Monday, March 12, 2012

Reviews from Random Readers


One of the disadvantages of publishing your own books is getting them reviewed. If I had signed with a publisher, and they thought I had a good chance of making them some money, they would have sent my books to professional reviewers. Then, when the glowing reports came back, they'd use them for dusk jackets and other marketing. This is called third-party validation. In other words, I wouldn't be tooting my own horn when I said my books were great.

(Mind you, if your publisher didn't think you stood a good chance of making them some money you'd have to do this kind of legwork yourself.)

As an Indie (independent publisher) you have two options. Well, three.
  1. Give a copy of your book to your friends and relatives and ask them to read and review it for you. This is usually frowned upon as few people think friends and relatives would say anything negative about your writing. Reviews of this nature are typically easy to spot and are ignored by astute book buyers.
  2. Ask a fellow Indie to read and review your books. I don't think there's anything wrong with this provided an honest review is requested. Fellow writers can be shills as well as friends or relatives, but they can also be objective. If you gave them a copy to read for free, then a review should not be expected, IMO. You'd hope a review written by a writer would be better written than a review from a reader, but that's not always the case.
  3. Wait until someone buys your book and reviews it on their own. I call these reviews from "real" readers or "random" readers. These people don't know you and couldn't care less if they hurt your feelings. Good or bad, these can be some of the best reviews. They may not be written as well as a professional review or a review from another writer, but they're honest (or should be). 
I received two such reviews for my horror novel CANALS recently. They either bought the book off Amazon or got it free during my promo in January. Here they are:

"Canals" starts off with an interesting and grabbing premise. A different sort of monster. But the story soon goes off on tangents that really catch one off-guard. By the time you have finished with this book, you will wonder where Powers ever got his ideas from? Is he trying to tell us something? Is he an...Advocate? An exciting and quite gory story that you just sit back and enjoy. "Canals" is well worth the read."
Mr. Powers does a fine job blending elements of horror and science fiction in this fast-paced and often gruesome tale. The story reminded me of those good old monster movies that I loved as a boy, updated with plenty of splatter. Mr. Powers presents some nicely developed characters in a satisfying and fun little thriller that I would certainly recommend to anyone who enjoys the horror genre."

I don't know either of them and after looking at some of their other reviews, they hand out 4 stars with a light hand.

Now, I know I won't get all 4 or 5 star reviews but as long as I satisfy most of my readers I'm okay.

Incidentally, the last time my mother stopped by my office she bought both of my books in paperback, against my protestations. "Mom, I can't charge you!" She insisted. A week or so later she told me she was reading CANALS. I cringed. My mom is an angel mistakenly sent to Earth almost 80 years ago; I can't imagine her reading a horror novel. As you read in the review above, there is some gory stuff in CANALS.

Anyway, she said she love it (I assume not the rougher parts) and found it very difficult to put down toward the end (because she was anxious to get it over with?). And, she found an additional 13 typos or improper word usages—thanks Mom. I've already uploaded them to Amazon. The print version will have to wait.