Feeling Dissed By Mainstream Reviewers?

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Should indie authors seek reviews from traditional mainstream sources? If we, as writers, opt for the self-published path, should we still consider sending copies of our work to The New York Times or Publishers Weekly?

Roger Sutton, the editor-in-chief of Horn Book magazine, a mainstream book review publication, recently published an open letter to “the indie author feeling dissed.”

In his open letter, Mr. Sutton does make some valid points. He says there are just too many self-published books flooding the market. Some estimates put the number at around 300,000 indie releases per year. To attempt to review even a portion of these works would prove daunting. Imagine being tasked with the responsibility of combing through that many books in search of just a handful of gems or potential gems?

Many self-published works are just plain awful, Mr. Sutton claims. This statement, unfortunately, holds some manner of truth. While he specifically points to children’s books, Mr. Sutton certainly isn’t out of line in stating this as fact. Though I’ve not read many children’s books in recent years, I have come across my fair share of poorly written books in need of serious editorial repair. Some I would even say should never have been written. I won’t post a review—good or bad—of those rare, truly-awful stories.

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Sutton also points to the fact that many self-published authors have no sense of audience. Again, I’ve experienced this first hand. I get offers to review books every day. “I’ll send you a free copy in exchange for a review.” I find these requests in my DM box on Twitter, my message box on Goodreads, and in my email accounts pretty much every day. I’ve accepted some, usually those that grab my attention with the blurb. Most, though, are genres I don’t read: Sci Fi, romance, vampire/werewolf/witch stories. A quick perusal of the books/genres a reviewer has read will let an author know if this person might be interested in reading your book. I wrote a historical fiction novel that I would never think to send to a reviewer that specifically targets the science fiction market. This is just a simple common sense move.

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Finally, Sutton claims self-published authors don’t know the market. This is true. But does anybody really know the current, ever-changing market that is the publishing world? Many of the articles I’m reading tell of a shrinking market, of book stores closing, and mainstream publishers struggling to maintain the vast kingdoms they spent the past century building. Every one of us that has published a book understands the biggest obstacle we face is in marketing our work to the world. We don’t have a ready-made audience we can tap into with best-seller results. Most of us lack the big budget needed to get our work before the eyes of hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of readers. I can’t afford to advertise my novel in Writers Digest or Publishers Weekly. I can’t even afford to advertise in my local newspaper on a regular basis.

The point is mainstream reviewers don’t care to review indie books. The Washington Post receives about 150 books a day, says Ron Charles, editor of the Post’s Book World. These books have agents and mainstream publishers backing them. They’ve also been professionally edited and marketed. The Washington Post and other mainstreamers won’t even look at an indie book. I learned this the hard way when I wasted money and time in sending over fifty copies of my novel to some of the biggest newspapers and publications in the United States. That was over two years ago. To this date, I have not heard a single word from any of those publications.

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My advice in searching for reviews for your work: Be genre specific. Seek out those reviewers that prefer to read the genre in which you write. Forget mainstream reviewers; most are still snobbish when it comes to judging indie books. If you’ve chosen to go the indie route for publishing, follow that same path when marketing your work. There are many amazing indie review sites that have built solid reputations for offering fair and honest opinions of self-published books. As the indie publishing industry grows stronger, so too will indie marketing and reviews. All of us want that mainstream recognition; just don’t lose your sense of worth if it doesn’t come. Write on and have fun!

 

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25 thoughts on “Feeling Dissed By Mainstream Reviewers?

  1. William Drayman

    The publishing industry is now in a situation that is unenviable.
    Like the music industry before it, publishing is going to keep changing until it has morphed into something other.
    The clever publishers will adapt and the stubborn will disappear, because change is unstoppable.
    The interesting thing to me is, will there be an “Indie” publishing market left, if the mainstream market disappears as it inevitably will?
    The cart building industry was no doubt the mainstream, until the “Indie” motor car industry appeared.
    I believe any new author would be best to follow your advice and I thank you for it; I most certainly will follow it myself.
    What is your advice on actually finding these reviewers, for those like myself who have no clue?

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    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      Thanks for the comment, William. I completely agree with you that the publishing industry will eventually go the way of the music industry. That indie could one day become the mainstream is an interesting notion to ponder. As for my advice in finding reviewers: Here’s a link to a site that lists reviewers, what these reviewers accept, and where to contact them. http://www.bookrevieweryellowpages.com/reviewer-list.html It’s been a couple of years since I’ve used that site, but you may be able to find reviewers for your work. I don’t know if or when the list has been updated (some reviewers may not be in business any longer). Also, you could tweet that you’ve got a book that needs reviews. You may find some that way. A giveaway on Goodreads might help fuel a few reviews as well. Best wishes.

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  2. alexandrastarbuck

    I’ve been considering reviewing indie books on my blog and my question to you is when someone gives you a book to review that’s so awful you can’t say anything good about it, do you just not review it? I have a very hard time criticizing the writing of others, especially since I’m obviously not even published yet. :/ Also, thank you for stopping by my blog and liking my recent post! I’m now following your blog. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      Thank you for your comment, Alexandra. I am now following your blog as well. Good writing! As for your question about bad or poorly written books: If I can’t find anything nice to say about an author’s work, I just won’t post the review. I will reach out to the author with suggestions, though that is often met with attitude. These days, I don’t accept many books from authors looking for reviews. Most of my reviews come from my own interest in the work or from the book club to which I belong.

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      1. alexandrastarbuck

        Thank you for the follow and the compliment! I don’t understand why people can’t take constructive criticism. As for me, I’m not delusional. I know I have a long way to go and I would love some feedback on my writing as to how I could improve on it. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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  4. Micki Peluso

    Right on target, Beem. Great advice for all writers. It’s the same with small press. They are linked with Indie writers and no well known reviewers will review them either. Word of mouth is still the best way to get well known. Thanks for an enlightening piece.

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    Reply
  5. Shirley Harris-Slaughter

    Beem I get asked to review books as well. I just invite them to join RRBC where they can get that kind of support since that’s what we do. I don’t know if any has taken me up on the offer but they no longer pester me. lol.

    Self publishing does present a lot of badly edited books but those of us who fall in this category do have RRBC to help us out.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      You are so right, Shirley. RRBC not only introduces writers to readers, there are so many who can help with editing issues. I also point those who request reviews to RRBC these days. Thanks for the comment.

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