A Read and Review program for indie authors that rivals NetGalley.
How did that happen? Is it true? Yes it is true and eNovel Authors at Work has the privilege to announce it. You want the skinny up front. Here it is: Jay Lee, the founder of Choosy Bookworm rolled out the program in an email to his 5,000+ subscribers as a beta test Sunday, July 20, 2014. The response was phenomenal. It is a done deal and will be open solely to indie authors on or about September 03, 2014.
The backstory: I am an indie author. The single thing I’ve learned in my first year of indie authorship is my titles must have reviews or they wander in cyberspace never to be anchored on a Kindle Fire or other reading app. Choosy Bookworm is new this year. For six months Jay Lee promoted indie titles free. I liked his service. Early on downloads were not great. An author could expect about 30 books moved on free or 99¢. Six months later, an indie title can expect an average download of 180 books. That is pretty darn good. I don’t know about you, but when I spend $$$ to promote on a site–
I want to know who owns it. When I’m spending my money with a promoter–or not, they insist I follow on Twitter, Like on Facebook, Tweet and Google+ their page. Okay. Fine. But few follow me back on Twitter, like my Facebook page or have a decent short hashtag. Some have hashtags that take up 10-12 characters. Done so that an author can’t use another hashtag for more RTs. Pffft. Yep. And some promoters want $5 to post on their Facebook pages. They have less followers than I do. HUH? Some promo sites have Alexa ratings lower than eNovel Authors at Work–or none at all.
So, I started getting ornery with site owners… They tell you how fabulous their book promotions. I got a little wiggle in my brain and started looking at the books they tout. The books they often promote have Amazon Best Seller rates drilling holes to China. When I called a site owner on it, she got snarky: “It’s up to the author to write a book that will sell.” No foolin’. By the time I started talking with Jay Lee, I was cranky and wore my snake gun on my hip. I told him straight up what authors needed. He listened. Jay Lee is a good listener. It might be because he’s a House Husband and nannies his kids while his wife is in the great big corporate universe. Notice I capitalized that. So, I told Jay Lee: Indie authors need reviews. We need a way to get them. We cannot get our titles on the best promo sites without them. Amazon browsers just cruise right on past our titles… Savvy readers discount those early five star reviews because most indie authors are stacking those first critical reviews by trading reviews with other authors or beggin’ Aunt Hattie to post a five star review–most of which don’t hold water once stranger reviews start popping up.
I told Jay Lee: Indie authors just need to buy a little corner space on your newsletter to offer our titles to your subscribers for honest reviews. Simple is better. I suggested: Tell subscribers to type: “Review and (title of book) in the subject line on the reply email.” That worked like a charm. The email was forwarded to the author of the book. We took it from there and got our books to the volunteer reviewers.
Indie authors cannot afford NetGalley. $300 – $500 a week to target a book to a specific reading audience of say romance reviewers or thriller reviewers (Ordinary people like you and me). I have a colleague who hired NetGalley for three months for 67 reviews. Fifteen months later the title is sitting on Amazon with less than 110 reviews. The book still has to be promoted–no author can get around that.
Here is NetGalley’s Offer to Authors and Publishers: Dedicated Feed Your Reader eblasts, targeted to specific members (Price dependent on target list and number of titles included; Minimum $500. Our eblasts are extraordinarily successful and our most popular marketing program. Target the community in the way you want—by genre interest, member type… promote one title or many titles.
Reviews don’t make a book visible–they are stepping stones to visibility. So, Jay Lee and I worked out a viable Read & Review program he could offer to his subscribers. Indie Authors pay a small fee to have their titles posted in his newsletter as available to Read & Review. Golly. NetGalley does the same thing. Pop for $500 and NetGalley will post your title in their email blast.
We streamlined it. Authors Amazon gift, send PDF or Mobi files (reader’s choice) to a Choosy Bookworm subscriber who volunteers to Read & Review and post the review on Amazon or Goodreads within three weeks. All reviews must have the No Fail Disclaimer: “I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.” Authors remind the reviewer to add the disclaimer in the message box when we gift the book, or in the subject line if we send Mobi or PDF. You caught that word “honest” didn’t you?
