For New And Indie Authors: Helpful Information I’ve Learned While Reviewing Books So Far

I started doing Netgalley book reviews in October of 2019 and I’ve been reviewing off and on on Goodreads since about 2014. I’ve put up about 220 reviews on Netgalley and almost 400 on Goodreads. I have learned some things that may be helpful, especially to new or Indie authors. These observations are just my opinion based on what I’ve seen after 200 plus reviews, but I hope they can be of help to authors. Please let me know your opinions or additional hints in the comments below

  1. THE COVER MATTERS:
A Great Cover

I have seen great books with obviously homemade covers. One cover I saw looked like it was home-drawn in pencil, and the erasures were visible. This is a shame because the book was great and I gave it five stars. When a reader is scrolling through millions of books on Kindle or Kindle Unlimited, the cover needs to stand out. Above is my opinion of an eye-catching cover. It’s interesting, colorful, and it gives you an idea of what to expect in the book. This would stop my scrolling and make me want to check the book out. A poor cover is not going to draw anyone to your book, and it is more than likely that very few people will see it. In my opinion, a professional graphic artist/designer is needed and should be part of your marketing budget. Nowadays, not only is a great cover very important, but many authors are adding animated covers and book trailers. Here is a great article on how to animate your own book cover: https://storyempirecom.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/how-to-animate-your-book-cover/

A noticeable cover is necessary and can pay for itself eventually in added sales.

2. KINDLE UNLIMITED:

There are some advantages to using Kindle Unlimited, especially if you are a new or self-published author. Millions of readers have the opportunity to borrow your book for free. Some of them will hopefully post reviews, and then you can make the decision as to when to take it off KU and start charging for it later. The biggest advantage I’ve noticed for myself as a reviewer is that since I have Kindle Unlimited, I can pick your book up for free on my own without having to receive a free copy from you. For those who aren’t aware, if a reviewer receives a free copy of a book for review, they are required by law to say that they received a free copy, who they received it from, and add the fact that their review is voluntary. Amazon has recently been blocking reviews of books received directly from the author, so I don’t usually accept books directly from the author anymore. I prefer they come from a third party such as Netgalley, Booksirens, or other sites, or an agent or publisher, or I get them myself on Kindle Unlimited if they are available.

3. GET ON SOCIAL MEDIA NOW:

I’ve reviewed books for several new authors who have little to no social media following. If you’re reading this and you have plans to write a book, get on social media now. Start a blog and get on Goodreads, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites, and start making connections now. Don’t wait until your book is done to try and get a following. I saw an author post recently that they were turned down by an agent because they did not have a large enough social media following. Start taking care of that now. When I started, I had no idea how to create a blog, but about 30 minutes on Youtube was enough of an education to get started on WordPress, and I’m still learning. #Bookstagram on Instagram is a big deal. As I type this, there are 56 million posts on Instagram with the #Bookstagram hashtag. That’s a lot of visibility. Twitter has a large writing community as well. There are thousands of book review blogs on WordPress, including mine. Join us and review books while you share your life, your other hobbies, and your writing progress, and get some followers before you publish. Get your followers to fall in love with your book even before you publish it. One of my favorite authors, Jodi Taylor, started out as self published (at the age of 60), created a huge Facebook following, and is now a best-selling author with a major publisher. If video is your thing or you have a natural gift for speaking, start a Youtube channel or a podcast. The most important thing is to GET OUT THERE NOW. Don’t wait until your book is finished. *I’ve just read elsewhere that this is a sensitive topic, and I don’t mean to upset anyone, but this is the age of social media and as an indie author, you will need to market your own books, and having a social media following will help.

4. THINK ABOUT BLOGGING TOURS:

There are several tour companies out there who will put your new book content out on many blogs that agree to be “hosts,” so that all of the blog’s subscribers get to see your cover, a description, and anything else you want, including reviews and book trailers. They are a great way to spread the news about your book. I have done several promos for R&R Book Tours and RABT Book Tours, but there are many others.

