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?
Well, I’ve been through the ordeal of querying before and had even been asked for partials and whatnot with a previous writing project which never got picked up, and I had originally planned to go through the arduous task of querying agents and praying 24/7 that Shark Bait and I would get picked up, but honestly, I wasn’t planning on starting that process until I was finished writing all 6 books in the Grab Your Pole series. However, despite only being done with 3 and 1/4 of the books, something—a little voice, which sounded suspiciously like my husband—started whispering that it was time. For once, I listened. I started working on my query letters, and I even sent 1 or 2 out, and then that little voice urged me to consider self-publishing. I looked into it and figured, you know what? I don’t care about being rich and famous, I just want to get my stories out there so readers can enjoy them (hopefully). Plus, having representation isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get picked up by a publisher, and even if you are so fortunate, it can take upwards of 2 years to get into book stores. Not only that, but with the way the world has shifted by and large to shopping online…well, I decided to go for it. And because my debut novel needed final editing and cover art, it took roughly 2 months from the time I decided to self-pub before Shark Bait was available on Kindle.
What avenues do you use to market your book? Are book bloggers a big or small part of those goals?
I’m a sucky salesperson and don’t know the first thing about marketing, so, I’ve relied on word of mouth and social media. I didn’t even know book bloggers existed until I made the choice to join the ranks of indie authors (which was a new term to me as well…), but once I discovered who they are and what they do, I immediately recognized how HUGE they are in terms of being a driving force behind literary success, in addition to their incredible importance in the literary world by providing excellent information for readers to base their decisions on in regards to whether a certain book will be a good choice to bring into their home or spend their money on, and thus I went to work making some blogging connections.
How do you choose a book blog to review your book?
I do my research—er, stalk blogs. I look at everything on the blog; stats, policies, features, reviews, the kind of followers a blog has, where else the blogger posts etc…, but I also pay close attention to the “about me” of a blog. I read tweets and follow as best I can the reading trends of a specific blog, but what I look for first and foremost is blogger personality because for me, it’s about a human connection. There are some specifics that I of course find desirable as well, like preference in genre. I’m most likely not going to request a review of my contemporary YA novel from a blogger who is for the most part, erotica. Not that there’s anything wrong with the genre, but it wouldn’t make a lot of sense, speaking from a business point of view. I’ve poured my heart and soul into writing these stories and I want them to be enjoyed. Someone who primarily reads and reviews erotica (again, just an example), probably won’t enjoy this series of books. And yes, I realize I’m speaking in generalized terms here, but the above is just a decent rule of thumb and good guideline for me to go by.
Are you rejected/ignored often by book bloggers?
Nope. Not once has a book blogger ignored or refused a review request. I haven’t asked for too many, though. I’m not kidding when I say I take my time and try to get to know bloggers. Sure I want to be read by everyone in the free world (well, my husband would like that), but I’m an ingenue in this industry so I think going on a few dates before jumping into bed is wise. Call me old fashioned, but I just feel like getting to know someone is more important than trying to get as many reviews as I can right out of the gate. It’s cool if that works for others, but it doesn’t for me…
Do you read the review policy of a book blog before you query a review request?
Absolutely. And if a blog doesn’t review indies, I don’t hold it against them. I’ll still follow and/or befriend if the site has something appealing to me or if the blogger appears to be my kind of people.
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?
No. I did it twice in the very, very beginning until I was given advise from another author to never do so. She didn’t know that I had when she made her suggestion, and I didn’t understand back then why I shouldn’t, but now I do. If I comment at all, it’ll be in a re-tweet, passing the review along to my followers, or on my Facebook Fan Page for the same reason, and I plan to have a tab on my blog for reviews as well, but aside from those two pre-advice comments and from “liking” a review if the option is available, I won’t ever comment on a review in any forum.
At what point do you consider a negative review, stepping over the line and baiting the author?
This is tricky for me to answer because Shark Bait has only been out barely more than a month and I haven’t received a negative review yet, but I’m sure I will at some point, and I think for a review to actually bait me as an author, it would have to get pretty damned nasty. Maybe something along the lines of making socially crude and/or inappropriate jokes that would offend not only me as the author but readers of the review as well. I honestly don’t know, but we’re all supposed to be professionals and for me to be baited personally, it would have to be seriously ugly and uber-inappropriate.
If the reviewer gets personal and insults you personally, do you consider this bullying?
Again because I haven’t dealt with a negative yet, all I can say is that if I were insulted personally in a review and if the insult doesn’t have anything to do with my book or writing, I don’t think I’d necessarily call it bullying, but definitely sophomoric and unprofessional.
Do you find negative reviews that state the reasons they didn’t enjoy the book, helpful? Or do they still hurt?
I would imagine they’d still sting, but I’d also find the reasons behind the negative helpful. I had a beta-reader who had serious problems with an early version of Shark Bait and her issues were mostly valid. I think knowing what they were and having them in mind most definitely played a part when I went back to edit, and as an author, I’m always growing and perfecting my craft, so I find constructive criticism valuable indeed.
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?
