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.

Books This Week

Before I post my Netgalley reads, I wanted to let you know I have been busily reading books and doing reviews for The Historical Novel Society’s magazine, Historical Novels Review (HNR). However, I cannot post those reviews until after the magazine is published in February 2021, so my reviews were kind of scarce last week. I reviewed a whopping 20 books for them over the last three months! I will share these with you as soon as I am able to do so. I am finishing up those reviews today and the rest of the week will be devoted to my Netgalley reads and some Indie books I am reading for some great authors.

Below are three Netgalley ARC reads I am working on, unrelated to HNR. These reviews will come this week.

Sisters Nora and Delia are traveling on the Titanic from their poor Irish farm life to new jobs in America. When tragedy strikes, lives are altered and secrets are kept. Will they be revealed?

My review will be coming this week. This book will be released January 26, 2021

A group of women from Smith College risk their lives in France at the height of World War I.

My review will be coming this week. This book will be released on March 2, 2021.

Two friends are forced to face a dark secret that ended their childhood bond.

My review will be done this week. This book will be released January 12, 2021.

I also have some great indie reviews coming this week and next week so stay tuned!

The Edge of Belonging

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox is a multi-timeline novel set mostly in Tennessee. It shifts from 1994 to 1998-1999, and back to Present Day. 

In 1994, Harvey, homeless and living by the highway, finds an abandoned baby girl. He connects with her immediately, trying to care for her in his lean-to by the side of the road. Abandoned as a boy, he hopes to make a family with this lost little girl.

In the Present Day, Ivy, who is in an abusive relationship with a controlling fiance, returns home to Tennessee to settle her grandmother’s estate. Her grandmother has left her a message and pointed her to a journal which will explain more about her adoption. With the help of her friend Reese, she starts to try and find out more about the first three months of her life.

The beauty of this book lies in the simple message of family and what constitutes a family. Ivy’s family has always been her parents, her grandmother, and her Uncle Vee. But who are they really? 

This book also hits some hard issues. It looks at domestic abuse, sex trafficking, drug abuse, the foster care system, and PTSD. It shows how important it is to love each other, and how love can transform a life. And it shows how God answers prayers, but not always in the way you would expect. 

The Edge of Belonging is well written and hard to put down. The characters are so well developed that they will permanently touch your heart. The message of hope amid sorrow and tragedy abounds through the book. I highly recommend this to anyone who has experienced loss, or anyone who just wants to read a well written novel. 

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

Link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Edge-Belonging-Amanda-Cox-ebook/dp/B087RTNSCY/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+edge+of+belonging&qid=1601807858&sr=8-1

Link to the Author’s Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amanda-Cox/e/B084T7XPS5?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Link to my Goodreads Review (Please like it on Goodreads if you are so inclined):

An Ivy Hill Christmas

My review of An Ivy Hill Christmas by Julie Klassen

Richard Brockwell is a careless playboy content to live off of his family’s money in London. But it is Christmas season, 1822, and his mother has summoned him. He is to come home for Christmas or his funds will be cut off. Left with no choice, Richard heads for Ivy Hill. Before, during, and after his journey, a dog, a boy, and a beautiful woman threaten to open up his cold heart. Will God do the rest?

I loved this beautiful story of redemption, charity, and second chances. . This wonderful novella will speak to anyone who has struggled with forgiveness and anyone who has longed for a chance to right old wrongs. The characters are well written and memorable, especially Richard, Arabella, and the boy Jamie. And let’s not forget Wally!

It was fun to read about and join in the Christmas celebrations from 1800’s England, and there was even a recipe at the end of the book.

This is actually my first visit to Ivy Hill, but it won’t be the last. I plan to go back and catch up on Julie Klassen’s “Tales From Ivy Hill” series.

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

Buy book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ivy-Hill-Christmas-Tales-Novella-ebook/dp/B0821PWW1B/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2SI2MXB7Y5KEQ&dchild=1&keywords=an+ivy+hill+christmas+julie+klassen&qid=1601571685&sprefix=An+Ivy+Hill+Christmas%2Caps%2C178&sr=8-1

Julie Klassen’s Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Julie-Klassen/e/B001JS6J70/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

My review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3572850187?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1