5. BOOKSIRENS:

A lot of people know about Netgalley, but Booksirens is another service that will provide reviewers for your book, and from what I hear it’s less expensive than some of the others. Please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong about that. They also provide very detailed statistics for each reviewer so the author can know more about the person who is reviewing their book. My statistics are shared if you click on the widget below:

Bonnie's Profile

6. BETA READERS:

Some authors enlist some volunteer beta readers to help them do initial reviews of their drafts. This can be helpful in finding typos and providing initial reactions to the book. If you have created a social media following, getting volunteer beta readers will be easy.

PLEASE LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON THESE TOPICS AND ANY OTHER HELPFUL HINTS IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.

The Bird That Sang in Color

The Bird that Sang in Color is the saga of a family dealing with death, conflict, grief, alcoholism, and depression. Donna’s father is an alcoholic and she carries that into her married life to Frank, who has a problem with alcohol as well. Donna is devoted to her children and her brother Vince, a talented musician and artist. Donna has long encouraged Vince to get a “real” job, a house, and the other trappings of success, but Vince continues to go his own way. After Vince’s death, Donna finds a picture book in which Vince has drawn different scenes from his life. For Donna, this shows the truth about Vince’s life, and also about hers.

Though the beginning started out a little slowly for me, this is a fascinating story that asks tough questions. What is success really about? Who is really dead and who is really alive? What is real happiness? Do material things make you happy, and are they fitting substitutes for joy and passion? What makes you truly happy? Most importantly, this book asks the reader to look inside themselves to see their own life pictures, assess their lives, and decide what is important and what is not. And for that, it gets five stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via R&R Book Tours. My review is voluntary.

Link to Buy The Bird That Sang in Color:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Bookbub

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Grace Mattioli is the author of two novels–Olive Branches Don’t Grow On Trees and Discovery of an Eagle, and a book of short stories, The Brightness Index. Her forthcoming novel, The Bird that Sang in Color, will be released January 17, 2021.

Her fiction is filled with unforgettable characters, artful prose, humor, and insight about what it takes to be truly happy.  She strongly believes that if people were happier, the world would be a better place.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and her cats. She worked as a librarian for over twenty years and has had various other job titles, including jewelry designer, food cart owner, shopkeeper, book seller, substitute teacher, art school model, natural grocery store clerk, short order cook, food server, street vendor, barista, and a giant Twinkie! 

She has been writing creatively since she was a child and has participated in various writing workshops and classes. Her favorite book is Alice in Wonderland. Her favorite author is Flannery O’Connor. Her favorite line of literature comes from James Joyce’s novella, The Dead:  “Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

Grace Mattioli’s Website

Link to My Review on Goodreads

The Milk Wagon

I was hooked when I read this book by Michael Hewes and I find it to be an unsung gem! One of my goals with this blog is to help newer or lesser known authors (and self published authors) promote their work to others who might not otherwise see it. This fantastic book swept me right back into the 1980’s, when I was a teenager, and it was a great ride. See my review below:

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The Milk Wagon is a fantastic thriller set in the 80’s, much of it revolving around a group of high school boys. As an 80’s high schooler myself, this was a wonderful walk down memory lane. This book has the 80’s high school mentality exactly right, and transported me back there as the movies we watched, the cars we drove, and the way we thought were so accurately described. 

This novel was perfectly woven together as both an 80’s book and a crime/murder thriller. There were many twists and turns, and although I am usually pretty good at guessing the “bad guy,” i was totally wrong this time. The fact that this book was not predictable impressed me. 

The characters are so well done, especially the 80s high school kids, that I was sad when it ended. That’s how you tell a great book. You don’t want it to end.

If you love crime thrillers, if you loved the 80s, or if you just love a well written book, check this one out.

I received a free copy of this book from Michael Hewes and BooksGoSocial via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

Link to the book on Amazon:

Link to other work by Michael Hewes:

Link to my Goodreads review (Like and Follow if you are so inclined):

Leviathan

Leviathan is a fascinating ride with a young pilot through the British skies during World War I. The thoughts of the pilot flash back and forth from his BE2 single engine biplane, to his mission, to events from his past. He’s chasing a Zeppelin, the Leviathan that has come to invade his country and attack its people.

