A plea for reviewers – can we open up a dialogue about self-published books?

So I find a lovely-looking review blog. The posts are thoughtful, fair and seriously considered. I look up the review policy and … it says ‘no self-published books’.

Today I want to open a dialogue with reviewers. If you have that policy, might you be persuaded to change it? Or to approach the problem in a different way?

I used the word ‘problem’. Because I appreciate – very well – that in making this policy you are trying to tackle a major problem. Your time as a reviewer is precious – and let me say your efforts are enormously appreciated by readers and authors alike. You get pitches for many more books than you can read and you need a way to fillet out the ones that are seriously worth your reading hours. A blanket ban is a way to fend off a lot of substandard material and save you many unpleasant conversations. And traditional publishing implies a certain benchmark of competence.

Competence. That’s probably the heart of the matter. There are good self-published books, of course, but how can I help you sort them from the bad and the fug-ugly?

Most people would probably tell you to look at the presentation – whether the cover and interior look professional, and the blurb looks authoritative and slick. But to be blunt, pigs can be well disguised by the right kind of lipstick. Still thinking in pig, a good sausage and a bad sausage look mostly the same on the outside.

No, instead, I urge you to do this. Look at the author.

The author

Consider the following:

  • What experience do they have of publishing? Do they know how much meticulous polishing a book should have? Have they already been traditionally published, and learned what it takes?
  • Do they give the impression that they are wise and competent enough to make responsible publishing decisions?
  • Look at their online persona – do you think they’d act on professional feedback, and would they have the self-discipline and pride to give the book another revision if a pro told them it wasn’t yet ready?

Underbaked books

Yes, it has to be admitted that some books are published too early. A release date is decided, and sometimes there is no time for the author to do a rewrite, even if the manuscript badly needs it. The editorial people do the best they can in the time available, tidying up the typos and inconsistencies – or sometimes they don’t even have time for that. I’ve been involved with books like this – and industry friends have too.

Sounds like a ghastly compromise, doesn’t it? And do you know, the examples I have in mind are not self-published books. They’re books produced by traditional publishing houses. I promise on my honour, this happens and it’s not even uncommon.

Manuscripts that have already been published in hardback often get another proof-read before they release in paperback – and all manner of unholy errors come to light. Not just the odd typo, but fundamental goofs with credibility and consistency. And major craft issues like head-hopping. I can’t count the number of published books – yea, even those from trad houses – where the author hasn’t grasped point of view. When characters start talking about things they can’t possibly know, it can slap a reader right out of the story.

So it’s not safe to assume that a trad published book has superior quality control.

But, you might ask, who is doing the quality control on an indie author’s book? Well, the trad houses use freelances – freelances who are also now working with indie authors. It’s the editors who guide the book, line by line, into a publishable shape – so indie authors who use them are getting exactly the same degree of professional stewardship as authors who are published by an established imprint. And, if they’ve been sensible with their schedules, these authors might be able to use the editor’s contribution more fully. (Here’s a post where I give advice on how to build in time to use your editorial experts properly.)

But all the good authors get book deals, don’t they?

No. They don’t. A book deal isn’t like an academic qualification – you hit the standard, you get the badge. That’s one of publishing’s biggest myths. Here’s the reality – a book deal is awarded to writers whose work fits current marketing needs. Big, big difference. Here’s a unicorn.

Thank you, Catherine on Flickr

Let me tell you a story to illustrate what it’s really like. I have a friend who’s a senior editor at one of the Big 5. A decade ago she published a set of novels that were well reviewed, got a five-figure advance – the full fanfare. She’s now come out with a new novel, which has seriously impressed an agent. But.

What’s the but? The market has moved on and isn’t looking for books like hers. On its own terms – as a reading experience – the book is her best ever. Her old fans would probably love it too. Her original books are still finding a steady trickle of new readers. She’s made the grade, dammit, but that book does not fit today’s market.

And what’s she doing? She’s seeking my advice on self-publishing. As is another friend who got his original publishing deal by winning a national award, and then went on to publish 10 highly acclaimed novels.

These are some of the people who are self-publishing. Senior figures in the industry. Prizewinning authors. People of solid publishing pedigree. And they’re probably even better authors than when they started because they’ve grown as writers and people. Other kinds of people who self-publish responsibly include authors who’ve begun under contract and then continued as self-publishers; authors who have released their books once they went out of print; authors who’ve published in very commercial areas but would like to publish with more creative control – me, for instance, but I’m not alone. Purely as an example, here’s my story.

Some book deals are unacceptable to authors

Even if an author ticks the marketing boxes, they might prefer not to accept a deal. Not just because of money or royalty rates, but because of other clauses that have long-term consequences. Two that particularly deserve attention are rights grabs and reversion clauses. Here’s a shark.

Two technical terms
What’s a rights grab? A book contract is a grant of the right to publish in a particular format. A book could be published in many formats or ‘products’ – an ebook, a print book, an audiobook, a movie script, a TV adaptation, an interactive app, a workbook. And it could be all these, multiple times, in all languages (translation rights) and other English speaking territories (England, US, Australia etc). A rights grab usually tries to get as many of these in one deal without paying extra for them. If the author sold them separately elsewhere, they would usually get a better deal. Publishers are usually not keen on this.

What’s a reversion clause? A book doesn’t have to ‘belong’ to a publisher for life. Indeed, a book often goes out of print, which means the author could then take it back and find a new publisher for it, or publish it themselves. So contracts should have a reversion clause – but if the terms of this aren’t fair, that book might completely disappear. For many authors who are building a body of work, that’s simply not acceptable.

Sometimes, a publishing deal doesn’t make business sense to the author, even with the kudos.

Dealing directly with authors

Now this is tricky. If you review traditionally published books, you might deal with third parties – publicity departments or services such as NetGalley. If you don’t like a book or choose not to review it, you don’t have to explain or justify anything to the sensitive person who wrote it. But indie authors might contact you directly, and it could get difficult.

So here’s a plea to authors. If a reviewer has agreed to look at your book, send it and then … forget about it. Don’t hassle to see whether it’s being read or when the review will be published. In the publishing ecosystem, far more copies get sent out than are reviewed. They slip through the net for all sorts of reasons, many of them unrelated to the book itself. Don’t hound a reviewer to give you feedback. Fire, forget and move on.

The author as creative director

We are in an age where more authors will be their own creative directors – for artistic reasons and financial ones (we haven’t even mentioned creative control, but that’s another factor for committed authors with their eye on the long game). A lot of the new, important voices will come up through self-publishing because traditional publishing will have to play safer and safer. And a lot more of your favourite authors will be continuing their body of work by self-publishing.

So if an author can prove they have the necessary maturity and wisdom, would you give them a try?

A few more things to chew over.

Here’s a post about highly commercial publishing and creative control.

Just to confuse matters even more, here’s how the boundaries between traditional publishing and self-publishing are blurring.

And here’s a post about how we’ve – thankfully – moved on from the bad old days of ‘vanity publishing’.

I’d like to take this debate forward in a helpful way. Book bloggers and reviewers, you set your policies for thoroughly sound reasons. Would you share them here? If you accept indies, how do you make this work? And if you don’t, what are your concerns? I’d like to understand them. What would you need to know about a self-published author to consider one of their books?

What am I working on at the moment? My latest newsletter



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  1. #1 by megansparrow on April 23, 2017 - 7:36 pm

    I totally understand the reasons some bloggers won’t accept work from self-published authors, but as one myself it’s always disheartening dealing with the stigma that comes with self-publishing.

