Monday, March 23, 2020

5 Tips for Scoring Book Reviews in 2020

All authors know the importance of book reviews. If someone ends up on your book page, scrolls down to the review section, and finds proof that other people have read — and, ideally, enjoyed! — your book, you are far more likely to turn them into a reader, too. However, when it comes to reviews, your mantra shouldn’t be “if you build it, they will come." You might have written the best book ever published, but if you’re not willing to put in some legwork, you may find yourself without a single review. To that end, we’ve got five tips for scoring book reviews!

1. Consider buying them--ethically!

Book reviews from vetted critics are not exactly the kind of things you just happen upon. Most of the time, indie authors have to pay for such reviews. However, when it comes to the price tag, there’s a wide range. For instance, an editorial review from a trade magazine like Kirkus Reviews will cost you $425. An editorial review from trade mag Publishers Weekly costs $399 (if you’re a self-published author, you’ll need to submit through their Booklife platform). Or you can seek out a more cost-friendly review from a platform like Reedsy Discovery, which charges $50 per submission. 😊 Whichever option you choose, a review from an established magazine or service is a great investment, and can be used in your Amazon listing or website to give your book a boost of credibility.

2. Don’t forget the power of word of mouth

One marketing tip indie authors are more commonly turning to is to include a message at the back of your book, encouraging readers to head to your Amazon page and leave a review. You should make sure not to be too pushy in your approach, and to include this ask in the back matter of your book — not the body. You don’t want to bombard readers with review requests before they’ve even had time to fully process the end of your book.

3. Run a giveaway

You can’t pay a reviewer to give your book a positive review. This kind of exchange isn’t allowed on Amazon, and they do their best to ensure the review sections of books are as transparent as possible. That being said, running a free book promotion or giveaway is an excellent way to get copies of your books into the hands of many different readers who then might be prompted to leave a positive (or negative — it’s part and parcel of becoming a published author!) review of their own volition. To run a free book promotion on Amazon, you will need to be enrolled in KDP Select — a program in which authors grant Amazon exclusive rights to sell their book in exchange for access to a number of marketing tools. You can learn more about KDP Select and whether it’s right for you here! Another option is to run a giveaway using one of the many platforms that allow you to do this — such as Goodreads or Instafreebie. According to Indiereader, “more than 40,000 readers enter a giveaway every single day.” Chances are a large portion of those readers are also happy to leave reviews on books they enjoy!

4. Turn to book bloggers

There are tons of book bloggers out there who accept submissions from indie authors. In fact, at Reedsy, we have a directory of over 200 of them. When it comes to seeking reviews, not all book blogs are created equal. Some will be much more likely to review your book than others. So whether you’re consulting a list or scouting them out on your own, you should do your research to determine what blogs are best for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you do so:
  • Are they currently accepting submissions? If not, the answer is easy: on to the next!
  • Do they cover your genre? It’s a waste of both your and the blogger’s time to pitch a book that’s outside the genres they focus on. Book bloggers rely on dedicated fans and often specialize in one or two specific genres. If their niche is reviewing romance novels, the chances that they will throw science fiction into the mix is low — because it’s clearly not their realm of expertise, and they won’t want to throw off their readers.
  • How active are they? If they haven’t posted since 2003… you can safely refer to the first bullet point. That being said, you also don’t want to work hard to get featured on a blog that posts so often that your review ends up being a needle in a haystack. If a book blogger is posting once or twice a week, that shows consistency and the chance for each of their reviews to have their fair moment in the sun.
  • How big is their following? The more the merrier, right? Well, yes and no. It’s certainly not a bad thing to score a review on a blog that gets tons of traffic. But that doesn’t mean you should turn your nose up at blogs with smaller followings — as sometimes those smaller blogs come with a tight-knit sense of community and trust.

