As a book blogger I get a lot of emails and private messages from self-published authors asking me to review their book. I often have to be honest and say: sorry – I can’t, my reading pile is too damn high!
But every now and then I receive a request for a book that sounds absolutely awesome – or seem very interesting, and I accept it.
I do not often make a difference between marketing agencies sending requests, self-publishers asking me to review their book or the blast emails of publishing houses. If a book looks interesting, if the cover looks great… I might accept it.
But then the books I receive can sometimes be… appalling.
And those are MOSTLY books by self-publishers or published by vanity publishers.
What is the problem?
One of the main reasons books I received are not making it up onto my Instagram or blog is lack of editing. I don’t mind authors not spending money on editing services if they are not planning on (self) publishing their manuscript.
But from the moment you are releasing your writing onto the masses – and especially from the moment you are asking money for it – it needs to be well-edited. When you are self-publishing a book (or when you are going through a vanity publisher) it is your responsibility to the client (reader) to deliver a good product.
I have received books by authors that were VERY poorly written and not edited at all. When I spoke to one of the authors about this a few months ago, she got very angry. “One of my sons edited my book.” she explained in an irate email. “Honestly, who are you to tell me that I need to spend money on an editor for my book.”
I literally copy pasted it. I even kept the email just to remind me that a proportion of authors is not very self-aware. They think their book is perfect because they put in loads of effort and time, because their family and friends told them it is fantastic… because the amazon reviews their family and friends have written praise the book as the best piece of fiction written in the last 50 years.
I once talked about a book that needed editing on my Instagram. I was bombarded by friends of the author about how stupid and heartless I am.
But I am sorry: your first draft is not your book. Your second or third draft are not a book either. If you want to self-publish a book (or go through a vanity publisher) your book will need professional editing.
You might have noticed me mentioning that books published by vanity publishers might benefit from an editor as well. Fairly recently I received a book published by the horrible scam publisher Green Ivy Publishing. Most self-published authors know of them – if you don’t: please stay far away.
Anyway, I received the little booklet and decided to start reading it since it only had 91 pages. I would be able to finish it that evening and write up a review by the following day.
I had to stop at page 10 and onto this day I am actually impressed I made it that far. The Amazon reviews were raving about the book – probably all friends and family, while there was one honest review explaining that it is an interesting read but that it needs a shitload of editing.
The book is supposed to be some kind of autobiographical online dating biography-flick. It actually is just an unedited train of thought with a lot of slang, that just makes you feel sorry for what kind of chavvy, marginal, deprived and outright hollow life this woman leads.
Let’s just look at the blurb: (and this is literally copy pasted, excess spaces, forgotten punctuation and all) Her inner beauty outshines her outer which people try to take advantage of with her beauty meeting men was not her issue keeping a man was the job. She doesn’t frequent the clubs so she tries a new leaf and turns to the channel to the world of Online dating.
How did this book get 11 five star reviews out of 12?
that’s not the point: the point is that this book was incredibly poorly edited and that this author should be ashamed for releasing this to the public.
The importance of a good cover image.
I feel like I have said this a million times to every author asking me for advice: if you want your book to sell well, you will need a professional cover image. A book cover that looks great and professional does not have to be expensive as I have seen great ones for sale for as little as $50. Obviously if you have friends that are graphical designers you might be able to get yourself a cheeky free book cover.
Why am I including this into this write-up? Because both as a blogger and as a book marketer, we have received many requests from authors that created covers in Word (no-kidding), Paint (yes sir!), Canva (They can be great but often they are not) or Amazon cover maker (Please don’t). As a blogger I overall decline these kinds of covers. Why? Because if you poured your heart and soul in your book, if you REALLY believe in your book, if you want it to be your perfect little literary child – you would put a great cover on there.
I have met authors that said: You know, my book is so good it does not need a good cover. People will buy it anyway.
This could have been true in the past. In far flung times when literacy numbers were not that high and self-publishing was mostly a far-off dream. There was a lot less competition and people bought what the book shops and publishers wanted them to buy.
But now with 3.4 MILLION kindle books on sale you need to stand out. One of the ways to do this is through your cover and through influencer marketing. “I believe that my book speaks for itself.” I once received an answer. “If readers liked it they will recommend it to their family and friends. There is no better marketing than that.”
We had a bit of a laugh about this at the office I work in. If your cover is really unattractive or is something you made up in paint 5 minutes ago, people will not buy your book. Even better: bloggers will not be interested in reviewing or promoting your book. And how are consumers going to promote your book to their friends and family if they do not know it exists because bloggers don’t want to promote it and people don’t want to click it on Amazon.
A cover is important. Your book is not and will never be good enough to carry itself to becoming a bestseller with a shitty cover. I’m sorry but that’s the truth. No book is and no book will ever be.
Take criticism in your stride
Last week we had a big discussion in one of the book blogger groups I am a part of on Facebook. We were sharing stories about horrible emails and private messages we received from authors. Some of these emails made my ears glow red.
Bloggers were bullied, were called stupid, were said they would go to hell for giving a book a 2-star rating on their blog or were bombarded with curse words. There even were screenshots of public tweets and Facebook posts ranting about bloggers calling them by website and name. A few even were hounded by friends and family of the author just like I was last year.
As a marketer I work with bloggers myself and I know that there are some really nasty ones out there. But for every nasty piece of work of blogger that’s out there, there are 100 great men and women taking their time to read books and write up reviews to share with their often quite large following.
Because of the bullying some bloggers even decided not to post any negative reviews anymore. I made this same decision not too long ago – but then, who is going to blow the whistle on badly edited books or books that have not been edited as well. Who is going to pick up on plot holes, bad stories or books that are REALLY not worth anyone’s time? Especially when authors are now asking friends and family to buy books off amazon in order to get 5 star verified purchase reviews?
I should start reviewing bad books again and give an honest opinion – but who is going to come to my rescue when the nasty emails and bad messages start?
I have met a lot of authors – both as a blogger and as a marketer, that think their book is the bee’s knees. I know it is hard to take a bit of distance from something you created yourself. It is hard to see “the bad stuff” when your book is your little baby. Just like a lot of parents think their kid is absolutely perfect (teachers will beg to differ though), a lot of authors think their book is the best thing to hit amazon since ‘In search of lost time’.
What I am trying to say is that whenever you publish a book it is very important to find a good editor and a cover designer. Especially if you want to generate sales and become a best seller. With a bad cover it is hard to get bloggers to review your book and a book that has not been edited will have less chance of receiving a glowing review.
If you have any questions about this article you are very welcome to leave a comment.