  2. #5 by The Story Reading Ape on April 23, 2017 - 8:30 pm

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    AUTHORS – There are messages in this post for you as well 🐵

  3. #8 by Margaret Welwood on April 23, 2017 - 8:38 pm

    I both write and review picture books for children, and I review both traditionally and indie published books. My own rule is not to post a review of less than four stars.

    • #9 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 5:36 am

      Hi Margaret! I’ve heard a number of reviewers have that kind of policy – only reviewing when they can be enthusiastic. A nice compromise.

  4. #10 by relationspdbeverly on April 23, 2017 - 8:49 pm

    Thank you, Roz.

  5. #12 by maliaann on April 23, 2017 - 9:12 pm

  6. #14 by Christine on April 23, 2017 - 9:38 pm

    It’s odd how the internet works so well for musicians who don’t have that record deal, but not for authors who can’t get that publishing deal. I think the difference must be the age of the demographics, and one party being more open to exploring the new than the other. There really is a gap in the market for reviewers to select the excellent in self-published books.

    • #15 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 5:40 am

      Hi Christine! There certainly is a gap here. And in order to overcome the prejudice it probably needs to be somebody who already has the respect of the traditional side of publishing and reviewing.
      I often think of the comparison with music. The other day I heard a trendy radio station talking about a feature in which they’d play three unsigned bands. Unsigned bands are considered exciting – worth sharing. Unsigned authors are considered substandard.

      • #16 by C. A. Pence on April 24, 2017 - 3:56 pm

        One major aspect affecting this is likely a time factor. It’s easy to sit down and listen to a three minute song and make a decision on it. Not so much with a full book.

        I think a much better area to look at is indie video games. They too require a time cost and there are numerous examples of bad games so many consider indie games trash, but a lot of developers are moving that direction to have more creative control.

        • #17 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 10:06 pm

          A good point. I know I’m often guilty of optimism – I tend to assume something’s going to be good before I find out it’s bad.

          But actually, with books I’ve found it is possible to form a judgement swiftly. I don’t have to read very far into a book to decide whether it’s worth my time. A book that doesn’t start well probably won’t continue very well. For me, three minutes is plenty of time to figure that out.

          Of course, I wouldn’t write a review on that basis – but I could figure out whether I’d find the book worth reading.

  7. #18 by Steve Higgins on April 23, 2017 - 9:55 pm

    Publishing is changing. It’s the 21st century, the digital revolution has changed everything! Reviewers and web sites must accept the self publishing world or they themselves will disappear like the dinosaurs they are. Excellent post, right on the button regarding authors and publishing today. Thanks for sharing. Best wishes, Steve

  8. #20 by Kate McClelland on April 23, 2017 - 10:19 pm

    Reblogged this on Kate McClelland.

  9. #22 by dianatierney3 on April 23, 2017 - 10:47 pm

    As a reviewer I don’t understand this policy. I think its a bad policy for reviewers. Part of being a book blogger is finding that hidden gem that no one has read yet. So who cares where the book came from? I personally don’t even ask. And as far as it being a sub par book, shouldn’t matter. A bad review can happen with a book from a big 5 too. I have actually loved some self published books.

    • #23 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 5:42 am

      Hi Diana! I like your point here about finding the hidden gem – yes!

    • #24 by sydni Brown on April 24, 2017 - 2:20 pm

      I self published Under the Radar. Please let me know how to submit my book to you. Thank you.

  10. #26 by Phillip T Stephens on April 23, 2017 - 10:48 pm

    The bias against self-published writing will be perpetuated because it’s in the publishing industry’s interest to promote it. And, yes, there are some truly awful self-published books out there. There are quite a few traditionally published books that are almost as bad. Sometimes because the book fit a niche the publisher wanted to fill before the window closed. Or they signed a contract, realized the author wouldn’t deliver the financial return they wanted and so cut the support line and published the book on the fly.

    It doesn’t help that Amazon reviews of self-published books read like this: “I thought the story was great. It kept me reading. 5 stars.”

    But reviewers can also keep their eyes and ears open for indie writers recommended by intelligent readers, and even look to see if any of the five-star reviews were written by intelligent, discerning readers. It isn’t hard to find them.

    • #27 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 5:45 am

      Phillip, you raise a great point here about the quality of the author’s other reviews. If an author has a good quantity of intelligent reviews, that’s a great indicator of the kind of response the book inspires. (Actually I was going to make that point in the post and then forgot about it, so thanks for reminding me!)

  11. #28 by Phillip T Stephens on April 23, 2017 - 10:50 pm

    Reblogged this on Wind Eggs and commented:
    Why do reviewers prefer to ignore indie books? The reasons rarely involve the quality of a book in question. Roz Morris shares her thoughts.

  12. #29 by C thehappymeerkat on April 24, 2017 - 1:24 am

    I did to review indie books with no issues, until authors, ones who presented themselves as mature and wise, decided to harass me after I’d reviewed their books, harassment to the point I got physically and emotionally ill. This subject is always brought up and I often see so many authors comment on how sad it is for reviewers to not accept self published books, but little is ever aired at authors to treat reviewers respectfully. You’ve brought it up in this post but many online blogs, not all wordpress, have angry posts at reviewers who choose to not review self pub. And that’s the main problem I think.

    There are plenty of badly published books out there which disappoint reviewers over time and plenty of times an author appears competent at writing and may even have positive reviews of their work but the books honestly read terribly. However bad books aren’t the reason I stopped though they were a factor. I believe more often than not it’s the way authors approach reviewers.
    This isn’t limited to self pub authors but the fact is I’ve only been approached by a trade pub author once verses so many indies I’ve lost count. Authors, might be well meaning , but it’s rare that authors have been courteous enough to read properly my review policy. Many send generic requests, more than once I’ve been called the wrong name. Dealing with authors when you read their work and can’t give a positive review is hard too. Especially as authors take criticism personally. They say they don’t but actions are clearer than words.
    I’ve had authors harass me in email and Facebook even got my Facebook account shut down they were that angry at my reviews or my posts I’ve written on how to approach reviewers. On top of that you also get authors who just don’t care. I give 5 star reviews sometimes and the author can’t even send a quick thank you or share my review post online.

    I shut down to all reviews and still receive requests. Some through twitter which I refuse to answer as I make it clear in my review submissions that I answer only emailed requests. Someone filled I my contact form asking for a review even though I had large bold letters stating I’m closed to all reviews. It’s this blatant don’t care about the reviewer attitude or worse be nasty to the reviewer attitude that turns us off indies. I’ve spoken to quite a few bloggers in the last weeks who have closed themselves to indies and the answers are very similar. It’s not just the badly published books it’s the bad author attitudes that really upset reviewers.

    Again I’m not saying all authors are bad but there’s a growing group that I’ve experienced who are.

    • #30 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 6:00 am

      I’m so glad you’ve brought examples of this kind of behaviour. I suspected this might be one of the things that puts reviewers off – not assumptions about the quality of the book, but fears about getting so close to the author. I would have thought that simply courtesy would indicate how to behave, but as you’ve illustrated here, it doesn’t. And we shouldn’t forget to thank reviewers – so important. There’s a school of thought that you don’t thank people for reviews – whether ordinary readers or official reviewers – but I just think that’s rude. A simple ‘thank you’ could never be considered as stalking or hasslesome. Thanks for commenting so extensively.

      • #31 by Janey on April 26, 2017 - 4:49 pm

        Many of the authors I work with are afraid to thank reviewers because they’ve been told it’s intrusive and reviewers don’t WANT direct contact with authors.