This is in Jay Lee’s guidelines: Choosy will not accept for review any book on which the author requests to have only four and five star reviews posted. An honest review is just that–however many stars a book earns or does not.
You want to know how much this is gonna cost you. Here it is: Introductory fee of $20 paid to Choosy Bookworm via Paypal for the posting in the newsletter. That is the same way NetGalley puts books in front of reviewers. Authors get to say how many reviews they hope their titles will earn. Starts at 20 and goes up to 45. Or, you can tell Jay Lee you will send your book to all subscribers who want to Read and Review your book. Here’s another nut Jay Lee cracked. If the posting doesn’t pull 20 reviews, he will keep posting the title until it does at No Charge. NetGalley doesn’t make that guarantee. If you need more reviews–you gotta fork out more moola to keep posting in Feed Your Reader eblasts.
Here are the stats on the beta test that went out Sunday, the 20th of July. Within two hours of the newsletter hitting subscribers inboxes, Choosy had 103 responders to R&R Sharon Cupp Pennington’s Hoodoo Money, a mystery. Sharon opted to AZ gift 30 responders. We did not want to disappoint the other 73 responders in the beta test. So Choosy offered The Reluctant Hero, a romance, as a reserve. 28 subscribers opted to R&R. It cost Sharon $98 to AZ gift the book to 30 reviewers. After royalties are paid on those sales, Sharon has an out-of-pocket expense of $30. She did not have to pay for the posting as it was a beta test. Of the 28 responders to R&R The Reluctant Hero, 22 claimed their AZ gift books within 48 hours. Sharon and I requested gift card credits from Amazon on those books left unclaimed. Two responder reviews are already up on Hoodoo Money as well as The Reluctant Hero.
eNovel author’s books are the guinea pigs during August as Jay Lee continues to tweak the R&R program. His bread and butter are his subscribers. Authors are reminded to be on their best behavior. While it would be lovely if we earned a few fans for our books–distance is better. Choosy Bookworm encourages that distance from the reviewer as professional and ethical. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but Jay Lee decided if he is gonna take an author’s $$$, he will keep running the post until 20 responders have posted reviews. IMO–that is not entirely feasible. So don’t look for that to continue. Perhaps two follow-up posts would suffice. What is grand is that we have another site on which we may submit our titles for reviews. Jay Lee is forward thinking. We get to post our books on a site that is not author-top heavy. As his subscriber list grows, we have a greater audience for our books and the opportunity for reviews. Bloggers who accept our books for read and review have TBR stacks into the stratosphere. How many times have you raised a blogger/review site only learn submissions are closed until the blogger catches up? Hundreds! That’s how many. I’ve been there.
Lest you start naysaying, this is a pay-for-review program, it is NOT. Author’s pay Choosy Bookworm to post that a title is available for review to his subscribers. Time is money. Jay Lee will touch base with his volunteer subscribers/reviewers after three weeks to remind them to Read and Review, which allows the author to maintain the appropriate distance the the reviewer to maintain his or her sovereignty or anonymity. However, in my view, we let the reader/reviewer decide. Some of Choosy’s reviewers have already been in touch with me via email or Facebook or my website. I welcomed each, said thank you and keep in touch. Some will, some won’t. Their choice.
Jay Lee has the Read and Review submission page up today. FIRST, you must subscribe to Choosy Bookworm. Next tick For Authors. Submit your title for review for September 03, 2014 and beyond. If this doesn’t suit, Big Al, the premier reviewer of indie books posts a list of 340 reviews on the Indie View. Or submit to Amazon and Goodreads TOP 1000 reviewer, Julie Whiteley. Julie also reviews for NetGalley and is eNovel Authors at Work Resident Reviewer. Another Amazon TOP 1000 Reviewer on Amazon US and Amazon UK is Jeannie Zelos.