Should Indie Authors Pay for Reviews?

Ok. We really did not want to have to include this but per all the ridiculous hullabaloo on the Internet, let’s do it. Grab a glass of wine, a beer, and make yourself comfortable. This may take a minute.

Let us for a moment travel back into the 16th, 17th, & 18th centuries when Indie Authors back then were called Pamphleteers:

London School of Economics and Political Science
Pamphlets in American History
American Pamphlet Series Princeton
Digital Library Cornell

Anyone with access to a printing press could publish a pamphlet, be it, I don’t know, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin…and thousands of others. Many of these ‘Indie Authors’ moved mountains. It was an expression of democracy. Indie Authors are the modern-day equivalent of the pamphleteers.

THE FUSS

Indie music, Indie art (is this an oxymoron?)–media is all over it but arrange some words between two covers, entirely on your own, and all hell breaks loose! The very literary foundation of modern civilization will collapse into one trite, poorly syntaxed’, unedited, misspelled heap! God Save the Queen!

The people posing this question have obviously never written their own Indie book. The first thing we ask of these folks is to please write your own, let’s say, 300 page novel. It will have to be absolutely perfect in every way, just like a traditionally published book, but you have to make it perfect entirely by yourself because you cannot afford to hire an editor right now. Also, you have to write this novel after working all day. We want you to start writing it at say, 8:00 p.m. after you have gotten home from work, eaten dinner, walked the dog, cleaned the bathroom, etc. These are the rules. Now go off and do this. Oh, and it has to have a professional and appealing cover too. See ya’ later.

Now that they have all left, allow us, dear Indie Author, to tell you a story. We call it “Ye Ole Double Standard”.  It is an old story or to put it another way,  the hypocrisy of this issue is so big that we don’t know where to start!

According to a story on National Public Radio (which, by the way, does not review Indie books even though they are National PUBLIC Radio), 60% of all non-fiction books are written by ghost writers. Where is all the hysteria on the Internet about this? Could it have something to do with connections, money…? Are the reviews ghost written too? (Sorry, we just had to ask).

We all know it’s who you know over what you know in EVERY realm of existence and if you have some connection that enables you to be heard, seen, or read, good for you. Nearly everyone that gets the “book deal” knew someone or knew someone that knew someone that knew someone–you get the point but we can’t all be the beautiful people.

Traditional publishing pays people for reviews far and above what an Indie Author does. They have publicists, marketing help, editors, the job of which is to get mass exposure for these new books, be it on websites, in newspapers, magazines, on C-SPAN Books, Oprah–anywhere they can plug the book to make money, recover the costs to publish it. They cajole, they bargain, they plead to get this or that book reviewed and money exchanges hands to have this done. The idea that all reviews for traditionally published books derive from some random, unsolicited, organic process is utter bullshit. What is even more intolerable is when this same sector of the book world pontificates about and to the Independent Publishing Author that they really should not be paying for (honest) reviews, or gasp, hiring other people to help market their Indie creations.

Traditional publishers are THREATENED by Indie Authors and Publishers because you are fiddling with their bottom line profits which are already tough to reel in. Very few books that are traditionally published make the publisher money. Anything that takes from their profits–well why WOULD they promote this?

Indie Authors can’t get their books reviewed and this is why they are PAYING for reviews. An Indie Author we met at a conference told us she sent out 47 books, all of which she paid to publish and mail from her own shrinking pocket, and has not gotten one review. We hear story after story like this so moving on with the hypocrisy, what is with all the hysteria around if Indie’s should PAY for reviews? Indie’s can do any damn thing they want to by the way and what else are they supposed to do if no one, even “independent” magazines, publications, will not review Indie creations? Do tell us because we would love to know.

THE POOP

Why Do We Charge For Our Reviews?