        Is there a general consensus? I’d certainly prefer to thank people for their time, even if they don’t like a book I’m representing, but I want to respect their preferences and privacy.

        • #32 by C thehappymeerkat on April 27, 2017 - 11:55 pm

          I have no idea where that idea comes from. If you’ve asked for a review then you should say thank you when the review’s gone up, especially if the reviewer contacted you to tell you the reviews up like I do. If you never asked for the review then of course there’s no need, but to ignore a reviewer who took no money but spent their time reading your book on your own request…common courtesy I think. If the review was unfavourable though I could understand if some authors are reluctant to make contact but a simple thank you sorry you didn’t like the book. What bothers me though is when I’ve sent emails to authors to tell them the review’s up and they never email me back, that is one time you should respond. Reviewers don’t want much contact with authors but not to say thank you sometimes feels rude.

          • #33 by Rebecca Vance on April 28, 2017 - 3:18 am

            I couldn’t agree more! It is rude! It takes a lot of time and thought to do a thoughtful, thorough review, and to not acknowledge it is very rude and unprofessional!

            • #34 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 28, 2017 - 6:48 am

              Precisely. If I spot a nice new review – whether it’s on a blog or not – I’ll check if the reviewer is in my social media contacts and send them a brief thank-you. I think it’s much ruder not to acknowledge it than to break some unspoken ‘code’.

            • #35 by Janey on April 28, 2017 - 3:03 pm

              Thank you so much, guys. Your perspectives are truly appreciated, as is your openness to working with “indie” authors. I’ve been involved in writing and publishing from several different directions over the years, and in many ways I see reviewers and bloggers as similar to literary agents, in that without you all, indie authors are going nowhere. That means we need to understand your preferences and respect them. A query letter is a query letter, no matter who it’s going to, and if authors want to be perceived as professional, they need to behave accordingly. Thanks again!

  13. #36 by Rebecca Vance on April 24, 2017 - 3:15 am

    I have a different review blog. I only review indie authors with 3 or less published books. Let me state that I am a newbie myself, writing my debut novel. I am an avid reader and have been for more years than I remember. That is not an exaggeration. I remember back to when I was 4 years old and I was reading fluently then. I know what works and what doesn’t for me as a reader. Since I begun this blog back in 2012, that is the premise with which I started it. I saw that there was so much snobbery toward self-published authors and although it is getting better, it still exists, as you’ve stated. The only problem is I set myself up to fail by trying to do all genres and I am so bogged down with requests, I’ve had to suspend submissions for quite some time. I am going to restructure my review policy soon, but I will only be taking on certain genres. Anyway, I invite anyone who would like to see how I do my reviews for indies to check out my blog @https://rebeccavance.com, also a WordPress blog and I am now following you! 🙂

    • #37 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 5:50 am

      Hi Rebecca – what an interesting policy, to only review indie authors with 3 books or fewer. Would you elaborate on the reasons? Is it to help out the beginner? Or to avoid the indies who are pushing out books in quantity? Anyway, thanks for stopping by and I hope you get the workload back under control. I’m sure your authors appreciate your efforts.

      • #38 by Rebecca Vance on April 25, 2017 - 12:45 am

        Yes, it is to give the beginner a chance to be discovered who otherwise might not be. It is a way to hopefully provide constructive criticism and encouragement to the author, but also to help readers to understand that not all indies publish inferior work.

  14. #39 by Liz on April 24, 2017 - 5:10 am

    This is why I have my newsletter and build my own review team. I’ve heard of bloggers expecting payment and then when called out that they can’t charge for reviews nor can authors pay for them cited that authors expected too much from bloggers and they weren’t getting anything for their trouble. Depending on your genre, like romance, for example, I’ve learned that readers are on Facebook and there is also Instafreebie for almost all genres, where authors can give out a sample of their work whether it’s a novella, short story or a full novel in exchange for an email address (they have a free plan that doesn’t allow you to keep email addresses and the premium starts at $20/month but there’s one month free trial) and build their newsletters that way.

    Trying to change the way bloggers who will only take trad published work think is just too much trouble imo. Two years ago, I may have been more inclined to have them change their mindset about self-published authors but these days, I let my books speak for themselves. I know I’m good and my books are good. Like you said in one of the points above, sometimes the contract just isn’t good enough and that was my case. I wasn’t about to give a small pub company 65% of my royalties while expecting me to do and pay for all the marketing. There wasn’t even an advance. A small part of me once wished I could have that validation as a trad published author but my book/series rights and royalties told me to snap out of it really fast.

    • #40 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 5:51 am

      Hi Liz – that’s a good solution, to build your own review team.

      • #41 by Liz on April 24, 2017 - 6:09 am

        It’s what works for me although it took me forever to figure out how to make it work. But it all starts with a newsletter and I just wish I had started sooner 🙂

  15. #42 by Linzé Brandon on April 24, 2017 - 5:52 am

    I only review books in the genres I like, but have done one or two others on special request. I don’t discriminate between traditionally published or indies. As an indie author myself I just love a good story.

  16. #44 by jamoroki on April 24, 2017 - 8:18 am

    Well done for getting this out there Roz. In my opinion, anyone who is confident and brave enough to publish their own work and take the huge amount of time and effort to do so in a professional way should be applauded. What we write will not appeal to everyone and we know that. But if we believe we have something worth saying and we say it with honest intent in the best way we can why should we wait for someone else to tell us if we can publish it or not.

  17. #46 by Coffee2words on April 24, 2017 - 9:37 am

    As a book reviewer of predominantly indie books, I really don’t understand why people limit the books they get based on how it has been published. I’ve found some fantastic indie author books and was able to go on the ride with the author as they gained more readers and their books reached wider audiences. It was a hoot!

    To me, reading indie books is far more personal and emotional. Yes, there’s been a lot of poor quality indie books, but the fantastic ones make up for those who are sub-standard!

    A great article Roz! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • #47 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 10:10 pm

      I like the point you make here about sharing the author’s personal journey, and feeling more involved with their success. Isn’t social media wonderful?

  18. #48 by Chris Thomas (@cthomasauthor1) on April 24, 2017 - 11:01 am

    Hi Roz. Thanks for writing this. I am a self-published author just starting out in the literary world and have started a blog detailing my own experience of the journey to having a book out there. One of the subjects of my next blog will be about just how difficult it is to get reviews from well-established bloggers.

    If you take the traditional route to publishing of involving signing with an agent, and then signing with a publishing company it almost seems as though getting well in with established bloggers is a third and pretty much essential step. And I assume that one reason it is so difficult to get reviews is because the publishing houses understand their importance and take up their ‘capacity’. If my Twitter feed is anything to go by, all the blog sites are reviewing the same new big releases at pretty much the same time. And also what makes it scary as an indie writer – it seems that there is not a single badly-reviewed book out there. Of course I fully respect the fact that blog sites are run as the person’s hobby and they are going to want to read books that interest them. But it all seems like just another barrier that an indie author has to break down in order to get recognised. But we carry on regardless and find other ways…

    • #49 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 10:17 pm

      Hi Chris! You’re right – it is tricky to get reviews. But it looks as though quite a few people commenting here are keen to discover good indie books. Hopefully you’ll meet some good matches here.
      Did you know you can also used some paid services such as NetGalley? Reviewers sign up for particular genres, so if your book is in a category they like, they have the chance to consider it for a pre-publication review. I don’t think you have to declare on NetGalley whether your book is self-published or anything like that. It might be worth a try – but it is quite expensive.

