Replay 2012 | How (Not?) To Get Your Book Reviewed

It’s that time of year again, and I’m not only dragging out the Stuff I Found While Procrastinating Online Gift Guides, but also replaying some of my most popular “self-printing” posts from the last twelve months for those who might have missed them first time around. They’re in no particular order, popularity-wise. Today’s is a lesson in how (not?) to get your book reviewed… 

One of the hardest things for a self-published author to do is to get their book reviewed. But you need reviews, if only to lend some weight to your Amazon listing and to reassure yourself that self-publishing your book isn’t the biggest mistake you’ve ever made. Book bloggers and other non-professional book sites (i.e. where the reviewers don’t get paid but read and review for love) are your best bets for getting your self-published book reviewed. But how do you get them to do it? How do you approach them? And where do you even find them in the first place?

How to get your book reviewed

(If you’d prefer NOT to get your book reviewed, please see below.)

The first step is to find suitable bloggers who might like to review your book, and there are two ways to do that. The first is to trawl through Futurebook’s extensive book blogger listing. (You can easily add your name, by the way, if you review books on your website or blog.) Make a list of potential reviewers for your book based on genre preferences, etc. The second thing you can do is find 1-3 recently traditionally published books that are similar to yours, e.g. if you read and liked Book X, you might like your Book Y too. Google their name along with the word review. The top results will probably be newspapers and magazines, but keep going. Soon you’ll get to the book bloggers. Add any suitable ones to your potential reviewers list.

The next step is research, and you cannot skip this step. You are asking these people to give up several hours of their life to read and review your book; the least you can do is spend five minutes looking around their site to see if you should even be sending your book to them in the first place. Check their submission guidelines and then follow them. Add the details to your list. If they say they don’t review self-published books, that means they don’t review self-published books. Take heed.

When I wrote Self-Printed just under a year ago, the problem plaguing self-published authors looking to get their book reviewed was what I called The Mean Problem, whereby self-published authors bristled at the idea of “giving books away for free” to reviewers. (Don’t. Even. Get. Me. STARTED.) I think this has changed, thankfully—especially now that e-books are more widely read and so, accepted by book reviewers—but a new problem has taken its place: Thinking People Care Syndrome. By default, nobody gives a rodent’s arse about anyone else’s book. Oh, you wrote a book, did you? WATCH WHILE I DON’T GIVE A RODENT’S ARSE. (This isn’t me saying this to you, but everyone saying it to everyone else.) Writing a book doesn’t equal people wanting to read it (unfortunately), and I think this is a point a lot of self-publishers—and even some traditionally published authors—don’t quite get. It’s probably the biggest realization I’ve had about this whole publishing world since I stuck a self-published toe in it back in 2010. Nobody cares.

Bleak, I know, but once you acknowledge that nobody cares—once you fully understand that that’s your starting-off point—you’ll take a different approach to book-selling. A more effective approach. And then you’ll sell more books. Because a writer who doesn’t understand that nobody cares will send an e-mail that says, “I just published something. If you’d like to review it, let me know.” But if you’re a writer who does understand, the next thing you’ll do is create something that makes me care about your book. This may be an e-mail, or it may be a press release or “sell sheet” in PDF attached to an e-mail, or even a little video. It should be professional, informative and interesting, but also short and to the point.

It should tell me:

  • who you are
  • what the book is about
  • the what/when/where of the book’s publication
  • whether I’d be getting an e-book or a paperback
  • how to get in contact with you if I want to review it
  • something that makes me think, Oooh, I’d like to read that.

I don’t know you and I haven’t read your book (yet?), so my entire impression of you and your work is going to be formed from this e-mail. This is something to keep in mind.

Your e-mail might look something like this, attached to a one-page PDF document filled with relevant and interesting information about you and your book:

To [first name]

I am the author of Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida, a travel memoir of the eighteen months I spent living in Orlando and working in Walt Disney World. I really enjoyed your review of [SIMILAR BOOK]—I too laughed out loud at the bit [MEMORABLE INCIDENT FROM SIMILAR BOOK]!—and as my book is similar, I thought you might be interested in reading and potentially reviewing it.

I’d be happy to send you a complimentary copy. There is, of course, no obligation to review it; I appreciate that you must get countless books to review and don’t have the time to read and review all of them. I completely understand.

If you are interested in receiving a copy, please forward a postal address and I will mail one to you immediately. Alternatively if you’d like an e-book edition please tell me your preferred format and I will e-mail it to you. 

Please see attached document for more information. I’m also available for interview, guest-posting, etc. If there’s anything else I can supply you with—images, more information, links, etc.—please let me know.

Thank you for your time,

[Your name]

If you’ve done your job, you’ll have sent me something that makes me think:

  • you’re a professional
  • who has written an interesting, potentially good book
  • that I want to read because you’ve done your research on me.

Therefore I’ll e-mail you back to say, “Yes—send me this book!” and then I’ll read it and like it and review it, and your job will be done. Mission accomplished. Repeat as required. And well done you.

How NOT to get your book reviewed

The first step is to find book bloggers who don’t read books on the same planet as yours, let alone in the same genre, and bloggers who don’t review books at all. At least half of your potential reviewer list should be made up of these non-book-reviewing bloggers, and everyone on it should say somewhere on their website that they never read or review self-published books. That’s, like, the most important bit. Throw in a few self-published authors as well. I mean, why not? When Patricia Cornwell has a new book out the first thing she does is offer a copy to Karin Slaughter, right?

Don’t visit any of the sites or blogs on your list. You don’t need to, because this is your book we’re talking about. So what if it’s chick-lit and the site is called CrimeSpreeBooks.com? Once they hear about the plot (twenty-something fish out of water with man troubles catalogues her wardrobe and hangs out with her ditzy best friend; giggles ensue), they’ll forget all about serial killers, Scandinavia and grisly body parts and read nothing but you forever more.

