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Self-publishing? Awesome. Let Me Save You Some Time. Pt.3

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Seeking Reviews- Sites that Work

In part 2 I discussed the pros and cons of Goodreads giveaways.

"But what works?" you might ask. Well, I'm glad you did. Here are a few options with upsides and downsides. Netgalley, Book Sirens, and Reedsy. Let’s start with the most expensive of the three—Netgalley. Stay tuned, I've found a way to save you money with Netgalley.

Netgalley is a site that works well for getting reviews provided you have a good cover and cover copy. Netgalley puts your book in front of thousands of reviewers who are going there specifically to find their next read. If it’s horror, reviewers actually looking for horror books will see yours. Also, it makes your book look more legitimate because it places it in the same place as traditionally published books. On Netgalley, you are competing head-to-head with the big boys and it’s up to your book to get the attention. One other added bonus: librarians and booksellers often use Netgalley when searching for books to carry.

*Side note: For god’s sake, don’t spend your money if you haven’t had a professional editing.

So, Netgalley sounds great, huh? The problem is the cost. For a self-publisher, I believe it’s $399 for six months for one book. Yikes.

But I’ve come across a less expensive option. There is a business model called a Netgalley co-op. This is someone who has a Netgalley account and is able to rent time to you. Here’s how it works. You agree to terms with one of these businesses and they upload your book as part of their agreement with Netgalley. There are many different Co-ops, but I’ve chosen to use Victory Editing’s coop. Through their service, my book is uploaded to Netgalley for one month at a cost of $45, or an entire year for the same $400 that Netgalley charges for six months.

I chose the one-month option for three months ($135 total). On Netgalley, your book slides down the pages the longer they’re available. In other words, the first month gives you the most exposure. I chose three months starting in my release month of October for an interesting reason. I can place my upcoming release on the front page for the first month (October), and then swap it out for my dystopian fantasy in November. It’s all done by ISBN numbers, so a different ISBN shows up as a new listing. That way, my dystopian fantasy goes to the front page for a month. Now, since A Firefighter Christmas Carol also has a Christmas element (a unique take on the Scrooge story), I will swap my dystopian out for a different format (ebook) of my horror collection in December. Note: To do this you have to have a separate ISBN for your ebook and not just an ASIN. I use Myidentifiers for my ISBNs. I know, another freaking expense. I think I bought ten ISBN’s for $250, but I needed them because when my publisher went out of business, they gave me the rights to my books and I rereleased them with new ISBN’s.

So, if Netgalley is something you wanted to try but didn’t want to shell out all the bones, the co-ops are a more affordable option to test the Netgalley waters. I’ll let you know how it goes for me.

Update 10/6/21: I'm now all in on using a coop. Victory Editing listed A Firefighter Christmas Carol on Oct. 1st. It has been downloaded by two librarians, three independent bookstore owners, and multiple bloggers and reviewers for a total of thirty-nine downloads in the first six days. Using Netgalley, I have the opportunity to accept or decline each request but I've found no reason to decline any of them yet. Now, it is possible that none of those downloads ultimately get reviewed, but that is unlikely. I've actually received one review already. (Five stars, BTW.)

Another option that I’m pretty excited about is Booksirens, though I’m just now using it and don’t have a lot of results. Booksirens is similar to Netgalley but a lot more affordable. It’s the same basic principle as Netgalley. You upload your book and they show it to thousands of reviewers over the course of 90 days. For A Firefighter Christmas Carol, they quoted 1060 reviewers who have marked my listed genres as preferences. There’s no guarantee that anyone will pick up my book, but the probability that some of them will should be pretty high. And these are reviewers who want to continue using the service, so they typically leave reviews. The company estimates 75-80% of downloads get reviewed. That’s pretty freaking good. Here’s the great part: Ten bucks to sign up and 2 bucks each time the book is downloaded by a reviewer. And you can set a limit. I set my limit for fifty downloads (or $100), but if I hit that (I won’t), I’m bumping my level up for sure. It’s too hard to get reviews to move on from a working opportunity. (As of this writing, my book has been shown 658 times over 15 days, clicked on 39 times, downloaded 10 times, and I’ve already received three 5-star reviews on Goodreads. There are still 75 days that it'll be available on their site.)

Update 10/6/21: Pretty good results for the cost. A Firefighter Christmas Carol has been downloaded 12 times and there has been 7 reviews posted. Not bad. I decided to use them for Death of the Grinderfish (my dystopian story) with less positive results. Three downloads to date and one review left so far.

Remember, using Netgalley and Booksirens isn’t paying for reviews. The reviewer doesn’t get anything except a free book. With Netgalley and Booksirens, you’re paying for their service and access to their reviewer lists. That's an important distinction.

The last site I’m going to talk about is Reedsy. This one’s interesting. The first thing you should know about Reedsy is that they offer a lot of resources for authors. You can find cover designers, editors, book formatters, you name it. Overall, it’s a pretty solid site. The part I’ll focus on here is their review offer since this segment is about getting reviews. For $50 they will put your book in front of their catalogue of reviewers just like the previous two companies. Not a horrible price but I’m not so sure you get your money's worth. Here’s why: Once a reviewer choses your book, it becomes unavailable to anyone else. That’s right, $50 to use their service with the possibility of only getting one review. To add to the downside, that review only shows up on Reedsy (or that reviewer's blog if they have one). Not on Amazon or Goodreads or anywhere else as far as I can tell. Reedsy advertises that the author may use quotes from the review in their marketing, which is how I found it to be useful. Putting a positive quote in your Amazon description, as well as sharing it on social media can be beneficial. Fifty dollars beneficial? I’ll let you decide. But wait, there’s even more downside. If the reviewer decides not to finish the book or reports that it isn’t edited up to their standards, you lose the opportunity as well as your fifty bucks. They don’t even investigate the reviewer’s claims unless you appeal.

Here’s my experience. I paid for my dystopian fantasy to be in their system, and it was picked up by a reviewer within a week. A few weeks later, a four-star, rather glowing review was submitted. I used that review in my marketing. Overall a pleasant experience. My second attempt hit a snag but was professionally resolved by Reedsy. I submitted my upcoming horror collection. Within a week, it was picked up by a reviewer. Within ten minutes of that, it was rejected. Fifty bucks down the toilet, just like that. The reviewer stated the book needed edited because he/she was bored reading the foreword. That’s right, the foreword. Understand, I used the same professional editor for this book that I used for my dystopian fantasy, and no one has complained of the editing there. Now, maybe the foreword is a bit boring. Whatever. So are the acknowledgements, just to let you know. I don’t think it’s boring, BTW. But boring foreword or not, that doesn’t mean the book hasn’t been properly edited. Adding to the insult, the reviewer read a sample chapter from the actual book prior to selecting it. Apparently, that didn’t need edited so badly that it turned him/her off. I was livid. I appealed the rejection with a stern but professional email that showed my displeasure at being accused of not having an edited piece. I also challenged Reedsy to check my story and determine if it had been properly edited.

They investigated, read some of the book including the foreword, and determined the reviewer was not accurate in his/her critique. Therefore, they reinstated my book. It has been selected by another reviewer and I’m anxiously awaiting the results. But that’s a risk you have to be willing to gamble $50 on if you want to use this promotion. I probably won’t use it in the future.

There you have it. I hope some of what I’ve written in this three-part segment will help you save some time and money while giving you a couple ideas on how to get reviewers. Follow my blog as I will be giving more tips on other aspects of self-publishing promoting in the coming weeks.

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