      • #50 by Janey on April 28, 2017 - 2:48 pm

        I’ve set up NetGalley for four self-pubbed authors, and the results have varied wildly — from 2 reviews in four months to 16 in three months — with the variation NOT being attributable to quality of writing or book design. But for the most part, it does provide a better return on time/money invested than most indie authors can find elsewhere. (Also, if you join the IBPA, the NetGalley rates are greatly reduced. Even with the IBPA’s membership fee I think it comes out cheaper.)

        • #51 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 28, 2017 - 6:45 pm

          That’s a terrific tip about the IBPA. (Though I will have to find out what IBPA is….)

          • #52 by Rebecca Vance on April 28, 2017 - 6:56 pm

            IBPA= Independent Book Publisher’s Association.

            • #53 by Jane Ryder on April 29, 2017 - 2:40 pm

              Oops! Sorry, Roz. Thanks, Rebecca!

            • #54 by Rebecca Vance on April 29, 2017 - 11:14 pm

              No problem! 🙂

    • #55 by Rebecca Vance on April 25, 2017 - 1:03 am

      I do believe in honesty. I have known other authors who review but only give 4 or 5 stars. If they feel it is less than that, they will not review it. That isn’t helpful for anyone, IMO. If you have a review blog, be honest. If I find it so sub-standard that I can’t finish, I will send an email back to the author and tell them that I can’t review it and why. So far, I’ve only had to do that once. The author was very gracious about it. I won’t review a book that I have not read from cover to cover.

      • #56 by Chris Thomas (@cthomasauthor1) on April 28, 2017 - 8:43 am

        Thanks for your comments. I think NetGalley might be a bit pricey at the moment- got to sell a lot of books to warrant it! But this whole article has been excellent for an indie like me to see all sides of the equation. All of which will help me in my dealings with everyone in the ‘book world’, a world I’m still finding my feet in. Hopefully others have taken the same away from it.

        • #57 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 28, 2017 - 6:49 pm

          NetGalley certainly is pricey. I’m trying it out from the other end, as a reader. They send out emails every few days about books that correspond to my tastes (as listed in my signup form), and I’m getting to see titles before they’re published and I feel like I’m more involved in the books world. I think the publisher gets to vet each request, so hopefully this means copies only go to readers who sound serious, not to people hoping to fill their Kindles for nothing. I don’t know how the charges work, though – if it’s a flat fee no matter how many copies are sent out, or if each copy costs the publisher. Can anyone advise?

          • #58 by Jane Ryder on April 29, 2017 - 2:35 pm

            It’s a flat rate for the author/publisher, regardless of how many readers opt to download the title, but being included in the targeted emails costs extra. Readers don’t *have* to provide reviews, which I understand but which can be frustrating. On the plus side, the author/publisher gets to see each review before deciding if it should be posted on NetGalley. Of course the instinct is to not post the negative reviews, but I think that’s a mistake. As others have pointed out, thanks to “review inflation,” lack of negative reviews damages credibility.

  19. #59 by Áine on April 24, 2017 - 11:55 am

    First, I follow the “schoolmarm” method in my initial evaluation of a book considered for review:
    Did the author follow the instructions?
    Did he or she submit a synopsis? Is the synopsis succinct or is it longer than the book?
    Is the request intelligible?
    Is the grammar correct?
    Is the syntax correct?

    Despite the fact that the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook changed its recommendations about the singular “they” in March of 2017, that usage still jars me out of the content of the synopsis or story.

    Second, if a request is clearly software “bot” generated, I politely eschew further consideration, especially when the request begins with “Hey” or “Hi” or has a blank where my name should be, or uses a generic name, or uses the wrong name.

    Third, if a request is sent by an agent or third-party, I usually decline. But how the book was published is irrelevant to me.

    For e-books, in my opinion, the cover is almost incidental, except to the extent that I will avoid any book with a studiously hackneyed cover, common to many of the “romance” novels. In fact, if an author has spent a lot of money on a cover, for an electronic book, I am suspicious that he or she is covering up bad writing.

    I avoid nonsensical “works” masquerading as avant-garde masterpieces. I also avoid specious premises, which eliminates many of the “dystopian science fiction” requests I receive. Usually those books are fiction, minus any science.

    I avoid “plug and play” books which, though well-written, obviously follow a formula and “plug in” characters or places. This usually applies to series.

    I usually send each author a list of issues with spelling and grammar, which requires an hour or two. If the author agrees to update his or her book, then I continue with the review. Otherwise, I move on. Of late, I have received many books, allegedly edited by one or more editors, containing egregious obvious errors. As noted before, my objection to these errors is not simply an academic exercise, one is booted out of the narrative by those errors, assuming one went to school when such things mattered.

    Once I start to read, I look for internal consistency; a good plot or a narrative in the case of books where “nothing happens”; well-developed characters; philosophical insights; psychological insights; and homonyms used incorrectly. I also look for breath-taking prose in “literary” novels. The use of inordinate amounts of “trendy” cultural references bothers me, except where the intent is satirical or germane to a pop-culture subject.

    I look for a table of contents that is functional. If I want to return to a particular “location” I need a table of contents rather than the location number supplied by an e-reader.

    In nonfiction books, I look for jargon or peculiar usages which are not adequately explained and create a barrier between the author and the reader. If I find jargon, I send a polite email explaining why I will not continue the review.

    I look for specious elements. If I cannot give a book at least four stars, I do not post a review. Perhaps it would be useful for reviewers to list all of the books read for consideration at the bottom of our “blogs.” That list could then be compared with the books which warranted reviews.

  20. #63 by Cynthia Reyes on April 24, 2017 - 12:42 pm

    Well said!

  21. #65 by Anna Dobritt on April 24, 2017 - 12:48 pm

    Reblogged this on Anna Dobritt — Author.

  22. #67 by Jorge Salgado-Reyes on April 24, 2017 - 12:55 pm

    I do reviews too but I do insist on print copies. My guidelines are on my websites but I like science fiction, fantasy, thrillers and horror.

    • #68 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 10:21 pm

      Hi Jorge! I prefer print too. This means we’re always running out of shelf space chez Morris …

  23. #69 by macjam47 on April 24, 2017 - 12:57 pm

    I only review certain genres as spelled out in my review policy. I’ve never thought about stating that I accept self-published books because many of the books I’ve reviewed are self-published. When I occasionally get a book that isn’t ready, I go back to the author and tell them why I won’t publish a review rather than trash the book in its present state. This rarely happens. I’ve read some fabulous S-P books.

    • #70 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 10:27 pm

      Hi Michelle! What a considerate policy. I’m sure the authors you contact are grateful for your kind guidance.

      • #71 by macjam47 on April 25, 2017 - 12:26 pm

        I hope so. I try to be gentle so as to know discourage anyone from taking the time to improve their writing.

  24. #72 by Jaq on April 24, 2017 - 1:22 pm

    A lot of authors, myself included, have moved from trad publishing to indie. Big publishers especially are pandering to a popular market and it’s getting embarrassing to be seen with them! Plus as the article points out, good books don’t get published solely because it doesn’t fit their marketing trend projections.

    With my reader hat on, I’m finding much more good material in the indie realm. There’s a lot of trash too, admittedly, but a reviewer has only to say they don’t guarantee a review if the book doesn’t appeal to them for any reason.

    Still, they have the right to set their own criteria. If I see a set of guidelines that says they don’t read indie book, I move on to someone who does.

    • #73 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 10:42 pm

      Hi Jag – interesting to hear from an author who’s crossed over from the trad side. I certainly find that publishers are playing very safe with the books they offer contracts for.