5. Capitalize on the reviews you’ve already received

Here’s the thing about book reviews: they often feel like a catch-22. You need readers to score reviews — but it’s tough to get readers without reviews. So when positive feedback does start to roll in, use it to get even more! Here are a few suggestions for doing just that:
  • Add a review excerpt to your book’s synopsis on all of your different book and sales pages — Amazon, Goodreads, everywhere. Ideally, the excerpt will be from an editorial review. But hey, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, so if you haven’t scored one of those yet, use a shining reader review.
  • Add positive reviews to your author website.
  • Add a very concise and effusive line to your book cover — in this case, it should really come from an editorial review.
  • Share positive reviews on social media.
  • Include lines from positive reviews in any promotional material you create.
  • If you’re querying an agent, you know the drill: reference a positive review!

Monday, March 16, 2020

#IWSG - When hope is hard to find.

Currently, the world is in chaos.

It may seem bleak. It may seem like no one out there is listening. That no one cares.

But, we are the writers.
We are the story tellers.
The ones to entertain the masses.
To be hopeful when hope is hard to find.

We must maintain. We must find our own path through the craziness and stay strong.

It won't be easy. So many distractions. So much unease and worry. It might seem impossible to focus and get words on paper.

Keep trying. Keep jotting down your ideas and your visions and your dreams.

Keep moving forward.

Because...people need us. People need stories to escape. To feel good. To find joy.

They need our stories, because there are no stories out there quite like ours.

Individually, we may be insecure, but together we are invincible.

Together, we have hope.

Stay safe, stay sane, and stay sassy.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Building a Writing Community and Magazine

By Damien Larkin

Writing can be a lonely business. Even with the support of friends and family, it can be a struggle dealing with the frustrations of receiving dozens of rejection emails. Who else but another writer can understand writers block or that tricky scene that just doesn’t want to work itself out? I’m sure a lot of us have been there; that horrible moment when we want to just give up but force ourselves to carry on despite the odds. It’s moments like this when leaning on fellow writers can make all the difference.

Nearly every blog post about starting off on your writing journey agrees on one thing: writers need other writers to learn from, connect with and share experiences. Writing groups can be found in virtually every major city, but with the power of the internet, we can now connect with entire virtual communities from the comfort of our own homes. Those same blog posts all point out the Twitter Writing Community as one of the best places to engage and connect with other writers of all stages and levels. It was here, just over a year ago that the British and Irish Writing Community first came together.

When I started my own writing journey in 2017, I read those same blog posts and researched various writing groups in my home city of Dublin, Ireland. Unfortunately, any groups I found either met during my working hours or when I was looking after my two young children. I reached out to several authors for advice via email but received only one lukewarm response. I turned to Twitter but quickly ran into a major stumbling block – I’m terrible at social media.

In real life, I class myself as an easy going, friendly person who’s comfortable in most social situations. I can get up in front of crowds and talk for hours or I can work a room full of strangers and have them cracking jokes together within minutes. But online, I struggled. I tried to engage, I bought other writer’s books and reviewed them. I supported, liked and retweeted, but still couldn’t seem to connect in any meaningful way with any other writers.

Then, one day, a single tweet changed everything. A UK based author named Phil Parker tweeted about the lack of networking or support groups specifically for Irish and British speculative fiction writers. After Googling what ‘speculative’ meant (I’d genuinely never heard of that term in my life) and finding out that my debut novel Big Red fitted that category, I reached out to him.

In a series of email exchanges that lasted a few days, we chatted about all things writing related. The more we bounced different thoughts around, the more an idea seemed to take shape. We couldn’t find any group that focused on Irish and British speculative fiction, so why didn’t we just make one? We teamed up with British author Lee Conley and with that, the British and Irish Writing Community was born.

Each of us had our own reasons for wanting to build such a community, so we agreed on a few principles. This new group would be open to all residents and/or citizens of Ireland and the UK (although, we have snuck writers and bloggers from other countries in from time to time…) We agreed to focus only on writing and writing-related matters while supporting writers of all backgrounds, experience levels and stages. Last of all, we wanted to promote the fantastic works of speculative fiction from the talented authors spread across our two beautiful islands.

