Around the turn of the New Year, I had a revelation: that, like charity, book reviewing should really begin at home. I don't mean review your own books – although, startlingly, I've just come across an author who has done just that on Amazon (5*, natch) and got away with it. Instead, I mean put your own interests first when reviewing books.
Put Yourself First
It's easy to fall into the trap of doing what everyone else is doing, and to feel pressured to post your book reviews on more and more sites. I've even had a request from an author whose book I'd reviewed on Amazon to replicate my review on a long list of other retailer sites, as if it was his automatic right, without a word of thanks or any recognition as to how much time or effort this might take me.
Part of the problem is that there are now so many places where authors would like their books reviewed. Until recently, I felt I'd failed unless I'd posted each new review on at least the following:
- Amazon UK (because that's my home territory and where I am compelled to buy any Amazon-sourced books)
- Amazon US (because it's the biggest market and will help authors)
- if the author is Canadian or Australasian, on Amazon Canada or Amazon Australia, as appropriate
- on Goodreads (if I found the site less irritating, I'd use it more often)
- on my own website
Although it's largely a question of cutting and pasting the original review for the first four sites on that list, I'd change the wording for my own website, so as to avoid being penalised by Google search engines for duplicate content. Consequently, the more books I read (typically 2-3 a week), the less chance there was of finding time to add each review to my own website, and so to drive more traffic to it.
Why I Set Up My Own Book Blog
So at the start of 2015, I decided to cut to the chase and start my own book blog:
(Always one for the obvious title, me).
Although creating more work in the short term, that step brought the following benefits:
- I can say what I like, rather than having to comply with other sites' rules
- I can operate it separately from my author blog, which makes for a simpler life (I'd been running the reviews as pages rather than posts, which was more time-consuming and also made the reviews harder for readers to find)
- I avoid the irritation that comes whenever someone votes my review “unhelpful” on Amazon (a questionable facility that allows authors or fans to vote down a review that they dislike, which, they may not realise, also downgrades the reviewer's rank on Amazon – something that really rankles with me when I had set my heart on reaching the top 1,000 status)
- I don't have to give a star rating (boy, do those unhelpful star rating systems drive me nuts, as they're applied inconsistently and often in error)
- I can guarantee that my reviews won't be deleted without explanation or justification for reasons known only to the site owner
- My book blog will drive traffic directly to the author's website, which will benefit the author
- It will also drive traffic to my own author website, which is always welcome
- I can gain affiliate income streams that would not be available to me if reviewing a book on a retail site
The only affiliate link I've set up so far is the obvious one to the Amazon Associate system. This was quick and easy to do, and although the commission per item is tiny, it applies not only to the item featured in your link, but to anything the clicker buys in the next 24 hours. Wow. My first Amazon Associate commission was gained was for a DVD that I'd never even heard of. Don't all authors want other income streams to bolster their earnings from their books? I certainly do.
At the same time, I want to remind readers that online stores are not the only places they can or should buy books. At the end of each review, I'm therefore inserting a call to action to buy from their local bricks-and-mortar bookshop if they can – and I'll also be adding some enticing reviews of independent bookshops that I know and love. Couldn't do that on Amazon…
So in future, I'll be putting myself first for a change and reviewing books first and foremost on my own book blog. If I have time, I may copy a shorter version to Amazon, Goodreads or anywhere else that takes my fancy, but I shan't feel under pressure. The text of the review remains my copyright – and if an author wishes to quote it, that's absolutely fine, provided they credit me and my book blog for the original review.
My book blog, my rules!
I feel so much better for saying that! This transition to my own book blog has made me recognise that I'm actually as indie in spirit as a book reviewer as I am as a writer.
I'd love to know if other indie authors are moving in the same direction. Do you share my views, or do you think I'm just being stroppy? Do you fancy setting up your own book blog? Do tell!
For more information about the Amazon Associates programme, visit: https://affiliate-program.amazon.co.uk/ (change the suffix according to the territory that you are in).