The author’s description of flying the World War I era biplane was so meticulous and detailed that I felt like I was in the cockpit of the plane, learning to fly. At the same time it was filled with emotion. The pilot’s thoughts flashing back and forth from his plane and his surroundings to events from his life seemed so real to me. 

I was completely impressed by the author’s ability to transport us into this plane and into this pilot’s emotions and experiences. I would highly recommend this for anyone interested in World War I historical fiction or aviation, or anyone who just wants to read a great story. 

I downloaded a copy of this novella on Kindle Unlimited, where members can read it for free.

Visit Warbird Aviation to see pictures of a BE2

Visit Military-History.org to see pictures of a German Zeppelin

Malcolm Havard is an Indie author who has written a hidden gem in my opinion. I highly recommend you check out his work.

Link to Leviathan by Malcolm Havard on Amazon

Link to Malcolm Havard’s Website

Link to My Goodreads Review

Link to my Amazon Review (Helpful Votes Appreciated if you are so inclined)

Note: Indie authors work very hard to get exposure and to get reviews for their books. If you read this novella and love it, please post an Amazon review and tell others about it.

Juche Series: Books 1 and 2

WEEKEND SPOTLIGHT

Great Books Available on Kindle Unlimited: Juche: Books 1 and 2

Our Spotlight falls on two Dystopian Gems from an Indie author, The Juche Series by Adria Carmichael, Books 1 and 2. The Author is working on three more. These books are available to borrow and read on Kindle Unlimited at no additional charge to KU members. For those wanting to purchase them, the digital copies are also going on sale on Amazon worldwide from tomorrow, December 28th, to January 1st. During this time, Book 1, The Demon of Yodok, will be free, and Book 2, the Sufferings of the Strayed, will be just .99

These books are not standalone and both of them end in cliffhangers, so they need to be read in order and as a continuing series. They will be followed by book 3 on February 28, 2021. Books 4 and 5 and will follow later. You will find this series very addictive! See my 5-star reviews below:

Areum lives with her parents and her twin sister Nari in the Kingdom of Choson in the Year 83. This kingdom is ruled by the Great General, who is the wise, omniscient, and immortal leader of their free and fair nation, the most successful nation in all the world. Areum is immersed in preparing for gymnastics tryouts for the Great General’s National Olympic Team. She is greatly devoted to her god, The Great General, and refuses to think about the fact that her father has disappeared and her twin sister is ailing. Then the day comes that changes her life for good.

This is a great combination of both dystopian and historical fiction, as it is really 1994 and the Kingdom of Choson is, of course, North Korea, and the Great General is their leader at the time, Kim Il Sung. This is not just about an evil Communist dictatorship, although much is exposed. It is about the great resentment Areum feels towards her parents and sister and the fact that she doesn’t feel a part of her own family. Her resentment is shocking at times and is so well described. The descriptions of the horrible treatment of the citizens of the “Kingdom of Choson” and the way that evil actions are described as good things is heartbreaking. The story is riveting from start to finish. This is a great debut novel from Adria Carmichael. My review of the second book in the series is below.

I received a free copy of this book, but also picked one up on Kindle Unlimited. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

In this second book of the Juche series, the circumstances of Areum and her family in the Great Kingdom of Choson have changed, but her resentment of her parents and sister lives on. She is also clinging almost desperately to her beliefs, although reality does not seem to match what she has been taught. As Areum and her family become part of “The Strayed,” they undergo extreme circumstances and witness horrific acts. Areum is still very naive and selfish, but she grows stronger and begins to use her talents to survive.

Again, I was riveted as this part-dystopian, part-historical fiction saga continues. Adria Carmichael paints a vivid picture of a society filled with fear, and leaders who look on those in their charge as less than nothing. Through it all runs the concept of Juche, a North Korean version of communism/totalitarianism as invented by Kim Il Sung. Carmichael takes us to a society that tells its people how great it is while they starve and murder them. Her idea to present North Korea as the setting of a dystopian novel is a good one, because it really is a dystopian society right here on Earth. Any fans of dystopian or historical fiction will be captivated by this novel.

