Okay, so I’ve got a new book out – BAD VALENTINES.
And I’ve got another book out – DEVIL TREE.
And I’ve got a whole mittful of other e-books but I’m not going to belabor the point. The problem is – nobody has heard of them. Nobody, aside from my cat, even knows they exist.
Let alone if they’re good or not.
So how do we writers get the word out?
Well, one way is to solicit reviews.
I love that word, solicit. It brings this writing gig right down to where it truly ought to be. In the gutter. I am soliciting clients. Hey baby – how’d you like to get lucky? Show you a good time. Hook you up with a novel – jiggedy-jig.
So how does a writer go about propositioning a reviewer?
Reviewers get pummeled with review requests and/or review copies. Waiting for a reviewer to “stumble” across your work and ask you for a review copy might make for an AWFULLY long wait.
Your best bet is to start checking out the review market. Depending on your chosen genre you might find yourself with an awfully large group of reviewers to choose from. That’s good. That will work in your favour. Somebody like myself, working in horror, has a lot fewer reviewers to find. Folks in romance, YA or paranormal romance have an abundance of reviewers to choose from.
Once you begin finding reviewers you need to start researching them. Have they written a lot of reviews. Does their blog site look professional. Do their reviews read like good professional reviews or do you see a lot of “Ya, I thought this book was kuul.”?
If the review site mentions anything about a cash payment up front – run away. Don’t even stop to think about it. Writers should not pay for reviews. We give a free book, that’s what a reviewer is owed and nothing more. I wrote reviews professionally for Cemetery Dance, Fearzone, Hellnotes and several other markets – and I usually recieved a small payment – maybe ten or fifteen dollars – from the publisher of the magazine/market that I was writing for – but nothing from the writer but a free book.
What else could I ask for?
Certain sites maybe worth making an exception for. Sites like Kindle Daily Nation http://kindlenationdaily.com/ has a sponsorship plan for $139 and up that will advertise your book. I haven’t tried any of that sort of thing – nor do I intend to – but it is out there. What I would mostly warn about is sites that offer you reviews at five or ten dollars a pop. You have to ask yourself what kind of a review are you going to get when you shell out ten dollars. That is a lot different than how I operated, getting ten dollars from the owner of the review column/site that I wrote for. He was just paying me the same way you would pay anybody who provided your column/site/magazine with a certain amount of words for your readers to read.
Prepare a proper review request. Take a half an hour or so and put one together. You’ll want a short letter-sized document that tells the potential reviewer what the book is about, who you are, how many books you’ve written, whether you are new to this business.
Here’s a review request that I wrote for my novel DEVIL TREE.
Hello REVIEWER’S NAME
I have taken a look at your review column I LIKE COOL COOL BOOKS and enjoyed the heck out of it. You have a keen eye and I believe I might have a book that you’d be interested in reading/reviewing.
The book is called DEVIL TREE – and it is the story of Lucas Sawyer and his wife Tamsen who find themselves marooned in the heart of a mid-nineteenth century wilderness. They’re rescued by Jonah Duvall, a mysterious woodsman who abides in this wilderness with his wife Jezebel and son Cord. Brooding over all stands the Devil Tree – a huge and evil jack pine that has summoned them to this valley to feed upon their collective emotions and guilt and to breed unnatural offspring. Part earth spirit, part elder demon – the tree is farming them. The characters are bound into a tightening noose of blind undeniable fate. As winter sets in they must face the tree’s unholy fury in an utterly horrific finale.
Devil Tree is a 60,000 word novel that will take you into the heart of pure unimaginable horror. We are not talking gore or graphic blood-spree. This is NOT one of those OH-MY-GOD-GRAB-THE-CHAINSAW-AND-CLEAVER blood soaked yarns, but rather this is a work that I guarantee will horrify and haunt you for a long time after you turn the last page.
“A mesmerizing journey into unimaginable darkness, DEVIL TREE showcases Steve Vernon at the height of his power and results in a provocative, profoundly unsettling novel you will never forget.” – Greg F. Gifune
Have I overkilled this? I hope not. I surely would appreciate you reading my book. I can provide you with a Kindle copy or a pdf or an epub – whatever your pleasure is.
yours in storytelling,
That’s one way of doing it.
Notice how I started by introducing myself. I made sure that I knew the reviewer’s name and the name of their column. You don’t want to come off sounding like you’ve just cut-and-pasted a hundred review requests to a hundred random review sites – even if you have. I told a little bit about the novel, without spoiling too much of the reading experience. I gave them an idea of how long the novel was – so they could judge for themselves how much eyestrain they might actually have to invest in the process. I included a picture of the cover, which is also a key selling point to any book in the world – including e-books.
I probably should have talked a bit about myself and my history as a writer – but in this case I was submitting to a reviewer who already knew my stuff. Usually you won’t have that benefit. I’ve been writing genre since the mid-80′s, so a few people have heard my name. Some of them even don’t run away when they hear it.
Think of it as being the same as pitching a publisher a new book idea. Remember, these reviewers are READERS first. They want to read something that will get them excited enough to write a good review. They don’t do this sort of work to bore themselves to sleep at night. They review books because they have a passion for it.
Do your homework, and send out a few review requests. In the long run they are worth it. You may get a good review, you may get a bad one – but it will improve your visibility and (hopefully) improve your sales for the next ten books that you write. Each step forward in your writing career will take you further down the road – so by god, make it a good step.
How do you find reviewers? Well, for starters, watch your message boards and Facebook pages for like-minded writers who are advertising their own books. If Jack writes the same sort of genre as you do and has just recieved a glowing review from Fester over at the WE REVIEW COOL COOL BOOKS site, well you want to do swing on over to that site and check out their review policy.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS spend the time necessary to check out that review policy. Odds are, if the reviewer is so booked up with books to review they’ll mention that in their review policy – something along the lines of “Oh my good gosh golly, I am so swamped with books that I won’t be taking any more books until next year.”
You read that in a review policy, honor it. Don’t figure that your book is so gosh golly good that the reviewer will make an exception for it. All that you will accomplish by sending an unwanted book to a reviewer is pissing him off.
Finally, a few words on response time. Nine out of ten reviewers aren’t even going to respond. Get used to it. Send more review requests out to more reviewers. Pick a day each week and spend an hour that day researching new review sites and sending out review requests. Sooner or later somebody will take the bait and ask you to look at your book – unless your book sucks so badly that even your mother is shaking her head no when you ask her to read it.
Lastly, when you do get that review don’t get all upset if it isn’t a good one. You can’t control that. All you can do is do your research ahead of time and try to send it out to somebody who likes the sort of thing you write. DON’T send an angry e-mail back to the reviewer arguing with them about thier opinion on your book. You will just piss them off.
Last off all – here’s a good site to get started on your hunt.
But don’t stop there. If you write Rock and Roll Romances, then Google Rock and Roll Romance Book Reviews and commence hunting.
Good luck and have fun.
Yours in storytelling,