Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why You're Not Getting Reviewed

I'm grateful for the many Smashwords authors sending in review requests, but grateful only up to a point. Here's some insight into how I pick and choose, and the guidelines I set for guest reviewers. Understand, the point of doing this blog is to help writers who work hard to produce the best work they can and do their own marketing to establish reputations as seriously committed authors. I am working through quite a pile of requests, and do so gladly. But I don't notify those writers I won't be reviewing, I don't have time.

If I Google your name, and less than half a page comes up with links that are actually about you, that's a bad sign. It means you are not doing your homework. Where's your website? Where's your blog? Where's your books? You need to go read Mark Coker's Marketing Guide and go to and come back to me next year.

If you have more than three grammatical errors in the first three pages, that's a bad sign. It means you don't attend a writers group to get feedback from other writers. It means you don't have one friend literate enough to line edit for you. Basically it says to your readers, and reviewers, here's my first draft.

If you use the word 'dastardly' and you're not trying to be funny, that's bad. That means the narrator you are imitating, P.G. Wodehouse or Arthur Conan Doyle or whoever, has too much influence. You need to find your own voice, and use it consistently. In fact, if you have lots of adjectives that are inaccurate and adverbs modifying every bit of trivial action ("He laughed grimly"), I'm not the only one you are turning off.

If your story description has to do with loins or masturbation or spanking, there are plenty of other blogs for this genre. I'm not reviewing stroke books. Lusting for MILFs is what teenagers do on the internet, but it's not what they'll be doing here. Smashwords is overrun with 50-page hot flashes, and they probably all sell better than me. But I'm not interested.

If you have bad reviews somewhere else, like at, I'll find them. I track these things down. Granted, not everybody will give you a good review. And lots of great books, like The Recognitions, got terrible reviews when they first came out. But if the reviewer says (and this is a true story) that you classify your book as a YA genre title but you have fifteen year old characters engaging in frequent graphic casual sex, I'll pass. Not only that, I'll question your motives for doing such a thing.

If your simple love story is 600 pages long, forget it. I'll be posting a list of other book blogs soon, and someone out there is a kindred spirit. But I'm not. A 600 page eBook gives me a headache just thinking about it. If your book involves some obsession of yours that others don't seem to understand, I won't understand it either.

So read this and decide if you are ready or not. There's no shame in stepping back and doing edit work. That's the great thing about eBooks. You can upload your improved text in less than an hour, and tell people you've done so. And the marketing is something you need to do anyway. Not doing it reflects negatively on your commitment. Don't give me that 'I'm a writer, not a salesman' crap. If you choose to bypass traditional publishing, you still need to offer readers the best product you can produce. And when that product is examined, you need to take the feedback and learn from it.

Keep sending the requests. I'll be getting caught up on my email responses, and look forward to working with you.

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