Book Reviews, Marketing, My Books, Promotion, Publish, Writing

Can you explain why book reviewers have this prejudice?

First off, I want to say how much I appreciate every single person who’s taken the time to read The Brevity of Roses. And those who went the extra mile by rating or reviewing it, get a second gold star in my book. Most of you paid for the book, and I’m honored. Actually, that you parted with real legal tender to read my writing totally freaks me out!

But today’s post is about seeking reviews from those with a wider reach, a greater influence. As a self-published author, without a publicist, it’s my responsibility to seek reviews of my book. Public reviews act as a sort of official word of mouth, so of course the more popular the reviewer the better.

Unfortunately, all review policies are not equal. I won’t name names, mostly because I’ve checked out so many book review sites since April that I’ve twisted them all up in my brain like a rubberband ball.

Some I eliminated as soon as I saw mention of a reading fee because, right now, I couldn’t pay for a review even if I wanted to. Some ask for two, or more, print copies, ditto on the reason for eliminating them or, at least, moving them to the bottom of my list. Some only review certain genres, usually not mine.

But what’s the biggest reason for crossing them off my list? They don’t review self-published books. That’s their prerogative, of course, but I’m not sure I understand their reasoning. Sure many self-published books are badly written, or badly edited, or both. But not every book published traditionally is excellent on all counts either. Plus, if the reviewer doesn’t like the book, or the quality of the book, they can pass, right?

So, I think I’m missing something. I think I must not understand why people review books for the public. Can anyone explain to me why some reviewers shun self-published books as a policy?

27 thoughts on “Can you explain why book reviewers have this prejudice?”

  1. There is a rising list of reasons why self-published books are being rejected by book blogs. After running my book blog for three months now, and receiving over 150 requests, I’ve come to see and understand why some bloggers have dropped the hammer on indies.

    One of the major reasons is politeness. 90% of the review requests I get are friendly, guideline-following, lovable people. 10% are arrogant, constantly bothersome or just flat-out rude. This is the small population that needs a publicist, desperately, as they lack the communication skills to get results on their own, whether they have a future bestseller or not.

    Second is quality. I don’t over nit-pick on grammar and spelling as long as it doesn’t derail my reading, (I’m an indie author myself) but when I get a review copy with formatting that can make my eyes bleed, I start crying. When a book has a horribad cover, it’s hard to promote on a professional level, let alone pin up for all to see on my blog.

    Third is market and popularity. A lot of indie books sell for really low prices, which is great unless you’re a blogger who wants to make a decent affiliate cut for your efforts. Trad-pubs often sell at high prices, which means instead of getting 6 cents for a referral to a book’s purchase, I can get over a dollar. I review as a hobby, but a lot of bloggers don’t.

    These are just my thoughts on the table. =)

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to offer your explanation, Wist. I’m sorry to hear so many indies are arrogant, pesky, or rude to you. Unfortunately, lack of professionalism is one thing I’ve heard bemoaned by many.

      And you’ve informed me of a factor I hadn’t considered — affiliate sales. I can see why you wouldn’t be interested in reviewing the 99-cent ebooks so popular among indies. But not all indies publish at that price, and many of us have print books at much higher prices. Of course, even if a book is well written and competitively priced, that’s no guarantee it will be a big seller, no matter how it’s published.

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  2. My guess is the review industry is much like the publishing industry, and as such are very selective in their approach. An internet acquaintance regularly reviews books, but her stack of books for critical review is fairly tall. (Beth is also a freelance book editor and writer.) No sooner she finishes one review, another three lands on her desk. So, she’s pretty selective on what books she’ll review and not review. I suspect a self-published work would have to be “special” to be added to her review list. Undoubtedly, Beth would recommend what you already have done, and would be the first to say that reader reviews are more powerful than a professional reviewer’s opinion.

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    1. Fivecats, I do look at reader reviews, but usually after I’ve read the book. I look at the star rating when I’m trying to decide on a book to read. But I do appreciate what “real” readers say more than what paid reviewers say. That’s why I’m trying to get book blogger reviews now. They’re mostly just people who read a lot and share their opinions, so their reviewers are reader reviews, but seen by a lot more people than come to my blog or happen to run across my book on Amazon.

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  3. I’m a self-published author always on the look out for reviewers. You use ‘prejudice’ in your title, but I think we have to respect that it’s entirely their choice to make. In fact, the lot of an indie is even harder if you add reviewers who don’t read e-books. That’s a whole load of book sites closed to indie writers.

    But self-published-friendly book blogs do exist, and in some significant numbers. The ones I’ve encountered are friendly, supportive and committed to helping self-published authors find an audience. I wish more reviewers would consider self-published works, but at the same time sympathize with reviewers like Wist who is tired of dealing with unpolished writers and writing.

