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A New Concept In Book Discoverability: Reedsy Discovery Book Review Service

A New Concept in Book Discoverability: Reedsy Discovery Book Review Service

Ricardo Fayet headshot

Ricardo Fayet introduces the new Reedsy Discoverability and invites feedback

Ricardo Fayet, co-founder of ALLi Partner member Reedsy, unveils their new book review service designed to provide new opportunities for indie authors to increase their books’ discoverability. He explains how this innovative system will work and invites feedback and discussion from indie authors everywhere.

 

Ever since we launched Reedsy a bit over four years ago, one topic inevitably comes up time and again in support messages, on conference panels, or in my conversations with authors (often at the bar) — and that is the thorny issue of discoverability.

graphic of a man with binoculars looking at ancient desert buildings This may seem ironic, considering how there are more places than ever for readers to discover books: Amazon (and other e-retailers), Goodreads, Bookbub, countless genre-specific book review blogs. And let’s not forget about traditional media and bricks-and-mortar locations like bookstores and libraries. But at the same time, each year sees more books being published than ever before without a corresponding growth in the number of readers.

So, is there a real issue around discoverability? Do readers really struggle to find books they like — or are there just too many books being published?

I’d argue there’s a bit of both going on. While readers probably have little trouble finding a book they’ll like, there could be better systems for them to find the next read that they’ll really enjoy.

Human Curation vs Algorithms

Right now, online discoverability platforms use one of two methods to send book recommendations to readers: manual human curation, or algorithms.

Amazon, arguably the biggest search engine for books, almost exclusively uses the second option. Its algorithms leverage their vast quantities of consumer data to send or display books to readers based solely on mathematical calculations.

Other platforms, like most book review blogs, libraries, or Bookbub, are mostly curated by human beings.

Few platforms combine both. So when we started thinking about discoverability at Reedsy several years ago, we immediately wanted to create something that would combine both elements of human and algorithmic curation.

What is Reedsy Discovery?

Much of the inspiration for Reedsy comes from the tech start-up world. And Reedsy Discovery, our own attempt at answering the discoverability conundrum, is no different.

There are several platforms in the tech world that allow startups to find their first customers — and, in turn, help early adopters uncover exciting new products. The most famous one is Product Hunt, which provided some of the early inspiration for Reedsy Discovery.

On Product Hunt, actual human beings (curators) can “hunt” new products (human curation), and submit them to the Product Hunt community. When a new product is “hunted”, it is displayed on their website for a day where it competes with other hunted products for “upvotes” from the community. The most upvoted products of any given day are sent in a newsletter to the whole community (algorithmic curation).

Reedsy Discovery works in a similar fashion:

  • authors can submit their new releases (ideally several weeks, or months, before launch) to Discovery for $50, and upload one Advance Review Copy
  • this ARC is made available to a pool of reviewers (who are selected and vetted by us)
  • Discovery reviewers pick the books they’re interested in reviewing (a book can only be picked up by one reviewer) and they commit to reviewing them before the launch date
  • on launch day, the book — along with its review, if it has one — is displayed to readers in our “Discover” feed, where it competes for upvotes against other titles launching that day
  • titles with the most upvotes, reader comments and a positive curator review are included in our newsletters to readers, some of which will be entirely human curated

We believe that this double curation will help Reedsy Discovery provide better recommendations to readers than the ones they currently get through Amazon or other book discovery sites.

In time, this will allow the real cream to rise to the top (as opposed to, you know, plagiarised cream or dollops of old cream collected and repackaged as new cream).

The Risk Element

I’ve personally always tried to be as honest as possible with the author community, so I want to warn authors right away about one factor that sets Reedsy Discovery apart: there is a strong risk element.

You might pay to submit and not get a review. Or you might pay to submit and get a 2-star review.

In the first case, your book will still go live at launch in the Discover feed and compete for upvotes, and may even be included in newsletters.

In the second case, we’ll bury the review so it doesn’t hurt your opportunities elsewhere.

But why not create a risk-free platform for authors? Because that’s just not realistic. If we let all authors submit their books for free, our reviewers would be flooded.

If all reviews were positive (as they seem to be with paid review sites like Kirkus), then reviews can’t be used as a curation element. Let’s be honest: not all books deserve 5 stars. Heck, not even 10% of books published each year should be getting 5 stars.

If we want readers to even pay attention to reviews, we need to give them meaning. If I see a 5-star book on Discovery, I’ll know that it’s a truly exceptional read in the eyes of the reviewer. Not just “yet another good book.”

 

chart of how proportions of 1*, 2*, 3*, 4* and 5* reviews you should give

From Reedsy’s reviewer guidelines

What this risk element means, though, is that authors who do get a positive review can expect a lot of meaningful exposure to readers.

