Our first interviewee is M.R. Merrick, self-published author of The Protector Series.
First, shed some light on the conditions that prompted you to self-publish your novel. Did you try to go through a publishing house? How long did it take for you to publish?
I never tried to submit directly to a publisher, but I did – very briefly – attempt to query. I disliked the query process to say the least. Waiting eight weeks for a response on whether or not they wanted to read a five page sample was infuriating for me. A lot of them have a “no response means no” process, so if you hit the spam folder, you’re out of luck.
I published about a year after I finished the book. I researched a lot, queried for a while, revised my book, and then when I was sure it was done, I chose to self-publish. I started getting samples from editors and cover artists and I set out on this crazy journey.
What avenues do you use to market your book? Are book bloggers a big or small part of those goals?
I find all social media outlets to be an asset, but for me personally, nothing has helped me like the book blogging community.
If it wasn’t for bloggers, I could very well be just another e-book lost on the digital shelves, but because of them, I’ve found a fan base, a great audience, and some incredible readers.
How do you choose a book blog to review your book?
I started by Googling bloggers and getting active on Twitter. Now, for the most part, I find bloggers through Twitter and the people I’ve met there. Occasionally a blogger will approach me, showing interest in my work, and we usually go from there.
Are you rejected/ignored often by book bloggers?
I have been, but I would say that is only about five to ten percent of the time.
Do you read the review policy of a book blog before you query a review request?
ALWAYS. Even if a blogger I am not familiar with requests my book for review, I read their policy before I respond. If you’re reviewing my book because I sent it to you, I want to ensure you actually read my kind of books. I want to put my book in the hands of reviewers who actually have an interest in what I write.
Do you comment on reviews of your book, whether good or bad? If you do, in which forums? On their blogs? Amazon or Goodreads etc?
I don’t leave comments, ever. If a reviewer does review my book positively, and I know them from Twitter, I’ll send a tweet or e-mail to them, thanking them. I’ve only ever responded to a critical review once, and it was done in private.
The only reason I did was because I followed the blogger on Twitter, saw a string of tweets saying how nervous and stressed out she was to post the review (she didn’t name my book, but I knew from her tweets she had just finished it) and I wanted to tell her that she shouldn’t be stressed. I don’t judge her or dislike her as a person because she didn’t love my book. Just as I hope she doesn’t do the same to me because the world I created didn’t appeal to her.
I don’t want anyone stressing out because their honest review of my book isn’t a positive one. Long story short, she appreciated it, and I was happy to take that unnecessary stress away. We still chat on Twitter now.
At what point do you consider a negative review, stepping over the line and baiting the author?
Anything that speaks of the author as a person, in my opinion, has no place in a review. If the content in the review isn’t related to the work in question, it shouldn’t be brought up. Reviews are for what has been read, not anything to do with the person who wrote it.
If the reviewer gets personal and insults you personally, do you consider this bullying?
I think that’s ridiculous and inappropriate. If a book wasn’t for you, that’s fine, leave it at that. No need to say anything directly to the author in your review, even if you don’t expect that author to read it.
To be taken seriously as a reviewer, you should write professional reviews. Those reviews talk about the book, not the person behind it.
Do you find negative reviews that state the reasons they didn’t enjoy the book, helpful? Or do they still hurt?
They aren’t putting a smile on my face, but sometimes they’re extremely helpful. Of course I want everyone to love my books, but I also learned as much as I could about this industry before I published, and one of the first things I learned: taste is subjective, not everyone will like your work. It’s impossible. Sometimes those critical reviews sell my book to readers though, and sometimes they make me better writer too.
Good PR or Bad PR can make or break an author’s career. But, we all know from past experiences that even Bad PR can generate a significant amount of buzz. Are there certain things you avoid at all costs to keep yourself in the “white” so-to-speak?
Absolutely. This doesn’t mean I tip-toe around everything with blinders on, but it’s like anything in life, you need to pick your battles. Sometimes it’s just not worth it.
When you send a review copy, do you tend to send eBooks or hard copies? If hard copies, what is the average cost of the book & shipping?
I almost always send eBooks. Shipping in Canada is quite expensive compared to the US. It costs me $10-$25 to ship a single book, depending where in the US. It’s $8-$20 just to ship in Canada.
Can you give us some statistics? About how many review copies did you send out for your last book? About how many of those books have been reviewed?
SHIFT came out February first, and I think I’ve sent out 50-60 copies. I’ve seen about 45 reviews from those copies.
When you send a review copy out, what are your expectations as far as delivery date for a review? If you have a certain time frame do you communicate this with the reviewer?
