Indie Irony

By Evangeline Jennings

As you may have noticed, we recently published our first book. Let’s say there’s been a learning curve.

One of the most important things you need to do when you publish a book is get that information out there beyond your doting family and friends. One of the best ways to do that is via book reviewers.

Here are some stats on my own limited pursuit of book blogger reviewers – as opposed to readers who review from time to time on Amazon and Goodreads.

I sent out thirty initial requests, targeted to web sites and reviewers who I felt would enjoy our genre and our book. (I have approached a handful of others since)

Of those initial thirty, I had nine positive responses.

One magazine I love, Bitch, told me they were sorry but weren’t reviewing fiction. Which was not entirely true and seemed a shame as they completely missed the point about our book and collective. But it still puts them way about Lip Magazine who didn’t have the decency to reply. Apparently sisters are doing for themselves.

Of the nine positive responses requesting a review copy:

  • Three have written and published reviews.
  • One conducted and posted an interview with all four girls.
  • One invited us to contribute to a podcast and has a review pending
  • One has a review pending and is going to be interviewing us shortly.
  • Three have done nothing at all. Which is fair enough. Time is short and life is busy, and maybe they hated the book.

Lessons learned? It’s hard to get your book reviewed and impossible to run any kind of coordinated campaign until you are kinda famous.

One site I approached was called Indie Reader. They came back with a classic piece of on-selling.

Thx for your submission. We’ll let you know if we need more info and if and when a review is posted.

In the meantime, you might be interested in entering the 2014 “IndieReader Discovery Awards”  (IRDAs), where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference. Your sign-up includes a guaranteed book review from one of IR’s professional reviewers (right now, the only way an author can get a review is for IR to select their book from among the many they receive every week) …

So I can enter their contest, which ends in March 2014, and guarantee my book a review all for the low low price of $150. Otherwise I should probably fuck off and die. I passed and made a note never to approach them again.

Today I received the following email from Indie Reader


We hear you. You’re tired of waiting and you want a guaranteed book review. So based on the number of books that we receive and don’t have time to review, IndieReader has decided to begin charging $100 per book review (you can sign up here…

Reviews will be at least 300 words and will receive a rating from zero to five stars. Please note that IR does not guarantee a positive review.

In addition to IndieReader, reviews will be posted on Amazon and iDreamBooks, a discoverability site that aggregates professional book reviews (think Rotten Tomatoes). IndieReader curates a list of self-published book reviews for idreambooks and joins reviewed book lists from The New York Times and NPR. A positive review from IndieReader could also mean further exposure via IR’s publishing partners, USA Today and The Huffington Post.

As previously suggested, you also might be interested in entering the 2014 “IndieReader Discovery Awards” (IRDAs), where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference, which also comes with a review.

We are accepting sign-ups for 2014, with an early bird discount of 20% (enter the code 20offreg when prompted).You can find more info about the IRDAs here… .

Please let me know if you have any questions.

At this point, we need to talk about Indie. I’ve written about it at length elsewhere, so I will summarize. Indie is a state of mind. Like Newport. And there is nothing remotely Indie about charging a struggling hopeful $100 to write a 300 word review while boasting of your commercial tie-ins with USA Today and the Huffington Post. Let alone trying to wrap yourself in a blanket marked NPR.

Pissed off, I took a leaf out of my favourite books and investigated.

Here is some stuff I found.

An article posted on Indie Reader by a writer called Rachel Thompson

Why Paying For Bogus Reviews Makes You An Idiot

In which Rachel takes the high ground, castigates people who buy reviews, and advertises the services she considers value for money. She also states that: I myself have NEVER paid for a single review. Ever. And I won’t.

Since she’s a mate of Indie Reader, I imagine she’ll get hers for free in the future. I also suspect said article will soon disappear or undergo revision.

A puff piece on the Huffington Post for an Indie Reader Kickstarter

In which the Indie Reader positions itself as the champion of the self-published author.

I’ve worked with self-published authors since I launched IndieReader back in 2007. And while in that time they’ve come a very long way, one thing that has not changed is the difficulty in finding outlets to get legit reviews.

And makes a bid for gatekeeper status.

Sadly the Kickstarter failed miserable, despite the support of Rachel Thompson – see the comments on the Huffington piece.

Without running off and foaming at the mouth, this is my position.

People who review books or records or movies or whatever, have no business making money directly from the creative talent. Their reviewer’s role is to communicate an unbiased opinion to an audience who can trust them. The moment money changes hands, the system is irretrievably broken and there can and should be no trust.

Like Rachel Thompson, I will never pay for a review. Because it’s fucking bullshit.

I am a little more sophisticated than I may appear. I’ve played this game from both sides. I understand that record companies and publishers have been bribing reviewers and publications for decades, via gifts, favours, lunches, trips, and expensive backpage advertisements. See also famous authors in a circle blurb.

But what Indie Reader – and for all I know, plenty of other websites – is demanding is ridiculous, ethic-free, and entirely vomit worthy. It’s also excluding the very people they claim to care about – the struggling, self-published author who doesn’t have five beans to count, let alone rub together.

I could write about a million words on this – no, really – but what’s the point? You either understand why this business model is deplorable or you’re an idiot.

Having discussed with this with a handful of people today, I think we might try to do at least a little something about it.

More later.


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