How to Handle Book Bigotry
An excerpt from Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career.
I thought I would share an excerpt from the newest book in my multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books titled How to Get Great Reviews Frugally and Ethically with Melinda’s readers. It was launched in a special BookBaby.com promotion and it is estimated that it was read by at least 20,000 authors, which makes me practically ecstatic that I can help that many in the its first months as an e-book. It is now available as a paperback, too.
I believe—know—that attitudes toward self- and indie-publishers have become more accepted over the decades. When my first novel was published, any book published by anything other than university presses and New York’s Big Five were derisively called “vanity publishers.” Still, book bigotry or its near cousins hasn’t disappeared entirely.
That sounds discouraging, but it’s a reality. Some—including reviewers—find it convenient to let the name of a press help vet their final choices among hundreds of thousands of books available to them these days. Using the name of a respected press is an easy—though misguided—way to do that.
Brooke Warner, the author of Green Light Your Books and board member of IBPA (Independent Book Publishers of America) says, “I advise authors with [print-on-demand books] never to specify how their books were printed [when they are] talking to book buyers, event hosts, booksellers, conference organizers or librarians . . . .”
Notice that Warner is not suggesting you fib about how the book is published. It seems she is suggesting we just omit that piece of information. But in some cases you can bravely face down book bigotry. That means owning up to however your book is published. My coauthor of the Celebration Series of Chapbooks Magdalena Ball and I list our poetry chapbooks (booklets) in the series as “proudly self-published in the time-honored tradition of poets since before Gutenberg invented the press.”
Honesty is essential. Reviewers and other contacts are not naïve. They know a digitally printed book, micro press, indie publisher or any number of entities now in the publishing business when they see it. But, as writers, we know that words and the way we use them are powerful and we should be willing to use the power to the best of our ability within the boundaries required by ethics.
It is your job—no matter who printed your books—to convince reviewers (and, yes, readers!) that your book is the one they want to spend time with. That your book has value that particular reader or reviewer can use, wants, or desperately needs. We do that:
§ By publishing or having someone else publish a professional, well edited book. Read more on how to do that in my multi award-winning The Frugal Editor and find more books that will help you with the journey in the Index of that book.
§ By building—and continuing to build—a platform that is respected by others in the publishing industry. (Read more on that in The Frugal Book Promoter).
§ By approaching reviewers (and other gatekeepers) with whom you have built a relationship and/or those you have researched so you are confident that they will have an interest in your genre. That requires lots of reading and research so you won’t waste sending a book to someone with no clout or who isn’t actually a reviewer. You’ll want to read How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career to learn more on getting and managing those reviews successfully.
Note: By being familiar with the reviewer or other contact and the media she writes for, you limit the chances your book or the content within will be misused. For more on that see the chapter on “Why Book Reviews Aren’t What You Think They Are” in How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.
You, the author of your book, are the one who is so passionate about it you will not be daunted by the review-garnering task. Persistence is the key. But here’s The Secret to getting around this to-tell-or-not-to-tell conundrum:
Pretend you are a florist and must put the best blooms in your book bouquet forward. You discard the wilted ones, or at least place them behind the more exquisite blossoms in your inventory.
· So, you shout it out when it’s your advantage to tell and you do it with pride.
· When you think your bloom will appear slightly wilted to your contact, you disguise it with the name of a professional publishing company you set up for your own books.
· And when all else fails, you tactfully omit that information. You won’t fool anyone who finds this information super important, but there is no rule that you must flaunt it, either.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor which won awards from USA Book News. Other awards include Readers’ Views Literary Award, the top marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. And now, ta da! The third: How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.