Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How to Get People to Review Your Fiction Book

     Those who publish with big-name book producers have help when it comes to publicity. Agents and marketing departments scramble to get the word out about the next amazing novel. After all, if they don't sell your book, they don't make back their investment, right? But for those of us in the Indie world, we must get the word out ourselves. The first step in this process, for me, is getting people to review my book online.
     Gone are the days when a writer could design a killer book cover, come up with an amazing blurb for the back, and sit back and hope people would be intrigued enough to pick it up off the bookshelf, turn it over and read the blurb, and run to the cash register to pay for it. While many Indies can sell books through local brick and mortar stores, the majority of our books--we hope--will sell online. Now when someone sees a book on Amazon they might be interested in, they study the cover, read the description... and read the reviews.

     Obviously, a book with reasonable reviews will be more likely to sell. This causes a vicious cycle some writers have allowed themselves to get sucked into; reviews=sales=money. So many writers take the obvious route and pay for people to review their work. Now, I am aware there are several companies out there with reasonable reputations who have review services, but I do not recommend Indies should spend their hard-earned money on these services. At least, not at first. Here are my recommendations for getting reviews.

     Before I get a flurry of indignant letters, please let me say I would never encourage authors to a: trade positive reviews with other authors or b: ask friends and family to flood their pages with positive reviews. Reviews written dishonestly are never acceptable.

    1. Have your book available in ebook format, and order ARC copies. I recommend budgeting a certain amount for review copies and shipping. Remember if you are including a personal letter to your reviewer you cannot send the book Media Mail. If you are planning to publish in hardcover you might want to consider ordering your ARCs in paperback just to save on shipping costs.

    2. Find online reviewers.  This is a time-consuming task, especially because many reviewers refuse to even consider reading Indie books. Don't give up! Even if a small portion agree to review your book it will be valuable. One place to start is Amazon. You can find Amazon's top reviewers here.  Find reviewers who have reviewed books in your genre. They should have a profile page where you can find links to their blogs and information on submitting reviews. Another great place to find bloggers who specifically review Indie books is a great list on The Indie View, found here. Most of the bloggers who have reviewed my book are from this list.

   3. Take time and care to ask nicely. Do not churn out a form email you quickly send to every name on the list. Bloggers are human beings, and they receive tons of requests for reviews. Read their guidelines carefully. If you see a book in the same genre as yours, mention it in your letter. Mention you saw their blog, and what you thought of it. Tell a little bit about the book, and include a link to your website, Amazon listing, Goodreads listing, etc. Offer a review copy in ebook format or print. NEVER offer payment for a review. This is insulting to most bloggers. And NEVER ask for payment for your book. They are taking time and effort to review your book out of the many they receive.

   4. Give out review copies to people in your community. If you have written a children's book, give copies to teachers and daycare workers. If you have a young adult novel, try high school librarians or youth workers. I always include a little slip of paper with a request for an honest review and my Amazon, Goodreads and Smashwords link. People appreciate being asked for their opinion, and sometimes these can be the best reviews. Not to mention if they like your book they will probably recommend it to other people.

    5. Ask everyone who purchases your book to leave a review. Make sure you include information in the book about where and how they can leave it. Always remember to say their honest opinion is extremely important to you as a writer.

    6. Sit back and wait... the hardest part! This is your baby, after all, and it's agonizing to wait and wonder what people will think about it. But pestering bloggers and reviewers is never the way to go. Some bloggers might take months to get to your book, which is why it's important to contact several at a time. Don't count on just a few people to give you reviews. And whatever you do, if you get a less than positive review, do not respond. This will only make things worse.

Do you have any suggestions for finding reviews? I would love to hear them! And if you are a blogger who gives Indie book reviews please feel free to add a link to your blog below as well.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


     If you are an avid reader and you have not joined Goodreads, you should really consider joining. If you are a writer with a published book and you haven't joined Goodreads, you are missing out on a huge opportunity and should join today (it's free.)
     Goodreads is a community designed to bring together books and readers. When you set up a profile, they will ask you what kinds of books you like. Then their program gives you lists and descriptions of other books you will probably like too. It's the perfect way to answer the question, "What should I read next?" Not only do you have books to choose from, but most of the books will have starred reviews, much like Amazon. So you can know what other people's opinions were as well. If you explore the 'find friends' option, you can make a list of friends from Facebook and Twitter who are on Goodreads as well. Then you can recommend books to friends and they can recommend books to you. There are also forums where specific books are discussed, as well as the writing process, certain authors, and pretty much anything related to writing can be talked about.