This varies in a huge way. If it’s pre-publication, I usually state the time frame I’m looking for in my original query. That way a reviewer is committing to the book and the time frame, not the book only, with me later coming back with a question as to why they haven’t reviewed it yet. I like to be as clear as possible.
After publication I usually don’t worry too much about it. I leave it open, but if I haven’t heard anything in 1 – 2 months, I’ll send a polite follow up.
If I want a specific timeline, I always work it out with each reviewer before either of us commit to anything. But I’m always polite. I understand they are not robots and sometimes life gets in the way too.
In the odd event a reviewer is unprofessional and keeps giving me the run around, that’s their choice, but I don’t respond rudely, I just don’t work with them again.
Are you aware of certain stereotypes that Indie Authors are saddled with? Are there certain things you do to try to counter these stereotypes?
Where do I begin? There is a ton, and unfortunately some of them have merit and proof. That doesn’t mean it’s the way we all are, but unfortunately, those who stomp the loudest get far more focus than those that are respectful. When was the last time you saw a group of people all linking to a blog of an author that’s “Doing it right,” so to speak?
The only thing I can do is be respectful and professional. I can’t speak for all authors, just like I can’t counteract their behavior. Just like commenting on a bad review isn’t going to change that review, I can’t change the experiences people have had with others, or my book.
What I can do is be polite and respectful, and hope that people show interest in my work. If they do, I get to give them a taste of what it’s like to work with a professional self-published author.
Are there certain stereotypes that you have heard about book bloggers (please be honest we promise to not hold it against you! We understand you are just telling us what you’ve heard ;)! ) and try to avoid when you notice those trends?
Again, there are a lot. Most recently, the bullying business we’ve all heard about. No, I don’t avoid those people. In fact, I sent one of them my book. Am I nervous? Of course. I’m nervous every time I know someone is reading my book. But them being accused of something doesn’t affect me in that way.
Let’s be real here, I’m a grown-up. I make my own decisions based on my experiences. If someone tells me a blogger does “such and such,” that’s their opinion and/or experience. On the other hand, if a reader/reviewer wants to call me an idiot who doesn’t deserve to be published, or who gives all self-published authors a bad name in a review, (yes, I’ve been told that), that’s their opinion too. So be it.
There are however, some people who really enjoy my work, and I much prefer spending my time and energy working on my next story for them.
What could we, as a book blogging community do better in our relationship with Indie Authors, from your perspective?
I think bloggers should take the same advice we as authors are given.
If an author gets a negative review, they’re advised not to respond to it. If a blogger gets a negative comment on their review, do not respond to it. Unless you want to get into a fight about it, why bother? Anybody who cares is going to see that comment and realize the author is full of…toe jam and navel lint, and they too should ignore it and move on.
Sometimes authors insult reviewers because of their review. Sometimes readers insult authors because of the book they wrote. Let’s just say “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.”
Whether you’re an author or a blogger, responding does nothing but make you angry. It won’t change the review, it won’t change the comment, it won’t change the readers perspective on your book. What are you accomplishing by responding? The answer is the same for both parties: nothing.
Nobody wants to be called names, but all you end up doing is wasting your extremely valuable time on someone who doesn’t deserve it.
What could Indie Authors do better in their relationship with book bloggers in general?
If you’re published, I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will. Not everyone will love your book. In fact, some people will LOATHE it. Welcome to the club.
Want to make good with a blogger? Be respectful, read their review policy (contrary to ignorance, it’s there for a reason), and finally, understand they are taking time to read and review your book, just like you spent time writing it and reaching out to them. Time is valuable no matter what side of the fence you’re on, so let’s not waste anybody’s by being oblivious to common pleasantries.
Finally, what advice do you have in generally to promote good author/blogger relations, so we don’t see more of these “no more indie books” from bloggers?
I think I’ve pretty much explained all of this in the rest of the questions, but let’s sum it up.
– If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
If you receive a negative review that insults you as a person, or you receive a negative response to a review you wrote that insults you as a person, that person has broken the above rule. However, it doesn’t mean you need to break it too.
You can call it standing up for yourself, and that might be true, but in the end, by responding, we’re all just contributing to this vicious circle.
Hate breeds hate. Am I right? Of course I am, I have a fireman hat on.
M.R. Merrick, self-published author extraordinaire…read his thoughts on Critical Reviews.
M.R. Merrick is a Canadian writer, and author of Exiled & Shift, the first two installments in The Protector Series. Having never travelled, he adventures to far off lands through his imagination and in between cups of coffee. As a music lover and proud breakfast enthusiast, he’s usually found at the computer, between a pair of headphones and in front of a large bowl of cereal.