February, 2015

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The Winter of Bloggers Discontent?

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by Christine Raneri

Have you ever been on the road where you are driving along happily singing away to your favorite song when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, you hit a wall of white with nowhere to go and not knowing quite what to do?

It happened to me not behind the wheel of my car but rather behind the keyboard of my computer.

It is subzero in the land of review requests with gusts of no-thank-yous approaching 20 inbox per hour.

I thought November and December were causing frost bite on the fingers of bloggers who kindly request review copies but it doesn’t even touch the cool responses and white out conditions seen in January and early February.

I decided to put on my balaclava and locate my ice axe and investigate this frozen blogtundra.   This is what I dug up from some lovely bloggers who shared this cold spell with me.

Book bloggers are a great community of people who not only love books, and reading as much as they can, but who also genuinely love to support authors.

This is a slippery slope because these bloggers receive handfuls of review requests PER week!  I’m sure that’s equivalent to snow falling at 4 inches per hour.  As soon as you shovel the driveway, you look where you started and it’s covered again.

Our lovely bloggers accept some, not all requests on books they are interested in reading and have every intention of reviewing it within the usual 3-5 month window but life happens.  Like all of us, they have actual lives beyond their blog.  They have kids, partners, pets, jobs, errands, illness, simply bad days, weeks, other hobbies and interests, etc….

 Some might not understand that bloggers do this voluntarily!

In comes November and December.  This is the time bloggers hope to have their TBR piles read and completed so the new year starts with a clean slate.  They tend to stop taking review requests so they can put their energy and efforts into the authors who are patiently waiting for a review.

Then the holidays blanket us in chaos and before we know what it, we can’t believe we’re dating our documents with a new year.  What does all this culminate down to?

Bloggers do this voluntarily!

Bloggers are still catching up on their reading, while settling back into the after holiday routines and next thing you know, we’re into February.  Although I have not seen a warming trend outside, I have seen one in the last couple weeks in the blogosphere.  Maybe Valentine’s day had something to do with warming hearts towards authors and books or maybe it’s just the ebb and flow of the blogging industry.

I’m not only a lover of books and ice climbing, I’m a geek through and through so this will be a start to a longitudinal study.  I currently have brain freeze so please feel free to share title ideas for this study.

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When Should You Pay For a Review?

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A lot of small press, Print-on-Demand, and self-published authors want to know where is the best place to get their books reviewed.  The answers range from the biggies (USA TODAY, PW, KIRKUS, FOREWORD, PEOPLE, and major newspapers such as NY TIMES) to the not so big (reader blogs, online retail sites such as Amazon, Midwest Book review, local papers).

 

My first question is: “Do reviews help sales?”

YES!  Yes they do.

My  next question is: “When should an author pay for a review?”

Never. Ever. Nope. Nada. Don’t. Just stop there.

If you truly want to be taken seriously by the major names in book reviews, then print some Advance Copies 4 months before the publication date of your book and send them out under your publisher name with a well-written cover letter, a press release, a marketing plan and a fully fleshed out list of sales and PR activities scheduled.  This will give you the bare minimum introduction to the reviewers and give you a CHANCE at a review from one of the biggies.

If you cannot see yourself giving the book the three to four month window that the major reviewers require, then you are choosing to forgo the chance of those reviews.  As a small press owner, be aware that getting reviewed by these folks is about as likely as winning the lottery.  If you choose to skip them, it is very similar to deciding not to buy that $400 Million Powerball ticket.

In the last year, I have had self-published, single-title authors reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly, the Wall-Street Journal and Fast Company.  These are HUGE names and the reviews drove sales.  (even the negative ones…)  But these author/publishers were in the teeeeeeeeny minority. They won the lottery.

Where does the money come in?  Foreword, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly all offer small press/Print on Demand authors a chance to get a review by paying for a listing or review in their “small press” divisions.  These are valid and worthy divisions of good companies.

A reviewer’s time is valuable.  It is coin and worth a great deal.  I am not saying that they SHOULD NOT charge for their time… I am saying that you should not PAY for it.

If your book is worthy of a reviewer’s time, they will offer it.  If you follow a reviewer’s submission guidelines and respect their process, you will have a chance at getting some of their valuable time in the form of a review.

I can understand why some companies would charge for a review, but I am here to tell you that the bookstores, retail buyers and librarians who use reviews to make decisions KNOW WHICH REVIEWS WERE PAID FOR. (and they disregard those reviews almost entirely)

AND, none of these “pay for consideration” divisions offer a GOOD review for money, just a chance to be reviewed.

Kirkus gives straightforward reviews to both paid and non paid submissions.  (They are known for being honest to the point of brutal…)

Publisher’s Weekly does not guarantee a review for their small-press listing fee, they just offer a better chance at a review in their small press quarterly.

This business model is not like the “fast pass” on the highway or at an amusement park.  You are not paying to get bumped to the head of the line.  You are exchanging your money for a review you would not likely get otherwise.  Buyers and Librarians know this.

Get the review the proper way, or don’t bother.

As a former book buyer and as a current soldier on the front lines of the retail battlefield, I can tell you that numerous, positive, proper reviews from smaller venues help more than a paid for consideration from a bigger name.

Those that know the Kirkus name will know if you paid for the review and those that don’t know the Kirkus name won’t be impressed by the review. SO WHY pay for it?

 

 

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