If you are an author with a book (with an ISBN), you can create a dashboard with your information, and list any book you have written simply by typing in the ISBN. You might even have Goodreads reviews of your book and not even know it! Goodreads has all kinds of writer's resources, including a community of writers open to give helpful answers and advice.

Goodreads also offers a contest program for any author who wishes to participate. You can offer a certain number of your books to give away, and people can sign up. After the given time, you must send the giveaway copies to the winners (randomly chosen by Goodreads.) This is a good way to church up interest in a book. My first book contest generated over 700 entries, and I received one review from giving away two books. Not a bad investment for almost free advertising.

Have you posted a Goodreads contest? Did you find it helpful? I would love to hear any thoughts you have about Goodreads in general. Happy writing!

Monday, October 14, 2013


When I published my first little book of stories and poems with CreateSpace two years ago, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was totally new to the idea of self-publishing. My goal was to put together a little collection of stories and poems, mostly for family and friends. I thought it would be as simple as uploading a Word file and a cover photo and the company would do the rest. I heard horror stories about authors who paid companies thousands of dollars got a handful of books in return.
Now I understand why.

Yes, CreateSpace is a great deal. If you are willing to do everything, and I mean EVERYTHING for yourself, you can get a paperback book, up to 180 pages long with a full color glossy cover for about 3.00, including shipping. The best part? There is no minimal order. If you only want one book, you only have to buy one book!

They also list your book on Amazon for anyone to see and buy, and you have the option to also publish your book to Kindle.

The downside? To produce an all-around excellent book, you must be excellent at many skills. You must do your own editing, formatting, and cover design. You must write your own back cover blurb (harder than you might think) and do your own Amazon description and listing.

It took me a very, very long time to figure it all out. I think my first book took at least two weeks to upload.

This time was much easier. They now have a proof reader and review so you can view your book online, page by page, to make sure the format is correct. Very helpful. They also have a template you can download that already has an embedded table of contents, headers and footers.

Here are some CreateSpace suggestions by one who has dared and lived.

1. If you mess up the template, don't try to fix it. Just download the template and start over.

2. Start the process at least a month before you want to release the book. This will give you time to order proofs and check them over for errors.

3. Don't try anything too fancy unless you are an expert. Fancy fonts and styles only give you headaches and mess up your Kindle book. If you have your heart set on fanciness, pay someone else to do it for you.

4. Keep your cover simple. Us bright fonts that are simple to read against dark pictures or backgrounds, or vise-versa. Run your covers past several people, ideally past other authors, to find out if your cover is appealing. Remember, your cover is one of your best selling tools.

5. Order a proof every single time. I don't care how good it looks online, there's a lot you won't notice until you have the copy in your hand.

6. Don't splurge on expensive shipping. Standard, in my experience, has always been lightning fast.

7. Expect quality. I have always been very impressed with my finished product.

Any questions or comments about your experience with CreateSpace? Please feel free to share!

Sunday, October 13, 2013


So you have a lovely book, and you think you are ready to take the plunge and submit it to a real, live editor. Or, like me, you have researched the field and decided your book's genre is not a good fit for most publishing companies, or perhaps it's too short for most editors to consider and you have decided to self-publish. You know which company you are going with and you are ready to hit that 'submit' button on your computer and send your child out into the world.
Please don't. Not until you have considered Scribophile.
I have posted my work on many critique forums, some helpful and some horrid. Most of the time, I would either receive a: no reviews at all or b: gushing reviews from people who just wanted me to give gushing reviews back.
Finally, someone critiquing my work in another forum suggested Scribophile. I had been working on my novella for over two years and thought I was almost finished. I had a college English teacher friend and a copy editor check it for errors and I really just wanted an opinion on the creative aspects.
Boy, was I in for a shock! The first few reviews, while complimentary, tore my story to pieces. But when I really thought about their suggestions, I knew they were, for the most part, absolutely right.
So, three months later, my little 17,000 word novella is as ready as it will ever be. It is such a better book because of my friends at Scribophile.
A few helpful hints to get your book critiqued quickly on the site:

Get a Premium membership: It's only 9.00 per month and worth every penny, especially when you price professional critique services.

Be active in the forums. Sometimes people will come check out your work just because you wrote something interesting in the forums.

Join active groups. Choose groups in your genres of writing and join them, just make sure they have recent posts.

Post short sections: Most critique participants shy away from book sections longer than 3000 words.

Post your best work. Only post chapters or stories that you have spell checked and edited to the best of your ability.

The best thing about Scribophile is you will get critiques. You can only post chapters based on your karma points and these are mostly earned by reviewing.

Have you used Scribophile? Feel free to share below!  Scribophile's Site