I was looking at the recent trends on my books across a number of retail sites and noticed a distinct tail off over the last couple of weeks that I couldn’t immediately explain. I thought it may have been due to the quality of the releases I had put out at the time, but those books have been amongst my best received, so that couldn’t explain it all.
Worried that I had exhausted my immediate supply of readers, I looked around to see what else I could do. Something that had come to my attention recently was an article in the New York Times about reviews for hire, and how they’re diluting the quality of valid reviews from readers.
The first thing to say is that I have never and will never pay for a review. I am willing to supply review copies of my published books (no difference from the purchasable versions) which the reviewer can keep if they like, but that's it. I don't pressure readers to leave reviews and I don't try and get low starred reviews removed because it makes my work look bad.
As far as the number of reviews to the number of sample copies handed out, they aren’t a one-to-one match, by any stretch. Perhaps I should hold off distributing review copies to people who won’t review, but it’s the sort of thing that’s hard to determine ahead of time. You certainly don’t want to make readers jump through hoops to prove that they are going to do what has been asked. The cost in goodwill would far outweigh the comparative small cost of review copies.
As a self-pub, it's difficult to overcome the stigma that self-pubs lack in quality. Some of the comments on my works, either in forums discussing them or on reviews is that they often exceed what passes for acceptable quality for a major publishing house. The problem then, is to get those works out there in front of readers. To try and overcome that problem, I have been looking at a range of alternative means for marketing and product awareness.
A quick look at the various groups on Facebook made me realise that almost every other person with a book to their name, or who wants a book to their name, is busy doing exactly the same thing and things quickly become a contest of who can make the most noise and be seen the most. That has the effect of swamping those who are updating with lower frequency (Come on, I’m publishing once a fortnight, and still putting fewer messages into these groups than some who publish annually or less).
That then made me turn my attention to some of the other web forums around. Quite a few were also swamped in noise, resulting from lax moderation and a strong desire by authors to be seen and heard. Those that weren’t completely swamped had their fair share of authors who disregarded the rules and were busy bumping their threads or dropping inappropriate self-promo posts into threads.
I can completely understand that desire to be seen and heard, as I feel it strongly, too. Having been on and around the web for over 15 years, I understand that behaving according to the rules of those who moderate the sites is the only real way to guarantee long term survival on a site.
It’s going to be quite a long road to recognition and widespread appeal, but I have picked up a couple of viable other forums to identify my works on. Time will tell if they’re going to help me out or not. If they do, then I will quite happily recommend them to others.