Whether they work with a legacy publisher or go indie, new authors usually find themselves tasked with the heavy lifting of promoting their own books. Or they do if they are not already a celebrity of some kind. Now that I’m into my second novel and working on my third, I thought I would blog a little on my experiences with getting reviews out of book bloggers and other internet-only reviewers as part of a larger promotional campaign.
As part of promoting Stonewall Goes West, I contacted seven book bloggers and two websites with book review sections, focusing on those with Civil War or military historical content to mirror what I was doing. I am not including authors’ blogs in this blog, but instead dwelling on those who consider themselves book reviewers first and foremost insofar as their website identity goes, although said reviewers may have also written a book.
The short version of this blog is that I didn’t bother trying this route again when the second novel of the series came out, nor will I ever try it again. Here is why:
Failure To Complete
Of the nine different entities who agreed to review my first novel, a year and a half later only one has completed the task. That is an incomplete rate of almost 90%, which would automatically make this promotional effort a failure. In an accounting sense it was also a failure, since I am 99.997% certain I lost money in terms of book sales vs. postal costs.
Beware Of The Blogger
My first point leads straight to this one: just because a guy blogs regularly and seems like a semi-pro doesn’t mean he has a professional attitude. Just for starters, these guys can and will take your book and never speak to you again. In another example, the single review I received for my efforts was done by a blogger who couldn’t be bothered to produce an accurate plot synopsis of my book.
Let me make this point clear: my problem is not that Mr. Redd didn’t like my book and panned it. If you can’t tolerate people not liking your work, you shouldn’t publish, period. My problem is that he misrepresented my book by making gross factual errors in summarizing it. About half of what he says about the plot of Stonewall Goes West is objectively false!
Now perhaps Redd isn’t that bright or perhaps he was actively malicious, but the bottom line here is that if he were writing for a newspaper, magazine or journal, his sloppy factual errors would be grounds for my demanding a correction and/or retraction, and I would get it too! Professionals and professional organizations blanche at such things. Yet because Redd is just a blogger, and responsible only to himself, there is no recourse.
The lesson here is a book blogger can be capricious, stupid, lazy, and/or dishonest, just like the people who write your most infuriating reader reviews. Indeed, sometimes those people will be literally one in the same. You are powerless against either nuisance, so why help them by supplying them with a copy of your book for free?
Most Book Bloggers Have No Audience
Here is an interesting nugget: because of The Whiskey Reveiwer, I have some tools for checking how much traffic competing websites get. Within the first three months of publishing Stonewall Goes West, this blog (the one you are reading right now) was attracting more traffic than any two of my book bloggers put together. Right now it draws in more readers every month than any six of them combined.
The two websites with book review sections I mentioned are a different story, but I’ve obviously got a dramatically bigger following than any of the bloggers, and I built it up very rapidly and without their help. So I can conclude that even if all seven of them had reviewed the book in a timely fashion and showered me with praise, it’s hard to see what I would have gotten out of it except editorial review quotes, because their followings are so miniscule.
As a side note, this point also goes back to the lack of common sense I mentioned before. Three of the reviewers concerned have books of their own out (Redd is one of this trio), and given that they could go to my Facebook group and see that as a measurement of my following, you would think it would be obvious that they should cultivate me. Clearly I can do more for them than they can for me. Yet they either aren’t smart enough or aren’t ambitious enough to see it.
The lesson here is that if you are considering sending your book to a book blogger for review, always check what his following is first. Even if you don’t want to purchase the tools I have for my other projects, you can use Twitter and Facebook followings and Alexa.com as a rough guide.
Proceed With Extreme Care
High risk and low reward doesn’t make sense, and that is unknowingly exactly what I went out and did with my book blogger promotional project. The result was a huge waste of effort and a minor waste of money, both of which would have been better used in other promotional efforts.
Don’t make the same mistake I did. View every book blogger as a potential troll, and check each and every single one you are considering working with to see if they have a following that justifies that risk. Some of them are OK, but you cannot assume that, and even the good ones might not be of any help to you in promoting your book. If you don’t have the time to do your due diligence, don’t bother going this route.