Yes, we realize there are opportunities for “free reviews” all over the Internet–been there, TRIED to do that. Many of these sites are run by people with big hearts who love to read but are in THE END, mere humans–meaning most of these folks are totally overwhelmed with books to review. We sent many books to “free review sites”; it resulted in a few reviews after waiting months. (One very major entity whose initials are PW and BL “lost” FOUR of our Indie books, not once, but twice=4, and offered no refund, no explanation aside from “the books were lost in the warehouse”–WAREHOUSE?). You can try the free review route but unless you know the reviewer or have an “in” (again, nothing is different here), you may wait forever to get a review, if you even do, and the ‘review’ may result in only a 300-word blurb you waited three months for. Be prepared also for something else–the possibility your book will disappear into the Indie Ether (or into a used bookstore) and you’ll never hear back or know what happened.

Hey, we get the overwhelmed thing! In a pilot of this idea in which we did not charge, we were, in fact, overwhelmed with books to review, including terrible books–things that someone pooped-out in 20 minutes then uploaded to Smashwords. We’re not interested in editing shlock and in this, we agree with others who are critical of the Indie Book movement. Some of the books are, well, terrible, trite…When we CHARGED for our reviews, we received real books from real authors who dearly wanted honest feedback and reviews. We also want to make money doing this, sorry, free from any corporate or company influence and we feel we can offer true supportive services to other Indie Authors because WE ARE INDIE AUTHORS. If this bothers you, don’t hire us! Simple! If you do request our services, we will work very hard to accelerate your success by offering a honest critique of your book and you will be helping us as Indie Authors also. We can form a much needed supportive network. If we really get this going, we hope to hire other Indie Authors too.

Beware the Mire of Book Review Swaps

It happened to one of our authors. She posted an honest review of a book on Goodreads, a three-star, and the author went ballistic and demanded she remove it. The slighted author had some legitimate beef about it because our author would not have read a book like hers if it wasn’t for the swap process. If you are going to agree to a book review swap, at least read a book within the genre you know and like. Implied in this process too is ye’ ole’ “you scratch my back, etc. etc…”. Indie book review swaps are understandable. There are a bajillion of us out here, all clamoring for SOME recognition. It makes sense we would want to help one another BUT–there is a BIG BUT! Sooo, if you do this, review within your own genre and preference, and understand the tacit arrangement which is–do NOT ‘diss my book. Nothing under 4 stars! If you can’t offer a legitimate review like this for a swap, then tell the author you are unable to provide anything over a 3-star review and give them the option to bow out as well. You can see where this can get dicey. They may meet you half-way or post a terrible review of your book out of spite! Best way to deal with book review swaps? Don’t do them.

Independent Bookstores Will Not Carry Indie Books.

We are not really sure why this is especially if the books are professionally done. One of our authors told us she asked her local Indie bookstore to carry two of her books. When she went back into the bookstore a few weeks later, she could not find them. They were on a bottom shelf in a back corner of the bookstore. No one would be able to find them. She took them back. If you can’t even get your local independent bookstore, if you even have one, to support you, then…?

What is the Definition of a Review? Should You Pay to Enter Yet Another “Contest”?

Is it a “300” or 500″ word blurb somebody who knows nothing about your genre pops out? We argue no. Indie’s also have to be careful with this. A lot of people who do not have Indie Author’s best interests in mind are jumping on this bandwagon. Also, watch the “contests” popping up all over the place. One of our authors entered an Indie Book “contest”. It was $125. She never heard a thing. Contests can be great avenues to get exposure for your talent but do a little research and be mindful which ones you enter. If you have the money, if nothing else, place an ad in whatever publication best matches your genre/readers. Flyers are practically free. Make flyers with the cover of your book on them and hit the coffee shops and bookstores (if there are any bookstores left in your town!). Get in touch with all the book clubs in your region and respectfully ask them to consider your book. There are many free ways to market your book. These are just a few. There are hundreds of resources on the web regarding this topic so have at it.

********************************

We see our Indie Author is back and just finished her first Indie novel! She posts derogatory comments all over the web about Indie Authors and now she is one. She’s low on money and seems very tired but let’s take a look at her book! It’s not perfect but it’s at about 90%. The story is intriguing. It’s worth reading. What’s that she said? She can’t get anyone to review it?

O tempora! O mores!