Ebook Revolution

Reviews: How Credible Is Your E-Book?

So you have your first 5 star reviews, or five, or ten…. You know depends on the number of family members you have. Unfortunately, unless your family member is a well known book critique, chances are people WILL doubt that all your 20 plus 5 star reviews are genuine and not just your ego going for a joy ride under a fake name.

You need to remember that the best review is a balanced one. If you are deleting all your bad reviews and leaving only squeaky clean ones, a little switch is going to flip inside the prospective readers head flashing a red warning light. The readers aren’t stupid; they know when you’ve been rigging the results. It’s important to note that a 1 star review is not necessarily always negative. Indie author Brian Pratt, now making almost $20,000/month with his e-book sales, noted how one of his bad reviews led to generating one very happy fan. The review in questions was along the lines of, “This is horrible, it reads like a D&D (Dungeon and Dragons) videogame script.” Brian received an email from a fan – a large player of videogames – who sighted this review as the reason why he tried and then bought all seven books in that series. ‘Bad’ reviews should never be discounted because one reader’s dislike is another reader’s passion.

If your friends or family members do write a review make sure they include both the good points and the possible problems that people might have with the novel. They should also pick out quotes from the novel to prove their point if possible. Basically they have to say exactly why they enjoyed the book, what did it accomplish? Did the characters stand out? How did they stand out? Was it a thrilling spin on an age old theme? Then have them note what points might not appeal to some people. For example, “It’s great for fantasy and sci-fi lovers but if you aren’t too keen on romance this might not be the book for you.” One person may have trouble believing a dog can talk while another reader might say, “Bring on the dog humour.”

Reviews are supremely important to the credibility of your work. A good spread of reviews will let a reader know what they are in for. It is a recommendation from one reader to another, rather than a sales pitch from an author to a reader. However, not all reviews are made equal. A review from an influential and respected reviewer is needed to really make an impact. One of the problems for self-published indie e-book authors is that few reviewers accept a) e-books and b) self-published books. This is mainly due to the reputation of self-publishing in the industry. A few people were a little overzealous with their substandard novels and buggered it up for the rest of us. That’s life. It may be possible to set a new standard though. I am a large believer of the theory, unless you give it a go, you won’t know. So I would suggest to you, if you have a good quality book (Preferably if it has been through an editor) that has been well received in the e-book stores, then think about sending an enquiry letter (which I will discuss) to these reviewers. Let’s see if we can help shift them to a more open minded view of e-published works.

Reviewers generally read genre specific books and so, in a sense, finding reviewers is kind of like finding a publisher, you have to be precise. So to find a reviewer in your genre or niche all you have to do is type ‘book reviewer’ + your niche into Google. As you’re searching find out what they have reviewed. You don’t want to send a paranormal romance to someone who reviews paranormal thrillers. Are the books that they review ones that you know? Do they relate you your type of genre? How many people follow their recommendations? Do they review for publications? There are many people who will offer to review your book, but only a few will have the public presence that you are looking for.

Then you need to check out the reviewer’s submission guidelines. Some reviewers ask for you to send an enquiry first, others will tell you just to send the damn thing. Each reviewer will have slightly different rules of what they will and won’t accept. Very specialised non-fiction filled with jargon may need to be reviewed by peers with a good reputation rather than book reviewers due to its technical nature. Reviewers will not read unpublished manuscripts. Remember, as a self-published author your book has to be of exceptionally quality for major reviewers to consider reading your work. Reviewers do not mince words; they will not recommend your book to anybody if it does not read well. Generally they prefer that your book is currently available to the public (although some, contrarily want your book several months before you release it). Some e-book reviewers will read books published by indie authors (including small press authors) as well as traditionally published authors who are re-releasing backlist titles on their own, so that’s something to keep in mind for authors who are out of print.

But if you want to appear professional and stand out from the hundreds of books that reviewers get every week there are several things you must do. You should ALWAYS attach an enquiry or cover letter in the body of your email to the reviewer. This needs to be short and to the point. Give them your first and second pitches; tell them your author credentials, why these credentials qualify you to write that book. Mention at least one of the books that they have reviewed, and why their review led you to think they were the right person to send your book to. Finally you have to give them the unique selling point of your book. Why is it different, why is it life changing? This will come from the synopsis you have written and the content you have carefully placed on your website. For example, indie author D.N. Charles is giving his book away for free to any woman in the Australian sex industry in the hopes of finding the woman who inspired his novel. This creates interest and curiosity. Remember, you are pitching your novel to them. Reviewers only consider the work sent to them, it is your job to convince them to read yours as soon as possible. If you want to approach a reviewer who does not accept e-books or self-published works then send them the enquiry letter only, with the best headline you can manage in the subject line of the email.

