What author doesn’t crave a stellar review from the New York Times or Publishers Weekly? But for most of us plebes, the chances of getting such an honor are worse than winning a Powerball jackpot. Which begs the question for new, rising, and independent authors — what reviews can you feasibly get without spinning your wheels forever? I’m going to encourage you to concentrate your efforts on reader reviews.
Professional book reviewers like those mentioned above are deluged with requests and simply cannot or will not consider a title by an unknown writer. Additionally, professional reviewers are usually embedded with the publishing establishment and won’t consider books written by independent or unagented authors. They might give a variety of reasons for this, but what it boils down to is they simply don’t consider these writers to be legitimate and thus their work is not worth reviewing.
But don’t feel bad. If you’re an indy author for example, remember that your "thing" is still a relatively new — only about seven years old at this point. Like other trailblazers, you’ll have to pay your dues along the way. Independent filmmakers have been battling the same recognition and legitimacy issue for much longer and are only now making real headway. Heck, indy films are even considered chic these days — a far cry from a few decades ago when brilliant artists were labeled as unimportant because they refused to play the Hollywood game. If you’ve seen any of the films by Jonathan Levine, Nicolas Winding Refn, or Gun van Sant, you’ll agree that “indy” in no way means “untalented” or “illegitimate.” In truth, most of these folks probably just wanted greater control over their own creations, without having to sacrifice their vision to marketeers and studio execs. Sound familiar, authors?
So instead of spending all your time trying to garner reviews from people who won’t give you the time of day unless you’re sanctioned by their industry, concentrate your efforts on engaging with your readers. Having published two books in the last two years, I’ve found that the average reader is much more open to new talent anyway. Honestly, most book enthusiasts just want a good story and they don’t give a flying fuck if the book came out of Simon and Schuster or Amazon’s CreateSpace. Pedigree doesn’t matter as much to their eyes, and a large number of them thrill to discover new authors. The popularity of book sharing sites like Goodreads and Shelfari further enhances your ability to reach your readership and garner their feedback. You can also encourage reader reviews by doing the following:
Once you start getting reader feedback, don’t ignore it. After all, this feedback is coming from the rank-and-file of your audience, the people who actually buy your titles, tell their friends about you, and wait anxiously for your next release. Obtaining their feedback could be extremely valuable as you continue to write, allowing you to better craft your work and ultimately transform your readers into die-hard fans.