Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Seeking Those Elusive Reviews

As an author who is working with an independent publisher, I must participate heavily in the promotion of my books or suffer with putrid sales numbers. Similar to other types of media, professional and user reviews of your book have a huge impact and can encourage consumers to purchase your product with confidence. While book PR has unique aspects compared to other types of media, reviews are critical for a book's success.
To prepare for my impending book release, I conducted research to find book review sites that I thought would be a good fit for my book. Over the period of three weeks, I visited over 350 book blog sites, deciding to target about a third of them. With my book formatted and finalized, I immediately began to contact book bloggers and review sites that cover YA fantasy novels.
Over the period of a week, I contacted over 100 sites that would accept digital copies for review. I would have contacted more, but many sites weren't accepting requests due to an overwhelming backlog of books to be read.
Sadly, only eight bloggers agreed to conduct a review of my book. Half of those sites, and a few others, also offered to post an author interview. Most of the blog sites have yet to offer any response.
With the advent of self-publishing and the growth of independent print houses, book bloggers have been inundated with review requests. Some claim to receive over 100 review requests a day. Although only four major publishing houses remain, they each produce 1000's of books each year. Those big publishers are offering books to these review sites, consuming reviewer bandwidth and taking priority over the smaller guys. It’s understandable that these bloggers will bend-over backward to review a book for Penguin Random House or HarperCollins. If they don’t, they won't see future books from these big publishers. However, where does that leave indie and self-published authors?
My publisher is a mid-size indie, printing about 150 books a year, yet I couldn't even get one reviewer in ten to consider my work. Many of the reviewers that I researched flat-out reject any self-published material, leaving self-published authors in an even more dire predicament. So what can we do?
Many sites offer a paid review service, some by professional reviewers while others are book bloggers who have capitalized on the overwhelming demand. Who can blame them? When demand outstrips supply, it is our right as a capitalist society to charge more for the product or service.
Another option is to beg everyone you know to read your book and leave a review on sites such as Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and others. This is tricky because Amazon will ferret-out and remove any reviews posted by people you have friended on Facebook. System abuse forced their hand some time ago, due to a proliferation of biased 5-star reviews for sub-par books devaluing the importance of a review on their website. I can’t fault them and would rather have consumer confidence in a few reviews than have 100's of reviews that readers deem meaningless.
In summary, I attempt to sift my way through this quagmire, hoping to eventually achieve the magical number of 100 reviews on Goodreads and book eCommerce sites. When that day comes, I will throw a party and anyone who has posted a review is invited.