Also, don’t bother with those yawn-inducing “Contact” forms or collecting the bloggers’ actual e-mail addresses from the submission information on their sites. That’s just a gigantic waste of time. BOR-ing. Instead, use this handy shortcut:

  1. Take the domain of the website, e.g. http://www.INeverReviewBooksLikeYours.com, and cut out the “www.”
  2. Replace it with “info@”.
  3. Send your e-mail to that address, i.e. info@INeverReviewBooksLikeYours.com.
  4. If you get a failure notice, try “admin@” instead. One of them is bound to work, right?

So now you have a long list of people who don’t read books like yours—many of whom also don’t review books at all—and e-mail addresses for them that may or may not work, and if they do work, aren’t anything to do with the way they’ve asked you to contact them as per the instructions on their site. The next thing to do is to send out a mass e-mail to all of them that does one or more of the following things:

  • annoys
  • gets the Delete button clicked
  • gets the Spam button clicked
  • gets the Block Recipient feature enabled
  • incites anger and/or frustrated pencil-snapping
  • inspires the recipient to write an extremely sarcastic blog post about reviews
  • gives the recipient the impression that you think giving them a copy of your book is bestowing upon them a beautiful gift, and not that them reading and reviewing your book is them doing you an immeasurable favor. (Mucho bonus points for doing this.)

How can you achieve this? Well, I’m glad you asked! To make absolutely sure that you make your reviewer experience all of the above, remember to:

  • Ignore all the review-related information on the blogger’s site, e.g. submission guidelines, preferred genres, etc. If you’ve followed my instructions thus far, you’ve already done this. Well done you! Earn bonus points by including a blatant lie about having researched their site, e.g. “I know you love science-fiction” when there is not one mention of science-fiction anywhere on the blogger’s site, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Omit any information about your book. Just put a link to your website instead, man. That way you get a hit too. And bonus points will be awarded for not activating the link; it’s even better if the recipient has to manually copy and paste the URL into their browser’s address bar. Oh YEAH.
  • Use CC instead of BCC, so every single one of the 391 people you sent the e-mail to can see everyone else’s e-mail addresses. Who doesn’t love that?
  • Include an ultimatum. If you do one thing to not get your book reviewed, make it this. Ultimatums can be one or more combinations of the following book review ultimatum categories: Schedule Ultimatums (“Only accept a copy if you are in a position to post your review between March 4th and April 10th…”), Content Ultimatums (“I ask that you only post your review if it’s a positive one…” or “You can’t mention the misspelling on the cover in your review…”) and Action Ultimatums (“I propose a review exchange. I’ll send you a copy of my book and you send me a copy of yours. Once your positive review of my book appears on Smashwords, I’ll read and review yours [Ed. note: ??!?!?!?!???!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?! Another ed. note: I actually got an e-mail that said this.]. Here’s an inactive link to my website where you can find out more…”).
  • Insult the reviewer. If there’s one thing book bloggers lurve, it’s authors who are happy to send them stacks of shiny books until they post a negative review of their work. After that, it’s all “Oh my god you are SO unprofessional” and “I’m going to bitch about you on every forum I can find” and “Then I’m going to send all my, ahem, fans (read: friends) your way so they can leave bitchy comments about you on your site” and “Who are you, anyway? I bet you’re a failed writer who can barely contain her jealousy that I have a book for sale.” Yep. And the only kind of author they love even more is the kind that makes a pre-emptive strike against such behavior. Get in this category by saying something like, “Before I send you my book, I want to make sure that in return I’ll get a balanced and fair review where, if something is not to your liking, you’ll quantify why. Perhaps you could send me some samples of your previous reviews so I can check that you’re up to the task…?”
  • Tell them your mother loved it. So simple, but oh so effective.
  • Pretend you are not the author but the author’s Proper Publicist-Type even though the e-mail is clearly from your personal account and slips into the first person before the end of the message. A classic technique, this.
  • Don’t even bother pretending that you’re after a review. I mean, why would you want a review? They’re for losers. You want sales. So say something like, “My book is for sale now on [insert link]” and then just leave it at that. For a truly annoying touch, add some hollow humility like, “I don’t expect you to buy it, but I’m going to send you this e-mail about how to buy it just in case. I mean, I know you don’t know me and we’ve never been in contact before and you only got this e-mail because I noticed you had a dot-com domain name and so chances are you have an info@ e-mail address but hey, this is my book we’re talking about. Trust me: you’re gonna want to read this baby.”

Therefore if you don’t want to get your book reviewed, your e-mail will look more like this:

To Blogger

I’m a fancy pants book publicist from a fancy pants book publicists’ office. I’m contacting you today in the hope that you actually have this e-mail address and because I know you’ll be interested in reading [GENERIC TITLE], a stunning debut by [AUTHOR’S NAME] that’s available now on Amazon for $1.99. I’m fairly certain of this because of your blog header. (Yes, I know your blog header is actually nothing to do with the subject matter of this book, but just go with it.) Go to http://www.generictitle.com now to find out more because that’s all the information I’m going to give you and this e-mail isn’t attached to anything except what is sure to be one of the biggest sellers of 2012. As Person With The Same Last Name as the Author has said of it, “You typed this whole thing? Like, yourself? Wow! I’m impressed.”

As I’m sure you’re aware self-published authors don’t have a lot of money and as a self-published author yourself, I know you’d appreciate me asking you to appreciate this and perhaps buy the book instead of getting a FREE copy of it…? I mean, come on. You’d probably spend double the price on a cup of coffee, am I right? Anyway if you must take money out of my—I mean, the author’s—pocket, I can send you an e-book with your name on every page so if you pass it on and it ends up on one of those piracy sites, I’ll know it was you. Yeah, I know what you book blogger types are like! I wasn’t born yesterday. Thus before I send you anything, I’m going to need a guarantee that you’ll post a review of it. Perhaps you could scribble a quick contract and send it to me, signed and notarized, along with your passport? I promise I’ll send it back after my (positive!) review goes live. 

