10 Things an Author Never Wants to Hear

1) From a Friend:

“Wow, that’s excellent! I can’t wait to read your book. Please bring along a copy next time we have coffee.”

2) From an Agent:

“They really liked your book, it just wasn’t the right “fit” for them.”

3) From a Husband/Wife:

“I did read it. I got the draft you sent via email.”

“What was your favourite part?”

“Erm.. the bit where the character died.”

“No character died in the book.”

4) From a Brother/Sister:

“You’ll never make any money out of it, why are you bothering?”

5) From a Reader:

“I absolutely LOVED your book.”

“Do you mind leaving a review online?”

‘“Oh I don’t know how to do that, sorry..”


6) From a Best Friend:

“I loved your first draft.”

“Did you spot anything wrong with it?”

“No its great! You’ll sell looooads of copies,”

7). From an Editor:

“I suggest an entire re-write. Better still, start again.  And change the genre.”

8). From an Amazon Reviewer:

“This book was rubbish” – 1 Star

9) From another Amazon Reviewer:

“I totally freaking loved this book!!” – 2 stars.

10) From yet another Amazon Reviewer:

“ Yadda yadda, yadda… long excellent review... however, this isn’t the genre I normally read.” – 1 Star

If you’re an author and you don’t agree… you’re not an author. 🙂

Share the misery!

Paid Book Reviews – Are they worth it?

Recently I received an email asking my opinion with regards to a certain “book review” site. The email came from an author, (a friend of mine) who  was unsure if it was worth paying for a book review. I had to be totally honest with my friend here; especially when the reviewer in question used the standard line “I would love to review your book…” within the pitch.

Perhaps my responses here lean towards the negative, but after nearly ten years in the writing world, I merely consider them realistic.

To Note: My opinions are not intended to dissuade indie authors from ‘seeking’ reviews. Reviews ARE without a doubt a very important element of an author’s career. They also help readers to judge their position when purchasing a title. I do, however, have some reservations  when it comes to ‘purchasing’ online reviews.

Below is the emailed response to my friend, which I thought it a good idea to print here for the benefit of others.

1. Book review sites online are ten to the dozen. The reviewer in question sounds like a genuinely nice girl, but does she have a leg in the book industry or an advantage within powerful media though? If I said “Ooh “Mel the Book Lover” reviewed my book,”  will the masses go wild then rush out to buy it? I think not.
Perhaps if it was Lorraine Kelly from Breakfast TV, or Ellen Degeneres..  (now we’re talking!) but Miss X  from Oregon… or wherever it is? No, I think not.

As you know, I used to review books for free, loads of them, for about two years, no-one ever paid me for that kinda thing. They would probably laugh if I asked. Why? Because you can acquire free reviews,  (bloggers, Goodreads and dozens of others, if you are bothered and try hard enough.)

My rule of thumb:

To pay hard earned cash for a full book review is to know that the reviewer/site is truly worth the cost, and if they are worth that cost – there is no question that it’ll be expensive today, even for half a book.

2. As far as I’m aware, Kirkus is the one place where mentioning an indie review can add some credibility to your book, and Kirkus took many years to build up their name brand to the point that it became more familiar and somewhat respected. Today they charge approx $500 per book, if not more. Still… go google and you’ll find that some authors question the efficacy in terms of a cost/results comparison.

3. If readers gauge that you have paid money for a review: it’s not so good. Aside from the fact that  Amazon won’t allow ‘paid’ reviews and are increasingly clamping down staunchly on anything they can sniff out as having been ‘paid for and posted to amazon’ by review sites. (Similarly reviews from Fiverr, Craigslist are not permitted. ) The crackdown is to ensure readers get as much unbiased feedback on their products as possible, which, hey,  is a really good thing! I don’t want to buy a book that has a semi-biased opinion because I stuffed the readers pocket with some cash – ever. I want books that have been read and reviewed by people that don’t have a clue who the author is and will speak his/her mind, no matter how good or bad.

Consider too that a reader will act more favourably towards a ‘natural’ review which is of more interest to the general public. I don’t believe general readers want a run down/re-hash of a book’s plot, climax, denouement, etc, they want to know how a book made another reader feel. It can be a simple sentence left by Joe Bloggs that nudges a reader to hit the BUY button.  On average it works better than two pages of an in-depth editorial review that the reader isn’t interested in.

4. The site has a genuine policy of refunding for books they do not like which is a respectable philosophy! You won’t have your book trashed on their  own pages at least – and at a price.

5. I get lots of emails from individuals/sites telling me that they’d love to review my books. Of course they can word it how they please; I know it’s still a mailshot, and sure business is business, that’s fair enough, but without $$$ in the equation you’ll see that love evaporate pretty quickly.  That said: if they are really good at reviewing books, and you are willing to pay the cash, that’s fine and totally your prerogative.

6. Sales Perspective: I do not believe that one review, however discerning it may be, can make an effective enough hit on a sales graph, (unless it comes from top media of course). I have tons of good reviews, but wait… so do thousands of other books. Remember, a reader’s choice is infinite. Gathering timely reviews ( fairly balanced and natural) will most definitely get your graphs moving upward, but I have never seen a spike in sales on the back of one review alone.

7. It doesn’t matter if Mike, Karen, or Maggie from Liverpool reviewed my book…. reviews are not the singular biggest effective marketing ploy anymore. For good effect they  must be consistently dripped in to a continuous and (often expensive) marketing campaign by actual marketing savvy people, including wherever possible, radio/TV/posters on shop windows etc.