  25. #74 by Sara Butler Zalesky on April 24, 2017 - 2:17 pm

    As one of those overzealous newbie authors who self-published crap the first time around, I learned from each and every review, the good, bad or indifferent. I was lucky that those who reviewed version 1 were willing to rate it on the story, not my lack of line editing. Then came the first ‘why was this released,’ punch in the gut review. I admit, I cried a little, but it spurred me. I unpublished. I took a hard look at my story, I questioned my motives. In the immortal words of Master Yoda: Do or do not. There is no try. I hired two independent editors and while I cringe every time I press ‘pay bill’ I am grateful for that low review.

    While my novel remains a genre-blend (women’s/sports/romance) and is still on the long side, the story is 100% stronger. I know that a novel about a female pro cyclist won’t appeal to the masses. I wrote what I wanted to read and am thankful to have an avenue to share my passion with others. I’ve been very lucky to have caught the eye of reviewers who gave it a chance, self-published crap and all.

    • #75 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 10:44 pm

      Hi Sara – thanks for sharing your experience so honestly. And well done for taking the hard path.

      • #76 by Sara Butler Zalesky on April 27, 2017 - 3:30 pm

        If I can help a new author not make the same mistakes (i.e. have some patience), I’ve paid it forward.

  26. #77 by DRMarvello on April 24, 2017 - 2:20 pm

    Now that I’m a published author myself, I almost never review books, but I certainly understand the “no self-published” rule some reviewers have.

    As you say, reviewers of self-published work get too close to the author. Self-published authors are largely a thin-skinned bunch. They pour their creative energy and time into publishing a book, which is no small feat, and when that book hits the marketplace, their ego is on the line. Authors submitting the child of their creative gestation don’t want honest feedback: they want praise. If your review doesn’t laud their marvelous prose and amazing story, you earn a personal kind of enmity that makes your effort a lot more trouble than it’s worth. This is not a small concern that reviewers can set aside lightly because there’s no way to know when you’ll offend the next brittle ego or how much grief it will bring you.

    Also, the concern about stepping in front of the “Tsunami of Crap” is a reasonable one. Most novice SP authors (those who’ve written fewer than a million words) can’t afford the kind of editorial support it takes to polish a story, and many hate revision, so the market has more first draft material floating in it than we’d like. Some of those stories are great in spite of their rawness, but most are not. In the meantime, these thousands of authors are desperate to get the word out about their books. They read everything they can about book promotion, including some pretty black-hat stuff (often in ignorance), and then they proceed to hound every potential source of attention with the belief that persistence pays. This is what makes the tsunami a tsunami and not just a flood. A reputable reviewer could easily drown in submissions.

    One thing you haven’t touched on is the value of reviews, and I understand that. You are soliciting the feedback of reviewers, after all. In theory, reviews help readers find books they’d enjoy and avoid ones they would not. (Personally, I often find negative reviews about as helpful as positive ones because the story aspects that turn off a given reviewer might be the very things that attract me.) Few reviewers are qualified to evaluate a story on merits of craft, so what we usually get is a subjective view–an opinion. The best reviewers substantiate their criticism of the story, so readers can decide for themselves whether or not the reviewer’s sensibilities align with their own.

    I believe reviews have more perceived value in the marketplace than they deserve. Many readers don’t actually choose books based on reviews. Reviews are often paid for, making them suspect. Some authors routinely trade “honest” reviews. Some reviewers hate SP books and publish negative reviews for books they’ve never even read. Many authors have “street teams” of reviewers who post generally positive reviews upon a book’s release. Some authors have friends and family post reviews. Some reviewers will only publish reviews for books they like. All of these practices erode the value of reviews to readers, which is why Amazon bans many of them.

    In the meantime, sites and email lists that promote books still focus on “star rating” when considering submissions, which is about as useless a measure of quality you’ll find. But I understand. They have to do *something* to filter the tsunami. Unfortunately, this focus encourages authors to game the review system so their books can qualify.

    If all of this rambling has a point, it’s that I totally get why reviewers want to avoid self-published books. On the other hand, I think authors should take heart: reviews are not as important as you might believe. Celebrate the good reviews and take away what you can from the bad ones. Never forget that any review is just one person’s opinion.

    • #78 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 10:52 pm

      Hi Daniel! You’re so right. As I was writing the piece, it began to dawn on me that reviewers can be open to a lot of backlash from disgruntled authors – and not surprisingly, because the authors are too inexperienced to know what they don’t know.

      The tsunami of content – yes, there’s a lot out there and it’s only going to grow. That’s why I started to wonder if there was another way of figuring out whether a book was worth chancing – according to the author’s mileage. We have to hope that amateur behaviour shows its true nature quite quickly.

      I like your point about negative reviews! I look at those too. A well written negative review can be very helpful – tempering expectations, perhaps, and also showing where the reviewer’s tastes might diverge from my own. Another point I was going to make was that it’s very informative to look at the calibre of reviews the author inspires. It’s supposed to be a warning sign if the author has a shoal of four and five-star reviews because they might have been written by friends, but if they are thoughtfully written and well argued, that adds up to a pretty impressive endorsement.

      Excellent points there – as usual. Thanks.

      • #79 by DRMarvello on April 24, 2017 - 11:15 pm

        My pleasure. Congratulations on writing a post that got so many followers fired up! I’ve been enjoying reading the many comments.

        I agree with you regarding the caliber of reviews. The reviews that give the book a star rating and essentially say “loved it” or “hated it” are utterly useless to someone trying to make a buying decision. One of the best thing about blogger reviews (and the good reviews on vendor sites) is that they are usually thoughtful and thorough.

        After all, reviews are meant for other potential readers, not the author. But I’ve noticed that it sometimes doesn’t feel that way. I’ve read plenty of reviews (both negative and positive) that seemed like they were a personal message from the reader to the author. Perhaps the self-publishing phenomenon encourages that, particularly when we have authors who wade into the review space and post responses. I think those reviews (particularly the “suck up” and “here’s what you did wrong” kind) are a misuse of the review system and a disservice to other readers, but that’s just me.

  27. #80 by Raegan Teller on April 24, 2017 - 2:28 pm

    This is an excellent article, and i also enjoyed all the comments. Thanks to all of you for sharing. The indie author “movement” is too big to be stopped. The publishing industry will one day stop drawing distinctions between how a book is published and focus instead on the distinctions between good and bad quality. But it’s a joint responsibility. Indie authors will learn they have to grow professionally and earn the right to be respected.

    • #81 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 10:53 pm

      Thanks, Raegan! I like your point here that it’s up to good indies to pull the standard up. I’m trying my best – and I know a lot of others are too.

  28. #82 by beccapuglisi on April 24, 2017 - 2:34 pm

    Roz, I love you for writing this—in such an empathetic and courteous way. Yes, I’d like self-published authors to have more review opportunities. But attacking the reviewers for their views and failing to understand their perspective is SO counter-productive. Thank you for opening the dialogue on this important issue in a way that’s likely to encourage conversation rather than venom, defensiveness, and more separation.

    • #83 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 10:58 pm

      Thanks, Becca! And I’m impressed by the tone of the conversation here. There must be plenty of authors who are seriously ticked off – justifiably or otherwise – but everybody here is discussing this seriously and intelligently.