Oh, and I—we— need you to do this review thing ASAP. Like, yesterday. I got bills, y’know?

I’m also gonna need assurances that you’ll accompany my review with links to my blog, site, Twitter feed, Facebook profile, Flickr albums and Goodreads page, and that you won’t use any photos of me in which my left side predominantly features.

That’s what’s up.

LATERS,

The Auth—I mean, The Author’s Fancy Pants Publicist

And so, to recap:

  • If you give me a copy of your book to review and I read and review it, it is me who is doing you a favor.
  • Book bloggers specify what kind of books they like to review on their websites. Read this information. If it’s not there, a quick flick through a list of their existing reviews will help you determine whether or not your book is for them.
  • By default, nobody cares about anybody else’s book. Your job is to get me—and everyone else—to care.
  • If you’ve self-published a book, that doesn’t mean that other self-published authors will want to read it. It doesn’t work that way.
  • I won’t leave your e-mail to go looking for information about your book, so don’t ask me to.
  • Sending an e-mail that’s trying to sell something to someone you don’t know is called spam. Sending spam could get your e-mail account blocked and deactivated.
  • Putting me on a mailing list without my consent will not get me to buy your book. It will only get me to report you to your e-mail provider for abuse. This extends to lists of e-mail addresses you made yourself and then sent mass mailings to, not just “formal” mailing lists. If you haven’t communicated with the person before, you shouldn’t be sending them mass anything.
  • I’m not even a book blogger and yet I found myself with more than enough material to write this post. I CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE the gems actual book bloggers get sent.

Finally, we all know that the majority of submissions agents and editors get are smeared with crazy, unprofessionalism and coffee rings. That’s why we strive to make our own pristine, clean, correctly formatted, in adherence with their submission guidelines and smelling fresh; we want to give a professional impression. Do the same with your book review correspondence. Be professional, target suitable reviewers, don’t be pushy, demanding or frightening, and your book will get reviewed.

Happy reviewer-searching!

(Thought for the day: this blog post is nearly 3,000 words long. My book isn’t finished. Coincidence?)

Public service announcement: By the way, I don’t really review books anymore. A quick look around my site would reveal that (a) the last time I posted a review was August 2011, (b) if I do have time to review something, it’s not self-published books I choose to review and (c) does this look like a book review-centric blog to you? So I don’t really know why I’m even getting e-mails from authors in the first place. Although after this, I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting any.

Was that my evil plan all along? We’ll never know…

[Mysterious Mona Lisa-esque smile]

Click here for a list of all my self-printing posts

How (Not?) To Get Your Book Reviewed

oldpost

One of the hardest things for a self-published author to do is to get their book reviewed. But you need reviews, if only to lend some weight to your Amazon listing and to reassure yourself that self-publishing your book isn’t the biggest mistake you’ve ever made. Book bloggers and other non-professional book sites (i.e. where the reviewers don’t get paid but read and review for love) are your best bets for getting your self-published book reviewed. But how do you get them to do it? How do you approach them? And where do you even find them in the first place?

How to get your book reviewed

(If you’d prefer NOT to get your book reviewed, please see below.)

The first step is to find suitable bloggers who might like to review your book, and there are two ways to do that. The first is to trawl through Futurebook’s extensive book blogger listing. (You can easily add your name, by the way, if you review books on your website or blog.) Make a list of potential reviewers for your book based on genre preferences, etc. The second thing you can do is find 1-3 recently traditionally published books that are similar to yours, e.g. if you read and liked Book X, you might like your Book Y too. Google their name along with the word review. The top results will probably be newspapers and magazines, but keep going. Soon you’ll get to the book bloggers. Add any suitable ones to your potential reviewers list.

The next step is research, and you cannot skip this step. You are asking these people to give up several hours of their life to read and review your book; the least you can do is spend five minutes looking around their site to see if you should even be sending your book to them in the first place. Check their submission guidelines and then follow them. Add the details to your list. If they say they don’t review self-published books, that means they don’t review self-published books. Take heed.

When I wrote Self-Printed just under a year ago, the problem plaguing self-published authors looking to get their book reviewed was what I called The Mean Problem, whereby self-published authors bristled at the idea of “giving books away for free” to reviewers. (Don’t. Even. Get. Me. STARTED.) I think this has changed, thankfully—especially now that e-books are more widely read and so, accepted by book reviewers—but a new problem has taken its place: Thinking People Care Syndrome. By default, nobody gives a rodent’s arse about anyone else’s book. Oh, you wrote a book, did you? WATCH WHILE I DON’T GIVE A RODENT’S ARSE. (This isn’t me saying this to you, but everyone saying it to everyone else.) Writing a book doesn’t equal people wanting to read it (unfortunately), and I think this is a point a lot of self-publishers—and even some traditionally published authors—don’t quite get. It’s probably the biggest realization I’ve had about this whole publishing world since I stuck a self-published toe in it back in 2010. Nobody cares.

Bleak, I know, but once you acknowledge that nobody cares—once you fully understand that that’s your starting-off point—you’ll take a different approach to book-selling. A more effective approach. And then you’ll sell more books. Because a writer who doesn’t understand that nobody cares will send an e-mail that says, “I just published something. If you’d like to review it, let me know.” But if you’re a writer who does understand, the next thing you’ll do is create something that makes me care about your book. This may be an e-mail, or it may be a press release or “sell sheet” in PDF attached to an e-mail, or even a little video. It should be professional, informative and interesting, but also short and to the point.

