Hey there... Would you (please) read my book?
Common mistakes authors make and why I probably wont read their work.
While putting this post together, I was nervous to lay it all out for you (honestly) without sounding as if I'm not grateful for advanced copies and free ebooks from brilliant authors. The goal behind this post was for it to be informative and (hopefully) educational to new authors who don't know how to go about getting readers to actually read their new releases. So... some of you might end up getting really upset over this post - others might take what I say to heart and learn something from it. The bottom line is that every author should read this post with an open mind and remember that bloggers and authors each have different end results. An author wants to generate a following, a fan-base of sorts - He or She wants their books to sell. Be loved by all and hopefully after a while, they'll be able to get readers to automatically 'one-click' when they have a new release.
Bloggers on the other hand are here for a different purpose. It may seem like our purpose is to sell your book. In some cases it's true. When we look at blog tours or promotions, then yes... that's what we are doing. Many blogs simply have to include a link to a book within their posts and suddenly sales increase. But honestly the reason - most bloggers and mainly me - have a blog in the first place is because, yes, we are kind of like you (the author) in a way. We don't write 300+ page fictional novels but we do write blog posts about those novels. We love writing, reading and sharing our opinions. We read books we both loved and hated and we aren't shy to put those opinions out there. But essentially our main goal... is to read. That's what we do. Most bloggers will tell you that they have no shortage of books on their readers and book shelves. I have more books on my reader than I'll ever read in my lifetime.
Yet, even though we love to read and we love to experience new and exciting works of fiction - if you take away our www - we are just your average reader. A buyer. Someone who could be part of your 'fan-base'. So why wouldn't we want to spend our time reading books that we know we will enjoy. Why would we read your book above someone else with more writing history? I don't have the answer for that. I wish I did. But to really understand how to get ME to read your book - you should consider these points:
1 - You (the author) put your blood, sweat and tears (oh and of course your $) into it... you are telling us it's so, so good... so that's why we should damn well read it!
There's no greater feeling than to read a book that blew you away when you least expected it. But the truth is that although to you, your book is a bestseller and hey... it could very well be one in the future - the problem I face (and I speak only for myself here and not every book reviewer in general) is that when you are putting together your review request email and attaching links, thinking up fun and exciting ways in which to approach someone you've never ever met - convince them to actually agree to read your work... There are at least 10 other authors who do exactly that at exactly the same time. So yes, we value authors who take the initiative to contact us requesting that we read their books and yes, we love to read and like I said earlier, there's no better feeling than being blown away when you least expect it and let's face it... for a new, up and coming author with zero titles under his / her belt that we can take feedback from - it's tough for a reviewer to get to agree. Right? Yes, it is.
The first thing I do when I receive a review request is take note of how the email is headed. Is it personally directed at me? Does it have a generic greeting, indicating that this very email went out to many bloggers in one go? This little gesture of introduction may seem insignificant to you - but to me... it's huge. This is the first step into the right direction with building a relationship with a blogger.
Since we are in the blogger / reviewer community, we know that there are hundreds and hundreds of us. Blogs can be setup for free. I started with a free blog from blogspot. So there are many, many bloggers out there. I understand that to send out 100 emails separately so that you can direct each one personally to the respective blogger is going to take up a lot of time. It will. But 1 minute spent on 100 individually addressed emails, resulting in 100 minutes spent on sending requests is insignificantly less time than it takes us to read your 300+ page novel. So why not just make us feel special for one minute? Because essentially, we will be spending time with your book, take the time to rate and review it and thereafter promote it to our blog readers... helping you gain even more readers... so is it to much to ask that I get a bulk email that's specially addressed just to be alone?
Tip #1 :: Address email requests properly & make it personal to each blogger you're sending it to!
2 - Knowing what the terms Import, Paste, Crop, Hue and Font Face mean, doesn't automatically make you a designer!
Your brother might be an ace with a mouse, spacebar and Microsoft paint. Your neighbor may be able to play around with different font in photoshop, change up the color, make it all fancy looking... but there's something to be said about a book cover that done professionally and appeals to your readers. I'm pretty sure that if someone asked me to give them a haircut, I'd be able to do it. But would I? No. That's because I'm not a hairdresser. I don't dabble into what I have no skills at. And you shouldn't either. Try to remember that you as an author will love your book no matter what. But once you hit publish on your manuscript... it's no longer for you to decide if it's good enough. Now it's our turn. And because we read so many books a month, you need to ensure your's stands out. Maybe I'm even a little vain here... but I have and will continue to bypass books that have strange looking covers on it. If I can't read the title because the font chosen is so unusual that it takes me a long time to figure out what's the name of the book - I'll get bored and move along. Bloggers work hard on their blogs... I spend many hours making it appeal to readers... If it wont look pretty on my website - It doesn't make me want to read it... I make graphics for every blog post so there's no way I'm going to struggle to make one with a cover that's just dreadful. It will spoil my 'look'.
Now I know that seems harsh but aren't we all a little judgemental in some or other way? Let's be honest here. We all are. Mine just happens to be about graphic design... and because of that... your book cover. I would have loved to put up a few samples of what not to do... but I don't want to target anyone within this post. But you know you've seen them out there. A generic stock photo, with free font used for the title that's been over-beveled and drop-shadowed so much that it looks... fake. You know what I'm talking about. But do me a favor... Just go onto Amazon and look around at the bestsellers - glance at those covers. They may not all appeal directly to you - but you can't argue that they all contain some form of design know-how. So when your book is all set and ready to go... take the time and effort - get yourself a decent cover for that baby! I understand that in most cases, custom designs can be pricey. But if you look around long enough you'll find someone who will do your book justice with a beautiful and glossy cover design and doesn't charge an arm and a leg.
