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How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Your Book Reviewed

I review rather a lot of books and I’ve had quite a number of requests from people over the years in differing places and ways. I’ve also sent quite a number to other bloggers and readers in various locations, so I admit this is a bit of a rant about all things book review.

Most authors know that book reviews that are favourable help them sell books, sometimes even unfavourable reviews will help sell some copies but I’ll get to that in the second half of this blog. Most reviewers also know this and are reviewing to either try and help authors or because they think they’re opinions are something the world wants to hear through varying degrees of arrogance (The vast majority of reviewers aren’t arrogant about this but there are some, again I’ll get to that later).

So authors, you can help yourselves in various ways.

1 – Treat Reviewers With Respect At All Times

Most reviewers, including me, get far too many book requests than we could physically ever do even if we read constantly for the rest of our lives. As such, we sometimes have to say no. When we do, please be respectful. It just means we didn’t choose your book. Often it’s because your book isn’t one we think we’ll like.

If we do review your book and say something negative about it, don’t go on a hate fest, you only make yourself look bad and make the reviewer wish they’d not bothered. Putting reivwers off reviewing hurts everyone.

2 – Follow Review Guidelines

Almost every reviewer will post some basic guidelines for what they want and how they want it. Follow this to the letter. I reject 95% of my review requests because they don’t follow the guidelines I’ve laid out in the places I accept requests. That’s 95% of authors who can’t read! In these cases, I don’t even bother to read the email to see whether I like the book or not, I just flat out reject and I send a copied and pasted form response which lists the reasons I might have rejected the request.

My msot common reason is the lack of personalisation. I reject a request if the author has copied and pasted whatever they sent the last person without bothering to try and find my name. I usually make my name really obvious so I consider being unable to find it no excuse.

The three other big reasons I reject books are all down to not meeting the guidelines, most notably, the wrong subject line. I like the subject line to include two phrases to make them easy to find and keep track of. Review Request and the Book Title. I need Review Request for my organisation of the emails and the book title helps me find the email again with a quick phrase search to let you know when I’ve reviewed the book.

Also the book being in a genre I don’t except. This happens way more than it ought to. If I say I accept a list of genres and only those genres I’m not likely to read anything else. I’ve got to cut the list of possible books down somehow, so sending me a book from another genre is a waste of everyone’s time.

Finally I reject a lot of requests because they’ve not included the rest of the information I want. I like to have a sample, the blurb and the cover. The cover so I can upload to goodreads if I need to and put it in the review blog when done, and the sample and blurb so I can get a better feel for the book. Sometimes I get the blurb and no sample and have to go hunting for the book to find out if it’s in third person or first person present or a myriad of different possibilities. There are a few styles I don’t like so I won’t ever accept a book without reading the sample first. even worse is when there’s no blurb and no sample, just a title.

3 – Make it Easy for the Reviewer

There are several ways you can help your reviewer and free up their time to help more people. Making sure they have every link they might need to make up their minds in the first place is a good idea. Some reviewers like it if you send them the book in the first email so they don’t have to go back and forth but I don’t. A whole book is bulky and I find it a little presumptious, but I like to have links to the book on Amazon, especially if there’s some reviews already there. Some good reviews might sway me. Lots of bad reviews that seem mean often make me pick up a book and so does no reviews. I like helping people.

Also, if you must send someone a pdf rather than mobi or epub version of your book, try to do an A5 pdf rather than A4 pdf. Nothing annoys me more than trying to read an A4 sized page on my kindle screen. It slows me down and makes me annoyed at the book, which isn’t good for the review.

4 – Be prepared for a Long Wait

Unfortunately, we get inundated with books and find it difficult to get through them all in a timely fashion. Sometimes real life crops up etc. I keep all my books on a list over on goodreads and many other reviewers do similar so people can keep track of me without needing to constantly bug me for due dates. I also don’t email out when the review is done. I expect you to keep track of that yourselves, especially seeing as I provide a link to my lists where you can see when the book has been read by me and whether it’s gone off my to-review list or not. If you can be proactive about finding the review yourself and keeping track of where you are in the queue, we don’t have to use up time telling you.

5 – Be grateful

I actually find it easier to pick up the next review book and start the process all over again when I’ve had a thank you or an equally nice conversation with someone I’ve reviewed. When someone thanks me for my time, and is eager to let other people know about the review I get hits, tweets and facebook posts which give me more of a platform to help more authors in the future. I like helping people so you can help me do that more.