  29. #84 by brucejarett on April 24, 2017 - 3:00 pm

    I agree with all the points you made, and you write very well, by the way. I could tell by the first few paragraphs that I would enjoy anything you wrote. There’s no reason why we can’t help other fellow self-publishers and exchange reviews. I don’t need famous reviewers, just normal people that enjoy reading and writing. Assuming that no one will benefit from a bad review, you would think that writers wanting to be reviewed would have something they are proud to present. Of course, if anyone reviewing your work doesn’t like the first few pages, they will put it down and walk away from it. I doubt they would suffer through it and then take more time to rip it apart in a review. I have something I’m proud of that took many years to produce. I just want to get it into the right hands, one by one, and give people a few hours of entertainment, along with a lifetime of better habits. Is that so wronnngggg??? 🙂

  30. #86 by Don Massenzio on April 24, 2017 - 3:49 pm

    Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    This is a great post for those of us that are indie authors. If more reviewers turned a critical eye toward our books, the quality may improve and give us more equal footing. Gatekeepers are becoming obsolete.

  31. #90 by Terri M., the Director on April 24, 2017 - 4:07 pm

    I stopped accepting review requests all together. I decided that I had too many books already and did not have the time vet requests. I openly reviewed self-published, indie published and large press published authors after reviewing their work online to determine if it was going to be a good match. It took too much time to vet each and every request I received.

    The longer I’ve been a book blogger, the more author friends I’ve made after reviewing books. Many of them are self-publisher and indie-published. It is more difficult to review these books especially if I don’t like the book so I’m starting to reconsider reviewing books of people I know personally.

    Additionally, I would much rather PAY to buy the book of an author I was interested in reading. I don’t review to get free books (it’s nice but it is NOT the reason I am a blogger).

    • #91 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 11:07 pm

      Hi Terri! I hear you. The time taken to evaluate a request must be considerable. I’m not a reviewer, but I’m often asked if I’ll review friends’ releases and I find it very awkward. I’d rather sneak around and buy a book without anyone knowing, then nobody will know if I didn’t get on with it. And if I do get on with it, I can – with great relief – write a review.

  32. #92 by Andrew Joyce on April 24, 2017 - 4:51 pm

    Here’s my take on it. And of course, my take is the best and the most correct because I am an expert on all things temporal—metaphysical, not so much.
    Anyway, it is the abuse the bloggers take when they give anything but a raving review. A few of your commenters said the same thing, so I’m only emphasizing what they said.
    Indies gotta know one thing. And that is when you put yourself out their … ya gotta take the good with the bad. You’re never gonna please everyone. I’m an indie (four published novels), so I can relate to getting a bad review. But as someone said in the comments above, move on.
    And to all you people out there that yearn for a traditional publisher … well think again. I had a big time agent and a publisher for my first book. But I still had to do all the marketing. With the publisher I got my royalties twice a year. With Amazon they are directly deposited into my bank account on the 29th of each month. No 15% to no one. I hate marketing … I hate it so much that I’m thinking of not doing any for my next novel. Okay, I getting off topic here. I just want to say this was an informative post … thank you, Roz.

    • #93 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 11:11 pm

      Hi Andrew – thanks for adding some of the other good reasons why authors might not be thrilled by publishing deals. And thanks for stopping by!

  33. #94 by Jenny Q on April 24, 2017 - 5:04 pm

    As a blogger, I find it very helpful when an author presents their case for approaching me with their book. I am not likely to take the time to go hunt for the information you have outlined in the article as points to consider, but if an author takes the time to provide me with that information right off the bat, that tells me that they have done their research before approaching me and are serious about who they would like to review their book. I am also more likely to consider an indie book if there is a sample available for me to preview. If I decide not to review a book yet I think it would be one my readers would like to know about, i will offer to host an interview or guest post instead.

    • #95 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 11:13 pm

      Hi Jenny! What an excellent point. It shouldn’t be your job as a reviewer to go searching for this information. The author should make it easy for you to find it – and indeed present it as part of their pitch.

    • #96 by Terri M., the Director on April 26, 2017 - 2:07 am

      Jenny, I started a feature on my blog to do this back in 2015! It is so much fun.

    • #99 by Janey on April 28, 2017 - 2:44 pm

      That is an *excellent* point, which I will act on immediately Thank you so much, Jenny! (And no, I’m not just thanking you because of your comment on my question about thanking reviewers, which was also appreciated. 😉 )

  34. #100 by marymichaelschmidt on April 24, 2017 - 6:37 pm

    Reblogged this on When Angels Fly.

  35. #103 by tomburkhalter on April 24, 2017 - 7:29 pm

    Indie authors and self-published books have been likened to the “slush pile” of unsolicited manuscripts many publishers used to have, still do for all I know. So the problem is wading through the slush, like it always has been.

    Trad publishing may or may not survive another generation, who knows? Trad or indie, isn’t the problem what it always has been, i.e., putting quality literature in front of the reading public? If trad publishing gradually goes extinct, will book bloggers go extinct as well? Or change their method of operating, because, really, the job remains the same, helping readers decide what they want to read by giving them insight into what’s available to read.

    I have to laugh a little (ruefully) at comments about a good-looking cover and professional editing. I don’t think trad publishers spend a lot of time on either of those anymore. I’ve noticed a steady decline in editing quality over the last fifteen years, and once upon a time I was a proofreader, so I have some small measure of expertise. As for good-looking covers, I’ve seen “professional” covers that were something less than the term implies.

    So where do we go from here? Roz, I hope you can start an interesting and useful dialog, and I’m going to be watching this spot!

    • #104 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 11:18 pm

      Tom – good to see you! I have that feeling about standards in trad publishing too. Indeed, it’s more than just a feeling. You mention covers – I’ve seen a pirate book given a cover that had a Wild West font, and the author had a devil of a job to persuade the editor to take any notice when he complained. That’s a rookie mistake. I’ve known books be sent off to press without a proofread because nobody noticed a box wasn’t ticked on a production schedule.

      Anyway, I hope this debate will continue in a positive and useful way. We’re all in this for good books, after all.

  36. #105 by Jayna on April 24, 2017 - 7:55 pm

    This is an EXCELLENT blog post. Thank you.

  37. #107 by tbrpiledotcom on April 24, 2017 - 8:23 pm

    I think if a reviewer specifies that they don’t review self-published books it is likely because they have been inundated with requests or because they have had bad experiences with authors (or maybe because they want to be with the ‘in’ crowd). And I think it unlikely that they will change their minds any time soon.

    But there are a zillion reviewers who will read self-published books (myself included – and I love doing so), so authors should do their homework and find those reviewers and not worry about the ones who read only trad-published books – why use valuable time trying to change them?

    I review from both channels and am interested only in how good the book is (how much I enjoy the story and how professionally produced it is – and I comment on all aspects). [My favourite books of 2015 were self-published; my favourites of 2016 were trad published; it’s looking like my favourites for 2017 are going to be self-published.] If I am asked to review a book by an author I don’t know, I will look at their website and at their social media pages: someone who is unable to string a sentence together within a tweet is unlikely to get their book in front of me, nor is someone who constantly bombards followers with ads for their books or retweets other authors seemingly randomly. And an absolute definite turn-off is an author who sends automatic DMs or uses a robot for sending their tweets. Am I fussy? Yes – but there are so many books out there, that is the way I have chosen to weed out ones I don’t want to see.

    I keep a Twitter list of authors I have reviewed and I make a point of looking at it regularly and retweeting them, or other reviews of their books.

    One thing I’d like to ask authors: I am never sure whether to tag them into a review tweet or FB message; on the one hand, I’d like to let authors know I’ve reviewed them, but on the other hand, if I’ve been less than glowing about their book I feel like I am rubbing salt into the wound by pointing it out to them. So, do you want to know that the review is there, no matter what is in it, or would it be better for me to quietly post the review and let it be missed if it is not going to put you in a happy place?

