Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Getting my book reviewed

I spent some time this week following up leads about book reviews. With The Wormton Lamb coming out at Easter, I want to create more of a media splash than I managed with The Horsepower Whisperer. The ultimate is to arouse (good word) some interest from the national media but this seems to be a closed shop. If you are not a buddy of the editor I don't think you get a foot in the door. I could send them a copy but from remarks Bill Bryson made in his introduction to The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W E Bowman, newspaper offices are awash with books sent in for possible review that either get pulped, binned, sold on eBay and Amazon or used as Christmas presents by skinflints.

Not that Bill Bryson would ever do this, of course. The point of his introduction was how pleased he was to have discovered The Ascent of Rum Doodle, which enjoyed a kind of cult following among rock climbers against all the odds.

As you can imagine, that kind of story interests and inspires me greatly but I am aware of the odds against and don't see the point in sending out review copies if they are not requested.

The advise in all the publishing manuals is to ensure that you have reviews in the press ready for the launch of your book. That means a lead time of about 3-4 months to give them time to read it. There's a lot of angst-ridden moaning on discussion groups about review copies appearing for sale on Amazon. I wonder how many copies are sent out? One thing I am certain about is that unsolicited review copies are not welcome. the trouble is establishing some sort of working relationship with the media to not only get reviews but to ensure they are used to best effect.

Professionals can do this because they have a constant stream of books with which to interest the media. It really is a question of who you know in that game but even if you have a professional publicist to care of your book, they have half an eye on the next "product" on their publicity production line.

Despite all this, I believe the internet still offers untapped opportunities for shouting about yourself, hence this blog, my Engine Punk blog and my Anarchadia website.

What my research into reviews threw up was that there clearly is never any guarantee that your book will be read for review. Some internet sites offer a pay-for-review service but I don't see what value these have. As far as I can make out, they don't do anything with the reviews they provide, either. It's still down to the author or publisher to make what they can out of them.

I tried - unsuccessfully I might add - to get a famous author to read The Horsepower Whisperer. Their opinion would carry some weight, especially if they were the sort of person whose readers would like my stuff.

It's struck me how book endorsements are often from people I've never heard of. There seems to be a tacit admission that I am not alone in this, for the reviewers credentials are often listed after their name.

It's also struck me that I might just as well use quotes from readers on Amazon. At least these are real people who've read my work.

So I cruised around looking for free review sites and think I might have come up with some. Bookpleasures is one that I'm trying. I've already sent copies of both books to what sounds like an enthusiastic reviewer. I've also had some positive remarks about extracts of my work on Authonomy.

But it occurs to me that to receive reviews you need to be a reviewer. It's not so much "you give me a great review and I'll give you great one" - it seems to work like this. You make sure everyone know you are an author every time you publish a review on these sites and either the reviewee checks out your work or other people get to know you through your insightful comments. Some authors are clearly hoping to be noticed by agents in this way, for - allegedly - these shy retiring creatures actually check out these sites for new writing.

Whether you post your work for free or go for paid reviews, time is the big constraint. And if you start sending out books it gets expensive. Most of these review sites are in the states.

Enquiries with the local press brought the response that they very rarely review self-published books. Notice that they never said never so there is a glimme rof hope there. I suspect the professional publicists would get cross if they did it too much. Or is it a pay-for-review system everywhere?

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