My guest today is Tyson Mauermann of the popular Speculative Book Review blog. As a veteran reviewer and a participant in The Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, I asked him to share any pointers he had for authors based on his experience reviewing self-published work. Below he provides some great advice:
I have been in the book reviewing game for five years now and I guess some consider me a bit of a pro. It has led to an editing gig with a few authors as well as a job with the up and coming publishing company, Ragnarok Publications. So when I was asked to come up with a guest post about the Do’s and Don’ts of self-publication it took me a little while to actually put together a small list.
1. Edit. Edit. Edit.
And when you are done with that edit again to be sure. Your book might be the best thing since sliced bread but if I find several glaring errors I will put the book down and do my best to forget about it. My advice is to find a reputable editor. Some charge quite a bit but find one in your price range and use them. Better yet, use two if you can afford it. Aside from grammar they should help you with character development, story arc, and plot.
2. Give the bloggers some love
Early reviews are critical and if you can send the book to several bloggers asking for an honest review, then do it. Ask them if they would be willing to publish their review on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Rifflebooks, and Shelfari. As long as the review is honest you should gain a better understanding of your writing. Also, don’t ask the blogger to remove or edit their negative review if you receive one. Not everyone will love your book and a few negative reviews, if they are honest, shouldn’t hurt your book as the reviewers that enjoyed your book will outshine the negative publicity.
It should be noted that I often turn down review requests based on the email an author sends me. If it is full of errors or comes off as unprofessional I tend to delete it and not look back. If the email is professional but I am swamped with books, I find the time to reply back and politely decline their review offer.
You should also make it easy for the reviewer to review your book. Have the book available in several different formats. I don’t accept PDF files as I have a Kindle but other reviewers prefer that format. Pay close attention to the contact page on their blog site. It should help you narrow down their preference and if you can’t find it ask or offer all the formats.
3. Be active
If you want to be successful in the (self) publishing game you need to be active on social media. Facebook, Twitter, and forums like SFFWorld and Reddit are a great place to start. That doesn’t mean spamming every few minutes but getting to know your fan base and taking an active role in the discussions. Places like SFFWorld have a spot to pimp your book but if you engage with the book readers and have something worthwhile to say, you will find them more receptive to trying your book. If you do gain an audience keep them informed and stay active long after your book has hit shelves.
4. Offer some free content
If you create an online profile give them a chapter or two to sample. You can generate buzz and word of mouth will quickly spread to your fan base.
1. Don’t respond to reviews
While you may receive a few nasty reviews avoid the temptation to lash out at the reviewer. I have had this happen on a few occasions. One went so far as to email my wife and threatened her to get me to remove my scathing review. Another created a sock puppet army to attack my review. I built my reputation on honest reviews regardless of how personal a relationship is with an author; it is how I became a reviewer. If you engage one reviewer you will get a negative reputation as the reviewing community is a pretty tight knit group and we do talk to one another and keep each other informed of some authors’ behaviors.
2. Search out reputable self-publishing companies
Many authors are very willing to talk to you about their personal experiences with publishing companies. There are a few that you should avoid at all costs and they will help you to sort the good from the bad.
3. Avoid blatant advertising on newsgroups and forums
Join a few sites and take an active role in it and once you have participated for a while, then you can plug your project but don’t go spamming. Nothing turns the community off more than the constant bombardment of your work. You will lose more than you gain.
4. Don’t harass reviewers
My current review queue is well beyond 100+ books. I try to review in the order received but if a book grabs my attention or I have enjoyed the previous book in the series, I will read it next. The reviewer is going to read it, it just may take a while to get to it. We have lives and sometimes it takes priority over your book. If it has been more than six months feel free to reach out to the reviewer but nothing irks me more then an author who expects me to drop everything to review their book. If the email is especially obnoxious I may even put it even further down on the review pile or reject it completely.
5. Don’t skimp on a cover
While it may seem like a bargain to grab a generic cover, a picture is still worth a thousand words. If you find the right cover you will find an audience. Also, don’t choose a cover that will get you banned. If you choose to show nudity on the cover Amazon and other major retailers will ban it. Stay classy.
6. Finally, don’t burn your bridges
You will most likely receive a few letters from agents, editors, and publishers turning down your book. That is okay. Learn from it and move on. Who knows, they may just accept your next book. A scathing letter in reply from a place that turned down your book will make your next endeavor an even steeper hill to climb, which could have been avoided.