Should you pay for book reviews

If you’re about to publish your first book, you may not have thought about paying for reviews. I paid for my first review on Reedsy Discovery which went rather well, but I had no intention of regularly paying for reviews.

Over the course of 2020 I was contacted by reviewers that were eager to review my book, but they wanted to be paid (fee + book price). I tried a couple, which led to more reviewers contacting me. I was swayed and agreed to pay for about a handful. You might think it sounds like a scam (which it most of the time is) but I fell into the trap of laziness. It’s easy to pay for someone to review your book. It’s easy to just throw money out and then think this will somehow lead to sales. They all promise you lots of sales and having no prior experience, I gave it a try.

But I noticed that some reviews contained significant misrepresentation of the plot line, mistakes you would not make if you had read the book. I also noticed that some reviewers only posted their reviews on one platform, but not on others even though we had agreed on it. Some promised a review by a certain date, and a month later it was still not done.

*So to all new authors, self-published authors or soon-to-be self-published authors; be very very careful when someone asks you to pay them to review your book. Be very selective and if you do still choose to pay, find a reviewer you trust, or do it through a reputable middle-man (like Reedsy for example).*

Some paid reviewers I’ve worked with are really great, but those have almost exclusively been contacted by myself, not the other way around. I have decided to no longer pay for book reviews. Even if it costs me more time to find reviewers because I have to actively seek them out rather than waiting to be contacted by them, I prefer providing a free copy to someone who really likes to review books and will do so honestly.

Important side note on ratings: Handing out free copies does not guarantee or entitle you to a positive review. You need reviews for your book to sell it, and the reviewer needs to be impartial if he/she wants to continue reviewing books. You can build great relationships with reviewers (and therefore your audience), especially if you intend on publishing more than one book. Long-lasting co-operation is not built on threats or demands (from either side). And feedback on your work, even negative feedback, can always be constructive.

What is your experience with paid reviews?

Using your emotions to write

*ebook promotion reminder!* My ebook When Colour Became Grey will be available FOR FREE to download from Thursday 26th November 8am UK time // 9am CET until Saturday 28th November 7.59am UK time // 8.59am CET. Get ready to download in just a few days! 🙂

Whatever you’re feeling, you can use your emotions to write and let yourself be inspired by them. Depending on what genre you write, there will be emotions communicated in your writing. If your book is a horror story, the emotions may be mostly sinister, but there are still a multitude of emotions you can explore within that dark setting.

Sometimes writing is used to escape your current life situation. But what if your feelings are just too present? What if you cannot dissociate from them? As they say, if you cannot beat them, join them. In that sense, if you are having trouble connecting to your book and characters, then focus on parts of the book that are similar emotionally to your current state of mind.

Right now, I’m in lockdown, it’s cold and dark outside. I’m feeling depressed, lonely, annoyed, restless, angry. So when I write I will focus on parts of the book that are centered around betrayal, heartbreak, loneliness and despair. It will be harder for me to describe a summer wedding right now, unless I can completely disconnect from my current surrounding. And while I often can disconnect, sometimes the things in my personal life are just too present. But this doesn’t mean you cannot utilize what you feel. That way you’re not limited to writing only when you’re in a particular state of mind that fits the plot line.

What are you currently feeling? How is your writing going this winter season?

[Disclaimer: I’m working on the sequel of When Colour Became Grey, but any scenes described in this blog are always just examples. There are no spoilers in my description above. 😉 ]

How to find time to write

*ebook promotion reminder!* My ebook When Colour Became Grey will be available FOR FREE to download from Thursday 26th November 8am UK time // 9am CET until Saturday 28th November 7.59am UK time // 8.59am CET. Remember to mark your calendars and tell your friends & family!

There is a difference between finding the time to write, and finding the motivation to write. Or is there?

We all have 24 hours in the day. No more and no less. Look at your average day and quantify how much time you actually spend indulging. Look at your average weekend, your work week, your month, and have a rough idea of how much time you spend relaxing, watching tv, scrolling on your phone, talking on the phone with friends/family, going out to socialize [pre-lockdown obviously…], etc. There is now a focus on how much time we spend endlessly scrolling through feeds without really doing anything productive. And I’m guilty of it too. I often catch myself doing something completely mindlessly and wasting my time doodling around.

