Saturday, September 26, 2015

Reviewers Who Help Sell Your Book

 Why Unknown Authors Should Handpick Their First Few Reviewers.

Book reviewers, to my mind, are the best publicity for a good book. Every author has an ideal reviewer - the one who praises their work to high heaven! Alas, as we know, a good reviewer writes reviews for potential readers, not for the author.

Trying to break into a saturated book market isn't easy. How would you give your book every chance to stand out from the rest?

From the author’s perspective, the purpose of a review is simply to let potential readers know whether the book is worth picking up or not.

Let me start with the pluses and minuses of going through Indian blogging platforms. They invite bloggers who belong to their platform to read and review your book.

The Advantages: They advertise your book well. Their reach is a huge plus. Unfortunately, I feel there are more disadvantages than advantages.

The major disadvantage is the way they pick reviewers. Whether these bloggers are capable of doing a book review isn't a consideration. Often, the blogger's language skills leave a lot to be desired. For a potential reader not to understand what the reviewer is trying to say is, at best, an opportunity lost. At worst, the potential reader ends up ascribing the same language skills to the author and loses interest in the book.

Till blogging platforms come up with stricter criteria for reviewers, it is best for unknown authors to research and handpick their first few reviewers. Besides, the service isn't free. The author pays a tidy sum to use the blogging platform to promote their book. (I don't know what publishers pay so am unable to comment.) 

If you are not a well known author, if you are self published, the onus is on you to do the hard work and find your ideal reviewers. It is worth the effort. 

Here's what to look for

He is well read. 

Why? To have him discuss your style of writing, characterisation and plot through comparisons with other authors would give potential readers a good picture of what to expect from your book. Imagine someone saying, "The author's style reminds me of (a well known author's name)". What a coup that would be.

She is or Isn't Tactful. 

It is a balancing act. Do look to see if your reviewer speaks with a tactful yet clear voice. You should know after reading the review whether she liked the book or not. If she did, it should reflect in her review. If she didn't, look to see if she hesitates to say so. A reviewer cannot be too kindly or too polite, nor should she try and play it safe. That isn't fair either to the author or the potential reader. Besides, it compromises her own credibility.

He is unapologetic about his likes, dislikes and opinions 

The potential reader wants to know whether the reviewer enjoyed the book. A word of caution - be wary of reviewers who simply say, 'I loved/hated the book'. 

'Why' is important. Why does he love or hate the book? What detracts from, or enhances, the overall plot for him? Why? A responsible reviewer always qualifies his opinions.

Her reviews aren’t plagiarised. 

They reflect HER thoughts about the book and no one else’s. She reads the book from cover to cover and writes a review from her own perspective. No one else’s. I’ve heard of people who read the first few pages of a book and search for reviews on Google before writing theirs. 

More than that, it is common for reviewers to be intimidated by opinions of someone well known. 

If the official reviewer from The New Yorker says the book is awful very few would dare say anything different. And yet, it is your job as the author to find reviewers who do just that. 

Steer clear of the ones who do not have the courage of their convictions/likes/dislikes/opinions. A potential reader wants a variety of opinions, not just one that is then copied and packaged differently by multiple reviewers.

I know of one such case. Someone, for whatever reason, wrote to say he wasn't even going to read a book as the cover wasn’t good enough. Luckily for the author, someone else, who had already read the book, responded by saying he had enjoyed the book. The result? Many reviewers said they enjoyed the book but the cover could have been better. 

The Length 

Nobody wants to read a book about a book. That might put a potential reader off. In my opinion, a short, honest review is better than a long one. 

The Style 

I would pick someone who keeps the review simple and still manages to give the potential reader a feel for the book. If the reviewer is astute enough to understand and analyse in brief, the scope of the book, that is a definite plus. 

A word of caution - Pick someone who reviews what the author has written and not what he feels the author should/shouldn't have explored.

The Genre

Just briefly, I wouldn't pick someone who likes Spy Thrillers to review a Romance. Would you? If your book crosses genres, as many books seem to do in these modern times, you will find reviewers who enjoy multiple genres. It might be tougher, but not impossible.

I know of authors who have devised a system to pick good reviewers for their book launch but that is another post. A good ploy would be to read reviews of a book in your genre that you have read. 

Final words: I am aware that some authors and publishers believe it is the number of reviews that count, not the quality. It is something to do with Amazon's algorithm. Let unknown authors make BOTH count.

It is beyond the scope of this post to tell reviewers how to do their job. It is to let new, or unknown authors understand the importance of picking their first few reviewers with care. At the same time, I believe it is important for ordinary people to write reviews. If they feel they have been able to take away something of value from this post, I would feel doubly rewarded.

My thoughts have turned to reviewers as I have completed the first draft of my second novel. The book is a sequel to "Never Mind Yaar."

A Sneak Peek: The young idealists are grown. Binaifer (Binny, for short,) is invited, along with her cousins, to her aunt's home in Mumbai. She has fond memories of Armaity House. The entire clan used to gather there for school holidays every December

She is unable to forget her last holiday there. Her cousin Zubin, fifteen at the time, had shared something so momentous, it had stayed with her. 

Now, ten years on, she is eager to find out how things have worked out for him.

Will Zubin share his secret with the rest of the family? How will they take it? How does the family cope with the threats and crises that seem to keep following them everywhere? Is it anything to do with Zubin's secret?

Characters in the story:

The four young cousins - the affectionate Binny, the irrepressible Roshni, the precocious Firoz and Zubin, their gang-leader, affectionate, knowledgeable and fun. And his partner

The extended family - the typically Parsi, Sohrab uncle, jolly and foul mouthed. The elegant and mild mannered Armaity Aunty, after whom the grand house is named.

As in many Mumbai homes, Rosy, the cook, Atmaram, the driver and general factotum, the mali, and the gurkha are very much part of Armaity aunty's household. 

Zubin is the main protagonist.

Tweet: How and why new authors should handpick their first few reviewers via @KMthr

You might like Why Readers Remember Author Names  I am fond of detours. This post talks of JRD Tata and my days as an air hostess. Hope you see the connection.

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