Sunday, 23 September 2012

A Mountain Of Book Reviewers

English: Open book icon
English: Open book icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Honestly, you've no idea how many book blogs there are out there. After trawling through them for a few hours, they start to morph together into a plastic gloop of Blogger and Wordpress templates, a putty of garish backgrounds and glittering widgets that eventually goes the way of school plasticine and turns into a dull, brownish purple.

Yes, we're in promo mode...

I missed a trick with Olives - A Violent Romance, in that I didn't focus early enough on the global online community. That's partly because I had a printed edition of the book which was targeted at the UAE. Later on, I shifted focus from 'traditional' and Middle-East focused online media to book bloggers and reviewers and had compiled a sizeable database of sites after a while. For Beirut - An Explosive Thriller, which will launch as an online-only book (both ebook and print), that online community is even more important. In fact, it's crucial.

That means trawling through, literally, hundreds of book review blogs to find appropriate reviewers. What makes a book blog appropriate? Here's Alexander's handy ten point book blog selection filter:

1) Is the site well formatted and readable?
Purple 6 point text on a cyan background with ebulliently serifed fonts, illustrations that 'crash' on the page and thousands of buttons, awards and widgets? If you find it hard to read, so will visitors. It just takes a quick check for 7) before we move on.

2) Is it updated?
If the last post was in July, we move on.

3) Is it well written?
I'm not talking about the odd literal, but you're putting your work into someone's hands and accepting their review of it. If they clearly aren't able to express themselves, it's not going to be as smart an investment in time as finding someone who - even if they don't like your work - can effectively reason a conclusion regarding that work. The vast majority of book blogs don't fall into this bucket, avid readers tending to be literate, but there are some that do and I choose to avoid them.

4) Does the site review in your genre?
If the last ten reviews have young men with eight-packs on the covers and titles like Love in Wyoming, I can't quite see Beirut floating the reviewer's boat. Olives was easier in this respect as it did wander into romance crossover territory, but Beirut is a pretty hardcore international spy thriller. A nip into the 'Review guidelines' to check the reviewer's preferences and we can both save ourselves some time.

5) Is the reviewer accepting reviews?
Closed to submissions means just that. Quite a few blogs have put this up as the reviewer drowns in the weight of eager, breathless little books scratching away at their skin. Ignoring it just wastes everyone's time. You can always put these in a separate list to check back in a couple of months. Often you'll find 5) and 2) signal that the blogger has decided to go back to reading for enjoyment rather than being hassled 9-5 by authors shrieking 'review my book!'

6) Does the reviewer accept ebooks?
I can't stress enough how much time and hassle is avoided by reading the review guidelines - and conforming to them. And when a reviewer says no ebooks, they mean it.

7) If not, does the site have significant reach?
For about $8, I can put a review copy in anyone's hands, anywhere in the US and Canada. For about £9.99 I can cover much of the rest of the world via the Book Depository. Now the question becomes how many of these outlays do you want to/can you make? And then, when you have a budget defined, where is it wisest to spend it?

How do you tell whether a blog has reach? That's  whole piece in itself, but comments and followers are a start. Bear in mind these days that Twitter and Facebook form a part of any site's 'reach', but as a rule of thumb few followers, lacking likes and a quiet blog are probably not where you want to spend your bucks.

8) Does the site have reach?
Does it matter? Unless you're eking out your print promo budget because of 7) above, you're looking at the cost of an email or two and a Kindle/epub file. If the blog gets 50 visits a day, that's 50 more people that knew about your book than yesterday. A hundred emails will take you a couple of days to send out, but net you 5,000 eyeballs. Anything above that is bunce. Many book bloggers also post to Goodreads and Amazon, so there are also signficant multipliers there. And, of course, you can share the review with your own followers. So reach be damned!

9) Is there a clear review policy?
Most book blogs have clear review policies that are straightforward and common sense and generally my submission package would conform to these. Where this isn't the case, it's important to reflect the policy and make changes. A personal touch is always appreciated, of course. In a few cases where I've come up against stringent and onerous review policies (such as extensive online forms) I've passed.

10) What's the TBR like?
Most book bloggers have a very long To Be Read list and it's not unusual to see reviews three or even six months out. So the sooner you get out to them, the better.

And what about paid reviews, listings and other services? I avoid 'em like the plague and will continue to do so unless I get some very clear recommendations from writer friends that a given service has worked. And so far I haven't.

If you've got a blog and you'd like a review copy of Beirut, BTW, do just leave a comment or ping me @alexandermcnabb.
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Robb said...

What about the paid 'book blog tours' that are offered? For example, there might be a service that says for $99, your book will be reviewed, or you will be interviewed on, or you can post a guest blog on, say 10 book blogs/websites with a minimum of XXX readers per site, and the 10 blog appearances will appear over X amount of time (all in one day in a big blast, or one a day for 10 days, or whatever). There are several such services, with a wide variety of prices and options. Are these worthwhile? If so, any you recommend, or recommend avoiding?

Alexander McNabb said...

I tried one promo on a site, eReader Daily News and it resulted in absolutely nothing back, not one sale. Thing about online/Amazon is it's infinitely trackable, so you can really see results.

So I guess I'm feeling jaded. Can anyone out there give a heartfelt 'book promo site was great value' recommendation?

Diane Oliver said...

Very helpful, this. Thanks, Alexander.

Big Dave said...

Well I don't have a book blog, but I can promise you a review on Amazon, if that's worth anything. As indeed I shall be reviewing Space shortly.

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