    Sometimes, a well-targeted, friendly email goes a long way. I’m at the back of the line, but a reviewer who doesn’t usually read self-published and is no fan of e-books has agreed to review my novel. Maybe if she likes it, she’ll do more. Maybe not. We have to nibble away at the review world’s (understandable) resistance until they can trust that self-published work is worth their time and effort.

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    1. Hello, Paul, thank you for sharing your opinion here today. I do admit it’s a reviewer’s prerogative to chose which books they’ll review, but to pre-judge one sector en masse as unworthy … well, isn’t that what prejudice is?

      Good point about those who don’t review e-books, though as someone who used to read them on my computer and iPhone only, I sympathize.

      But yes, a big THANK YOU to all the reviewers who will at least consider self-published books. A chance is all I can ask for … and I will never be arrogant, rude, or pesky about it!

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  4. The Miami Herald often does stuff on local artists and writers. They are usually large features. Chamber of Commerce seems fertile ground as they are always looking for unique speakers from the community. When my cartoon book goes up on Kindle I plan to explore these myself.

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  5. This is a tough question, Linda. One I wouldn’t answer on my own, so I’ll base my comment on what I’ve read or heard second hand.

    The problem seems to stem from having to make generalized decisions on a not so general subject. For instance, not all self-published books are low quality. Then again, not all are of high (or even good) quality. The generalized consensus is that the majority don’t meet the expectations of publishing standards. There are always the exceptions to the rules, of course. We’ve discussed that before on this and several other blogs.

    Professional reviewers take their jobs seriously. Asking a series of questions about each manuscript they review. These questions analyze the book in regards to character, theme, plot, style, and setting. Then, the reviewer reflects on their reading experience and intertwines their analysis with commentary on how the book personally affected them. There isn’t a huge difference between how a reviewer analyses a book and the system used by agents to work through the slush pile.

    My guess would be that in discounting the self-published books, reviewers believe they’re saving themselves a lot of time analyzing manuscripts that fall short in one or more of those developmental categories, which would lead to a bad review. Book reviewers don’t like to or want to give a bad review if possible. They have to maintain an approachable reputation. Would you send your book to a reviewer that gives a large number of harsh reviews? I know I wouldn’t.

    However, I think there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As more people self-publish and gather, and as time tests self-published authors, there will be a more pronounced need for reviewers that focus on self-published manuscripts. Initially, I see a need for reading fees, as they are basically becoming a books agent in a fuzzy sort of way, and unfortunately they will be reading a lot of …. I also believe they should have the right to reject a manuscript and refund the reading fee if they feel a need to do so. But over time as the “not-so-good” self published authors realize they will never achieve the sales required to cover their time, the expense of self-publishing, and marketing, the rush of self-published authors that we’re experiencing now will wane and diminish. This will leave a larger opportunity for exposure to those who are accomplished writers that withstand this test. The system needs time to balance itself.

    Rome wasn’t built in a day. Be happy you’re at the forefront of a swiftly changing industry. 😉

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    1. Thank you for jumping in, T.A. I’ll respond to a few things.

      First off, I should have said I make a distinction between big name professional book reviewers and those I’ve researched online. As far as I’ve encountered them, the named professionals never accept self-published books. Online reviewers range from professional to those hoping to turn a small profit from their reading passion to those voracious readers who just appreciate getting free books. I think the range of comments to this post reflect the policy differences of these various classes of reviewers.

      It seems fair, but I doubt it’s ever the case that any of them refund reading fees. If they charge the same fee no matter the length of the book, I imagine they see a one-minute read before rejecting a book equals out the long hours spent reading an epic. As for comparing them with agents, I once had a super agent tell me she knows within 20 seconds whether she’s interested in a book. Now, of course, an agent is looking only for saleability whereas I hope a reviewer is looking for the quality of the read.

      I hope it’s true that time will weed out those who don’t care enough to learn and hone their craft, thus letting the cream of the self-published rise to the top, but vanity presses have been kept in business a long time by those who only think they write well. The only difference now is that the wannabes have discovered that it costs them nothing to have their dream come true digitally. So, I think it’s more likely that those who write good books, but are lousy at marketing them or just don’t have the financial means, may once again seek other ways to see their work published. I hope you’re right and I’m wrong.

      Am I at the forefront? It seems more like the muddled middle from here. 😕

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      1. HA! If you think it is bad now, wait until every homemaker, neurosurgeon, teenager, and parolee figures out it cost nothing to slap some writing up on the internet and possibly get paid by someone to read their scratchings. We are still very close to the beginning of the rise and fall of this self-publishing (r)evolution. As pointed out previously; self-publishing is not a new thing, but doing it for free is.

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