It should tell me:

  • who you are
  • what the book is about
  • the what/when/where of the book’s publication
  • whether I’d be getting an e-book or a paperback
  • how to get in contact with you if I want to review it
  • something that makes me think, Oooh, I’d like to read that.

I don’t know you and I haven’t read your book (yet?), so my entire impression of you and your work is going to be formed from this e-mail. This is something to keep in mind.

Your e-mail might look something like this, attached to a one-page PDF document filled with relevant and interesting information about you and your book:

To [first name]

I am the author of Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida, a travel memoir of the eighteen months I spent living in Orlando and working in Walt Disney World. I really enjoyed your review of [SIMILAR BOOK]—I too laughed out loud at the bit [MEMORABLE INCIDENT FROM SIMILAR BOOK]!—and as my book is similar, I thought you might be interested in reading and potentially reviewing it.

I’d be happy to send you a complimentary copy. There is, of course, no obligation to review it; I appreciate that you must get countless books to review and don’t have the time to read and review all of them. I completely understand.

If you are interested in receiving a copy, please forward a postal address and I will mail one to you immediately. Alternatively if you’d like an e-book edition please tell me your preferred format and I will e-mail it to you. 

Please see attached document for more information. I’m also available for interview, guest-posting, etc. If there’s anything else I can supply you with—images, more information, links, etc.—please let me know.

Thank you for your time,

[Your name]

If you’ve done your job, you’ll have sent me something that makes me think:

  • you’re a professional
  • who has written an interesting, potentially good book
  • that I want to read because you’ve done your research on me.

Therefore I’ll e-mail you back to say, “Yes—send me this book!” and then I’ll read it and like it and review it, and your job will be done. Mission accomplished. Repeat as required. And well done you.

How NOT to get your book reviewed

The first step is to find book bloggers who don’t read books on the same planet as yours, let alone in the same genre, and bloggers who don’t review books at all. At least half of your potential reviewer list should be made up of these non-book-reviewing bloggers, and everyone on it should say somewhere on their website that they never read or review self-published books. That’s, like, the most important bit. Throw in a few self-published authors as well. I mean, why not? When Patricia Cornwell has a new book out the first thing she does is offer a copy to Karin Slaughter, right?

Don’t visit any of the sites or blogs on your list. You don’t need to, because this is your book we’re talking about. So what if it’s chick-lit and the site is called CrimeSpreeBooks.com? Once they hear about the plot (twenty-something fish out of water with man troubles catalogues her wardrobe and hangs out with her ditzy best friend; giggles ensue), they’ll forget all about serial killers, Scandinavia and grisly body parts and read nothing but you forever more.

Also, don’t bother with those yawn-inducing “Contact” forms or collecting the bloggers’ actual e-mail addresses from the submission information on their sites. That’s just a gigantic waste of time. BOR-ing. Instead, use this handy shortcut:

  1. Take the domain of the website, e.g. http://www.INeverReviewBooksLikeYours.com, and cut out the “www.”
  2. Replace it with “info@”.
  3. Send your e-mail to that address, i.e. info@INeverReviewBooksLikeYours.com.
  4. If you get a failure notice, try “admin@” instead. One of them is bound to work, right?

So now you have a long list of people who don’t read books like yours—many of whom also don’t review books at all—and e-mail addresses for them that may or may not work, and if they do work, aren’t anything to do with the way they’ve asked you to contact them as per the instructions on their site. The next thing to do is to send out a mass e-mail to all of them that does one or more of the following things:

  • annoys
  • gets the Delete button clicked
  • gets the Spam button clicked
  • gets the Block Recipient feature enabled
  • incites anger and/or frustrated pencil-snapping
  • inspires the recipient to write an extremely sarcastic blog post about reviews
  • gives the recipient the impression that you think giving them a copy of your book is bestowing upon them a beautiful gift, and not that them reading and reviewing your book is them doing you an immeasurable favor. (Mucho bonus points for doing this.)

How can you achieve this? Well, I’m glad you asked! To make absolutely sure that you make your reviewer experience all of the above, remember to:

  • Ignore all the review-related information on the blogger’s site, e.g. submission guidelines, preferred genres, etc. If you’ve followed my instructions thus far, you’ve already done this. Well done you! Earn bonus points by including a blatant lie about having researched their site, e.g. “I know you love science-fiction” when there is not one mention of science-fiction anywhere on the blogger’s site, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Omit any information about your book. Just put a link to your website instead, man. That way you get a hit too. And bonus points will be awarded for not activating the link; it’s even better if the recipient has to manually copy and paste the URL into their browser’s address bar. Oh YEAH.
  • Use CC instead of BCC, so every single one of the 391 people you sent the e-mail to can see everyone else’s e-mail addresses. Who doesn’t love that?
  • Include an ultimatum. If you do one thing to not get your book reviewed, make it this. Ultimatums can be one or more combinations of the following book review ultimatum categories: Schedule Ultimatums (“Only accept a copy if you are in a position to post your review between March 4th and April 10th…”), Content Ultimatums (“I ask that you only post your review if it’s a positive one…” or “You can’t mention the misspelling on the cover in your review…”) and Action Ultimatums (“I propose a review exchange. I’ll send you a copy of my book and you send me a copy of yours. Once your positive review of my book appears on Smashwords, I’ll read and review yours [Ed. note: ??!?!?!?!???!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?! Another ed. note: I actually got an e-mail that said this.]. Here’s an inactive link to my website where you can find out more…”).
  • Insult the reviewer. If there’s one thing book bloggers lurve, it’s authors who are happy to send them stacks of shiny books until they post a negative review of their work. After that, it’s all “Oh my god you are SO unprofessional” and “I’m going to bitch about you on every forum I can find” and “Then I’m going to send all my, ahem, fans (read: friends) your way so they can leave bitchy comments about you on your site” and “Who are you, anyway? I bet you’re a failed writer who can barely contain her jealousy that I have a book for sale.” Yep. And the only kind of author they love even more is the kind that makes a pre-emptive strike against such behavior. Get in this category by saying something like, “Before I send you my book, I want to make sure that in return I’ll get a balanced and fair review where, if something is not to your liking, you’ll quantify why. Perhaps you could send me some samples of your previous reviews so I can check that you’re up to the task…?”
  • Tell them your mother loved it. So simple, but oh so effective.
  • Pretend you are not the author but the author’s Proper Publicist-Type even though the e-mail is clearly from your personal account and slips into the first person before the end of the message. A classic technique, this.
  • Don’t even bother pretending that you’re after a review. I mean, why would you want a review? They’re for losers. You want sales. So say something like, “My book is for sale now on [insert link]” and then just leave it at that. For a truly annoying touch, add some hollow humility like, “I don’t expect you to buy it, but I’m going to send you this e-mail about how to buy it just in case. I mean, I know you don’t know me and we’ve never been in contact before and you only got this e-mail because I noticed you had a dot-com domain name and so chances are you have an info@ e-mail address but hey, this is my book we’re talking about. Trust me: you’re gonna want to read this baby.”

