Friday, July 27, 2012

Paying for reviews

The basis for this blog is the assumption that 'Reviews are Important'.  If you don't believe that, then none of the rest of this is worth reading.

For me, I believe that premise. As an avid reader with limited time for reading, I use reviews to inform my choices of the next book to read.  I look at both positive and negative reviews and if they are well written, I can usually suss out what my experience will be with a book.

Amazon recently started removing reviews from its website that were paid for.  Apparently Amazon believes that authors who pay for reviews are paying for GOOD reviews. I can understand that kind of destroys the values of reviews and as a reader and writer both, I despise the practice.  But what's a new, unknown author to do if they want to get their name out there?

Traditional web wisdom these days says that you should network,network,network. Write blogs, write reviews, make friends on Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Library Thing. That seems to be good advice as far as it goes, but if you are doing all this, how do you find time to write? What if you're not good at it?

There are hundreds of good blogs and websites devoted to reviewing books.  A lot of them have good followings and decent reviews. So why not use them?

Why not indeed.  There are a lot of lists of good review sites out there.  Several months back, I went through one of these lists and sent out about a dozen emails asking if they would review my book. Out of these, the majority didn't respond, the next largest number said it wasn't the book for them and several had posted that they already had a backlog of tens to hundreds of books.

Wow. This feels an awful lot like trying to find an agent or a publisher.  It is a degrading, dehumanizing, and depressing process. You can probably add a few more 'de' words there as well. The nastiness of this process is the whole reason tens of thousands of authors are choosing to self publish in the first place.

There may be hundreds of these sites out there, providing this extremely valuable and free service out of the goodness of their hearts and their love of books, but there are tens or hundreds of thousands of authors out there. Smashwords alone has published over 138,000 books in the few years its been around! I don't have numbers for Amazon Kindle Direct, but I'm willing to bet they have published a lot more than that.

So lets say there are 1000 reviewers with blogs out there. That means to cover the need, that they each have to review several hundred books annually - just to get 1 review per book, not to mention the books that are reviewed by several reviewers.

That is not possible nor sustainable for someone reviewing books out of love. But what if you are a book lover and suddenly someone offers you a free book and say $10 to give an honest review of their book? Suddenly you can make money providing a valuable service.  This is called capitalism.

You might even be able to make a living off of it, or, if you are an aspiring full time author like me, it's an income stream that can take some of the pressure off the need to sell immediately and help defray the thousand dollars needed hire a decent editor for your book.

I've actually been on both sides of this system.  I have been paid to post reviews and I have paid for reviews.  On both sides, its been really a great deal. Here's my dark, painful, secret: if you go look at The Dryad's Kiss on Amazon you will see about a dozen reviews.  Nine of those were paid for reviews.  Can you tell which were paid for? To me, each review captures part of the truth of my story. I think someone reading through them will get a pretty good notion what the book is about and whether they would like it or not.  In my mind, that's the purpose of reviews.

There is lots more to say on the subject which I will cover in future blogs.  Meanwhile, I'd like to hear if anyone else has other opinions on the matter.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Self Publishing Websites

On this blog, I've laid out an idea for a website that would be a central place to facility publishing high quality books - or at least books people like to read. I call it Crowdsourced Publishing.

Honestly, I haven't gotten a lot of love on the idea, but there are a lot of sites out there which seem to be groping towards parts of the idea and look useful to aspiring authors and self-publishers.  I'm just creating a list here, sometime in the future, I hope to do a more in depth analysis of these sites. These are in no particular order, I just needed to get them down somewhere.  If you have a favorite site, let me know and I'll add it here.  Or, if you know of a better resource for listing this stuff, let me know and I'll post it too.

Book enthusiast sites with access to authors
  1. - this is THE place for book fans to congregate, segregate and evaluate books they like.
  2. - competition for GoodReads with some interesting changes in emphasis.
Author support

  1. - professional organization for independent author's. I belong to this.
  2. - site where authors can critique one and others writing. Small, limited, but full of potential if they improve the interface.
  3. - site for people who just want to write.  Huge, a little hard to get your arms around.
  4. - (Harper Collins) Site to promote authors works and rank their work. They are a community writing site where everyone is enthusiastic and very responsive.
  5.  - the closest thing to a complete crowdsourced solution, but seems to be done part time bye the owners and waiting for funding.  I haven't checked in a while so this might have changed.
Publishing Sites 
  1. Kindle Direct Publishing - the first site for self publishers.
  2. - great site for easy ebook publishing - distributes your books everywhere
  3. - new kid on the block for self publishers. Feeds
Money Raising Sites
  1. - funding for just about everything. The king of crowdsourced
  2. - kickstarter for books. from their site: Pubslush is a global publishing platform for authors raise funds and gauge market viability for new book ideas.
  3.  - Seems like pubslush.  Kickstarter for books. from their site: Unbound puts the power of publishing in the hands of authors and readers. Authors pitch their book ideas directly to you
Review Sites
  1. - site for paid reviews. I've used them and gotten my money's worth. Not biased.
  2. - paid for reviews, much cheaper than selfpublishingreview, I got 10 reviews for the price of one from SPR.  They were reasonable and not biased.
  3. - Magazine for and about independant authors and their works
Promotion Sites - there are a large number of these, all clamoring to get some of the money desperate authors have to spend on their babies.  (very incomplete at this time)
  1. - online magazine for authors of fiction
Traditional Publishing Support
  1. - awesome site for people looking for support in writing queries to agents and publishers.  Very responsive and active membership