bad review, book bloggers, book reviews, Controversy, Indie-author, judge a book by its cover, review policy, review requests, self-publishing discrimination, traditional vs. self publishing, unprofessional authors, veting authors
Bloggers claiming to be aficionados, an authority, or encompass all things in a genre, really need to step into the twenty-first century, and understand how New York, New York, and the publishing industry work, and why many self-published authors can offer professional products, and professional disposition. By vetting the quality of the author with a few quick requirements or questions, you can find massive amounts of quality work in the genre of your expertise. If you love reading and love blogging, and love a certain genre enough to start a blog, don’t give up on self-pub authors so easily.
For those of you who don’t understand why not every book gets picked up by a publishing house (who are pitched the book by a literary agent–meaning authors can’t ask a publishing house to represent their books themselves), understand that it is a subjective process that varies to an incredible degree. The first thing that works out oddly is: You can’t get your book published unless you have an agent, and you can’t get an agent unless you’ve been published before. The second thing authors, bloggers, and anyone else who knows about books needs to understand, is the nature of the literary agent. When you introduce your book they are looking to make an income by promoting your book. Please remember that this is their job, and living in NYC isn’t exactly cheap. If they don’t love your idea right away, they’re not picking you. If there is another book that came through yesterday and they like the character names better, they won’t pick you.
But why do some bloggers discriminate against self-published books all together? Apart from some run-ins with authors getting angry with bad reviews (substantiated or not, you should never respond to negative reviews as an author), they describe bad covers, bad editing, and bad plots holes. And though they acknowledge not all self-published books are bad, they cannot bring themselves to except any self-published titles. This by definition is discrimination. I’m not sure when taking negative attributes and applying them to an entire group of people you don’t know is a good idea for anyone, and that holds in the case of books and writers. Acknowledging that not all people are a certain way, and then saying you don’t want to meet the people who aren’t like that (the ones you just said do exist) is a discriminatory practice.
On the flip side, I did always enjoy group punishment in martial arts class because it helps build group solidarity, however, since I haven’t met these other self-published authors, I cannot gain anything by being lumped in with them. I don’t want to do more push-ups when no one is growing as an individual. I can’t stop these people from sending you nasty emails when you give them a bad review, even though I wish I could get them to move on. There are best-selling books with 2 star reviews. It happens.
Bloggers who discriminate against self-published titles might stand behind small publishing companies in their review policy, because they believe the small companies have found books that meet their standards. By accepting small press books, these bloggers are involved in some kind of vetting process, similar to what I propose. Unfortunately, small press isn’t a full-proof way to vet a book. I have experienced a book backed by a small publishing house that had many spelling, grammatical, and formatting errors, and I was disappointed I paid for it. I could not finish it, and therefore, did not leave a review. Also…no one else had left a review, and small press should know how important that is for any author. As for plot holes, even books published by large houses have them, even if they are free of frequent editing errors.
So, bloggers, if I’ve convinced you to enter the twenty-first century, you can set the standards for your book reviews, and actually help make a self-publishing revolution. If you are so influential, and the authority on books in your favorite genres, set the standard, and make authors give you what you want, and what you think readers need. There are still blogs out there that accept self-published titles, but the discrimination still stands as well. The easiest way to vet authors set up a form for review requests. You won’t have to wade through emails with various formats either.
Ways to vet self-published authors:
- Judge the book by its cover. Have authors leave a link or upload their cover.
- Ask for the editor’s website. I filled out a form that had this on it, and I thought it was a great idea.
- Ask for the author’s website or bio. Go check out the author’s website, head shot, and bio, and see if they are serious about writing. You will be able to tell if they are professional, and that is your biggest qualm. Do you want to see if they went to school for writing or have formal training and education? That will appear in the bio.
- Accept books based on previous reviews and ratings. 15 amazon reviews and an above 4-star rating? I’ll read it. 15 reviews tells me they aren’t fake reviews. Many advertising companies use reviews to vet entries. You won’t get to post about new releases for the first books in a series, but you can launch the subsequent ones to create excitement on your blog.
- Ask for an excerpt. Have them paste a sample chapter or a link to a sample chapter in your form so you can get a feel for if the writing is for you.
To discourage people blowing up your email box, add “We are unable to accept all review requests, and will only be responding to the requests we accept. Please do not follow up with inquiry emails. They will be dismissed and deleted,” to your review policy, and abide by that rule. If someone freaks out, you do not have to answer, or deal with them again.
Bloggers have every right to set their own review policies, but it’s sad to see they could be missing out on something in the genre that inspired them to start a blog in the first place. Times are changing, and I hope both bloggers and authors can be part of getting great books into the hands of readers.
Romarin Demetri prefers the term “independent author”, and is starting a blog series for Indies in June, after the release of her first urban fantasy novel! Join the newsletter recipients for updates at http://madmimi.com/signups/176318/join . Check back soon!