How to Get Your Book Reviewed
You've published your own book. It's out, and it's available online. Now all you need to do is to convince people that they want to buy it. How do you go about doing that? You could write lots and lots of hubs and blogs about the book, telling the world how great it is. But you're the author. Nobody's going to believe you. You're not a credible source. You're biased. So are all your friends and family. So there's no use in getting them to write reviews, either. What you need is for a complete stranger to pass judgment on your book.
Reviewers and Publishers
Of course, that was the whole point of submitting a book to an established publisher, wasn't it? The goal was to get them to see what a great book you had there, and to put the might and the power of their establishment behind you and your book. If that had worked, you would never have taken the self-publishing route in the first place.
Is finding a reviewer as hard as it is to find a publisher? It shouldn't be.
After all, you're not asking someone to invest money in your book. You're just asking them to read it and to say what they thought about it. You are even willing to send them a free copy.
But wait, what if they don't want a free copy? What if they say: "Sorry, but I only review books that I purchased myself"?
I've had this happen to me, and I am pondering what it really means.
Books by Aya Katz
Professional Reviewers vs. Amateur Reviewers
Some people are professional reviewers, and they are very well known. Chances are, a professional reviewer will not look at your book unless it arrives through the proper channels. A professional reviewer is part of the establishment and is not really all that different from a mainstream publisher. There is a pipeline that runs directly from the mainstream publishers to the professional reviewers. A professional reviewer may not like every book that a mainstream publisher sends his way. Sometimes he will write a negative review. But he still behaves as if the only books that exist are the ones that come from an established publisher. The self-published book will not get reviewed at all.
But what about amateur reviewers? Some amateur reviewers have a lot of clout. They've earned the respect and the trust of the reading public. And they've done this simply by reviewing a lot of books online, even though nobody paid them to do it.
Who are these people? Well, some of them are listed on "Amazon's Top Customer Reviewers." If you manage to get a positive review from one of these people, (or even a really interesting negative review), then there is a good chance that some sales will follow.
The Amazon.com Top Reviewers
Choosing the Right Amazon Customer Reviewer for You
Who are the top Amazon Customer Reviewers? Who selected them? What makes them such leaders on the field of book reviewing?
The top Amazon Customer reviewers were partly self-selecting -- they chose to write a lot of reviews -- and partly selected by their peers, who rated their reviews as particularly helpful. They are writers, in the sense that they know how to put together a good review, and some of them are even authors of their own books.
What we need to understand when we approach these top reviewers is that they, too, have a bias. Every person on earth has a bias. It will not do, for instance, if you are free market proponent, to send your work to a socialist reviewer. It will not do, if you are poet, to send your work to someone who only reads prose. If the top reviewer you sent your book to specializes in reviewing digital cameras, that's probably not going to work, either.
Finding the right reviewer for your book means researching the reviews written by top reviewers. In the end, you will probably want to select someone a little lower on the list than the top ten, because the top ten are not right for you. They are too busy. They are too popular. And most important of all, they don't share your taste in literature!
The Top Reviewers Like Best Sellers
The very top reviewers tend to review well known books by well known authors. They sometimes review best sellers, and when they do, they are usually not the ones who made the book a best seller. It's the established reviewers who opened the door for the book's success. The customer reviewers tend to winnow down the list they receive from the establishment. Most of them are not pioneers in book reviewing, and they do not want to wade through the slush pile.
In fact, the existence of the slush pile is the very reason we have reviewers in the first place. It's also the reason we have established publishers. It's the reason that the man on the street doesn't get to choose his own books, but instead relies on the advice of "experts".
The Population Explosion and the Ever Growing Slush Pile
You're a writer. I'm a writer. We did not choose this. It happened to us. The compulsion to write is deep in our genes. We can't help it. We could have been stockbrokers, or doctors, or lawyers, or dental hygienists. (Some of us are in fact making a living doing these things.) But a voice that we cannot control, a spirit deep within us, told us that we must write. It's an internal compulsion. We can't help it!
Back in prehistoric times, there was a place for us at the communal campfire. They welcomed us, and they even shared their meat, because they were hungry for stories. One in a hundred people is a born story teller, a bard, a keeper of the tribe's history, a magic maker! And as long as people lived in groups of about a hundred, those natural born storytellers had a place of honor among their people. But as humanity became more populous, it also gave way to centralized control, and a homogenized culture. Now, only ten people in billions are allowed to be the top story tellers at any given time. This means that many perfectly good storytellers have stories that go untold, and many a bard goes hungry.
The slushpile represents the efforts of many, many people who had a compulsion to write, but could not find readers. The man on the street does not want to wade through the slush pile. He is not a pioneer. He will not put himself on the line. So he delegates slush pile reading to other people. People like publishers.
But as humanity expands and centralizes its power base, even the publishers become too inundated with would-be bards, and they cannot keep up with the slushpile any longer. They delegate this task to agents. The agent nominally represents the writer, but in fact he is the lackey of the publisher.
In time, even the agents can no longer keep up with the slushpile, so the would be story tellers resort to self-publishing. They hope to appeal directly to the public, to by-pass the gatekeepers, and to reach the heart and mind and soul of their fellow man. But the public does not want to look. The public is tired. The public has given away that right.
So who can we turn to? Not the top reviewers. They resemble the general public too much, and they will reject us for the same reason that the public has: they are not pioneers. They cannot bear to go through the slush pile. It is too big. It is too hard. It's too scary!
Selecting the Right Reviewer
I stopped reading bestsellers years ago. Too many of them are not to my taste. So it makes sense to me that the top sellers and the top reviewers are not my natural allies. If you are in a similar position, then here is some advice for you:
Go deep into the list of customer reviewers. Read the books they reviewed. See if you agree with their judgment. Find a reviewer close enough in temperament, taste and background to yourself, someone who values what you value and loves what you love. Contact that reviewer directly, and tell him or her what you have in common. This complete stranger should be like a literary soul mate. You are closer than kin.
Create your own circle that is like the communal campfire. Read what they write, that they may read what you write. Disregard the best seller list, as it, too, is a slush pile containing occasional rare gems, but mostly trash. Create your own community of readers and writers. And eventually, things may snowball! But most of all give it time.
The top reviewers, the top publishers, and the top readers already have what they need. Find someone who is still hungry for a story or a poem or a song -- and help them satisfy that hunger. You don't need a readership of billions. What you need is someone who is desperately waiting for you and your works, because what the billions are reading to this person is nothing but slush!
(c) 2010 Aya Katz
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