One of the most disheartening words an indie author can hear is “sorry, we do not review self-published books.” And yet everywhere we look in other forms of media creation—music, video, film—the indie media artist is a respected individual creator.
What is it about book publishing that brings out the snobbishness of reviewers?
One factor is the time it takes us readers to determine our interest in a book compared to, say, a few seconds of a song. In the case of books, there is both the package (design and formatting), as well as the writing itself.
A second factor is that there are so darn many books published each year that popular reviewers must have a filter or criteria to automatically eliminate submissions.
Deciding whether to review a book is a little like reviewing applicants that send in resumes for a job opening. If you have a desirable job opening, you might have hundreds of resumes to choose from. Chances are, you are simply looking for reasons to say “no!” to interviewing an applicant.
Spelling errors: no! Tiny type or poor formatting: no! Long-winded cover letters: no, no, no!
Increasing the odds in your favor
The question to ask ourselves is, what can we do to help improve the chances of our book being selected for review?
Here are 5 categories of book production that are most often, or more easily, overlooked or shortchanged by self-publishers, especially first book authors. A few may require additional budget, but mostly these involve doing some homework and paying attention to details.
- Your cover. There is a reason why this is often a big investment, and it is a valid reason. As the first thing the reviewer sees, it obviously needs to look good and make a good first impression. The sole piece of advice here is to make sure your cover is on par with the covers of the top selling books in your book’s category. If you are following the advice in the Book Reviewer Yellow Pages, you are submitting only to reviewers who are interested in your type of book. You can bet these reviewers have a keen idea of what a good cover is for your genre.
- Your copyright page. The copyright page is the business page of your book and there is no reason why yours should look any less professional than a copyright page from a major publisher. Technically speaking, the only required element is the word copyright (or the abbreviation “Copr.”, or the symbol ©), and the name of the copyright owner. But an author who is interested in making a good impression will also include things like:
- A legal notice, sometimes called a disclaimer.
- ISBN information.
- Contact information for the publisher.
- Recognition of contributors such as an editor or indexer. (By the way, including your editor’s name not only is a kind thing to do, it also tells the reviewer that you used an editor.)
- Your front and back matter. You can easily research what the right order is—and you should. This is a no brainer for getting right and an immediate tipoff of a potentially amateur publishing job. Pet peeves? An author writing their own foreword, or worse, misspelling it as foreward or forword. A foreword is written by someone other than the author! A second red flag is page numbering. The introduction (if there is one) marks the beginning of Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3) while prior pages are Roman Numerals. This is clearly irrelevant for eBooks but even in this case front matter order is a valid signal of attention to detail.
- Formatting, layout and design. If we were to pick a single guideline that applies to all books, and all formats (print and eBook), it would be consistency. Are all the headings the same size, font, color etc. Is spacing and indentation consistent. Another easy tipoff of amateur publishing: indented first paragraphs. There may be some rare instances where the first line of the first paragraph is indented, but often, all first paragraphs should not be indented when they follow a heading.
- Your metadata. Metadata is information about your book: the title, subtitle, description, cover, price, size, weight—all the details that describe the book. This is the information that appears in our book listing on Amazon, our website, and anywhere else our book is presented. For purposes of this discussion, consistency is again your concern. Is punctuation and capitalization consistent? Do all your online references to the book match? When you send the query email or letter to the reviewer, are you consistent in how you refer to your book? If the reviewer goes online to check out your Amazon listing, does the information they find there match your query letter?
The reoccurring theme in all five of these categories is care. An author that cares enough about these details probably cares about their writing as well. By not standing out as an amateur, the reviewer might not be so quick to dismiss your book.
Don’t give the reviewer a reason to say “No!”
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