The bottom line is - if it looks like you spent zero time on your cover, I'm going to assume you put that much energy into writing your book.
Tip #2 :: Get your Cover Designed Professionally!
Give your book the look it deserves.
This goes hand-in-hand with your editing! What's that saying? "If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur".
3 - If I didn't sign-up... please don't spam me.
Somehow, someway within the last 3 years of blogging - I've 'signed up' for mailing lists I had no idea I signed up for. Authors email me with announcements of new releases when I've never even heard of that author in my life before. I easily unsubscribe from at least 1 a week. This is kind of the same as the non-personal emails. It's not that I'm not interested in getting information regarding new releases... but just because my email is out there... doesn't mean I want to automatically be subscribed to your mailing list. It seems silly to say this but the authors who successfully sell their books to me are those who don't really force me into it. Reading emails in general aren't fun. Reading emails I didn't sign up for... just go into trash. So essentially the moral of this story is that I like to read informative emails on books I may enjoy from authors who I have experience with and overkilling it isn't going to make me pick it up. Here's a suggestion... if you want bloggers to give you their time... give them something that's worth it. Another book wouldn't necessarily seal the deal - because like I said, we get those all the time! But consider giving bloggers news to share. Give them content that isn't found all of the web. I can tell you right now that if you offer a blogger exclusive info regarding your new release or latest release... they will take notice. I will take notice. Remember that we are readers... but we are also bloggers with a website that we want to drive traffic to. Give us a unique reason to promote your novel and we just might take you up on it :)
Tip #3 :: Don't bug us with hard selling!
Don't annoy bloggers with your share, share, share approach. Give us something we want to share and make us believe it was our idea.
4 - Don't just go in for the kill... Search, Introduce and Target.
This is a tough topic to touch on. There are many, many reviewers (& bloggers) who will read your book and tell you exactly what you want to hear. In a lot of cases, it's because your book is really good. But in many other cases it's simply because when you get to know an author - even if it's only via email - you build a relationship of sorts and suddenly the reviewer can't just come out and tell you, your book was sucky, because they don't want to hurt your feelings. So they'll tip-toe around the truth and give you false hope. This happens. Don't think it doesn't because it does! So because of that, I won't just read your book because a handful of reviewers said it was great. You don't need to convince us to read it because of what others said. And don't ever offer a reviewer money in exchange for a positive review! That will kill your writing career before it's even begun.
So how do you get a reviewer to read your book when you don't have a single legitimate review? Well... getting many reviews from readers who don't review often, don't have a 'type' of read and don't specialize in a particular genre isn't going to help you in this instance. All you need is one reviewer who specializes in exactly the genre you write, has a steady reviewing history and a small amount of street cred in the review community and you're good to go. Don't beg, beg, beg to get 50 semi-reviews when you can get 1 full review from someone who knows the world you're trying to break into. So for example... don't ask an Erotic Romance blogger, who mainly reads erotica type books, to read your contemporary romance. Yes, she might just like it. She might find the writing really great... but remember that those who follow her do so because they share similar tastes in genre's. Also, an erotic romance reader may find your contemporary romance lacking what they crave - which will result in a review that's got a little bit of positive but you can bet that they'll make mention that it just wasn't enough oomph for them. So target the correct bloggers. Find a handful of respectable bloggers who love the genre you write. That way they'll more likely love what they read and when posting their reviews, those who follow them, will respect their opinion and your readership will grow in that way. Submitting a request that doesn't fall under the preferred genre of a particular blogger isn't going to get you a review. It only annoys us when you don't read our review policies.
Introduce yourself. Especially if you are a brand new author breaking into the community. Don't just get into requesting. If you email me an informative mail with promotional material of your book... maybe throw in an exclusive... introduce yourself to me - Let me take in your name... let it sink it... then the chances are when you email me a week or so later to request a review, I'll remember your name. I'll think I've heard of you before and I'll more likely suspect that it's because there's some buzz surrounding you. This will give me more incentive to share your book. Give it a read. If you create a buzz first, then hit the requests... you'll get much further. Some of the best books I've read are those that I see around social media... feel the buildup of buzz for the release... get that feeling of mystery surrounding it because it's not instantly available for me to read... I have to wait. It gets excitement going. Presents a timeframe for us to become familiar with it - then target the reviewers to read it. This may be a sneaky way of getting in... but it's an effective way. Especially where I'm concerned. Get promotional graphics, offer excerpts, giveaway swag ect... just keep it unobtainable and mysterious for a while. We always want what we can't have :)
Tip #4 :: Dangle it in front of us!
Keep us intrigued. Make us wonder. Entice us to get excited. Build hype months before release!
To end off... my opinions within this post may be silly to you. But these are steps in getting me to read your book... I don't speak for the entire reading world. This may be information you already use and still have no success with your book. If you've been spending months on end (& money) trying to get your novel out there and your every attempt is fruitless... then look at all that time spent as a way to introduce yourself to bloggers, readers and other authors. You made contacts, you got your name out there. We may not have read your book but we did notice your name. Go back to your computer and start working on a new book. It may be that your current book just isn't ready for the world yet. Perhaps when you approach us with a new book... it may just take off. Many authors release 1 or 2 books before they are able to get a break. Don't get discouraged because no bloggers are jumping to read your book. We turn many authors away, it's not just you - trust me. There has been times when I declined a review request and saw that very same book I didn't want to read hit Amazon Bestseller a few months later. But that's the luck of the draw... :)
Tip #5 :: Keep Calm and Carry On Writing!
Just keep doing what you love! If you provide the right books - the right bloggers (& readers) will soon follow.