Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Review: The Author's Guide to Working with Book Bloggers

I have two books in the production pipeline, and I've been working on my strategy for getting pre-publication book reviews. While googling, I lucked out and found a great site,, that has lists of lists of book reviewers, including many book bloggers who will not only review self-published and small press titles but also cross-post their reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

One of the review sites, I can't remember which, encouraged authors to read The Author's Guide to Working with Book Bloggers by Barb Drozdowich. (ISBN 9781620158029). I downloaded the Kindle version, which was only $3.99. (It does not appear to be available in EPUB format.) The book is available in print, as well, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound for $11.95

Drozdowich is herself a book blogger, and has been since 2010. Her book review blog, Sugarbeat's Books covers her favorite genre: romance. It is from this insider perspective that she offers advice to authors on how to work with book bloggers, but she shares wisdom beyond her own.

A few years ago (I may have overlooked it, but I don't think she mentions the year) she issued a comprehensive survey of book bloggers that asked open questions, such as, "Why do you blog?" She got 215 bloggers to respond and the information she learned from the survey results led to the Author's Guide.

I found this short book a worthwhile read. It helped me understand two important things:

  1. what book bloggers want
  2. what mistakes authors make in approaching bloggers

What do book bloggers want? In general, book bloggers love books and love reading and they want to share their reading experiences. Almost all do this as a hobby and make little to no money from their efforts. What money they do make comes from advertising, and sometimes affilate relationships with book vendors (which means if you follow a link from their blog to, say, Kobo and buy a book, the blogger may earn a small commission).

What's the biggest mistake authors make in approaching book bloggers? They blast form-letter review requests to bloggers without reading their review guidelines or even looking at the blogs. Before you contact a blogger, Drozdowich advises, get to know about them. Don't waste their time with review requests for books in genres they don't read.

The book discusses much more than these two things. It covers other helpful things book bloggers can do for you besides review your book, which I won't go into here so that you have a reason to buy the book.

I think any self-published author or small press, who realistically need to look at review options besides the coveted but hard to get trade reviews, should consider reading this book as part of planning their strategy for garnering book reviews.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Storyteller Who Couldn't Spell

I have the fortune of knowing some wonderful storytellers. One of the best ones--who I'll call "X"--has a quirk you wouldn't expect: not being able to spell worth beans.

X can spin a great yarn and uses a respectably-sized vocabulary to good effect, but has a learning disability that makes it hard for them to spell correctly and consistently. I have seen X use the same word in adjacent sentences and not spell them the same, and X sometimes cannot see that they are different.

Without hiring an editor for not just stories, but all correspondece, X would have little chance of finding a publisher or agent, or of success at self publishing.

Well guess what? Bad spelling can be fixed with editing--even if every sentence needs a correction--easier than a poorly told story can be fixed with editing. As a publisher who wants to develop local talent, I edit every book I publish, and I don't charge for it; it's one of the benefits I bring to the table. So, I can choose to take on a book written by X if I think it's a promising one. And I am taking one on.

There's nothing magic in what I'm saying. Every author needs a good editor; every author has their own distinct weaknesses that need outside help.

If you are a good storyteller, don't let your personal challenges at writing stop you if writing stories is what you want to do. Follow rule one of writing: Write. And develop a relationship with someone who can competently edit your work.