Send them your most up-to-date, corrected and perfectly formatted copy! You do not go to a party half dressed, why would you send your novel to a reviewer half polished? Similarly your cover better be professional. If your cover is amateur you are giving the impression that your work is amateur. Again, you wouldn’t go to a party half dressed, and you certainly wouldn’t go to a party in a garbage bag. There are no do over’s. The copy you send first is the one they are going to read. So you better make sure that you send them the right one. Send it to them in the format they request whether it be Kindle format, pdf, whatever. If possible zip the file so that it does not clog up their inbox with its size. You want to make sure that you make it as easy as possible for them to access your novel. They are giving credibility to your work, expecting them to click on this link or that link and then download it using this or that coupon is a) not a good way to get into their good graces and b) disrespectful and treating them like your maid. The best strategy is to add the e-book as an attachment to your dazzling enquiry email.

So, it’s time to ditch that garbage bag for a cocktail dress (or suit) and start submitting to your chosen reviewers. Perhaps save the champagne for after you have read review…

TOMORROW: The Media Machine: Bringing traffic to your site whether it be paid, borrowed or free!

13 Responses

  1. tedkrever says:

    I’ve got a weird but delightful problem.
    When I put my books online, a friend of mine said she was going to review and I said ‘Don’t do five stars – nobody believes those.’ I don’t. I always look for the oddball even when everyone else likes something- I figure I’ll learn more from the critical review.
    My friend is the only review I’ve gotten that’s less than five stars. No friends, no family, only strangers. I assume the ones that don’t like the book aren’t posting but what am I supposed to do? Tell them ‘could you please diss it a little?’ I’ve been waiting ten years to see these things read and it turns out the people who read them love them. It’s hard not to bask in it a bit.
    I’m not sure I’m asking for a solution but I think it’s pretty funny. You get exactly what you were hoping for and it works against you. Sounds like one of my stories, actually.

  2. EmCraven says:

    Haha! That’s wonderful Ted.

    I like that you are one of the few authors who is asking for an average review or two, it shows that you know how a reader’s mind works!

    Congrats on your reviews.

    Em

  3. The_Reaper says:

    This is a very true article. I hardly ever give 5 stars and I’m a reviewer, however, when I do give a 5 star rating, it’s because it was a magnificent book. As for the genre-specific books, that’s also true… I prefer dark fantasy, dark romance/erotic, horror and sci-fi… but you have to shop around to find the perfect reviewer for you. :)

    • EmCraven says:

      Sorry about that Reaper.

      It’s been a couple of weeks writing Hiatus and my spam filter didn’t catch this one. I’m so sorry! Will check it more frequently in future!

      Cheers,

      Emily

  4. EmCraven says:

    Thanks so much for your imput Reaper,

    It’s great to hear from people for are actually in the industry. Would love to hear any extra thoughts you might have on submitting for review.

    Cheers,

    Em

  5. Great post! Now I don’t feel quite so bad about the 2 star review I got today.

    But why is it that I dwell on the the low star reviews, but almost dismiss the 4 and 5s?

  6. EmCraven says:

    We are willing to see the bad easily Shalini, but life is too short for those sorts of thoughts, you’ll never make it to where you want to be with a negative mindset :) So celebrate the 4’s and 5’s and when you get a bad review, see if there is anything you can do about it. If not, search out another review site and submit, submit, submit! You can never have too many reviews.

  7. Bob says:

    As a book reviewer, I don’t care about the format or genre, only that the book has merit and is worth reading.

    Authors need to realize that writing is a business and they need to turn out the best product they can.

  8. EmCraven says:

    Hi Bob,

    That’s very true, popularity will come more easily with quality. Though I have to say you are the first reviewer I have met who cares little for formatting! Self published authors, perhaps you should be seeking out Bob!

    Cheers,

    Emily

  9. Stuart Aken says:

    Thanks for this, Em. It’s a well-reasoned, helpful and pertinent piece of writing, which I’ve tweeted and placed on Google+1, as I think as many indie authors as possible should see it.

  10. My experience started when my publisher asked 2500$ for a Kirkus review. I gave 450$ directly to Kirkus and I still dought if the reviewer even read the entire book!

    • EmCraven says:

      Hi There,

      Hmmm, be careful of publishers who ask money from you for doing reviews, the good publishers with reputation will do that themselves without asking a cent from you. And bought reviews are very easy to pick because they dont’ address the specifics of a book, just say it’s great and leave it at that. It’s worthwhile trying to submit your book to reviewers and book bloggers with your proposal because they will give genuine reviews which are respected.

      Good luck!

      Em

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