Will Reedsy Discovery emerge as one of the main platforms where readers find out about new releases? Or even the main one? I don’t know for sure, but it felt like a duty for us to try come up with our own answer to the discoverability question — one that doesn’t rely solely on algorithms, free books, or price promotions.

What’s Your View on Reedsy Discovery?

I’d love to get your early thoughts and opinions on Discovery, both from an author and a reader perspective. As is the case with everything we’ve done so far, we hope to keep on shaping Reedsy’s offerings based on the feedback of the author community.

#Indieauthors - constantly trying to boost your #discoverability? What do you think of @ReedsyHQ's interesting new Reedsy Discovery service, as described here by co-founder Ricardo Fayet? Click To Tweet

OTHER INTERESTING POSTS ABOUT THE ISSUE OF DISCOVERABILITY
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive

This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. Being that I don’t have a 9 to 5 and struggling to help my elderly parents that I live with in any way, I decided to become a reviewer. As their site says “Are you a passionate book reviewer” and under that were the words ….”and earn money while doing what you love.” Process took three or four months to be approved, which I thought was excessive, but I was excited at the idea of any little income at all. Little did I know that after taking hours to review and edit a book I selected that there was in fact no payment. It is completely false advertising. I don’t know what else to call a business that says you’ll earn money as you review, and then are paid nothing. So be careful with this site, if you are just looking for free books to read and are well off this is for you. If being paid for the hours you put in is very important to you and the people who love and depend on you, STAY FAR AWAY.

  2. My work and preferred reading material doesn’t fit into any of your categories. There should be a historical fiction category. If you can’t do that, then a general fiction one.

  3. Why isn’t a paid review service paying contributors? This failure to value the writing of reviewers sticks in my craw. Bloggers are writers too, and if you’re curating a vetted list of reviewers then they especially don’t deserve to be exploited to run your platform in exchange for “exposure”.

    1. Almost all the reviewers on Discovery have a blog of their own, where they write book reviews *as a hobby* and don’t charge authors/publishers for it. It’s not like we’re asking paid reviewers to come to Discovery and review for free. We’re asking quality, hobbyist reviewers to join Discovery and help them grow their audience.
      Also, I wouldn’t call Reedsy Discovery a review service. We’re not offering a review, we’re offering exposure to the Reedsy Discovery community and the *possibility* of getting a review.

  4. Discovery sounds like a reasonable step toward providing indie authors with exposure. And I agree that many of the existing paid book review platforms (e.g. Kirkus) suffer from 1) very high cost; 2) mediocre reviews – actually they’re really just plot summaries; 3) low visibility due to the sheer number of paid reviews – in fact, some of these platforms seem to segregate their paid reviews from the unpaid reviews – the implication being that an paid reviews are less credible. Congrats to Reedsy for seeing an unfilled niche.

    A big challenge for Discovery is that even if a good review is received on the Reedsy platform, the visibility of this review may still be low due (again!) to the sheer volume of books out there. Reedsy’s newsletters and the ‘Discovery Feed’ may be partly helpful here, but many of us already get lots of recommendations, alerts, etc, etc about promising new books. Oh well, Discovery may at least be one more piece of the puzzle in getting visibility.

    On a related note, it will be interesting to see how Discovery competes with NetGalley. Best luck!

    1. Hi Peter, I agree with you that readers already get a lot of recommendations. It’s not our ambition to replace those places, but to add another place where readers can find new books — one where they can find quality indie books curated by a community of vetted reviewers. We’ll see how it goes 🙂

  5. I aplaud your ideas! Especially, “…one that doesn’t rely solely on algorithms, free books, or price promotions.” Amen.

    The key to worthwhile reviews lies in the reviewer/genre combination. If you have romance readers reviewing action thrillers or action readers reviewing literary works, Noir fans reviewing fantasy, the system is doomed. But, matching genre reviewers would hamper a broad system. Something of a chicken-egg problem. How do you plan to roll it out?

    That said, I’ve more confidence in Reedsy making it work well and being valuable than current offerings from Kirkus et al.

    1. Absolutely, we’ve thought a lot about matching the right books with the right reviewers and readers. Reviewers can pick only three genres that they want to review books in, and they can filter the available books pool by subgenre as well.
      We’re also going to be monitoring the reviewers and their reviews to make sure we don’t end up with cases of reviewers picking up and reviewing books that are not in their alley.
      Thank you for your confidence!

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Ricardo Fayet

Ricardo Fayet is the founder and CEO of Reedsy, the new organisation designed to bring together independent service providers to the self-publishing industry. www.reedsy.com

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