The following post is from Monique Snyman. An indie book reviewer and she reviewed by book Hounds of Heaven. As more reviews come in for my book I hope I can get more guest posts from reviewers so other indie authors can get an idea of what to do and what not to do. Enjoy the post there’s a ton of great info in it:
You might know me as Monique “The Reaper” Snyman or you may not. It depends whether you’ve followed my career so far… I started off as a gossip columnist on www.horrornews.net and then moved on to www.battleroyalewithcheese.com as a movie reviewer. After that I went on to be the co-owner, book and movie reviewer of www.pissedoffgeek.com and now I am slowly busy to start my own site… This is probably a lot of information to put into the first paragraph of a blogpost, and yet, perhaps it’s too little, because you see the more you know about me, the better you’ll be able to understand how at least one reviewer’s mind works. So this is going to be an insight into what reviewers want from their authors.
I’ve done pretty much everything in my 22 years on this planet, everything from door-to-door sales, to working in a call centre and sometimes I still work with lawyers. I’ve studied bits of this and that, but I noticed I get bored very quickly when I’m tied down to a specific subject (unless its horror and sci-fi related). My first year at university was dedicated to studying publishing; my second year was dedicated to ancient languages and archaeology, now I major in English and minor in ancient religion. I know I’m all over the place, but it makes me very versatile as an author. I’ve not had it easy either, what I’ve done I’ve done by myself except with the bit of support I’ve gotten from some people. It wasn’t until recently that I got my own publishing deal, although I would have gotten it earlier have it not been for a dodgy publisher, which I was thankfully warned about prior to signing the contract. I live in South Africa and English is actually my second language (I’m Afrikaans, but you’ll never realise that from my writing and bitching about grammar and editing, I know). Other than that, there’s not a lot to tell about myself which is worth your time, but now that you know a bit about me it will be easier to explain what I look for in my line of work…
Probably the first mistake most writers make is that they expect you to review a book without the common decency to say hi to their reviewer. I mean, I understand as an author myself that time is money and money is needed to survive. I also know that you can’t give attention to each and every fan of your work, but you have to make time to communicate with the people that sell your book in the end. Take the time to talk with your reviewer, be it personal or not… You have to remember that most reviewers don’t get paid to review your book at all. The little money they get (if they have a donate button on their site at all) is hardly something to make a living on. So take a bit of time and get to know your reviewer. They are the most important people to an author’s career after publishers.
Secondly, it’s a common misconception that a bad review will mean a dive in your sales, but this is untrue. There’s a saying that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” and I wish some authors would realise this. An honest review about your work does not mean that it will be bad, but if it is, rather learn from your mistakes and move on. Be thankful someone saw your mistakes and be thankful that they took their time to review your book in the first place. In this day and age you can’t be picky anymore, people don’t like to read, the few that do read are the ones you don’t want to piss off and believe me a bad review won’t piss them off… I’ve had my fair share of writing an honest review and then being slandered by the author (or sometimes director of a film), it’s when authors take such drastic measures to go out of their way to slander a reviewer that the reviewer will not give their other work a chance (I simply say no to requests then, because those authors don’t want to learn in my personal opinion). So remember that a bad review don’t equal bad sales, it’s as easy as that.
One of the most horrible things of being a reviewer is of course getting hassled by authors about when their book will be reviewed. Now, I also understand that you want your review as soon as possible, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way. Currently I have a review list of about 30 books that I haven’t had the chance to get to yet. Most reviewers have day jobs and families… Most reviewers only have two eyes and a bit of time to read, so stop hassling them about your review. It will come when you least expect it and who knows, sometimes it’s a good surprise to get that email in your inbox.
I can give you a few tips about what to do when you’re sending out review copies:
1.) Keep a list of names and email addresses of each and every reviewer you sent a copy of your book to. Make an Excel program (I’ve done this for my authors) and just keep your information updated. Communicate from time to time with your reviewer, but don’t overdo it in the first few days (you know what I mean, right?). Try to find him/her on Facebook or Twitter and just hang out. You’ll be surprised how much they enjoy talking with you.
2.) Make sure when you send your book to ask for their specifications. Some reviewers might ask for an Amazon Kindle version, others may prefer a PDF copy… I know bigger sites insist on printed copies. It all depends on the reviewer and to make it as painless for them as possible. Remember they’re doing you a favour at the end of the day. However (and this is a BIG however), NEVER send your books out in a Microsoft Word program. Not because it can be changed or anything like that, most reviewers are professional enough not to make trouble like that, but it’s really a schlep to read from a Word program copy. I always seem to move those down to the bottom of the list… I know, I’m bad.
3.) No matter how bad the review is, always send a thank you email to your reviewer. Don’t slander their names because you think your work is the best of the best. You’ll be surprised, but sometimes, no matter how much you love your “baby”, it’s probably not as good as you’d hoped (I can say this, because I’m an author too, so ha!).
4.) Keep in contact with your reviewer even after you’ve gotten your review. The reason for this is simple, you can both use each other at a later stage and/or if you’re fortunate enough to find a reviewer such as myself, the reviewer might come in contact regularly for other things you can get involved with. I hardly ever ask for printed copies of books, when I do, it’s either to give away as a prize on the site or it’s to donate to struggling libraries and make people not only aware of horror, but to help illiteracy be demolished.
5.) (This one is more a suggestion than anything else) If you get involved in projects such as donating a book or two to libraries in Africa, you’re more likely to get your name out in places you’d never have thought of and/or you might touch a child on such a level that he/she might fall in love with reading. This will in turn also mean he/she buys more books more often and in the end of it all, you would not have only helped one person become literate, but also helped out book sales in a whole.
Okay, so you have the basics of what book reviewers want and how it will benefit you as an author, so let’s go over to the last and probably most debated question in literature since the internet was introduced. This is of course the question between self-publishing and getting a publisher… [enter scary music here]… Okay so as a reviewer you see both sides of the story, some publishers are dodgy, I’ll admit that, but the dodgy ones don’t come in contact with me due to my contacts that I have built up and my rallies against said publishers (by the way, DO NOT go near Dorchester Publishers and Leisure Books, they’re as dodgy as they come). I don’t mind indie authors at all; I love how they are usually out of the box and such, but please, save up the money for a proper editor. I’d much rather read a book with a stupid cover than a book with spelling and editing errors and I’m sure plenty of reviewers feel the same. Make sure your book is readable before you send it, take the time to find a good editor and then avoid the dreaded “spelling and grammar errors made for difficult reading” line in your review. I know it’s scary to get a review and I understand as an author you don’t always have the money for it, but find it and you’ll most likely reach heights you’ve only hoped for.
I hope my little insight into the reviewing world clarified a few things for authors in a whole. You can read some of my movie and book reviews at www.killeraphrodite.blogspot.com and if you’re interested you can read some of my free short stories and poems (or just some of my personal news) at www.moniquesnyman.blogspot.com or you can follow me on twitter @Neurotic_review (I caution you though that is my personal account and not for sensitive folks, I tend to call a spade a spade).
With that, I bid thee farewell until our paths cross again.
Monique “The Reaper” Snyman
“Write drunk; edit sober” ~ Ernst Hemmingway