Three Things I’ve Learned Since Publishing ‘The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages’
Guest blog by David Wogahn*
As some of you know, I had an opportunity to take over publishing of The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages (BRYP) last year and recently published the ninth edition. I thought I’d share with you my top three takeaways since then—key learnings I’ve now incorporated into my own self-publishing business. I hope you find something here you can use in yours.
1. Make a habit of writing book reviews
You didn’t see that coming, did you? It may seem self-serving or obvious, but hear me out. Downsides: it takes time, and it also puts one on the spot, publicly. Yes, you must take a stand. But consider these four upsides:
- We hear all the time that we should blog and “get out there” on social media. It’s a way to build our platform. Writing reviews accomplishes this.
- A review can be posted in multiple places. The one thing most of us lack is time, so creating something once and using it in multiple places is a good time investment. Blog a longer review, post a version or the whole thing on Amazon and Goodreads (or similar), and post excerpts on social media. And don’t forget to email a copy to the author of the book you reviewed. Perhaps your review will be linked to or shared on social media.
- It’s a great way to network. One December Saturday, four years ago, the then current publisher of The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages left me a voice mail. She said she read my book review and addressed all my criticisms for the next edition. Long story short, she invited me to write the BRYP foreword the following year ... and look where we are today.
- You are the media. You’d be surprised how many bloggers in BRYP don’t have much website traffic, or large social media followings, but are still inundated with books to review. Authors are desperate for people to review their book. In fact, I was shocked, frankly, when the Boston Globe contacted me five years ago to review their multimedia ebook.
2. Get reviews before promoting
When launching a self-published book—and this is especially true for first-book authors—focus on getting reviews before promoting your new baby to the broader public. Certainly, before spending money to buy ads. I sometimes compare the experience of evaluating a book with no reviews to walking into an empty restaurant. I now believe that book launches for authors with no or very small platforms should be limited to our personal networks until we build up our book’s reviews.
Read my guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog where I go into detail about why and how to do this.
3. Quality is underrated
Many of you are editors, and it is unthinkable for you to consider publishing a poorly edited book. It’s also important that this attention to quality extends to other production steps, such as the cover, design, layout, the functionality of ebooks, and metadata.
There is a popular book out now about writing where the author openly questions the value of a final edit. He found skipping this didn’t seem to hurt sales, plus he saved money and got the book published faster. He says worst case, pick a new pen name and give it another go.
Part of me sees the logic, but I still find it difficult to swallow. You need to ask yourself, or your client, What is your goal? I imagine most of us believe quality is critical. I can tell you that quality is important to the 250 reviewers in BRYP. In fact, each year there are popular bloggers who get fed up with investing their time to read poorly edited self-published books and drop out of the directory. Overall quality is also a key consideration for paid reviewers.
Reviewers look for a reason to say no. There are just too many books for them to choose from. Side story: this year’s directory was expertly edited by SD/PEN’s own Katie Barry. However, I asked her not to edit the “From the reviewer” bios submitted by the 200 book bloggers, many in slapdash fashion. And guess what? Here is what one reviewer wrote: “There were some editing issues ...” (I plan to copyedit the bios in the next edition or drop them altogether.)
Works for you?
The good news is that our little corner of the publishing world seems to be coming into its own. As opportunities expand, we need to be prepared.
- Writing reviews brings us into contact with other authors and brings awareness to us as professionals.
- We can’t do it all. So, taking time to lay a foundation (reviews) before rushing pell-mell to “sell a million copies” is good for the book, and our wallet.
- As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” We are known by the quality of the work we produce.
Whatever your publishing pursuits may be, I wish you luck in 2018!
David Wogahn is the publisher of The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages, published annually since 2009, and the president of AuthorImprints.com. He is also the author of Register Your Book and a Lynda.com publishing course, and a past instructor for the Independent Book Publishers Association’s Publishing University. You can connect with David at DavidWogahn.com.
* We’ve invited recent SD/PEN program presenter David Wogahn of AuthorImprints.com to share some insights from his wealth of publishing experience.