    • #108 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 11:23 pm

      Thanks so much for outlining your thinking here, and telling us what you look for and what puts you off. I hate those auto-DMs too – especially when you find you can’t reply by DM because the person hasn’t followed you back. I’m not expecting that a follow should get a return follow automatically, but it looks particularly obvious when a DM arrives that you can’t reply to privately!

      Pet peeves aside, your last paragraph poses an interesting question. I’d definitely tag an author if the review was good. If it wasn’t so good … that’s tricky. Thinking of the times I’ve discovered a low-starred review on Amazon, I’m glad I found it on my own, without the reviewer handing it to me. So I’d say it’s better to quietly post the review.

      Anyone else? This is a good question.

      • #109 by Rebecca Vance on April 25, 2017 - 1:43 am

        My take on this is that once you have published a work, it not only belongs to you, but to the public. If an author wants a review, they must expect good and bad comments. Reviews are subjective as has been mentioned. I post all of my reviews on my blog, Amazon, and Goodreads. I also post on my Facebook page and Twitter. I don’t hold back because it isn’t a stellar review. If my reviews are to be considered credible, I can’t discriminate one way or the other. I have been fortunate apparently. I have never had disgruntled authors upset with my reviews. I will not tear down any author even if I consider the book not ready for publication. I will point out suggestions and try to be helpful, but honest.

        • #110 by tbrpiledotcom on April 25, 2017 - 7:31 am

          I agree, Rebecca. I post exactly what I think, but I am never sure whether to let the author know that I’ve posted. It’s all well and good if the review is good, but if it’s critical in any way it seems cruel to tag in the author to let them know it’s there. But I feel I should be consistent and do it for all or none. I think on balance it’s best to post the review and leave it to chance whether the author sees it. (If it’s a trad publisher I sometimes tag them, then they can decide whether or not to let the author know about it.)

  38. #111 by Holly (2 Kids and Tired) on April 24, 2017 - 10:12 pm

    From your author perspective, you make some great points and from my reviewer perspective, I can agree with many of them. But I can also understand why someone would have a blanket ban on some type of book or genre.

    My policy states that I’m selective when it comes to self-published and advises the authors to use a professional editing service, because every book; every single book, needs to be edited and proofed. And if you can’t afford a professional service, then find a critique group or partner or someone to look it over. Because reviewers shouldn’t be your beta readers, especially if you can’t handle criticism. Sometimes that is how it feels. I have received emails from indie authors stating, “I have revised my book, please download the new version” or I see them respond to comments on Amazon that they have changed the book to please the reviewer. Really? We’re not your editors or your beta readers and don’t change your story to please a reviewer. Change or edit or revise your story because it wasn’t ready to be published in the first place. (My review policy also states that I don’t read erotica or thrillers and I’m selective about dystopian novels, because I just don’t enjoy those genres. So, it doesn’t just discriminate against indie… 😉 )

    I think that indie authors have a traditionally thinner skin and don’t handle criticism as well. This book is their baby and it’s difficult to realize that not every single reviewer is going to love that book the way they do. And, in my personal experience, it is the indie authors who have come back and complained about my reviews and told me I’m wrong or had their friends tell me my review missed the point, etc. I’ve never had a traditionally published author do that. It really does put up a distrust. I also struggle with places like Amazon and indie reviews because I don’t trust books with 5 stars and “OMG!!! Best book I’ve read!!!!” from people who have only reviewed the one book. I assume that person is your friend or relative and is completely biased. I honestly think a well written negative review has just as much impact as a poorly written positive review, or more impact in some cases, and I have picked up books because of negative reviews. My personal preference in looking at reviews is to read the 2 and 4 star reviews because they always seem more honest.

    And if the pitch doesn’t have my name on it or pitches me a book in a genre I don’t read, I’m not going out of my way to read the book. It shows me that you just got my name from some list and didn’t do any research or checked out my blog to see if we might be a good fit. I don’t read erotica, so don’t pitch me your book and think you’ll get a great review out of it. That goes for any author or publicist, regardless of how the book is published. However, if I can’t read it because of time, but it does interest me or if you have made an impression on me as an author and are professional and respectful, I offer spotlights or interviews and those are for any author, regardless of how they are published.

    I do think that indie publishing has made fantastic strides over the last couple of years, with many smaller presses who help authors with the editing and cover design and authors who are gaining a better awareness of quality and time before hitting the publish button, but it’s hard to overcome those initial years of difficult authors and not so great books. And authors who complain about reviewers are a real turn-off. Sometimes I think that authors don’t realize how much reviewers and bloggers talk to each other. Because, we do.

    TL:DR…As indie becomes better as a whole: writing, publishing, marketing/manners, more people will read them.

    • #112 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 11:28 pm

      Great points here, Holly. I also take notice of the reviews that aren’t at the extremes, because the responses are often more individual and measured.

      There’s been a lot of maturing in the indie world in the last few years. And as you say, in order to learn to publish well, we also have to learn to integrate well with the whole ecosystem. Reviewers and book bloggers are a terrific resource.

  39. #113 by Cynthia Varady on April 24, 2017 - 10:25 pm

    I run a book review website with a friend, and we’ve been approached by several self-published authors to review their work. In a few cases, we said yes, in others, we said no. The yes answer came if the subject of the book spoke to us. If the subject didn’t we passed. My co-reviewer even self-published her first novel, and it was well-written and edited. I get the stigma, but I feel that it will have to come to an end as more and more seasoned professionals take the reins of their writing careers.

    If you are thinking of self-publishing, please, please, please get your book professionally edited, and get your cover professionally designed. I can’t stress these points enough.

    • #114 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 24, 2017 - 11:36 pm

      Hi Cynthia – good advice about learning professional habits. And I think the idea of a stigma is dwindling, though it’s not quite gone yet.

  40. #115 by Curtis W. Jackson on April 24, 2017 - 10:30 pm


    Likewise other indy authors, I did everything within my resources to bring my novel to the level of acceptance of mainstream literature. My understanding people want quality literature and enjoy renewing experiences in reading.
    It is, however, easy to get the feeling that many book reviewers and others are ready to gobble up the latest vampire romance, zombie epic, fantasy legend, and exotic tryist drama one after another before they give a thought to your work. You hear of these genres often.
    The public deserve to be informed of indy literature having a variety of menus, values, and palettes. Sadly, these may be greatly overlooked, especially books produced by unknown minority authors. I welcome the pleasure of anyone proving me wrong on these observations, thank you for your article.

    Author of Waiting for Regina

  41. #117 by Will Entrekin on April 25, 2017 - 12:01 am

    I’m struggling to see a distinction between reviewers who maintain their own sites and authors who publish their own books (and usually maintain their own sites, too). Aren’t they all indie/”self-published”? Aren’t “review blogs” the review equivalent of “self-published books”?

    • #118 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 25, 2017 - 9:10 am

      Ha, a provocative approach! I think blogs and websites are accepted as less formal. The bites of content are much smaller. I think our expectations of a book are different. But thanks for bringing this up, Will, and making us think about it.