I received a free copy of this book, but also picked one up on Kindle Unlimited. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

Juche Part 3, The Weeping Masses, will be available on Amazon on February 28, 2021. Preorder below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adria Carmichael is a writer of dystopian fiction with a twist. When she is not devouring dystopian and post-apocalyptic content in any format – books, movies, TV-series and PlayStation games – she is crafting the epic and highly-addictive Juche saga, her 2020 debut novel series that takes place in the brutal, totalitarian nation of Choson. When the limit of doom and gloom is reached, a 10K run on a sunny day or bingeing a silly sitcom on a rainy day is her go-to way to unwind.

Link to Book 1 on Amazon:

Link to Book 2 on Amazon:

Preorder Book 3 on Amazon:

The Siege of An Loc

The Siege of An Loc is the story of the defense of An Loc in 1972 during the Vietnam War. It is also a love story between a South Vietnamese soldier, Trung, and Ly, a student, daughter of a rubber plantation owner. As Trung struggles to defend his country, he finds himself falling for the beautiful Ly, but do they have a chance for happiness in the midst of war? We also see the evil of communism especially personified in one of the characters, and two brothers are reunited, one from North Vietnam and one from South Vietnam.

I learned so much about the Vietnam War from this book. When I was in grade school and high school in the U.S. in the 70s and 80s, they didn’t teach us much about it. I just knew my uncle died in this war at the age of 20, and I really didn’t even know why he was there. When we would ask in the mid-70s, we were told nobody liked to talk about it. But now the author, Nguyen Trong Hien, has answered a lot of the questions. I love the fact that we see inside the war from the perspective of a South Vietnamese soldier instead of the American perspective. And we learn of the atrocities of Communism and how it takes over and annihilates a culture.

Some small constructive criticism: This is both a romance and a history book, and sometimes it felt as if we left the romance and entered a very detailed history book with little transition. However, the history is important for the reader to know, and the characters were interesting and well developed. The ending of the book was left open for our characters, and I wasn’t sure what happened to them after South Vietnam fell. I hope there will be a sequel.

I received a free paperback copy of this book from the author. I also downloaded a digital copy on Kindle Unlimited, where members can read books at no additional cost. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

Link to The Siege of An Loc on Amazon

Link to Nguyen Trong Hien’s Amazing Blog.

Link to my Goodreads Review

Link to my review on Amazon

The Godmother

The Godmother by Cathy Cade is a new and modern version of Cinderella, complete with computers and webcams. After her father’s death, Cindy lives with her stepmother and stepsisters, the Uglies, in her father’s house, which now belongs to her stepmother, Baroness Malegra. Cindy lives in the basement with her dog Buttons and does their bidding, whatever it may be. But Aunt Phemie, her wonderful Godmother, has decided to visit, and change is on the horizon. Told from multiple points of view, including Cindy’s dog Buttons and her Godmother Aunt Phemie, this is a humorous new take on an old tale.

Another delightful story by the talented Cathy Cade, who brings new life and fun to this classic fairy tale. You will laugh at the high jinks of Aunt Phemie and Buttons, and frown at the very nasty stepmother.

I received a free copy of this book from the author. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

Link to Buy The Godmother on Amazon

Link to Cathy Cade’s Website

Link to My Amazon Review (“Like” if you are so inclined)

SPOTLIGHT: Great Books on Kindle Unlimited

This is a Saturday series I’ve started where I recommend great books I’ve read on Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited members can read these books at no additional charge for a monthly fee, and there are gems out there, this book being one of them, that make it an even greater value.

FRAN, THE SECOND TIME AROUND

“Fran, the Second Time Around” by Amy L. Bernstein is the story of a young girl, just starting high school, who has switched to a new school. There are hints around the reason that Fran switched schools, and it is clear that something traumatic and horrible has happened to her. The first half of the book speaks of Fran’s new life and how she is adjusting to her new school, new friends, and “the second time around.” The second half of the book begins to peel away the layers of what happened to her and slowly reveals the devastating event.

