That I got anyone to agree to review my first novel is, I think, a bit of a miracle. Let’s look at how I handicapped myself:
- I published my novel without any advance readers having reviewed it. I had some beta readers read it, but I didn’t ask them to write reviews. Not having any existing reviews made it a tougher sell for a potential reviewer, because it’s almost entirely an unknown quantity. Book reviewers are very, very busy, and want immediate, easy-to-digest information on a book before they make a decision to read it. Not having a single review made my book a much more difficult sell.
- This was my first book written under my own name. My actual first book, The Ultimate Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse, was written under a pseudonym: F. Kim O’Neill. So in many respects, not only was my novel an unknown quantity, I myself am an unknown quantity. For reasons that escape me now, I failed to inform potential reviewers in my review request letters that I’d written that previous book. Luckily, it was a mistake I only had to make once.
- The Blessed Man and the Witch straddles genres and is more difficult to categorize than straight-up Paranormal Romance, Thriller, or even Horror. In fact, there’s little romance in it at all, though it includes a character semi/sort of falling in love as well as a married couple having intimacy problems. It’s also geared toward adults. It’s not a YA thriller. It doesn’t have vampires, werewolves, winged angels, or horned demons. Without those more familiar tropes, fans of the Paranormal genre will be more challenged. This is not to denigrate Paranormal thrillers in any way, shape, or form: I have absolutely no problem with people liking what they like. I just hope they’ll like my stuff, too.
- My book is almost 140,000 words. It is a long book. A very long book. I didn’t set out to write one that long, but that’s how many words it took to write it. The freedom of being self-published includes the freedom of telling the story you want to tell the way you want to tell it. Many authors instead write shorter novels, even novellas, and are very successful at it. Hugh Howey comes to mind. Who wants to read a massive first novel effort from someone they’ve never heard of?
- I looked carefully at every review site I sent requests to, read some of their previously-written book reviews, and followed their review request instructions to the letter. Some of them wanted cover images emailed to them as well as the blurb. Others had a specific order in which they’d like the book information provided . Yet others had web forms. A book review is very much a favor for a beginning author, so it’s a smart thing for you to make the reviewer’s decision-making process as easy as possible.
- I was polite and professional in my review request letter. Please and thank you go a long way, which is a lesson I teach my little boy every day. Book reviewers are always strapped for time, so it’s nice to acknowledge that in your letter. I suspect that most of them would rather be reading and reviewing books than reading review request letters.
- I wrote a blurb that doesn’t attempt to encapsulate the entire novel in a couple of paragraphs, but instead tells the reader what to expect. Over the course of time, it’s possible, even likely that I’ll change the blurb, but for now, it must have helped. 10 out of 85 doesn’t seem like a lot, but in marketing terms, 12% is pretty good. The difficulty with my book is that it involves multiple characters, each with his or her own story arc, with everything converging at the end. To describe that, I looked at blurbs from book series written by Peter F. Hamilton, my favorite science fiction author, and emulated their formula. If you want to be successful, sometimes you have to model success.
- My book is well-written, and I made a special effort to engage and interest the reader in the novel’s earliest lines. That helps. Now that you’ve gotten a reviewer interested in the title, genre, and blurb of your novel, the last thing you want to do is put him or her off with a boring first chapter.