I have two reviews for my book on Amazon. Two. That’s probably about 274 less than I hoped I would have by now. And 119 less than I’d have if everyone who bought the book reviewed it on whatever platform they bought it from.
It’s a bit disheartening really. Especially since having reviews can mean the difference between effective promotion and mediocre promotion. But it’s sourcing reviewers that has become a little problematic for me. A few months ago when I first published, I put out a general (and very polite) call on my personal Facebook profile (where I only have people I know) suggesting that if people would like to review the book, I’d be very happy to provide it to them. Only one person did so. I didn’t push it, or ask again. I don’t want to be one of those annoying ‘friends’ who rabbits on about nothing else but my books all the time.
So I stepped outside of my personal circle and began to investigate options for having eBooks reviewed. And I found some very interesting, and somewhat disturbing, trends.
It’s difficult to get traditional hardcopy book reviewers to look at an eBook. Publishing online is still regarded with somewhat less-than-credible suspicion by the mainstream, particularly here in Australia, where we seem to be a little slower in adapting to a changing industry than in the UK or US. That leaves authors with few options.
There’s a few ‘review’ sites around (for example Authonomy, IWriteReadRate) where you register and upload your book and review and receive reviews. I’ve experimented with some of these sites and found all but one to be quite unpleasant. On Authonomy I was bombarded with tit-for-tat requests for reviews. You know, the ‘I’ll give you a positive review if you give me one’ type arrangement, where quality and content of the manuscript seems to be irrelevant. It might work for some, but it just doesn’t work for me. I don’t think I’m the right personality type for this kind of thing―I’m far too straightforward and honest.
Of the review sites, the one I found to be most beneficial is YouWriteOn, because their review process is far more independent. Authors are assigned random books to review and earn ‘credits’ which then are used to receive reviews that have been randomly assigned to to others. This gives the author a more realistic idea of what readers think of their writing. The drawback is, it’s a development site so you can only upload the first 5000 words of your manuscript, and the reviews are not public. Still, I’d recommend it if you want to get an objective opinion about your writing.
More recently, I’ve noticed a few entrepreneurial reviewing endeavors popping up claiming to be assisting authors to increase their book profiles online. A book is targeted by a series of reviewers, usually other authors, and the reviews are then posted on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and wherever else your book may be. For a price.
The cost varies according to the site you use to source your reviews. Now I’m not suggesting that anything particularly untoward is happening here. I just wonder, if you are paying to have your book reviewed by other authors participating in the program, how objective the reviews could be. Especially when it’s a reciprocal arrangement.
Of course I want people to review my book. But I want honest reviews. Constructive reviews. And I don’t want to pay for them. Or badger people to write them.
I want to know what readers really think. I know that I might not always like what people say. And as every author knows, a bad review is like a kick in the guts. But I’m prepared to take the risk because I want to grow as an author.
I’m serious about making a living out of writing fiction full-time, so I need to deepen my understanding of the market and write accordingly. Reading, like writing, is a subjective pursuit. And very personal, for both the reader and the writer. I’m not naïve enough to think that everyone is going to love what I write. But I am realistic enough to know that I need to be conscious of what people want to read, what they enjoy reading, and what they think of my writing. Independently, realistically. After all I can’t support myself with my writing if no-one buys my books. And books are often bought on word-of-mouth recommendations. Or reviews.
Have you had your book reviewed? How did you go about finding a reviewer? What has been your experience of the process?