By BlueInk Review
Last year, more than 200,000 books were self-published. Imagine a reader standing in front of a bookshelf with that many titles. Now imagine the impossible: how will they choose one title over another?
That’s where reviews come in.
As former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News and co-founder of BlueInk Review, a review service for self-published authors, I am obviously a huge proponent of book reviews. Without a review, your book is more risky to buyers than your average blind date — because, let’s face it, a date for coffee may take an hour, but reading a 400-page book could take several days! Buyers might know the topic of your book – but how can they be certain it’s worth the investment of both their time and money? They crave guidance.
Book reviews let readers know what they’re in for. They describe the plot, texture and tone of the book. Readers learn if it’s their cup of tea.
By giving third-party validation to a book, reviews bestow credibility. Without a review, booksellers and readers have only the author’s word that the book is worthwhile. And what author doesn’t rave about his or her own work? The more positive reviews, the more credibility a title gains.
In addition, reviews provide excellent fodder for an author’s marketing materials and book jacket copy. Laudatory excerpts are eye-catching on press releases, ads, author websites and other marketing opportunities
And here’s one important note: even when a review is negative, it can entice readers, as those who don’t place priority on the flaws mentioned may find themselves interested in the title.
All that said, I’ve seen far too many authors who sought reviews before their books were ready for prime time. Before looking for a critical appraisal, ask yourself:
Has my book been professionally copyedited? Books filled with grammar, spelling and punctuation errors are difficult, if not impossible, to read. No wonder bad mechanics is the number one reason self-published titles receive negative reviews.
Have I received positive feedback from anyone other than family and friends? Family and friends are notorious for praising even seriously flawed books. Manuscripts without issues of any kind are rare. If you are receiving ONLY positive feedback, it’s usually because people aren’t being honest with you.
Am I open to using the review to improve my work? While a book review is not a detailed critique of the sort a professional editor might offer, it often pinpoints problem areas and can be helpful for revisions down the road. The more open you are to such input, the more likely the review is to benefit you, whether it’s positive or negative.
If you have answered yes to these questions, it may be time to start thinking of getting your book reviewed. You can query local publications (aim small, as most mainstream publications don’t accept self published books for review, whereas local markets are eager to promote those in their community), bloggers who especially enjoy your genre, or publications directed at the specific niche your book serves.
You can also contract with fee-based review services. Unlike the other options, these aren’t free, but they can save authors endless time and frustration, as with the options mentioned above, self-published titles compete for review space with the flood of titles released by traditional publishers. They nearly always come out on the losing end of that battle.
Whatever route you choose, remember that writing is a craft; the more you work at it, the more you’ll improve. If you use the criticism offered in a review to take your work to the next level, you will be miles ahead of the pack.
Come to think of it, that may be the best reason of all to seek a review.
Patti Thorn was books editor at the Rocky Mountain News for 12 years before the newspaper closed in 2009. She is co-founder of BlueInk Review, a fee-based review service devoted to offering honest, serious appraisals of self-published titles.