Therefore if you don’t want to get your book reviewed, your e-mail will look more like this:

To Blogger

I’m a fancy pants book publicist from a fancy pants book publicists’ office. I’m contacting you today in the hope that you actually have this e-mail address and because I know you’ll be interested in reading [GENERIC TITLE], a stunning debut by [AUTHOR’S NAME] that’s available now on Amazon for $1.99. I’m fairly certain of this because of your blog header. (Yes, I know your blog header is actually nothing to do with the subject matter of this book, but just go with it.) Go to http://www.generictitle.com now to find out more because that’s all the information I’m going to give you and this e-mail isn’t attached to anything except what is sure to be one of the biggest sellers of 2012. As Person With The Same Last Name as the Author has said of it, “You typed this whole thing? Like, yourself? Wow! I’m impressed.”

As I’m sure you’re aware self-published authors don’t have a lot of money and as a self-published author yourself, I know you’d appreciate me asking you to appreciate this and perhaps buy the book instead of getting a FREE copy of it…? I mean, come on. You’d probably spend double the price on a cup of coffee, am I right? Anyway if you must take money out of my—I mean, the author’s—pocket, I can send you an e-book with your name on every page so if you pass it on and it ends up on one of those piracy sites, I’ll know it was you. Yeah, I know what you book blogger types are like! I wasn’t born yesterday. Thus before I send you anything, I’m going to need a guarantee that you’ll post a review of it. Perhaps you could scribble a quick contract and send it to me, signed and notarized, along with your passport? I promise I’ll send it back after my (positive!) review goes live. 

Oh, and I—we— need you to do this review thing ASAP. Like, yesterday. I got bills, y’know?

I’m also gonna need assurances that you’ll accompany my review with links to my blog, site, Twitter feed, Facebook profile, Flickr albums and Goodreads page, and that you won’t use any photos of me in which my left side predominantly features.

That’s what’s up.

LATERS,

The Auth—I mean, The Author’s Fancy Pants Publicist

And so, to recap:

  • If you give me a copy of your book to review and I read and review it, it is me who is doing you a favor.
  • Book bloggers specify what kind of books they like to review on their websites. Read this information. If it’s not there, a quick flick through a list of their existing reviews will help you determine whether or not your book is for them.
  • By default, nobody cares about anybody else’s book. Your job is to get me—and everyone else—to care.
  • If you’ve self-published a book, that doesn’t mean that other self-published authors will want to read it. It doesn’t work that way.
  • I won’t leave your e-mail to go looking for information about your book, so don’t ask me to.
  • Sending an e-mail that’s trying to sell something to someone you don’t know is called spam. Sending spam could get your e-mail account blocked and deactivated.
  • Putting me on a mailing list without my consent will not get me to buy your book. It will only get me to report you to your e-mail provider for abuse. This extends to lists of e-mail addresses you made yourself and then sent mass mailings to, not just “formal” mailing lists. If you haven’t communicated with the person before, you shouldn’t be sending them mass anything.
  • I’m not even a book blogger and yet I found myself with more than enough material to write this post. I CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE the gems actual book bloggers get sent.

Finally, we all know that the majority of submissions agents and editors get are smeared with crazy, unprofessionalism and coffee rings. That’s why we strive to make our own pristine, clean, correctly formatted, in adherence with their submission guidelines and smelling fresh; we want to give a professional impression. Do the same with your book review correspondence. Be professional, target suitable reviewers, don’t be pushy, demanding or frightening, and your book will get reviewed.

Happy reviewer-searching!

(Thought for the day: this blog post is nearly 3,000 words long. My book isn’t finished. Coincidence?)

Public service announcement: By the way, I don’t really review books anymore. A quick look around my site would reveal that (a) the last time I posted a review was August 2011, (b) if I do have time to review something, it’s not self-published books I choose to review and (c) does this look like a book review-centric blog to you? So I don’t really know why I’m even getting e-mails from authors in the first place. Although after this, I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting any.

Was that my evil plan all along? We’ll never know…

[Mysterious Mona Lisa-esque smile]

2011 Replay: 6 Ways to Survive Bad Reviews

Between now and the end of the year I’m going to be using Tuesdays and Thursdays to replay some popular posts from 2011, in case some of the people who’ve discovered my blog in the meantime missed it first time round. Think of it as a “year in review” kind of thing. This post was first posted last January, just after a SEETHING review of one of my books and when Oprah was still on air…

Once upon a time I used to think that the worst thing about Being a Writer was the writing itself. Don’t get me wrong: I love having written and I love making up stories and I love writing funny dialogue that (shamefully) makes me chuckle as I type it up, but I don’t much like the actual writing bit, which can be really hard sometimes and gives you headaches and breeds guilt and gets in the way of mindless TV watching. When it’s going well it’s the most amazing feeling in the world ever, but when it’s going bad you wish that your biggest dream was something a bit more doable, like to fly in a plane or find a toy inside of a Kinder egg.

