give them the honour of reading my book- I might even send them an Epub of it for free.”
Not currently taking submissions – what? Well why the hell not? Utter nonsense, they’re clearly desperate to read my book; I’ll email them anyway, it’s probably an out-of-date post or something like that.
It would appear that the well-established book blog sites are inundated with review requests. To the point that the chances of having your book reviewed by them are practically zero. Books obviously do get reviewed, and no doubt the publishing houses have more than cottoned on to just what an excellent source of publicity for their upcoming releases these bloggers are.
This then raises another question over whether a blog site is less inclined to take a punt on reading an indie title than one from a publisher. From an article I read on precisely this issue it would appear that it is almost certainly the case. And understandably so. It is much more of an investment in time to take a chance on a completely unheard of author. The standard could be completely terrible. And then there is the risk of giving the book a bad review and the subsequent fall-out of breaking the news directly to the person whose labour of love you have just slated.
I can’t speak for all indie writers, but I am assuming that most have attempted to go down the traditional route of having their work published- submit to an agent, have it accepted and then touted to publishers for that all important deal. Personally, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t. Why spend weeks and months writing a book and not do everything you can to stop it disappearing into the mass obscurity of Kindle titles? Book bloggers have almost become the third part of this Holy Trinity of book success. I imagine they have the power to make or break a title before it even gets going.
For my next book, which I intend to start writing imminently, I will have a new strategy. I will still target the agents. Hopefully my writing will have improved, I might have come up with a story that is more their cup of tea, or I just simply have a bit more luck. But I will also take heed of the advice not to rush a release. Perhaps it was the beginner’s naïve enthusiasm that was my undoing, but for some reason I just wanted my book to be ‘out there’. In a weird way, I was also worried that someone had been working on a book with exactly the same premise as mine (which I considered to be utterly unique and therefore ground-breaking in its originality!) and would get in there first, with mine ending up looking like a poor imitation.
At the risk of being controversial…
Part of this not-rushing strategy will also involve trying again to butter up those nice bloggers in the hope that they might consider reading my upcoming release. Any upcoming releases have a buzz generated before their publication date, so then when a release date arrives my Twitter feed is ablaze with numerous bloggers all reviewing the same book. What is also slightly scary, as someone on the outside looking in, so to speak, is that these release date reviews are almost always “5 Stars!”, “Best book I’ve read all year” and so on. Is it really? Is every book released onto the world by publishing houses “amazing”, “spine-chilling”, “unputdownable”**, “breath-taking”, “a tour-de-force of heart-stopping twists”? Probably not. Would I like that for my book? Too right I would. What are the chances? Realistically, very, very slim. Not for any reason to do with the quality of the book, but simply down to the sheer number of books that reviews are requested for.
My book currently has ten reviews on the Amazon UK site. What is even more amazing is that they are all 5 stars (see spangly attached image) and some of the comments are exactly what I had hoped for in putting a book out for people to read. I know for a fact that more than ten people have bought it and therefore presumably read it, and if everyone who did so put a review on, it would very soon start to look like a well-established title.
I have so far contacted around 20 book review blog sites. It almost seems like writing a job application, and wasn’t far off how it felt when I sent my submissions into the agents. Will they read it? Won’t they? Will I even get a response?
The honest answer, and one that any self-published author must both (a) prepare themselves for and also (b) not bitch and moan when it happens is a resounding “almost certainly not”. This is in no way a dig at the people who run the book blogs, they read for the love of reading and presumably run their sites as hobbies, so to expect them to take the time to read an untried, unheard of piece of work is a big ask.
Saying that, one of the sites I contacted has now accepted my book for review. It happened to be a site dedicated more to the Sci-fi and Horror genres, rather than ‘Crime Thriller’ (the “When does crime thriller turn into horror?” question will get an article all to itself, probably next I imagine) but that’s absolutely fine by me. As a closet horror geek, I wrote The Red Room very much with my love of the genre in evidence. As of the time of writing, a paperback is winging its merry way by airmail to Michigan. I hope she likes it. Their review policy seems honestly harsh and if they deem it to be a 1 Star book, it will be on their site listed as such. Of course I hope that it will be added to the 5 Star section of their site (and if it’s not then they clearly don’t know what they are doing!!! – Only joking. Seriously, that was a joke). But as a first foray into having my book reviewed by an ‘out there’ social media / review site, it will be interesting. Results will be posted in the near future. Unless they’re shit, in which case you’ll never hear from me again.
Thanks for reading. See you next time.
**Yes, I realise that one of my reviews contains this word. And a great word it is too, because it covers two meanings. One, that the book is so good that the physical act of placing it down on a solid surface is not possible because you want to carry on reading it. But also in the poorly/elderly pet sense of the word, that the author does not deserve to be ‘put down’. Either way suits me.