Why do  Penguin/ Hodder/ Bloomsbury/ Harper..  etc have the biggest clout of all when it comes to selling and marketing? They spend thousands to earn it.

Sure, my friend, the reviewer is doing nothing ‘wrong’ per se, she is probably making a few bucks on her site, and good for her, though I’d say mainly on the back of her reputation and honesty, coupled with the undampening halo of most indie authors innocent enthusiasm. She  fits “somewhere.”

Bottom Line: Keep seeking reviews: just be wise about the sources.

Publishing Questions and Answers

Having worked in the writing/publishing world for more than ten years, I have noticed massive changes in the way publishing works for both independent and traditionally published authors. After a successful five year indie book campaign, I negotiated a deal with a UK publisher which gave me further insight into this elusive business.

But often for new writers, the area of publishing is daunting altogether, so in good faith I have answered a few questions. (Bear in mind that I am based in the United Kingdom and publishing methods can vary in other countries.)

Lastly, my thanks goes to @crites_es for posting the following questions for me to answer in Twitter, which we both agreed would be useful for others.

1. It’s my understanding that you have to market yourself regardless if you self or traditionally publish. What’s pros and cons for both?

I know that many independent publishers today require their authors to make some considerable effort towards marketing their books. If you don’t have something more to offer them other than a manuscript, i.e. time, personality, drive, confidence… it’s not the most attractive pitch.

Traditionally published authors are stepping up to doing a lot of the marketing themselves, by agreement even, and for many reasons. One is that many independent publishers don’t have the resources or time to do it for every single author they have. It can’t be a bad thing to do a few book signings yourself, talk to reader/library groups etc. So that is a pro. With a good pitch you can attend signings and festivals with a good publisher’s backing. Attending writing groups is also a good way to improve your social skills in this respect.

The con is that if you’re a particularly shy person who isn’t great at putting yourself forward it’s going to be doubly hard. This also applies if you live in a remote area and have little access to venues or locations where you could actively promote your work.

2. If you self publish can you still send the book off to publishers to see if they will accept it?

Some publishers are very strict on this. Others may be open to discussion. It really is a matter of asking.

My publisher offered me a hybrid deal. It suited me because I retain a lot of the control I already had, and get a ‘little extra.’ through true publishing channels. In effect I am both a self published and a published author. This is becoming more common today. My books were re-published with a new ISBN which is required by the publisher for his own trade catalogue. (This is how you come across books saying “First published by.. or Second Edition published by..”) Yes! Books can really do the rounds.

My books were also deposited to national libaries in Oxford/Cambridge in London and distributed in the paperback trade via companies that are ‘locked in’ to publishers only. Those aspects of marketing come under a publisher’s control. How that actually works down at admin quarters, I have little clue because I am not a true publisher, but it is their end of the deal and my book is a product. He sells a few and I get my royalty, so win/win.

At the end of the day, it all depends on what the publisher wants from you and what you are able to offer, and wish to accept. It can be a small bit of support or it can be large.

3. What are the best ways to advertise your work?

Each SP author needs to learn this and it takes a while. It took me over a year to gain traction. Some tips: Make sure you don’t spam. It never works. And it doesn’t really work selling to those who are also trying to sell to you. Seek writers for feedback, book swaps etc. If you’ve done your homework in knowing your target audience you should be looking in those places, for your customers: the readers.

Also beware of rogue marketing claims. How to write a bestseller and make $$ in 30 days. It’s rubbish. The thing with big publishers is that they spend thousands on advertising/marketing. They have experts running campaigns that they’ve been learning to do for years, throwing in vast amounts in advertising, but they also lose just as much. Most indie authors are winging it and then can have varying degrees of success.

In self-publishing standards, marketing your book yourself is a harder task because you may not have the leverage and/or funds to get your books into the mainstream, reviewed by media etc. As you can see SP books have saturated the market. Readers have abundant choice. The only way I have seen that is effective in marketing self-publishing books is by actively ‘even physically’, approaching third parties and networking with those who can extend or provide valuable author opportunities.

4. Is it best to self publish through Amazon or a private press?

I think the large quantity book production tank is a bit of a risk. I personally don’t think it’s worth it. I never did it. But as said, each SP author will have his/her own goal plan and directives.

Unless I had a significant number of buyers and/or pre-order customers it’s just not worth it. I’ve spoken to many excited authors who ordered large quantities of their book, only to still have the majority of them stacked away in a cupboard a year later and end up flogging them to family and friends. It’s deflating.

Print on Demand is a better option for unknown authors, in my opinion.

5. If you publish through Amazon, can someone search Amazon for you or can they only go through a link?

Every author on Amazon can be found on their search engine.  Today each author’s page includes a bibliography, can include a biography, author photo, plus much more. They do not allow outbound links, for obvious reasons. Amazon are getting more tuned in to providing a framework for authors that is not just a platform for book sales but also to showcase their writing careers.

6. How many books sold is considered good?

I suppose it depends on personal expectation. Initially I thought 50 sales of my first book in a year would be fantastic, but then I achieved a few thousand. I could say that was good, but not as good as those authors who sold 10, 20 or 100 times more.

What I do know is that as an independent author, at the end of the day if you base your happiness and fulfilment levels on sales figures and monetary rewards, disappointment is highly likely, and probably inevitable. To look at sales as something that is possible or achievable but not the be all and end all of your writing life, is a much healthier perspective to have. It is always best to focus on the quality of your work for the enjoyment and pleasure in creating it and sharing it with readers, building up a platform, getting noticed, then looking at any future sales as a bonus for the hard work you’ve put in.