But anyway. I digress. My new worst thing about Being a Writer is reading bad reviews.

Now I’ve been very lucky not to have had too many bad reviews. I’m hoping this is not because the people who hate the book couldn’t be bothered to review it, or because they are discussing what a wretch I am on Disney fan message boards I can’t access because I’m not a member. And to clarify: a bad review is not a review where the reader didn’t like, wasn’t impressed by or is ultimately ambivalent about the book you spent a year of your life writing. Those are just normal; we don’t all like the same things. A bad review is a baaaad review – one where the reader is so annoyed by the sheer audacity of you committing words to paper that you can practically hear them spitting blood as you read their opinion.

Yes, I am normally dressed in evening wear and wearing (what was) a full face of make-up when crying over bad reviews. Who isn’t?

What does it feel like to read a bad review of a book you’ve written? Ooooh, it’s really not nice. The closest universal experience I can compare it to is when you’re like 19 and you really, really, really fancy someone and you think, after a protracted flirtation or other signs, that they like you too and then out of the blue and without any warning at all, they show up with their girlfriend. And she’s pretty. And thin. And they’re all over each other right next to you and you have to carry on as if nothing is amiss at all, that you’re fine, when really you just want to run home and cry. It’s that sudden-stomach-dropping feeling, that I’m-about-be-sick-feeling, that blood-rushing-in-my-ears-drowning-out-all-other-sounds feeling – or, sometimes, all three rolled into one.

And people are nice. You are nice. And you tell me to not pay any attention and that you liked my book and that the reviewer doesn’t know what she’s talking about and has she written a book? and look at all my good reviews and all this and I really, really appreciate it, really I do, but in that moment of discovering a bad review, it doesn’t matter. You could have just won the Booker Prize (I imagine) and yet you’d still feel like upchucking your Weetabix.

How can this horrible feeling be avoided?

  1. Write a book that everyone will love and/or avoid reading your reviews. Although I have yet to encounter a writer who has managed to do either; if you know of one, do let me know.
  2. Print out or photocopy a review of your book that you really like from a source you explicitly trust and/or one whom you recall has raved about books you’ve loved and been blasé about the same books you’ve given up on. Stick it somewhere prominent, or in multiple somewheres prominent. Maybe even put an emergency copy in your wallet. Force yourself to read it immediately after the encounter of a bad review.
  3. Look up a book you adored on Amazon and read its reviews. This is always a good one, if only because the reasons people come up with to dislike books never cease to amaze me, not to mention the imaginative insults they heap on it afterwards. (Yesterday best-selling author Jill Mansell tweeted about a reviewer who left one of her books on the train because she “couldn’t bear to have such rubbish in the house”. ??!!! etc. etc.) Remind yourself that you loved this book and yet BigReader874124 thought it was “not good enough to wipe my ass with in a no-toilet paper emergency – I’d rather use my hand.” You can’t please everyone. (And why would you want to?)
  4. Look up the reviewer’s other reviews. On Amazon especially, this can be a very soothing exercise. Maybe they gave Freedom one star because it didn’t have any pictures, or maybe they slated Little Women for false advertising once they discovered it wasn’t actually about vertically-challenged females. (Thanks Rebecca!) Or maybe they thought Never Let Me Go, one of your favorite books of all time ever ever, was not good enough to wipe their asses with in a no-toilet paper emergency.
  5. Write a response. Bad reviews tend to linger with us because we are passionately arguing with them in our heads. I didn’t mean it literally! You took that out of context! I really did do that! You obviously don’t understand what I was getting at! Did you even read the blurb? Did you even read the book?! So put a stop to this by sitting down and typing out a response. You can always delete it or dump it or print it out and set fire to it afterwards. Or, you know, comment on the review on Amazon. (Although if you’re going to do this, wait a few days. Cool off. And be sober.) The fan blowing the shit is multi-directional, you know.
  6. If all else fails, get drunk and ask anyone who’ll listen, ‘Did she write a book? No. I didn’t think so.”

On a more serious note, I watched an interview with The Daily Show host Jon Stewart on Oprah last week (one Big O Disciple, right here!), and he said something really interesting. Oprah asked him what he thought of his rock star status among certain groups – East Coast college students being the prime suspect – and (I’m paraphrasing of course but) he said that he thinks there are people who like him too much and people who hate him too much, and that the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

I think this is the perfect way to look at reviews. I’ve had some reviews so gushing I wonder if I bribed them and then forgot that I had, and some so bad I feel like entering the Witness Protection Program is the only way to recover from them. But I think the truth of how good (or bad!) my book actually lies somewhere in the middle, and I’m perfectly happy with that.

And I must remind myself of the alternative: having written no book – good or bad – at all.

(If you’re going to leave a comment, please don’t mention my book. I’m not fishing for compliments or looking to be cheered up – my Twitter stream did that for me on Saturday night, when I shared The Most Horrendous Review That Anyone Possibly Has Had in the History of the World. But do feel free to share your thoughts on Amazon reviews. Do you read them? Do you rate them? Do you pay any attention to them? How do they affect your book buying, if they do? And if you’re a writer, what’s the best rubbish one you’ve got?)

Stephen King Challenge Book #1: THE STAND

You may recall that just before Christmas I signed up for Book Chick City’s Stephen King Reading Challenge, the goal being to read at least six Stephen King books this year. I’d already read a few of his novels but I’d seen more movie adaptations, and wanted to go back and do his classics, books like The Shining, It and The Long Walk.

I started out with his longest work, quite possibly his best work and a work I’d already read: The Stand.

