I have been fielding a lot of author queries lately, and I have some suggestions for all you authors who want to ensure a smooth review. I’m going to explain my review process; of course, not all review bloggers work this way, but even so, I think many of them will relate to some of the potential review stumbling blocks I post here 🙂
1) First, I read the author’s email to see if the book interests me. If the book is of a genre I don’t review, I immediately email the author back and politely decline a review copy. I have guidelines posted on the sidebar of this blog explaining which genre I review. Like many review bloggers, I am finding that as time goes on, I get more and more queries and I have to be selective. Occasionally, I find a book which interests me outside of the genres I normally read. But those are usually books I find myself or which are recommended to me. If the book is an unsolicited cold query and it is not a genre for which I accept submissions, I read no further and I decline the book. Most reviewers have submission guidelines. You should always read them and follow any instructions they give regarding what to submit and how to submit it.
2) If the book looks remotely interesting, I head over to Smashwords and look at the sample. There are a few potential sticking points here. If the book is not available at Smashwords, I won’t review it. This goes back to what I said about reading the guidelines 🙂 Furthermore, if I have to go hunting for it, the email will probably get bumped to my back-burner until I have time to go looking. So if you want your sample looked at right away, you need to include in the email a direct link to the book’s page on Smashwords. Don’t just link to the Smashwords website. Don’t just link to your author profile. Link straight to the book. Any extra steps I have to take to go searching for it will just slow down the process.
3) If I like the sample, I will ask the author for a review copy of the book. I usually prefer a Smashwords coupon code for this—Smashwords does not let people post reviews for a book they do not own, so if you provide a Smashwords code, I can not only download the format which is best for me, but I can also help YOU out by leaving the review at Smashwords as well as wherever else it gets posted (usually here, and occasionally at Teleread in addition). If you include a Smashwords coupon code in the email query, it saves me the extra step of emailing you to get one if I like your book.
4) When I am ready to post a new review, I go through my little Smashwords collection (I have a tag set up for this in Calibre) and look at the summaries. Then I pick something that catches my mood that day and I go with it. My review process has changed a little as this blog has begun maturing. I do feel that my reviews are a service for readers moreso than authors, but I am less critical than I used to be because I simply do not have the time or inclination to read books which are truly terrible. I use the sample pre-screen to weed out the totally unreadable ones; if there is a popular title I really want to warn readers away from, I’ll use my ‘Sample Sunday’ sample review on that. Likewise, if I begin reading a book which looked promising, and for whatever reason am not inclined to finish it, it will turn up in there too.
5) If I do finish the book, I’ll review it. I’ll say what I liked about it, and generally have a few gently constructive comments for the author if I feel so moved 🙂 My point here is three-fold. Firstly, you can expect that the review might take some time to completed. I have many books in my queue and I do not read them in order of acquisition. Secondly, your book might not get a full review if I don’t finish it. It does not mean it is a terrible book and you are a terrible author (if that were the case, I wouldn’t be reading it at all!) It just means that I didn’t finish it and I don’t want to represent that I did if this is not true. And thirdly, you can expect constructive comments if you submit a book to my website. If you cannot handle constructive comments, you should not submit your book to me. Again, it’s not about being mean and hurting your feelings. It’s about providing honest feedback both for you and for the reader. Things which annoyed me might not annoy somebody else. If that is so and I’ve told them what the reason is, they can make their own decision to buy the book and give you business!
6) I work full-time, moonlight on the side, blog part-time and still try to have a life. I am busy and I have a lot of emails coming and going my way. Therefore, I do not always prioritize emailing the authors to let them know a review is up. It is up to you to keep tabs on what’s happening with your book! I strongly recommend that every author set up a Google Alert on their name, their book’s name and any other keywords that will help them track reviews and dialogues about their stuff. If you set up such an alert, you will receive an email notice when the review goes up.
7) It is not mandatory that you ‘give back’ and do any sort of quid pro quo for the review. But it is deeply nice if you post about the review in your own little network and send some traffic my way. I am trying to build this blog into the best little reader resource I can, to help paying customers find quality books they truly will enjoy reading. If you can send some of those customers my way so they can get some book recommendations, you’ll be helping your fellow authors! Again, not mandatory. But nice to do it if you can.
8) As a final suggestion, I will say that the review is only the first step. You can leverage this review into some good publicity if you are smart about it. Why not set up a webpage on your site (you do have a site, right? 🙂 ) where you link to all the reviews? Or a testimonials page of some kind? Or just Twitter the heck out of it and see how much traffic you can send your book’s way. Remember too that once you have three reviews from independent bloggers, you can submit your site to the Indie eBook Hall of Fame…
So those are some suggestions for authors who are serious about their PR and want to submit to blogs like mine. I hope this is helpful!
Via Joanna’s E-Finds blog