February 20, 2011

Review, Review, Wherefore Art Thou?

Guys, please welcome Mark Adair on his guest post.

Review, Review, Wherefore Art Thou?

In Shakespeare's classic, Juliet's impassioned plea floats out onto the air of indifference that surrounds her impossible plight – her family and the Montagues will never, ever join. In the life of an Indie writer, the passionate request for a review of their latest creation (by someone who's not a family member) often seems equally futile.

If I may back up for a second, let me set the record straight: Hi, my name is Mark Adair and I am an...Indie author. Fine, now you know. I have many stories to tell of the lonely journey of a independent writer - no agent, no editor, no publisher (in the traditional sense), no marketing department, no bookstore support, no private jet, no Caribbean island, no connections with media outlets...and no pipeline to the top reviewers' inbox.

Before you write me off as a talentless hack or someone who couldn't get "real" published, let me just offer that I've had several publishing insiders (agents, editors, etc.) who were very impressed with the quality of writing in my suspense/thriller, the development of the characters, and the storyline. Actually, I've never received anything but positive feedback from the traditional publishing community...everything short of a publishing agreement. Even now I have an agent who is considering switching genres so she can represent me.

Patience, persistence, and many other words that begin with 'p' are the industry watchwords in these tough economic times, and I can certainly understand their predicament...the often unspoken predicament - foundational paradigm shift from traditional book to ebook and from traditional publishing world to indie publishing. But that's another discussion, or many other discussions. In any case, the floodgates have opened, never to be closed again. Amazon, one of the largest book retailers in the world, sold more ebooks than hardbacks or paperbacks in the past few months. As John Lennon once penned in a hotel room, “this bird has flown.”

So today, even as I write this, hundreds of thousands of writers have discovered a new way to move forward with their careers...at least try and move forward. As I mentioned at the beginning, we don't have the resources or the visibility or the connections to release a book in the traditional sense. All we have is a novel (some of them quite excellent, others very poor) and a desire to connect with readers who might enjoy and want to discuss what we've written. So we social network, we pimp our book to friends and family, we connect with each other, we publish it on every platform known to humanity, and we BEG for reviews...from someone reputable and from someone who isn’t charging a fee (which sort of questions the unbiased nature of the review in the first place).

Why do I want a review? I’ve had some success already – only a couple of months into this and The Father’s Child hit #34 on Amazon’s technothriller list. However, in the sea of new novels offered every day the reviews further filter down the list of choices, after genre, price, top seller lists, other books like it, etc...especially from relatively unknown writers. As a reader, when I consider spending my hard earned time and money on a book, I want to know that others think it worth the investment. I want someone to speak out and tell me, honestly, what they thought. In many cases reviews become the final piece in the shall-or-shall-I-not purchasing puzzle for a perspective reader.

Is it really that complicated to have someone reputable read and review your book? Again, the waves come in, bearing thousands upon thousands of surfing writers eager to showcase their stuff...desperate to stand out in the crowd of competitors. Although the number of book reviewers grows by the month, the number of potential books to review explodes every month.

So I visited Amazon's top reviewer discussion and felt the sting of disdain. Then I followed up with those who had read my book and solicited reviews – several posted on Amazon. Finally, I Googled (or Binged, depending on your techno preference) book reviewers and then sent out nice, professional emails to anyone who seemed like a decent fit – i.e., had a pulse and could read. Seriously, I was searching for someone with a real reviewer history who didn’t flip out at the sight of e-books or indie authors. I found a few links that seemed hopeful.

And in that searching-for-a-reviewer process I sent an email to May (a book blogger and reviewer, among many other fine qualities). I thought, “how cool, a Brazilian review.” I’d love to connect with the people down there…I mean who doesn’t think Brazil is amazing? A quick aside: last summer I attended the Healdsburg Jazz Fest and they featured several Brazilian musicians that really did amaze me. Back on point, May responded promptly and specifically with a very nice apology that included the words “I no longer review e-books.”  

At times I wondered if I should give up on having a reviewer wax philosophical about my novel. But I remained patient, persistent, and many other words that begin with ‘p’, believing that my fate and Juliet’s were not the same. Eventually I received some responses to my emails. Eventually, a few reviewers signed on to review my novel. Eventually, they will post those reviews for all the world to see. And eventually I will no longer wonder: Review, review, wherefore art thou?



Mark Adair spent over twenty-five years in the Information Technology world designing and developing complex software systems for clients such as the US Navy, Disney, and Lockheed Martin. One evening, after the latest 14 hour workday in a string of many, he struggled to wind down. Looking for a place to escape, he grabbed his trusty laptop and began writing a suspense story about a guy named John Truman. Several months later he had completed the first draft of his first novel, and realized that he would never be the same.

Recently, he debuted his suspense novel, "The Father's Child", on the Kindle platform - you can buy it here.