Guest Post: Reviews: Life or death for books! by Zoë Markham
I am stoked to welcome the superb YA author, Zoë Markham, to the blog today. I am a huge fan of Zoë’s and will happily lead the fan club for her horror inspired books. She has written this awesome post on how important reviews are, especially to fledgling authors such as herself. If you do take the time to drop a review of books you have read onto Amazon, it is such a huge help to authors, Zoë explains more, and for fellow bloggers don’t miss the opportunity to grab an ARC of her latest book further down the post!
You can find my review of Zoë’s first novel here, and my review of Her second novel will be out on Tuesday next week as part of her next blog tour!
I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did!
At the end of this month it’ll be a year since my first novel, Under My Skin, was published. Balancing work and family life with writing hasn’t got any easier. You see, I never did get that film deal, or that 12-book contract with my dream publisher (I’m looking at you, Hodderscape!) I didn’t get to chuck in the day job, in fact I didn’t even get to cut back my hours! There was no exotic holiday when the first royalty cheque arrived – in all honesty, full disclosure here – we just about managed a Chinese takeaway. Not so much a royalty cheque as a reality check!
What this year has done though, is teach me a HUGE amount about how publishing works. I’ve learned that while writing is hard, and editing is harder, nothing is as tough as promotion. Honestly, even just the word sends shivers down my spine. Promotion.
Like a lot of writers, I’m a complete introvert. Take me out from behind the computer screen and I’m cripplingly shy. Even my self-doubts have doubts. And there I was, daft enough to think that being published by a relatively well-known name would mean I wouldn’t have to self-promote. I know, I know – I’m an idiot! But it honestly was a shock to find that, after years of sitting in a dark room after-hours writing a novel, I now had to somehow get out there and actively try to persuade people to read it.
But how?! I’m lucky enough to be blessed with friendly libraries and bookshops on my doorstep who I’m actually comfortable talking to (these are My People), but because Under My Skin is eBook only there was only so much they could do to help.
I was panicking, and close to just giving up on the whole idea of writing altogether. Because how do you get people to read your stuff when you’re just one tiny, unknown voice in the void, and everyone’s TBR piles are teetering under the weight of incredible titles and big names?
Cue Book Bloggers. Or as I now think of them, the life-saving bookish superheroes of cyberspace.
When Under My Skin first came out it got a couple of promo Tweets from the publisher, and had a week or so on Netgalley, which fired up some interest; but it wasn’t until a fellow writer pointed me in the direction of a blog tour host that things started to pick up for Chloe and Co. After a few emails had been exchanged, and an anxious wait to see if any bloggers would even be interested in picking it up for review (see crippling self-doubt) had been sweated through, it was official: Under My Skin was going on Tour!
Finally, my book started rack up some reviews, and gain some traction, and a little spark ignited while the tour was doing the rounds. I got DMs from people asking me about the next book, I got angry emails from people who were convinced that Danny couldn’t possibly have…Well, spoiler alert, but it was amazing! Bloggers got people not only reading the book, but also talking about it, and even throwing a few conspiracy theories around, and it was The Best Thing ever. It was the first time that being published actually felt ‘real’. This is probably the perfect point to give a shout out to Neverland Blog Tours – who saved my sanity!
And it wasn’t just the exposure and the reviews, either; the whole tour experience was such a huge positive because I got to make some new friends and discovered some fantastic blogs which are now my go-to when it comes to looking for new authors to try. It’s like suddenly finding yourself part of the world’s biggest, most diverse book club. And you don’t even have to leave the house!
Reviews are EVERYTHING when it comes to getting your book off the ground. And I think probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is that it’s not just the stars that are important, it’s the volume of reviews you’re able to generate. It sort of goes against everything everyone always tells you, but quantity is more important than quality here, in some respects. The more reviews you can pull in on Amazon, the more opportunities your publisher will be offered to promote your title. You need to get numbers under your belt. And this isn’t easy to do. Just like reviewing isn’t easy, that’s the thing; it’s time-consuming, often thankless, and a real labour of love.
So how do you earn that love when you’re a debut author competing with everyone else under the sun?
It’s hard. Really hard. And I’m a long way off having all the answers. My second novel, White Lies, currently only has only eight reviews up on Amazon, so it’s pretty clear that I’m still an ‘uber-noob’ with a long way to go. But I’ve got a tour coming up next week (Thank you, Neverland!) and Abby and Archie are slowly getting some love on Goodreads, so I’m also a long way from giving up and feeling as bad as I did the first time around. Under My Skin has twenty-one reviews on Amazon, and is currently in the Review Den over at Xpresso Book Tours in the hopes of bringing in some more. Amazon reviews are key, and that’s the area I know that I need to work on.
I’m a long way from cracking any kind of success, but I do have two more novels coming out this year, and I know for sure that without book bloggers I would never have got anywhere near this far. Knowing there’s a community of readers out there who love and champion books with so much enthusiasm, is – well, honestly, I know it sounds cheesy – but it’s totally what makes all the anguish and the doubt and the sleepless nights worthwhile.
The purpose of my ramblings here, I think (it’s never easy to tell!) is basically that I just wanted to send out a colossal Thank You! To everyone who takes the time to read and review – be it positive or negative – it genuinely doesn’t matter because honesty always has to be key. Your time and energy are massively appreciated, and your reviews let publishers know our books are being read, they kick start the algorithms that can potentially give us a shot at something more, and – most importantly of all – they let us know that we’re not just pouring our hearts and souls out into the cold, empty darkness! We’d be lost without you.
In a nutshell, Book Bloggers: