This article in Salon.com, while mainly a whiny and self-pitying lament, does shed some light on one aspect of the recent changes in book publishing. Publishing is not what it used to be, and neither is book reviewing. It used to be that a published author stood a decent chance of getting a professional review from a newspaper or magazine book reviewer. Apparently, there ain’t no days like those anymore. The article’s writer – a previously published author with in-crowd connections who was once able to garner such blessed reviews – couldn’t even get responses to his emails once he decided to self-publish his latest awesome novel (which he only resorted to after it failed to get traditionally published). The kicker is when he moans that If this can happen to him, imagine how horrible it must be for the 99 percenters of self-published writers, those of us without his hoary ties to people-in-the-know and his track record of proven, if admittedly minor, success.
What we 99 percenters know, of course, is that when it comes to getting (legitimate) reviews of our self-published fiction, we have always relied on the kindness of strangers. We quickly exhaust our social network supply of potential reviewers (we exhaust them in every sense) and after that it’s all “word of mouth, baby”. Recently a publicist for free-ebooks.net (one of the many ebook sites with an experimental business model, this one a subscription service) asked me if I knew how to convert downloads into reviews. The only answer I could give was “maybe give them stuff” – not money, but rewards of some kind, benefits in kind, more free books perhaps. Goodreads Giveaways are supposed to work like that. The winners are supposed to submit reviews after they receive and read your books. I have no way of knowing if they actually do that. I’ve done four giveaways so far and am beginning another one this week for “Prisoners of Perfection” but there seems to be no tracking mechanism for the reviews or ratings.
Yes, it’s difficult. For every thousand downloads-to-strangers you might get one written review. That’s just a guess, nothing scientific, but it seems to correlate with my own experience. Star ratings are somewhat easier to come by, but are not the same thing at all. People who take the time to write and post reviews of self-published books are practically mini-gods to self-published authors. We can’t thank them enough, even if they trash our work. At least somebody said something! Otherwise, how can we even know that we exist? Self-publishing used to be called vanity publishing, but all publishing involves a degree of vanity. The Salon article shines a bright light on that little secret as well.
The article’s conclusion is “I can tell you that self-publishing is not fun.” I didn’t feel too sorry for him. If what the author reallt wants is reviews, only that, his best chance is to give away his book for free and to give it away for free in as many places as he can. He probably still wouldn’t get a boatload of reviews, but then the question is, how many are enough? How many reviews would it take to make it all fun for him? How many readers would it take? How is 1000 strangers reading your book better than 999? What difference does the one thousand and first make, in your everyday life? Where do you draw the line between fun and not fun?
A friend of mine once told me her philosophy of gardening, and it’s stuck with me ever since, especially in regards to self-publishing. One tomato is great, she said. Anything more is “abundance”.
- 77 Ways to Find New Readers for Your Self-Published Book (Book Review) (thiscollegedropout.wordpress.com)
- If You are a Writer of Stories, You Should Focus on Storytelling (katmicari.wordpress.com)
- Say Goodbye to the Play-by-Play Book Review (themillions.com)
- MBR: How to Spot a Phony Book Reviewer (thiscollegedropout.wordpress.com)
- Book Reviews: Easy Way to Promote Others, Your Own Blog, and Improve Your Writing Style (lindathorlakson.wordpress.com)
- How I overcame snobbery to self-publish an e-book (telegraph.co.uk)