Tag Archives: Self Publish

Do You Want Your Self-Published Book Reviewed?

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In my short career as a self-published author I have published two e-books. The first, was an autobiographical look at my experience wasting time as a member of a Star Trek message board. The second, was a novel I wrote based on an attempt to write a novel in 50 days about a thirty something male who hated his office cubicle work life. Come to think of it, there was a nice chunk of autobiographical material in that one as well.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE SELF-PUBLISHING EXPERIENCE

Although neither one of these books set the world on fire, I did learn quite a bit during the process about writing, self-publishing and attempting to market them. The first lesson I learned was that writing and self-publishing a book requires time, effort and some (although not necessarily a lot of) money. It should not be surprising that writing a book requires a good deal of time and effort if one is concerned about creating a quality work product. As far as the money part goes, the actual publishing of the book is not that expensive. You can spend a bit more on editing, book cover design and marketing if you want. Personally, I would not suggest doing this if this is your first e-book or if you do not have a following of some kind. Because the truth is, you will probably spend more money than you will make in the process. All that considered, I still think the creative process of writing and self-publishing is a good experience. My advice to any newbies is to try to spend as little of your own money in the process.

The second lesson I learned is that once the book is published it can be challenging (to say the least) to get the book read and reviewed. My experience being a self-published author and milling about the various websites and forums that cater to self-published authors is that there are many people who have written books and are desirous of other people to read and review their work. Some are desperate. They want this for two reasons. The first reason is premised on the dream that their book will turn into a best seller and free them from their day job. Reviews are one way to boost the profile of the book on Amazon (or other self-published distributors) and the higher the profile the more theoretical sales they will make. The second reason most likely arises once the dream of self-publishing a best seller evaporates. This reason is the desire for some form of validation. The author has put all this time, effort and money into the process and although he or she has given up the hope of recouping that investment, he or she wants some form of acknowledgment. Another person (who is not a friend or family member) reading the book and writing an honest review can provide this validation.

THERE ARE MANY SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS WHO WANT THEIR BOOKS REVIEWED

When I look up the two books I self-published on Amazon I see that they are both ranked in the 2,000,000s for their particular genre. This means that there are at least 2,000,000 other people (and probably far more considering all the possible genres) who find themselves in this position. Most will never have their book read, let alone read and reviewed.

But this then means that there are millions and millions of people who are motivated  to get their books reviewed and the obvious solution (at least to me anyway) is to have these people read and review each other’s books. However, the problem with this solution is that if two authors read and review each other’s work there will be a motivation to provide a positive review in the hope that the other reviewer will do likewise. Conversely, there is a fear that a negative review will invite a similar negative reprisal. This dynamic calls the honesty of these type of review swaps into question and is probably why Amazon and other review platforms frown on the practice.

MY SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM

My solution to this problem is simple. Create a matching service that introduces self-published authors to each other in a non binary or non reciprocal manner. That is, create a system whereby Author A reviews Author B who reviews Author C who reviews Author A. In this way there is no longer the motivation to provide a falsely positive review. This is a simplified version of the process but it articulates the philosophy that if Author A reviews Author B, Author B cannot review Author A.

This is the service my website www.binderreview.com provides. For $5 you will be introduced to an author whose book you will review. In addition, another author will be introduced to you to review your book. Note, www.binderreview.com is just an introduction service. Once introduced, it is up to you and the other author to arrange the book’s transfer and decide on which review platform you want the review to appear. None of this is transacted through the website.

THE SALES PITCH (SORT OF)

Of course there are paid review services. Most of them cost over $100 and take a month or two for the book to be read and reviewed. Moreover, the review will generally appear on the paid review’s website and not on Amazon or another book selling website. But if a person has already sunk some money into their project do they really want to sink hundreds of dollars more into a project from which they will probably never seen any monetary return on investment? This is why the cost of www.binderreview.com is priced so low. My thinking was that $5 is a nominal amount to pay to be introduced to a self-published author who will review your work. Your review of another person’s work helps to defray the cost. If I could, I would provide the service for free because I understand the psychology of a self-published author in this position. But at the same time, I would like to recoup the cost I paid to develop the website and pay for hosting, etc.

The truth is, most self-published authors will never make money off of their effort. But I believe anyone who takes the time and effort to write and self-publish a book should at least have a chance that their book is read and reviewed by another person. This is the service I want to provide with www.binderreview.com.

