I am afraid I may have hurtled myself headfirst into a 7-layer Pit of Despair. I just opened myself up to accept indie/self-published novels to read and review them. What was I thinking? I work twoish jobs, have three kids under five, and am writing my third fantasy novel. Oh and I try to blog once in a while. And I have three kids, including a baby…
Well, here is why I am doing it. In spite of the extra “work” and drain on time, I am forever indebted to those kind souls that have reviewed my own work and I want to give other striving authors the same small voice I have been given time and again. In our world of self-publishing, we authors know the painful truth. No matter how good your novel is, if no one knows it exists or if it is even worthy of reading the first pages, it will not succeed. Reviews are the gold bullion behind the cash that can and may one day begin to flow into the pockets of worthy writers.
To all you authors, please do yourself a favor and read other self-published work that fit the genres you have an interest in. Better yet, when and if you have the time, give feedback through a review. This not only expands your understanding of what is out there in your niche but it also sends a message that we are in this together as indie authors. Of course there will be times when you will not have many positive things to say about someone’s work. When this happens and you are determined to write a review, do the author of the book a favor. Send them the negative review before publicizing to the world and frame it with the positives. As a writer yourself, remember the blood, sweat and tears that poured from you over the years of struggle and give the other author some respect for actually completing their work. Do not take me wrong, I am not shy to describe the negatives when necessary, but I try to open my mind a bit and encourage those who may fit the target audience of the book more than me to try it out. I know I do not read much of the uber-successful genres like paranormal, etc, and just because the story or characters or writing style does not work with me, does not mean others would not like it. Bottom line, please to not write a review to tear down the author or their work, write the review to highlight the target audience and attempt to mix positive with the negative. Yes, we as authors are in competition for the attention, money, and adoration of the population, but we are also the largest group of like-minded and truly understanding folks, and the opportunity for support and encouragement is vast.
To all those who read reviews and use them to know what novel to purchase or spend time reading, take all reviews with a grain of salt. Look for patterns. If a similar thing that piques your interest is stated again and again, there is probably more truth to it than if you only see the same tidbits in one or two. These patterns can be framed negatively or positively. Some people love to digest 800 page tomes that lay out every tiniest spec of information or detail of the world while others like more action filled or character oriented works at the cost of detail or page count.
My preferred method to choose whether or not to buy a book is to read the first few pages. Yes, I look at reviews, but I ultimately choose by sampling the product myself. Luckily these days many online sites give you the option to read the first pages or chapters of a given book. It’s free and only takes a few minutes of your time. You never know, you may read the two negative reviews of a book, disregard the free sample, and miss out on the next New York Times bestseller.
For all you readers: (Reviews = Increase in Sales, decent potential for success. No Reviews = Little to no Sales, barely existent potential for success). If you truly enjoy a novel, get some pleasure from it, please do the author the greatest favor you ever could, write a review, tell a friend. Do not for a second think that the author only needs the $0.99 you shelled out to get the book. If you give an author a dollar and do not publicly broadcast that you did so willingly, happily, and maybe would do so again, it does little more than give the author a jolt of encouragement that quickly turns to despair when that dollar remains single. A review does not have to be a couple paragraphs or a rundown of what the book was about. A single sentence and a star rating can be as powerful since many people and databases only look at the # of reviews, positive vs negative, to guide their buying habits. It takes an average reader a couple weeks to get through a book. Another five minutes is not asking for much.
Which is why I as an author myself am beginning this crazy endeavor to review other indie authors. I know the work that goes into these receptacles of passion.