Hopefully with the above points noted the auuthor and reviewer relationship can be streamlined and productive for both parties and at this point I did intend to address the things reviewers can do to help their authors more but I’ve already written loads so I’m going to stop here for today. I’ll write a chunk on how Reviewers can make things easier on authors in my next how-to blog

TRC Christmas Fair

I often join in with TRC events to help them raise money so no surprises that I’m mentioning them again (seriously, they’re awesome).

This Christmas they are doing a craft fair sort of thing in Bath and I went to the same event last year and it was amazing! The venue is new but the crafters are really really good (one of them made my tardis journal for me).

And, on top of all their usual awesomeness, I’m also going to be there signing print books, including the new Sherdan series.

A percentage of everything  the stall holders sell will go to the TRC so it’s a great way to do some Christmas shopping and give to charity, all at the same time.

And yes, I am doing this in the middle of also trying to do 60k for NaNoWriMo, which just makes it all the more epic. You never know, if you come along you might even get to have a sneak peak at the book I’m writing!

Editing Manuscripts

Once a book, film script or other piece of work is finished it’s very rarely in a perfect state for selling. There is always something that needs editing or changing slightly, and those pesky spelling mistakes not picked up by spell checker because they are still a word.

There are a lot of indie authors publishing their books and not paying for an editor first. While this can work if the author has acquired plenty of help editing themselves it can still leave some mistakes. Here’s a list of things you can do to minimise the mistakes that slip through the net.

  • Leave it for a month or two and come back to it.
  • Get several friends and fans to read over an advanced copy of the manuscript.
  • Read it aloud to yourself.
  • Read it backwards.
  • Write it out by hand.

Leave it for a month or two

Often when writing the author can get very attached to what they have written, snippets of conversation, and the way they have described something. Putting the manuscript on a shelf for a short while and coming back to it can help give a fresh perspective on what is actually necessary and what isn’t. Sometimes we have to cut out parts we like because they aren’t helping progress the story along at all.

It can also be helpful if we have time to forget some of those paragraphs that we’ve worked on so much we’ve memorised them. Knowing the manuscript too well can lead to errors being missed because our brain automatically tells us what it should be.

Friends and fans reading advanced copies

This is one idea I thoroughly recommend people use for two reasons. Other readers are less attached to your work and it can be a great way to reward fans. There are a lot of people who, once they have already decided they like your work, will be very eager to help you out in return for getting to read your new books before anyone else. They are also going to be the most forgiving of any mistakes you do make as they will feel like they can help you put it right.

Reading aloud

I’ve found this is one of the best methods of catching mistakes, especially things like wordy sentences and monologues. I also recommend this is done in all film manuscripts long before it finds it’s way into the hands of any prospective actors or investors. You’ll be surprised what seems right on the page but sounds very wrong the minute you speak it out.

I’ve found that reading out loud can also help with the placement of punctuation. Most comma’s and full stops go in the sensible pauses you take while reading aloud. Sometimes you can find you have placed too many commas in a sentence or two few and the whole emphasis can be lost.

Reading backwards

While the above methods are all useful, the human brain is a little too clever for every mistake to be spotted. The brain naturally corrects things it knows to be wrong. This can often mean repeated words can be missed, as well as words being slightly out of order, and letters within words being in the wrong order. To stop the brain correcting things it can help to read the book or film manuscript in reverse order, checking each word as you go.

Writing the whole thing out

I’m not entirely sure I’d actually recommend this type of proofing if all the above have been done, however, it was something I did. Yup you heard me right. I wrote my entire book out by hand when I had finished it. It was a present for a very awesome friend and fan of mine for Christmas. I had a really thick leather bound journal and wrote a personal letter to them on the front page and filled the rest with my book.

While I was writing I had to concentrate so hard on writing it out word for word that I noticed quite a few mistakes and could correct them. It was mostly useful for using the same word too often but I also caught quite a few punctuation errors and formatting errors that way.

I am not sure if I would actually write out future books by hand though.

Everything I have listed above does help with editing and getting the book up to scratch and I can’t stress how important it is that any book goes through a very rigorous editing process. The best way of course is to pay a professional editor, and to be very careful which one you choose, but I understand not every writer can always afford to do so, especially with the first few books.

There are a lot of people still very prejudiced against indie books because of their lower standard of editing, however, so it is in every indie author’s best interests to make sure their book is as spelling and grammer mistake free as they possibly can. It also can’t help to do so when applying to agents and traditional publishers either.