ONE MORE THING

The only way to get this website to work is to have a certain number of people sign up to create a viable and available pool of people. I am also a little unsure as to whether the website is intuitive enough for a person attempting to use it. For this reason, for the first ten people who do sign up, in addition to being matched through the service, I will personally read your book and give it an honest review for free if you send me a copy. Also, please give me any feedback you might have on the website. My goal is to make it as user friendly as possible given my current resources.

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Exploring why Review Swaps are Dicey and the Mind of an Evangelical Christian

I burned Cate's book today in the woods as a symbolic conclusion to this project.

I burned Cate’s book today in the woods as a symbolic conclusion to this project.

The independent publishing world is a tough mountain to climb. Even though it is cheap and easy to get a book “published” it is tough to get anyone to actually buy and read the book. Authors struggle for months and months (perhaps years) to write their books. This requires lots of time alone struggling to commit ideas to paper. This requires hours and hours of editing. This requires a great deal of soul searching and hope. All this effort occurs before the author actually “publishes” his book and makes it available to the public. There is a great deal of vulnerability and expectation in this moment. The author is putting his baby out there for the world to judge and of course the baby is a reflection of the author himself. Accordingly any judgment of the book is judgment of the author. But for most authors this can be a moment of great disappointment. Because, I suspect most independently published authors never have their book actually read except by a friend or two. It is even more difficult to get a book reviewed. But if there are numerous independent authors seeking readers and reviewers of their books the obvious solution to this problem is to have this population of independent authors read and review each other’s books.

With this solution in mind, I agreed to read and review “The Child” by James Cates in exchange for him reading my novel “The Book of Bud.” I have heard it said that Amazon frowns on this type of review swapping. After going through this process I now have a better idea as to why Amazon feels this way. The problem with review swaps as I see it is that one or both parties will probably feel obligated to give a good review of the other’s work either because he is afraid of offending the other or he is afraid of a negative review in return. The flipside of this is that a genuinely positive review is automatically suspect. That said, in my initial brief interchange with James Cates we both agreed that we would give honest reviews of each other’s work and that is what I set out to do. I do not think either of us deserve or would benefit from anything less than that.

I will first say that I would never want to disparage someone who wants to create. I think being creative is the joy of life and no one, regardless of skill, should be denied the opportunity to put themselves out there. This is especially true with the rise of the internet and the self publishing industry. As I indicated above, writing a book is no easy task for most people. I know this from person experience. Cates certainly had a vision for a novel and actually performed the hard work of thinking it through and creating a finished product. For that he is to be commended and I mean that sincerely.

However, I ended up giving his book only one star because there were a number of problems. Again, I do not think giving him a false positive review would do him or me any good. But honestly, his book was poorly written. There were too many spelling errors and grammar mistakes. Some of this is forgivable but when there are too many errors of this kind it takes me out of the flow of the narrative and I begin to loose faith in the author. The plot was overly complicated and there were too many undeveloped characters that I did not care about or whose motivation I did not understand. In the actual review I go into the plot a little more deeply and I do not really want to go over that here. Suffice to say, I really did not enjoy reading his book and as a result had to do some real soul searching regarding how I would actually write the review.

The final point I would like to discuss is the Christian theme of the novel. Cates is (I am assuming) an evangelical, protestant Christian. I am a Christian of the Roman Catholic persuasion and I am definitely not an evangelical, protestant Christian. As such, I am obviously not part of Cate’s world. But in a sense this was one aspect that made his book more interesting to me because it offered me a look into the mind of an evangelical protestant Christian. In many ways it seems like a very black and white, us against them type of world. Interestingly there is not so much theology but there is a heaping helping of violence and rape. No one is actually raped in the book but there is a lot of talk about different characters wanting to rape other characters. I could go deeper on that subject but I do not want to. It is not my intent to stand in judgment of Cates. In fact I want to encourage him to keep being creative even if it never results in a single sale because in my experience being creative is one of the greatest joys in life.

James Cates has yet to review my book.

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How To Write About Painful Topics (Interview)

Here is a link to an interview I had with Gary Smailes of Bubblecow, a company based in the UK that provides editing and publishing assistance for self-published authors.

In this interview Gary asks me about writing honestly about painful topics as it relates to my first self published eBook “Shame and Internet Trolling.”

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