I’ve never been lily white in my life but I typically hold to the belief that if it doesn’t involve me, then it’s none of my business and I stay out of it. I’ve been atypical this last week. And to be honest, speaking out in terms of what’s been going on in the reviewer/author world—even as ambiguously as I did—has made me a touch nervous. I don’t know all the facts and because of that, I considered keeping my head down. But…I love bloggers and I’ve met some great people in the blogging/reviewing world, so when I heard that some of those great people are considering leaving the blogosphere because of what’s been happening, I felt something should be said from an indie author’s point of view—if only to let bloggers know how very much I recognize what they do and how much I appreciate them. I still tried my best to not be combative or be a pot-stirrer, because again, I don’t know all the facts and I’m not personally involved.
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 haven’t sent out any hard copies of Shark Bait for review—basically because it wasn’t available in print until about a week ago, so up to this point, they’ve all been eBooks.
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?
If memory serves, I’ve sent out 4 review copies and all but 1 has been reviewed. The 4th copy was sent knowing that the blogger has a queue a mile or more long, which is cool. I’m not in a hurry. The rest of the reviews Shark Bait has received have been unsolicited.
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?
For Shark Bait, I haven’t had a specific time frame I’ve wanted a review done by, but if I did, I would be sure to discuss that with the reviewer. And as far as my expectations thus far, I haven’t ever been given an expected finish time and I realize that reviewers have lives outside of reading and that can sometimes interfere with what they’d rather be doing, so I try to keep that in mind. One blogger had a child get the flu while she was reading my book so caring for her child of course took precedence and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And so far, the reviewers have been great about keeping me posted about their progress and they’ve all delivered within a relatively short time period from when they began reading the book. One review was put off a bit, though, because the blogger and I had something special planned and it took some time for us to make it happen.
Are you aware of certain stereotypes that Indie Authors are saddled with? Are there certain things you do to try to counter these stereotypes?
Yep. I try to make sure all editions of my books are properly formatted and professional, that my stories are well written, that my characters are developed and likable—or hateable as the case may be—and although my family and friends encourage and support me in my pimping, I try my absolute hardest to not spam or be a pest in general.
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?
To be 100% truthful, the only thing I’ve ever heard is that some of the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon can be brutal if not nasty. I haven’t ever been told of any one specific reviewer and I haven’t asked, nor have I gone searching for proof of those statements. It’s just something I keep in the back of my mind in an effort to prepare myself for the day I get a negative review so that I can handle it with grace.
What could we, as a book blogging community do better in our relationship with Indie Authors, from your perspective?
So far from my experience, I think everyone does a pretty good job, but I will say I’m always a wee-bit disappointed when I see a strict blog policy stating that they don’t review self-published authors. I think it’s a shame because there’s some fantastic indie writing out there, but I figure the blogger has a good reason for their policy and it’s their choice. The only thing I can think of would be to maybe host an indie month or something if you’re one of the blogs who has a no self-pubbed authors policy. That way you would be keeping the lines of communication open rather than shutting self-pubbed authors out before they’ve even knocked on the door, and then, hopefully, indies wouldn’t feel quite so much like the bastard children of the literary world.
What could Indie Authors do better in their relationship with book bloggers in general?
Be respectful, humble and gracious. Realize that book bloggers are people first—that they have lives, responsibilities and obligations to others not in the literary world, and that they have feelings too. And recognize that no matter how wonderful your book may be, not everyone who reads it is going to love it as much as someone else might and if or when that happens and you feel that awful sting of a negative review, try your absolute best to remember that it is only the opinion of one person, and if the reviewer seems to be baiting you, don’t bite. You’ll only end up on the wrong side of the hook.
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 honestly feel that if we can all remember to treat each other with courtesy and respect, that will go a long way. I think that because we primarily deal with each other via the internet, we lose focus on the fact that we’re dealing with people and it’s easier to say something we wouldn’t normally say in a face-to-face situation. Also, I would think it important to remember that words can very easily be misconstrued when they’re typed and not spoken. What you take a statement to mean when you read it, might actually not be what the writer intended it to mean. In speaking about myself personally, I know I’m sarcastic and snarky, and I swear a lot. Not everyone appreciates my sense of humor, though, or even understands that some things I say are in jest because they don’t know me personally. So, I try to either tone it down and stay professional in certain forums or when I have more freedom to be me, so to speak, I try to inflect my diatribes with emoticons or things like an “LOL” to show that I’m not being entirely serious. But ultimately, I believe we should all try to conduct ourselves with integrity and the professionalism befitting the kind of people we want others to see us as, and then even if someone falls below that standard, try to not let that one person or even a handful of them prejudice us against an entire group.
The Fabulous Jenn Cooksey, newly released Self-Published Author, view her bloggy bits here.
Jenn Cooksey is a Southern California girl born and bred, and proudly boasts being a member of Grossmont High School’s alumni. She currently resides in the 7th Ring of Hell (aka; Arizona) with her husband (whom she married on a dare while in Las Vegas), their three daughters, and more pets than she has the patience to count. Aside from her husband and one cat, everyone living under the Cooksey’s roof is female. She’s sure her husband will be not only be awarded sainthood when he kicks the bucket, but that Jesus will welcome him into heaven with a beer and a congratulatory high-five. She also believes that Bacon should be capitalized. Always.