You will realize you have lots of time, but you do other things. If you really want to dedicate time to your craft, be it writing, or building a boat, or whatever it may be, you have to compromise and choose to sit down and work on your craft instead of doing something else.

Look into if you can save time by organizing yourself. Don’t go shopping and wander through the aisles looking for inspiration for dinner. Have a plan, have a shopping list, make it your goal to reduce your time. Look at utilizing the time that is basically “lost” in your daily life, like commuting/driving while doing errands. Maybe you can’t write when you’re standing in a crowded train, but you can read. You can read books in your genre, or read educational books on whatever it is you want to learn or improve in. If you’re in a car, there are audible books, podcasts and many more tools to not let that time go to waste.

The answer to both finding the time to write, and finding the motivation to write, is the same (in my opinion). Because the “magic” trick is to simply take the decision to carve that time out of your daily or weekly time and sit down and do it. How do you motivate yourself to write? Sit down and don’t let yourself get distracted and remind yourself what your goal is. Do you want to write a book? Master a new skill? Learn a new language? Then take it one day at a time and work on it little by little. And keep at it.

Lockdown Repeat – let’s get creative

*ebook promotion announcement!* My ebook When Colour Became Grey will be available FOR FREE to download from Thursday 26th November 8am UK time // 9am CET until Saturday 28th November 7.59am UK time // 8.59am CET. Tell your friends, mark your calendars and get ready to download! 🙂

We’re now in a second lockdown, and I’m remembering my blog post about the first lockdown and my creative goals. This lockdown isn’t as strict as the first one, and not as long (for now) as the first one, but this time it’s a different season. It’s cold and often rainy outside, so the desire to go outside is certainly not as strong as during the first lockdown. So I would like to try to be more creative this time around. After all, might as well use this time to do something productive (if I can…).

As you can see from the first paragraph, I’m planning an ebook promotion. This will take up a fair bit of time planning and organizing over the next few weeks. I hope to still be able to work on the sequel to When Colour Became Grey in between work and the ebook promotion. In any case, we’re approaching Christmas and this time of the year I feel more creative. You’re indoors, with a cup of tea or coco, curled up on the sofa, a candle or two shimmering on the table. Add to that a bit of calm background music and you’re golden. It doesn’t get much cozier than that! And winter is just beginning, the darkness and long rainy days will continue until March usually so I hope to advance in the sequel even after the second lockdown is lifted.

There is also something about it being cold and wet outside, that creates this atmosphere of mystery and wonder. You can look outside and imagine the darkness weighing on your character as he/she hurries out of danger and into the safety of a tavern. Maybe there’s a sword fight in the rain, or a magic ritual performed that goes wrong…

What are you planning during this lockdown? Do you also have a creative goal?

Why I wrote under my own name (and not a pen name)

First of all, I’m very sorry for this late post. I aim to post every week but I’ve been stuck on writer’s block for about a month (and I was distracted by other things so I couldn’t really focus on writing) and I managed to write again last week and I couldn’t tear myself away from writing the sequel of When Colour Became Grey.

So, why did I write under my real name and not a pen name?

I had initially intended to write under a pen name because I didn’t want to be famous in any way, or have people project their opinion of me onto my book. I wanted the book to stand on its own.

I couldn’t come up with a pen name that I liked and when I read other authors’ opinions as to why they chose to write under their real name or pen names, I realized I was mostly wanting to write under a pen name to “run away” from my childhood bullies. And that was a stupid reason in my mind [this is not to say it’s a stupid idea to escape your bullies]. I didn’t want them to decide how I lived my life so I published under my real name. As for the fame, think about how many authors you know by name. The majority of people know a handful. Chances are the public won’t know your name, much less your face. So I’m rolling the dice on this one.

However, I decided to follow other female authors and initial my first names so my book wouldn’t be disregarded based on bias around author gender. Some prefer to write under their real full name and are hugely successful. But I didn’t feel this was right for me.

And if you’re not sure about writing under your real name or a pen name, then I suggest you ask yourself why you are thinking about writing under a pen name (or your real name). Weigh the pros and cons of both and take the decision that makes you most comfortable. I think it’s a very personal decision and there is no one-model-fits-all. It doesn’t mean you need to publish all your work under that name, but it’s part of your author identity. If you are using a pen name, take the time to find a pen name you really like. I would argue this is more important than the title of your book. You can write many books under one author name, but I haven’t heard of many authors publishing under a new name every time they write a book (but maybe that’s actually very common and working, which is why I haven’t noticed this!)

