21. August 2008 · Comments Off on Further Adventures in Book Publishing · Categories: Domestic, General, Literary Good Stuff, That's Entertainment!, Working In A Salt Mine..., World

The adventure continues, with final approval of the text and cover for Book 2 of Adeslverein, (AKA The Civil War Years). Two down and one to go! Mike at Strider Nolan (the publisher of record) is editing the final volume. When that is done, all I need do is review it, and the final cover… wait for the printed version to come in the mail, and there we are… nothing much to do until December, except continue scrounging for reviews. This time around, because I have delayed final release of all three volumes until December, I can appeal for reviews from print venues which prefer to do reviews beforehand. As I discovered last year with “Truckee” it takes anywhere from a month to six months to squeeze a review out of some venues. Ideally, the reviews appear around about the time that the books will be available. It’s still very much a crap-shoot, though. A couple of months ago, another IAG member who was a subsidy publisher, pointed out that getting one single review for every four review copies sent out was a pretty good return on the investment.

I was startled to find that out, actually. I’ve been doing reviews for a while, for Blogger News. My thought was, if I have the book in hand, and I have asked for it… well, then I am pretty well committed to doing the review. I only ask for books that I am semi-interested in reading anyway, so it’s not like this is an insurmountable chore. It does appear that there are all sorts of scope for interestingly shadowy dealings in the review gig. The first of them is that the main print review producers – the Mt. Everests of the literary scene, like the New York Times Book Review- receive simply tons of free review copies of books every week. There is only space for a tiny fraction of them to be read and reviewed, so the excess are mostly donated to various worthy causes. I am given to understand that most of the other reputable reviewers do likewise. For a writer, sending out review copies is a gamble anyway. Not quite up there with playing the lottery, but pretty darned close. You have to put the book out there, one way or another. Many of the mainstream literary review publications don’t do publish-on-demand books (the snotty SOB’s!) so those of us who have done small press or independently published books have to go to the second tier review sites, of which there are any number, in response to demand. Some of these sites and reviewers are reputable and discriminating; those are the ones that are as exacting in their requirements as any of the mainline published reviewers. Some are not; but all of them depend on volunteer reviewers, even if it is only a review as basic as one posted on Amazon.com. This is one of them – for which I do reviews, also.

By volunteer, I mean that like me – they usually like books and reading. Getting sent any number of freshly-minted books that you didn’t pay for is still a bit of a tiny thrill to me and I would presume for many of the other volunteers. Strictly speaking, that is how we are paid – with a free copy of a book. After we post the review, we can do whatever we like with it; put it on our own shelves, donate to a local library, school or hospital, trot down to Half-Price Books, put it on E-bay, whatever. From a discussion in the IAG forum last week, it does appear that a certain degree of corruption as tiptoed into this arrangement. That is, reviewers trolling in the pools of small-press and POD authors, offering reviews and requesting book copies… and then either producing a very cursory review with a five-star rating, such as might be dashed off by reading the back cover or the accompanying publicity materials, and then offering the book for sale on E-bay or some such. Sometimes a review copy is even offered in the “used” section of the Amazon listing, in competition with a new version! Or even worse, no review at all. This has some of the IAG members fit to be tied; not only does the cost of review copies comes out of our pocket, but every sale of a new copy of our book is precious, as our sales stats inch ever higher. Some of us are considering stamping “review copy” in a couple of places in the interior margins, but for now, naming and shaming those particular review sites and reviewers is enough. In the meantime, treat short, glowing but 5-star reviews with extreme suspicion. Especially if the reviewer does a lot of reviews; I’m doing good if I can read half a dozen books in a month and pound out 300-plus words, but then I have a life, two jobs and another book to finish.

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