I’d only read The Stand once before, when I was 12. I borrowed it from the library and spent a summer laboring my way through it’s a thousand or so pages. I can still remember the exact book: the cover was black with the title taking up most of it, and it was in hardcover with that thick and slightly loose plastic libraries love to wrap books in. It was probably the first epic I’d read and although it took me most of the summer to finish it, it stayed with me for years. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to re-read it as an adult, and see if I’d still like it with years of exposure to post-apocalyptic movies, TV shows and other books, and at a time when 1990 – the year The Stand is set in its most recent incarnation – has started to sound very long ago. I also finally cracked the spine on the beautiful paperback edition I’d bought a couple of years ago – the unabridged version, with a few thousand words put back in by the author that due to the cost of printing his brick of a book, his publishers had asked him to delete first time round.

The Stand begins in the dead of a night with a panicked solider waking his wife and child and rushing all three of them off the base, because “the clock went red.” There’s been a terrible accident, and a lethal virus – Captain Trips, a superflu – has been released into the world. Within weeks, it has wiped out over 99% of the population. Bands of survivors find each other in what’s left of the devastated United States – some drawn together by shared dreams of a woman named Mother Abigail, others drawn to “The Dark Man”, Randall Flagg. Both establish new, fledgling societies – Abigail’s people in Boulder, Colorado, and Randall’s in Las Vegas. (Of course!) When they discover each other and realize that both cannot continue to exist, the stage is set for battle, or “The Stand.”

(And that is an extremely over-simplified version of events. Trust me!)

The Stand not only lived up to my memory of reading it, but it was better than I remembered. It must be King at his best. I think one of the reasons I haven’t read more of him is that I feel like his novels take ages to get into. (Case in point: the first book I was going to read was Duma Key, but it was boring me to tears by page 3.) But with this, I was staying up into the early hours just to read more.

And you know how much I like me a good virus outbreak…

The cover of the edition I read back in 1995. I think, anyway!

Apparently a new movie is in the works, but unless it’s in three parts I don’t see how they could do it. And I think the 1994 mini series did the job fine – for me, Gary Sinise was the perfect Stu Redman, and Rob Lowe was a heartbreakingly beautiful Nick Andros, the gentle deaf mute. (I was never convinced about Molly Ringwald as Fran though.) In fact, the more I think about it the more I think I’m going to try and get my hands on that mini-series, and rewatch it as a sideline to this challenge.

You may have seen in the last week that King announced his new book, due out in November: 11/22/63. That’s November 22, 1963, or the day of JFK’s assassination. The novel will tell the story of a high school English teacher who has the opportunity to travel back in time and potentially change the course of history. I think it sounds great and it’ll definitely be a part of my Stephen King Challenge. You can find out more about it here.

Next up: The Long Walk.

What I Thought Of… THE LEOPARD by Jo Nesbo

You may remember that recently the lovely people at Vintage Books sent me an enormous pile of Jo Nesbo books, and this weekend, thanks to being under the weather, I finally got around to reading the newest one: The Leopard.

“In the depths of winter, a killer stalks the city streets. His victims are two young women, both found with twenty-four inexplicable puncture wounds, both drowned in their own blood. The crime scenes offer no clues, the media is reaching fever pitch and the police are running out of options. There is only one man who can help them, and he doesn’t want to be found. Deeply traumatized by The Snowman investigation, which threatened the lives of those he holds most dear, Inspector Harry Hole has lost himself in the squalor of Hong Kong’s opium dens, But with his father seriously ill in hospital, Harry reluctantly agrees to return to Oslo. He has no intention of working on the case, but his instinct takes over when a third victim is found brutally murdered in a city car park. The victims appear completely unconnected to one another, but it’s not long before Harry makes a discovery: the women all spent the night in an isolated mountain hostel. And someone is picking off the guests one by one.”

The Leopard had a lot to live up to, seeing as I rated The Snowman as one of the best – and creepiest – crime thrillers I had ever read. Luckily a lot of the same elements were here: a snowy Scandinavia, a sadistic but smart killer, a labyrinthine plot and, most importantly, the tortured detective Harry Hole, more tortured than ever and at the beginning of the book, hiding in Hong Kong. Throw in a power struggle between Oslo’s police department and the Kripos serious crime unit, a potential love interest for Hole and a father on death’s door, and you have yourself a well above-average clever crime thriller.

But it’s very complicated. Maybe a bit too much. The plot takes in three continents, events from four or five decades and a cast of characters that I would have struggled to keep track of even if I’d taken the time to keep a list. There was a map of Oslo printed at the beginning of the book – something that I, as a reader, have never understood or as much as glanced at; surely there’s no need unless the novel’s terrain is fictional? – but it might have been more helpful if there was a list of the cast. And at 600+ pages, this crime thriller lost a bit of its page-turning appeal just because there was so many pages to get through, far more than I’d expect for a novel of this genre.

Don’t get me wrong: I did like it, and I’ll still find the time to read Nesbo’s backlist and look out for new titles of his in the future. But by the time I got down to the last 50 to 100 pages, it was hard to care about who the killer was or why they were killing; my head was swimming with all the threads, and it became a chore to hold them all together.

Coincidentally, would you believe that this isn’t the first crime novel I’ve read featuring a tortured detective called Harry who doesn’t play by the rules, drinks and smokes, listens to Mile Davis and ends up in Hong Kong’s Chunking Mansions? Bosch also had a wander around there in Michael Connelly’s Nine Dragons. How weird is that?!

Click here to buy The Leopard from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide.

Click here to read all my book reviews.

What I Thought Of… IF I NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN by Niamh O’Connor

In 1997 I was 14 years old and in the midst of a crime (reading) spree. That Christmas I’d used my time off school to stay up every night reading Patricia Cornwell books at a rate of one a day and nearly fell off my chair when I found out about a book called Scalpel by Paul Carson, a thriller written by an Irish writer and set in Dublin. Set in Dublin! Like, in the country where I was from. And with An Gardaí, the Irish police force. How weird was that? Considering I knew far more at the time about the Robbery-Homicide Division of the LAPD and the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI than I did about what went on at my local garda station, it was quite the novelty.

