The quest for free publicity and reviews leads a self-published author to a number of places — Bublish, facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, book bloggers. I’ve added my novels to more ‘list your book here FREE!’ sites than I can remember or name. Access to the publicity big league is restricted to traditionally published authors whose publisher will pay for an ad on the back of a bus, in a train station or on a newspaper (be it print or online).
Big name reviewers with wide audiences focus on the next Man Booker Prize nominee or the latest bestseller from a known author, rather than the next offering from an unheard-of indie writer. I don’t blame them in the least, because I know from experience that one must trawl through a lot of badly written self-published fiction to find one novel worth reading.
So imagine my surprise when I learned last year that Publishers Weekly is willing to review self-published works. It’s a rather convoluted process. The intrepid author must sign up to Booklife, which is PW’s website focused on self-publishing. There, you must create a ‘project’ for your book and a profile for yourself. Finally, you can submit the book for review.
However, Booklife offers some sobering advice on its Review Submission Guideline page:
- A Small Percentage of Books Submitted Will Be Reviewed: We receive over a thousand books a month from self- and trade publishers; unfortunately, we can’t cover them all.
- You Should Make Sure Your Book Is Really Ready Before Submitting: Your books will be vetted by our editors the same way as professionally edited books from major publishers.
Okay, then. Minuscule chance of actually being selected, and compared against “professionally edited books from major publishers” if selected. Throwing caution to the wind, I submitted Too Close (my second novel) for review.
Weeks passed. I forgot about the whole thing. Then in November I received an email that said, “Our editors have looked at the BookLife project you submitted (Too Close), and they are considering it for review. While this is no guarantee that your book will receive a Publishers Weekly review, you have cleared an important hurdle.”
At the time, I was deep in the throes of proofreading my third novel, In Your Sights, and was depressed (to put it mildly) by the number of sentences with garbled words, missing words, etc. Every time I read IYS, I found mistakes I had missed on previous passes. (God knows how many are still there, in the published version.) All I could think of was Too Close up against those “professionally edited books from major publishers”, proofed by armies of dedicated, eagle-eyed editors and proofreaders.
Then in December I received this email: “Congratulations! Your BookLife project (Too Close) has been selected for review by Publishers Weekly!”
Bloody hell. (To put it mildly.)
And on 5 January 2015, the review appeared on the PW site:
Krall’s breezy style almost undermines the serious dilemma at the heart of this capable debut contemporary. When San Francisco newspaper editor Nicola meets “that new guy in finance,” Greg, she wants nothing to do with him. Ever since an evil ex ran off with her boss, she has sworn off office romances. Greg is persistent, however, and soon he and Nicola become poster people for true love. When others comment that they look like brother and sister, it only serves to confirm their belief that they are fated to be together. But wedding plans lead to meeting parents—and the shocking revelation that the lovebirds may in fact be half-siblings. Krall deftly navigates the ensuing complications and emotional turmoil to a most satisfying conclusion.
The funny thing is, I found out about the review from a publicist in Manhattan! She had read the review on PW, tracked me down via my website and sent me a message saying she would love to work with me to publicise “my new novel”. (I don’t know if she means In Your Sights, or if she missed the fact that Too Close is two years old now). I’m sure such messages are part of her approach to getting new business and are sent to any indie writer who receives a good PW review. I have no idea how much those services would cost, and with a marketing budget of $0 I’ll never find out. Nonetheless, it amused me to contemplate casually dropping references in conversation to “my publicist in Manahattan”.
As new books are added to the Booklife list of reviews, mine will be pushed off the front page. But for the moment, it’s there for anyone to admire — and buy. That reminds me, I’d better add some links to that project!