Like most indie authors I felt as if getting those first reviews for my books resembled climbing a mountain in a blizzard wearing lead boots–one slow step at a time. Of course, some indies have a very supportive Writers group or belong to a book club or have some other circle of friends and acquaintances who will eagerly buy and review their new novel. And lickety-split, the reviews pile up fast. (Although if Amazon discovers that the reviews are by relatives or close friends, it will take those reviews down. And Amazon has been doing that with a vengeance lately.)
So I looked around for alternatives to the slow uphill slog and came across three well-known choices: 1) Kirkus Reviews 2) NetGalley and 3) Goodreads Giveaway.
With Kirkus Reviews the cost is $425 if you are willing to wait 2 or 3 months for a single review which can be published on their website–if you decide that you like the review. If the review is less than favorable, you can decide not to publish it. If you want rush service the price is $575. This all struck me as being a bit pricey for one review. (For heaven’s sake, I’ve heard that reviews used to cost $5 on Fiverr but Amazon put an end to that, too.) Anyway for complete details about Kirkus go here.
NetGalley was recommended by a woman who publishes romance novels, so I checked it out. So much better! For $399 an indie author can post a book manuscript for download by thousands of potential reviewers who, in exchange for the ‘free’ book, are asked to post reviews on the NetGalley website. Apparently some of these readers also post their reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. For details about NetGalley go here.
Then I looked into Goodreads Giveaway and it sounded great! All I had to do was offer to send a specific number of paperback copies of my new novel, ‘L.A. Ladies’ to the winners of a drawing. Goodreads information indicated that a month long promotion period would result in about 800 Goodreaders signing up for the giveaway. Goodreads suggests offering 10 books and notes that about 60% of the winners will actually write a review. I noticed that not all authors were offering 10 books; one offered only 2 copies. For more details about a Goodreads Giveaway, go here.
Quickly I crunched the numbers. The books would cost me 2.69 each plus rush shipping through CreateSpace. Postage would add a little, I thought, but not much. I’d send the books using the media rate. So I jumped right in, deciding to offer 12 books–signed copies. I had already set up pre-publication orders on Amazon and B&N so my publication date was fixed–just two weeks away. That determined the expiration date for my Goodreads Giveaway. And I decided to make the giveaway available in Canada because I’d sold some books through Kobo.
Oh happy days! Those lovely Goodreads readers signed up in droves! In 2 weeks 900+ women entered my Giveaway–twice what I had expected. And within hours of its end Goodreads sent me a list of the 12 winners. One in Canada, the others scattered across the U.S. I bundled up the books and drove to the Post Office where I found that there is no media or book rate to Canada. It cost $15 to send ‘L.A. Ladies’ to Alberta! In total my shipping costs were around $70.
And now for the results. There are now 4 reviews on Goodreads, three of which state that they received the book in a Giveaway. The fourth reviewer didn’t say one way or the other whether she bought the book or got it for free, but her review was very positive and she posted it on Amazon, too. In fact, all the reviews are positive–but there are still so very few. I’ve since heard from a fellow writer in my online writing group that Goodreads Giveaway reviews come in slowly so more reviews may come from this Giveaway. But the cost for each review at this point works out to be about $30–a lot less than Kirkus Reviews. I could, of course, reduce costs by not offering the Giveaway to Canadian readers and planning far enough ahead so I wouldn’t have to pay for rush shipping, but I don’t think I’ll do it again.
Now I wish I’d followed the romance publisher’s advice. I’m going to check out NetGalley to see whether they allow books that have already been published to go onto their site. Or I may put ‘L.A. Ladies” into Kindle Select and run a freebie sale. I’ll let you know what happens next.
I spent all day yesterday listening to the latest draft of my novel, ‘L.A. Ladies’. That’s right, I listened to it using a nifty feature in Word that I didn’t previously know existed. The feature is called ‘Speak’ and I decided to use it to see if I could find any ‘ghost words’ in my manuscript. ‘Ghost words’ are those little leftover words that accidentally end up in revised copy. When an author re-reads the revised section, her eyes slide right over the ghost words because, after all, she ‘knows’ what the passage says. The eyes and brain play tricks.
In one writers’ group online a fellow author suggested I read my manuscript aloud, but I wasn’t at all confident that the eye-brain trick wouldn’t happen again.
Instead I decided to use ‘Speak’ and sat here at my computer following the words with my eyes while Microsoft Anna (the voice of Speak and it’s a semi-mechanical sounding voice!) read to me. Much to my horror, I discovered a ghost word in the first chapter. Somehow the word ‘handed’ had been left in a sentence right beside ‘handing’. I quickly deleted ‘handed’ and kept on listening to Anna. Two other ‘ghost words’ showed up later in the novel and in one other instance I discovered that I’d written ‘on’ instead of ‘of’. All were fixed instantly. What is also important to note is that these four tiny errors in my manuscript were all properly spelled so they would have gone right through the Kindle Spell-Check and not shown up as mistakes.
Another discovery I made while listening was that in an early meeting between Robin, the main character, and one of her love interests, she sounded bitchy instead of surprised. So I re-wrote that exchange, too. Then checked it again with Speak to make sure there were no ghost words in my revision!
Okay. If you’re interested in using Speak — and I highly recommend this approach–search Google for text-to-speech in Word and follow the steps to activate it. It’s really easy and can save you from serious embarrassment.
Later: When I posted about this topic on my FB wwriter’s group I learned from other writers there is also a text-to-speech function in Adobe’s pdf reader as well as several free programs available online. I might try them to see if those other voices are more pleasant than Anna’s.
Oh, one last thing. Anna sometimes reads ‘is.’ at the end of a sentence as ‘island’. At other times she read ‘no.’ as ‘number’. She apparently ‘thinks’ they are abbreviations.