One of the biggest challenges for indie authors is gathering reviews for their titles. Reviews are everywhere today. We count on them before we purchase almost anything. Cars, repair services, doctors, clothing, toys, and books. Everyone has an opinion and you'll find thoughtful and helpful reviews, but also mean-spirited ones, along with the bizarre. Once you have a product for sale to the public, it's fair game for reviewers. It's an integral part of marketing strategy for every vendor.
Readers love to see that a book has lots of reviews, which means it's been read by lots of people who actually cared enough to post their thoughts on Amazon or other sites. Book promotion sites usually have a minimum number of reviews required before they'll promote your book, which makes reviews crucial as well. Reviews have an influence on future sales and visibility in the marketplace.
So how does the process work?
1. You have to ask. Start with your readers. At the end of your book, make sure you add that request for a review. I love eNovelAuthorsatWork's blurb. Include the blurb in your newsletters to subscribers too.
2. Your beta readers or fan readers can also be asked. Provide them with a free copy of the book before you publish and reviews can be ready to go when the title is live. Be careful though and make sure reviewers indicate they've received an advance copy for their honest review. Check out Amazon's review policy to do it right. If these reviewers are posting to other websites, they should carefully follow the guidelines of the site for reviews.
3. Seek out bloggers or reviewers for your genre that follow the requirements of Amazon's guidelines. Choosy Bookworm, Library Thing, and others have programs that meet those guidelines. Paying for reviews is a big no-no on Amazon. Don't fall into that particular trap. If discovered, those reviews will be deleted and you may receive a warning or worse from Amazon. If you do purchase a professional review from Kirkus, the review can be used in the Editorial Review section of your book's page. It can't be posted with a rating as a reader can do so by logging into their account.
4. Check out a post from the other side of the fence. Julie Whiteley writes about book reviews from the reviewer's perspective. This is an excellent article and very helpful for writers in forming expectations about reviewers.
It's hard to accumulate reviews, although if you're fortunate enough to snag a Book Bub promo, you may end up with a ton. Reviews are all part of the business and my advice is to work hard to obtain them the right way. Good or bad, they're of value to you as a writer and to the buyer who's looking for the right book.
Maybe one percent of readers will leave a review, which is discouraging. Be prepared for one-star reviews as well as five. That's the tough part of being the public eye. The big guns have disparaging reviews as well as high praise. You're in good company.
There are lots of places print your book if you want a tangible product. It's also a great feeling to actually hold your book, which is one of the reasons to create a paperback edition. My experience is with Create Space, which is a division of Amazon.
Before entering the publishing arena, I did a lot of homework--as in a year of research. I talked to indie authors, checked out lots of websites and blogs about print-on-demand (POD), vanity publishers, hybrid printers that offer a bit of POD and vanity press. There were plenty of horror stories--lots of money up front, purchasing hundreds of books, etc. I decided that POD was the best path for me and I chose Create Space over several others who offered the same services.
The biggest advantages of print-on-demand were these:
1. I was not responsible for storing inventory, and thus forced to sell books from the trunk of my car.
2. No money out-of-pocket.
3. No requirement to purchase books as part of the deal to print my book.
4. I was in control.
5. Amazon would place me on their website.
6. I could order books at cost in any amount.
7. Depending upon the type of ISBN I chose, major book distributors like Ingram and Baker & Taylor would be able to sell my book.
8. I can upload a revised book file at any time for free after publication.
I'm not convinced of any serious disadvantages. Traditionally published authors may have that extra bit of help, but authors lose control over their work and the cover design, and are expected to build a viable platform for marketing. I have found Create Space to be responsive to questions, helpful when I've clicked the wrong button (they can work magic to undo whatever it was I did), prompt with royalty payments, and tax documents. They even offer a CS store which does give authors greater royalties than directly through Amazon. I can even generate discount coupons there. However, I haven't found that readers want to set up an account with CS even with a coupon. They're happy to purchase through their existing Amazon account.
The ease of ordering a few books for a special event or to have them on hand for gifts is convenient. Amazon may be the ginormous retailer of the day, but they are customer focused. The account is free and if you want additional paid services like editing or cover design, they're available. I haven't used these services, so don't have an opinion on the quality.
If you're ready to jump into the POD industry, please do your homework. Study the POD company's requirements, royalty information, how they pay, etc. Use their templates for uploading your work. It makes formatting a breeze. You'll experience less frustration and more time to write the next book. CS has forums, online guides, and actual people answering telephones to help.
I'll also mention Snowfall Press which is a POD printer as well if you have an aversion to Amazon. I've found them to be reputable and an excellent alternative to Amazon.
Here are some helpful links: Create Space
With over 30 years in administration as a manager, paralegal, and administrative professional, my experience runs the gamut from finances, policy, contracts, and human resources. My goal is to help writers navigate the business side of writing with understandable and practical advice.