  42. #119 by dgkaye on April 25, 2017 - 1:49 am

    Wow Roz, the comments here are as fascinating as your post. Thanks for clarifying the process from publishing houses here too. It’s no surprise to me as I’ve read plenty of ‘you’re only as good as what’s hot now’. That’s why many traditionally published authors are going Indie. It’s like anything else, you can’t lump everyone in a general category. And I’ve read some trad published books where I’ve come across many of those errors you mentioned. I’m also with one of your commenters here, if I can’t give a book 4 stars, I won’t review it. 🙂 Shared around! 🙂

    • #120 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 25, 2017 - 9:06 am

      Hi Debby! They’re a great bunch of commenters, aren’t they? And yes, many, many good writers aren’t getting the breaks they deserve from traditional publishing, but their work is worth reading. Thanks for the energetic sharing!

      • #121 by dgkaye on April 25, 2017 - 2:05 pm

        Always a pleasure to share ‘the good stuff’ Roz. 🙂

  43. #122 by saltlake62 on April 25, 2017 - 2:25 pm

    Yup. Well said. As much as most of us love writing and thinking of ourselves as writers, this is a business no matter which route you take. In both my online writing workshop and in my local group, it is amazing how many writers not only don’t get it, but they don’t even want to hear it. Then they wonder why they can’t land an agent or publisher, or they self-publish and only sell 17 copies in the first six months…

  44. #124 by Michael W. Perry on April 25, 2017 - 7:29 pm

    I don’t worry about slights. My books have won awards. They’ve been published by traditional publishers. They’ve been translated in several languages. In most cases, I simply enjoy not having to fret with finding a publisher.

    There’s also Grouchy Marx’s remark, which applies well to those who would ban self-published books: “I Don’t Want to Belong to Any Club That Will Accept Me as a Member.”

  45. #125 by Jens Lyon on April 26, 2017 - 12:01 am

    Reblogged this on Jens Lyon.

  46. #126 by Debra Purdy Kong on April 27, 2017 - 1:40 am

    Great piece! I’m a writer (hybrid author) and a reviewer. I review both traditional and self-published books and base my decision on 3 things: the professionalism of the query letter, the book blurb, and the author’s credentials. Sometimes, the author doesn’t have many credentials, but that’s not a deal breaker. I have found that many self-published novels have wonderful ideas and great characters, but that they just needed that final edit. I’ll say so in my review, but based on the other qualities, I’ll also give authors a 4-star rating. Right now, I’m reading a self-published fantasy that I absolutely love. 5-stars so far! This book makes it worth while to take a chance on authors.

  47. #128 by jdmooreblog on April 27, 2017 - 7:23 am

    Hi Roz.
    I’ll be honest, I’m pretty much oblivious to review blogs. Are they a big thing? Do they correlate to decent sales? Are there listings of the most popular ones?
    Should I ever get anything to a publishable state, I’d like the prestige that comes from a recognised publisher, but it sounds like a lot of baggage, especially if you’re not being promoted anymore than if you self published.
    Cheers for now, Jonathan.

    • #129 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 28, 2017 - 6:38 am

      Hi Jonathan! I think it makes a difference if you can get a good clutch of them as part of a campaign. Or if you can get the prestigious magazines and newspapers. Sadly, none of the latter have commented here yet…

  48. #130 by Alexander M Zoltai on April 27, 2017 - 11:37 am

    Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    OK… Today’s re-blog is by a thorough professional — traditionally published and self-published…

    And, in this article, Roz Morris tackles some potentially slippery issues and makes them reasonable and comprehensible…

  49. #131 by Adrian G Hilder on April 27, 2017 - 11:58 am

    Reblogged this on Author Adrian G Hilder and commented:
    Becasue a self-published book taken through the right publishing process can be as good, or even better than, traditionally published books…

  50. #132 by juliecroundblog on April 27, 2017 - 2:40 pm

    I do find the star system confusing. When I review a book I use one to four stars as I think five means it is exceptional but often people use five stars for’like.’ Also, when I read reviews I find they vary. One book that was recommended to me as ‘wonderful’ really irritated me and got every star from one to five from other reviewers.
    I tend to rely on people telling me in person that they enjoyed a book I have written but in this world of social media perhaps that is not enough.

    • #133 by jdmooreblog on April 27, 2017 - 9:55 pm

      I agree. Somehow anything less than 5 stars has become an implication of disfavour, whereas I always reserve top marks for a book that can’t be any better. There’s nowhere to go after 5/5, so why award it to anything that has obvious flaws?

    • #134 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 28, 2017 - 6:46 am

      Hi Julie! Oh those stars … Goodreads and Amazon don’t agree on what the stars mean. What hope is there for the rest of us?
      As for the effectiveness of reviews .. as an author, I’ve been able to use reviews to tempt readers to try my work, and I’m sure they’ve helped. Actually, in the first place, they helped reassure me my book was okay – although that’s not of much consequence to anyone else! When I’m looking for something to read, I judge the blurb, a few good reviews and a few unfavourable ones, and then I look at the first page.

  51. #135 by carolcooper on April 29, 2017 - 7:36 pm

    Reblogged this on Pills & Pillow-Talk and commented:
    Thanks, Roz. Reblogged on Pills and Pillow-Talk.

  52. #136 by The Owl Lady on April 30, 2017 - 12:50 pm

    Reblogged this on Viv Drewa – The Owl Lady.

  53. #137 by scribblingadvocate on May 1, 2017 - 12:11 pm

    Reblogged this on scribblingadvocate.

  54. #138 by vadermom on July 13, 2017 - 7:22 pm

    You have a lot of useful information here. As someone who is still on the self publishing journey, and thinking about subbing a novel out, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing.

  55. #140 by ShadowThePRcat on August 12, 2017 - 11:18 am

    I’ve definitely noticed that most reviewers don’t review indie books, unless it’s romance or erotica.

    Like you’ve pointed out, quality is the main reason. While your suggestions are great, many reviewers can’t be bothered doing all that extra homework on an author when they can just do a blanket ban.

    It sucks, as there are some great indie books out there. We know. We work with indie authors.

    • #141 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on August 12, 2017 - 2:39 pm

      Hello Black Cat! It certainly does suck. But perhaps we could help reverse the trend by writing more articles like this – at least I hope so. Also, by writing books that deserve to be shelved alongside those from ‘proper’ publishers. I’m sure you’re in a better position to make a change than I am. Good luck with your campaigns and thanks for commenting here.

      • #142 by ShadowThePRcat on August 12, 2017 - 5:18 pm

        Hello Roz! We’re definitely hoping to up the quality of books in the self published market. Too many authors think of self publishing as the no budget option, and treat it accordingly. We’re hoping to change that, and help indies produce final pieces that can compete with the big boys.

        Thanks again.

        – Shadow

  56. #143 by Davida Chazan on December 14, 2017 - 12:59 pm

    So… I have no rule against self-published books (as you know). What concerns me far more, is if the book sounds interesting, and if it is in a genre that I like to read. If you ask me, if self-published authors can write a compelling email to us reviewers, they’ll have a much better chance of getting us to read and review their books. For me, compelling doesn’t mean sending me the hype they’ve gotten from Amazon (your family and friends aren’t unbiased opinions, I’m sorry to say), but a cover letter that is creative and well written and from the heart. That’s what you did with me, and as you know, it worked. That you could tell me you had experience with ghostwriting, also helped. But the biggest problem I have with self-published authors asking me to read their books is that they don’t look at what I read, to see if their book are something I might want to spend time reading.

    • #144 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on December 14, 2017 - 6:14 pm

      Hello Davida! I’m so pleased you’ve weighed in here. I like your point about researching a reviewer before pitching them. Good book PR companies follow the same principle. They have an extensive list of reviewers and media outlets and they know the specific things that appeal to them. They also know how to present a book to highlight those features.

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