(If you live in the United States or England, you can’t understand what I’m talking about. But trust me, reading about the Gardaí in a proper crime novel was very exciting indeed.)

Fast forward to today and there are plenty of crime thrillers set in Dublin, not least of all because Dublin has become – unfortunately – a great place in which to set a crime thriller. Criminal gangs rule the inner city streets, the drugs they bring in devastate communities and the journalists investigate at their own risk. (Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin was murdered in 1996 by the criminals she’d written about.)

One of the latest of these thrillers is If I Never See You Again by Niamh O’Connor, which I received as part of the Great Transworld Crime Caper.

“On the streets of Dublin, one woman tracks a terrifying killer. Meet Jo Birmingham – single mum, streetwise, and spiky as hell. Recently promoted, she is one of the few female detective inspectors on the Dublin police force. But with a failed marriage behind her and two young sons at home, trying to strike the right work-life balance has run her ragged. When Jo identifies the missing link in a chain of brutal killings, she comes under fierce scrutiny from her male colleagues, especially her boss and ex-husband Dan Mason. But as the body count rises, so do the body parts. As fear stalks the city, it soon becomes obvious that a serial killer is at large. And so Jo embarks on a terrifying psychological journey to find out who the killer is, and how he is choosing his victims. Soon she is involved in a deadly game in which the hiller is always one step ahead. Because he knows all the rules…”

Me and this book didn’t get off to the greatest of starts. In the first chapter the reader is intentionally misled as to what’s going on and I’ve never been a fan of this technique in books. (I don’t think it’s very fair – for want of a better word – as the reader can only ‘see’ what the author is telling them, unlike in movies or on TV, where this fake-out technique can work well.) However by the time I got to the second chapter, I had this misstep completely forgotten; Jo Birmingham had kicked it right out of my mind.

Birmingham is one of the most likeable female leads I’ve come across in crime fiction. She’s trying to do it all: be a mother to her two children, deal with her ex-husband, assert herself in a boys’ club, fight for victims’ rights and, oh yeah, find the serial killer that is stalking Dublin’s streets. She is tough but not hardened, sensitive but not weak, and has us rooting for her from the word go. Her struggle for balance, messy car and nicotine patch problem really give this novel a sense of realism and would be enough, on its own, to keep us turning the pages.

But there’s plenty more. O’Connor is the true crime editor of the Sunday World and her insider knowledge of the darkest Dublin streets is what elevates If I Never See You Again above its peers. (Although I really hope she was making up the bit about the City Morgue being housed in ‘temporary’ Portacabins for the last ten years. And I don’t think I want to know if she was or not…) But thankfully there’s none of what I like to call ‘Scarpetta Effect’ – dumping huge chunks of tech info into the book just because the author knows it. Instead, O’Connor is in command of her material, telling us through minor details, anecdotes and vivid description that she knows her stuff.

All in all, I thought this was a strong debut. The plot could have benefited from a bit more complexity, but there were enough twists and turns at the end to satisfy. (And maybe I’ve just been reading too much Jo Nesbo lately, whose plots are as twisty as, well, Twister.) I really look forward to hearing more from Niamh O’Connor – and Jo Birmingham – in the future.

And you know what? The novelty of reading thrillers set in my own country never wears off!

Click here to purchase If I Never See You Again from The Book Depository with free worldwide delivery.

Click here to see all my book reviews.

I’m An Accessory in The Great Transworld Crime Caper – Are You?

Remember how back during the not-so-balmy days of the summer I took part in the Transworld Summer Reading Challenge? Transworld let me and other avid readers pick four books from a great list of ten and in return all I had to do was read and review them.

Well, the excellent news is that they have organized another fantastic opportunity for us book lovers to get our grubby paws on more free books, with The Great Transworld Crime Caper!

The idea is simple:

“One thing we really know how to do in Transworld Towers is crime, be it spooky Scandinavian, grizzly moorland or armchair killers we publish crime that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let you go! Thanks to the success of all who took part in the Summer Reading Challenge we have decided to repeat our crimes and launch The Great Transworld Crime Caper, an opportunity to go back to the beginning and revisit the scene of the original crimes that launched our most experienced villains. We want you to be the judge, jury and executioner of the titles listed below. We will have a two week registration period ending the 14th February, Valentine’s Day which will make us repent our sins and feel the love! Pick three books from the list below to read and review on a venue of your choice (Amazon, blog, etc) The challenge will finish on the 31st March whereby we will dust for fingerprints, weigh up our case and post up some of the best (or worst) reviews that we’ve had in. Email us back your first review and we’ll send you your second book, etc, it really is that easy in the criminal underbelly of publishing. There is no cost, no catch, just the possibility that we may send you more free books in the future!”

The books are:

  • Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
  • Sacrifice by S. J. Bolton
  • Blacklands by Belinda Bauer
  • Birdman by Mo Hayder
  • The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett
  • Past Caring by Robert Goddard
  • Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
  • Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin
  • The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • If I Never See You Again by Niamh O’Connor
  • The Accident Man by Tom Cain
  • The Business of Dying Simon Kernick.

To sign up, leave a comment on the Great Crime Caper blog post and they’ll get in touch. It’s open to all EU readers.

Needless to say – even though I’m already doing Book Chick City’s Stephen King Reading Challenge, have challenged myself to finally catch up on Marian Keyes by reading one of her titles every month this year, have a (lovely matching) set of Jo Nesbos I’m going to reward myself with once my first draft is done and have about seventeen other books I need to read too – I’ve signed up to do it.

Who’s with me?