It’s been a lot of work for each of us, especially with our own family, work and writing commitments. The dividends have certainly paid off though. Last year, I had the pleasure of representing the British and Irish Writing Community at TitanCon in Belfast and Octocon in Dublin. We also had our first ever meet up at BristolCon in Bristol, UK. At a talk hosted by myself and Lee Conley, we met fellow members in person and outlined our long term plans for our ever expanding group.

The spirit of collaboration between so many different writers has also led to the launch of our very own speculative fiction e-magazine ‘Bard of the Isles’. Containing short stories, interviews and guest articles from emerging and established writers, we’ve managed to shine a light on what we’re capable of achieving by working together. Issue 3 is due out later this month and we’ve big plans to continue expanding on content while building our brand.

Writing can be a lonely business, but we don’t have to go it alone. I’ve certainly experienced moments of frustration at the thoughts of putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard). It can be exhausting working on a project in between raising a family or working a day-job, but community is key. I’ve had plenty of ups and downs since the launch of Big Red last year, but no matter what, the support of my fellow writers has helped me through even the worst moments. I’ve had the pleasure of making some lifelong friends, visited different cities and enjoyed beta-reading some fantastic up-and-coming works.

We’re all in this together, so let’s keep supporting and building each other up. I certainly can’t wait to see what the future holds for the British and Irish Writing Community!

Damien Larkin is an Irish science fiction author and co-founder of the British and Irish Writing Community. His debut novel Big Red was published by Dancing Lemur Press and went on to be longlisted for the BSFA award for Best Novel. He currently lives in Dublin, Ireland and is working on his next novel Blood Red Sand. Website / Twitter/ Facebook

BIWC links: Facebook / Twitter / Bard of the Isles online speculative fiction magazine

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Ides of March Cometh

In a few days March 15 is going to show up on the calendar, so why should we beware of that date? For one, it was a darned unlucky day for Caesar. If only he'd listened to that soothsayer, but no. When the guy tried to warn him, Caesar said, "He is a dreamer; let us leave him." As we know, this was not a good idea.

When you get some well-intended warnings, I say pay attention. And that brings me to this rather odd segue. 

I was reading a magazine, and came across an article titled Clean Up Your Digital Trail. I almost flipped the page, but stopped when I read this: "You've probably accumulated a lengthy list of online accounts for everything from e-mail and social media sites to online search activities, purchasing history, and blogging platforms. Even if you stopped using the accounts ages ago, your digital footprints are still sitting there, a potential treasure trove of information for identity thieves."

When I'm writing, I do a lot of online searches. And I've been known to buy a few things from that big box store in the sky, like books. Also I shake in my buskins when I read "identity thieves," so I had to read on. I wanted to know the full extent of my digital vulnerability, and I wanted to know how to lessen it.

Here are some tips the article served up on sweeping those footprints away:

  • Delete or deactivate shopping & social network accounts you no longer use. Go to account settings, option to deactivate, remove or close. 

  • Use incognito mode when you search from now on. Duck Duck Go is one incognito browser that I use.

  • Get a VPN (Virtual Private Network) It creates a secure connection between your devices and the scary internet world. 

  • Deactivate old email accounts

  • Check your privacy settings on frequently visited websites, especial social media sites.

  • If you're in the EU, use the right to be forgotten option.

  • Don’t click on nutty surveys. These are called "clickbait," as the article said, you give up a lot more than you get in return. 
While this is a nice to-do list, you might also bone up on your phishing detection skills. Here's a QUIZ from Google that you can take to see how savvy you are. It's interesting and only takes a few minutes. I learned a lot.

I hope this bit of spring cleaning wards off the evil identity thieves (shudder). After all, writers have enough to be insecure about. There are probably more things a writer can do to protect himself, so if you have some suggestions let us know in the comments. 

Oh, and BTW, the Ides of March really is a good day. We might even have the first full moon of March. People used to celebrate when that happened. We should reinstate that tradition.