Indie Author Michael Davidson discusses 'Doing What You Can to Avoid Bad Book Reviews'
After self-publishing my first novel I was forced to think outside the box. Getting my words noticed was understandably difficult. No one cared about my first novel. Why should anyone spend ~6 hours reading it?
Clearly, gathering a collection of reviews would help. I contacted book bloggers who were partial to literary fiction. I found some, but, in general, they were hard to come by.
At this rate it would take forever to get a conversation about my book going.
To expedite things, I tried thinking more outside the box. Book bloggers were really the norm; every self-published writer contacted them, beseeching a review. To have a shot at getting ahead of the curve I needed to dig more, find an untapped mine.
So . . .
I joined a reading group on Goodreads after learning about it on another site. It was an active group. I figured it would be a good place to meet new readers and share my thoughts on a few of the books I was reading.
One of the discussion threads welcomed and supported new authors. Basically, the moderators of this group promoted any authors willing to mail a copy of their book to interested members.
I volunteered a few copies of my book, and one member chimed in, asked for a copy to be mailed to him, so I handpressed my 162-page non-linear memoir concerning a young couple moving to Austin, Texas and I wrote him a personal Thank You note on official Tiny TOE Press [Michael Davidson's Imprint] stationery.
Sent the package Media Mail.
A few days later I got my first 1-star rating/review on Amazon, and it was from the member of Goodreads who requested my book. He liked nothing about it. He couldn't even finish it.
After reaching the bottom of his review, I went back to the top, where it screamed:
**Review Copy Provided by Author**
This was what killed me. I supplied him with my book. It was my choice whether or not to mail it to him. He wasn’t forcing me. Knowing this, why didn’t I bother doing some research beforehand, inform myself, at least look at his profile on Goodreads to get a better idea of his behavior when it came to selecting books? In the past I had only sent my book to reviewers who enjoyed literary fiction, some even read the same books as me. If I had done my due diligence this time around maybe I would’ve known in my gut he wouldn't like my book out of principle.
Yes, I know, this is hard for some author’s to accept (me included) but it’s possible someone might not fundamentally like your book. You can’t win ‘em all. It follows that the last thing I wanted to do was give my book to a reviewer who doesn’t read literary fiction. At all.
There it was again, blinking neon:
**Review Copy Provided by Author**
In the true fashion of an amateur, I decided to stalk him after the damage.
Immediately I could see he preferred romance books. On Goodreads he was also a member of the Kindle Smut reading group. The majority of his books had sexually suggestive covers, which was why he figured he’d like my book, because it’s cover is 'sexually suggestive', although not in an obvious or overt way, like the covers of the other books in his ‘to-read’, ‘currently-reading’, and ‘read’ lists.
Look, I don’t blame him for wanting to read my book, for thinking he might even like it. I blame myself for not taking the time to first learn his reader preferences.
Had I done this I would’ve known the best thing to do before going to the post office and shelling out cash for Media Mail was to thank him for wanting to read my book and then explain to him that he probably wouldn’t like it, or at least make it clear to him that my book is not a romance in the traditional sense (nor is it erotica) but if he still wants to read/review it, ok, that’s fine, I’ll mail it to him, only beware.
A simple precaution.
Tools like Goodreads allows authors to reach out to readers in a variety of ways. But just because these tools make it easier to think outside the box and do crazy creative marketing, doesn’t mean you should be irresponsible and get trigger happy.
I can assure you that I, for one, am not going to actively seek a review from someone who, according to their online profile(s) and Goodreads reading lists, doesn’t want anything to do with literary fiction. It’s simple. It seems too obvious to write about, but if you’re looking for book reviewers, be fair to your book, give it a fighting chance, and do your homework first.
- Michael Davidson -
About the Author
He has ‘pieces’ of himself scattered across the internet and his nail clippings float in multiples oceans. He edits TheOpenEnd and blogs at MySwag.
Like Don DeLillo, he believes each word triggers an electrical impulse inside our brains. When a perfect string of tiny explosions goes off, both readers and writers experience the deepest kind of pleasure. Tiny TOE Press published his first novel, Austin Nights.