Book Bloggers! Differentiate & diversify your reviews to help shape the future of publishing

If it looks like a traditionally published book, is formatted like a traditionally published book and reads like a traditionally published book, then why not treat it like a traditionally published book?

I’ve had this post on my mind for a month or so and then bumped into this (excellent) post – It Isn’t (Always) Personal: a Bloggers Take on Not Accepting Self-Published Books – by Kate Tilton which prompted me into action.

As a self-published author, when you’re out there on the internet scouting for book bloggers to review your book you come up against a lot of ‘we don’t accept self-published authors‘. Fine. It’s their blog and I’ve no God given right to be accepted by anyone.

The reasons Kate gives in her article of why (some) book bloggers don’t accept self-published authors are; quantity, quality and professionalism.

I understand all these, especially quality. I remember reading the first chapter of a story on one of those publisher backed platforms, the ‘author’ had managed to describe a woman’s rack as bouncing up and down via the metaphor of being on a trampoline 3 times in the first chapter alone. I never went back. I can only imagine the dire shite some reviewers have had to go through before they finally shut up shop to self-published authors for good.

Quantity could be tamed by stipulating certain milestones such as number of reviews (which BookBub does).

Professionalism may be let down by self-publishers but it’s not their exclusive domain. I don’t quite agree with the argument Kate makes about traditionally published authors having to answer to their publishers if they step out of line. There’s been a few sock puppet authors out there behaving badly who should know better due to their full-time writing status. People can be dicks on the internet, no question. If any writer is being a dick through blogs, Twitter and elsewhere then I’d hope the news would quickly spread and the appropriate levels of ridicule and ostracisation befitting such a dick would soon ensue.

(Although, check out the example I linked to. That earned him national press across ALL the major outlets and I bet it resulted in an upswing of sales. So, unprofessionalism isn’t always going to hit the bottom line in a negative way).

Is there a happy medium? Is it possible for established book reviewers to read an unsolicited, self-published book?

I think so. Try this on for size.

To help limit quantity, to ensure quality and to guarantee a level of professionalism that comes from ‘having something to lose’ then I suggest bloggers accept self-published authors who can provide a link to their editor’s website.

That’s it.

I wouldn’t include their cover designer’s website as a) not all designers have their own website (in-house graphic designers, students, for example) b) I’m sure book bloggers know a good cover when they see one and c) assessing the cover (and therefore, the whole professional approach) can be done at a glance.

I wonder how many book bloggers who don’t accept self-pubbed books would give a second chance to a book which has been professionally critiqued, professionally copy-edited, professionally formatted, all wrapped up in a professionally designed cover? I’d hope most of them would because what’s the difference after all that, Richard and Judy’s mug on the cover?

The traditionally published book I’m reading at the moment is very good but there’s been one spelling error and one factual error after 3 chapters – no big deal, I’m still going with it because it’s a good story. I’ve read given up on some traditionally published books by known authors because of their turgid crap. Is turgid crap the preserve of the self-published? No. What about when an authors name alone can sell books, what turgid crap will a publishing house push out for easy profit?

No book is going to be absolutely perfect. No filtering process, foolproof.

If a self-published author can provide a link to their editor’s website (hopefully with their own testimonial on it as proof they actually used and paid for the editor!) then it means the author has taken a professional approach and has already invested in their book, setting themselves apart from the hundreds of other self-pubbers uploading their first draft of ‘Trampoline Tits’ from Word onto Amazon.

Try mine on for size. Here’s a link to my editor’s website (along with a testimonial as proof) and the cover of my novel is on the right column just up here on my site – would these be good enough for a once exclusive book blogger to relax their entry requirements slightly?

It doesn’t guarantee the book blogger is going to love the book or be gripped by the story or moved by the characters but no route to publishing can guarantee a 100% hit ratio.

Why reach out to self-publishers in this way?

So, that’s the how, but why? Book bloggers have enough books to read, why the hell would they want to read any more?

Promote and become champions of diversity.

At the moment, if a reviewer only accepts books from traditional sources then they are beholden to their whims and ways. Traditional publishers aren’t stupid and are running a business so they’ll follow trends and milk established authors – meaning if they think it won’t sell, then they won’t publish it. They’ll take a few loss-making punts on debut authors but increasingly nowadays you better be bringing some kind of established audience with you. Outside-the-box, niche, unusual, diverse, (seemingly) uncommercial voices are harder to find.

Self-published authors aren’t so ‘precious’ about abstract concepts such as profit, they just want to see their own book out there, no matter how much it costs them. All self-published authors know ‘breaking even’ is a ridiculous, unobtainable goal.

This means the most diverse authors can easily become sidelined but the independent book bloggers out there can provide the launch pad needed to gain more exposure. Book bloggers can have a real, tangible hand in launching careers and helping authors who would otherwise be ignored.

Becoming more inclusive to quality, self-published books would also differentiate further each book blog from each other. Journey through the top blogs in any particular genre and you’ll see a lot of the same books being reviewed.

Independent book bloggers need to leave the door slightly ajar for quality, self-published authors and together they can help each other differentiate and diversify from mainstream publishers and reviewers and help shape the future of publishing.