Another thing to consider is marketing; if you build your network ahead of publishing you need to think about what name you’re using to build a following. It will be harder to use one name for marketing and promotion, and then switch to another name when you publish. This is also to consider if you decide to change your publishing name, or publish under a different name. You may have to recreate a following for that “new” author.

Setting realistic goals

It can be frustrating to write a book. When I started writing I used to constantly compare myself to the big names and be annoyed I wasn’t writing at their level. Or the plot is just not going in the direction you had anticipated. Or your characters are so annoying and you can’t make them likable in your story, but you need them for the plot development.

First of all, don’t put yourself under so much pressure. You should compare yourself to the great names in your craft, but do it with the outlook to learn from them, understand their way of working and making it your own.

[DO NOT COPY other people’s work and slap your name on it. A copy of something is generally a shitty version of the original one and you deserve to show your own talent. And if you get caught you will forever be a fraud, and possibly have to pay huge indemnities, etc. Don’t do it, it’s not worth it.]

And if this is your first book, then make it the best it can be, but don’t be saddened that it’s not immediately a bestseller. Not only does it take time to sell books, but it also takes practice to be the best in the field.

Don’t pressure yourself to finish your project in a given time frame, especially if you’re self-publishing. Time frames are fluid and you cannot always ‘force’ the imagination out onto a page. To take a famous example, George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished the last two books for his ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ series and has repeatedly missed deadlines. Try to have a schedule of when you’re working on your book, but don’t arbitrarily decide on June 16th it has to be finished, potentially releasing it with errors or a flimsy conclusion because you didn’t have time to finish it properly. Your name is on that work so make sure it’s the best version it can be.

This brings me to my last point; don’t set high expectations and then be disappointed and hate yourself when you don’t meet them. Don’t pretend you’ll write 20 hours a week when you can realistically only manage 5 hours. Then aim for 6 or 7 hours and be happy even if you only managed 5 hours. There is a difference between motivating yourself to sit down and do the work, and setting yourself up for failure by setting the bar way too high. And note that I said ‘way too high’. It’s healthy to set the bar a bit higher and encourage yourself to improve, but if you set it too high and you’re constantly disappointed you may give up on your craft altogether, which is also not the goal.

Should I publish my book in ebook or paperback format?

While ebook sales are increasing, and there are interesting marketing strategies you can pursue with ebook, I would publish in both formats.

Some people will still prefer a paperback format to an ebook. However, if it’s a question of publishing one or the other, then stick to ebook. If you publish your ebook on Amazon for example you can enroll your ebook in Kindle Unlimited, which can be a marketing tool to get more readers. If you simply publish on paperback format, I found the marketing options more limited (I’m speaking as a self-publisher). The price of a paperback is also higher than an ebook so it’s generally easier to convert new buyers to a lower price than a higher one. You can run offers of free promotions for your ebook, but if you do that for a print book you will have to carry more costs (not only marketing costs, but also printing and shipping costs!).

However, there is something very satisfying about holding your printed book in your hands. And when launching your book, most of the people you know will want to buy a paperback version so you can sign it, at least that was my experience. It also gives potential readers the choice of format. They may buy the ebook first, but they may like it so much that they will buy a paperback version just to have at home and display.

It may cost you a bit more in upfront costs to get a paperback done (you may need higher resolution on your book cover and you need to have a back cover as well as an ISBN number), but it’s worth it in my opinion.

You could also split the launches and do an ebook only launch first, and then a paperback one, which can help you get a bit of momentum going.

When deciding all of this however, you need to think of your target audience. Who is the book directed to? Young Adult? 18+? What is your book about? Is it a horror story or a self-help book? Do some research on your target audience, and check out the competition. You don’t have to do like the competition, but I advise you to at least be aware of the market you’re entering and have a vague idea of what your competition is doing.

Download my ebook for free!

*Limited offer*

To those that already follow me, I have just launched an Easter promotion! My ebook When Colour Became Grey is now available *for free* across all Amazon territories! This is a limited offer that is active from today until Monday 13th April at 7.59am UK time // 8.59am CET time // 11.59pm PDT time.

Head over to Amazon and download it before this offer expires!

PS: the ebook is also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, meaning if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free.

Happy reading!