This book was extremely well written by Amy L. Bernstein. I could see inside Fran’s world and literally feel the heartache she was experiencing. It was so real that her grief became my grief. The picture that is painted of a young girl desperately trying to stumble forward in a world that is moving along without her is so genuine and raw that I want to applaud the author for her efforts. I highly recommend this book to anyone, young adults or older, who has dealt with heartache, devastating loss, guilt, or grief, or anyone who just wants to discover a very talented author.

I picked this book up on Kindle Unlimited, where it is free for all KU members. I definitely recommend you check it out.

Link to the book on Amazon

Link to the Amy L. Bernstein’s website

Link to My Goodreads Review

Harness the Power of the Invincible Mind

(Spatial Strategy to Success and Happiness)

Harness the Power of the Invincible Mind: Spatial Strategy to Success and Happiness by Alex Neumann is a motivational book about throwing away old misconceptions and using a new strategy in order to move forward. This book successfully uses many examples and interesting anecdotal stories to make its point.

There are ten chapters in this book. I identified more with some of them than others. One of the main lessons that impacted me in this book is Ride Your Adversity. I would interpret it as Do Not Fear or Wallow in Adversity. Extreme fear of failure can result in stagnation, cowering in fear, or refusing to move forward. Basically, fear of failure can lead to failure. Wallowing in adversity can lead to an unhappy, stagnant life. Learning from your adversity can give you success in the future.

Another strong message I got from this book is, basically, Don’t Be Afraid To Try. Among the anecdotal examples are the following: Michael Jordan missed 9000 shots while having one of the most, if not the most, successful basketball careers in history. Einstein and Beethoven were deemed failures before they achieved greatness. JK Rowling came from poverty and was living on public assistance.

This book gives many other interesting and compelling anecdotes to make its points in a very successful way.

There are also lessons that I enjoyed on learning to say no and what happens when you try to control everything.

Harness the Power of the Invincible Mind contains some Buddhist principles, and I am a Christian, but there are still some helpful strategies that anyone of any faith can use to overcome setbacks and move on to a happy and successful life right now.

I found this book, and its anecdotal stories, to be interesting and helpful. I would recommend it to everyone, but especially those who are feeling hurt and discouraged.

Bottom Line: If you are discouraged, read this book!

If you are feeling discouraged, wishing you love and happiness!

I received a free copy of this book from Alex Neumann via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

Link to the Book on Amazon

Link to Alex Neumann’s Amazon Page

Link to my review on Goodreads

Arriving Through Time

Arriving through Time by Heather L. Barksdale is a Young Adult time travel novel. Lizzie has been through a family tragedy and is having a tough time, but she is supported by her two best friends, Sam and Jeremy. They are currently navigating high school life and dealing with bullies Gary and Tiffany. Then a class project has Lizzie wondering about her ancestors, and a school trip ends with the three friends hurtling through time, along with their bullies and Lizzie’s secret crush. Although at first it appears to be a freak occurrence, the time travel seems very designed, as all of the teens begin to meet long dead ancestors.

What I loved about this story is that it combined time travel fiction and genealogy, two of my favorite pastimes, and it did this in a clever way. A class project and a DNA test have brought questions about Lizzie’s ancestors to the surface, and unexpected time travel gives her a chance to get answers. This book reminds us that our ancestors were living, breathing, people, not just names on a family tree. They blazed the way for us, good and bad, and everything they did enabled us to be alive today. We also learn something along the way as we visit people and places that are important to American history.

I loved the way time took the six travelers to locations that were pertinent to all of them and their ancestors and gave them both answers and surprises. I find that in my own genealogy research. 

If you are a fan of young adult novels, time travel, genealogy, and/or historical fiction, you will enjoy this book. I received a free copy of this book from the author. I also picked up a copy on Amazon, where Kindle Unlimited members can read it for free. My review is voluntary. 

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Arriving-Through-Time-Heather-Barksdale/dp/B08BDVN29C/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=arriving+through+time&qid=1604109793&sr=8-1

Link to Heather L. Barksdale’s website: https://heatherlbarksdale.com

Link to my review on Goodreads (Like and follow if you are so inclined): https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3620451441?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1