Thinking about writing a book and printing it through one of those self-publishing outfits? Get ready to work: you'll have to take on the task of convincing people to read it or pay someone else to take on that chore.
Sure, you can shell out $149 for a listing and a chance at a professional book review by the trade journal Publishers Weekly. But that's no guarantee of a cover-friendly "couldn't-put-it-down page-turner" blurb.
A self-published memoir is "heartwrenching but sometimes plodding," says one new Publishers Weekly review. A Civil War novel is an "intriguing but not altogether successful." It's even worse for a compilation of allegedly comic essays ("precious few laughs, or even grins") and a religious book ("ill-informed and insipid").
Those are some expensive ouches.
Wouldn't it be nice to pay for a review and get to spike it if the reviewer thinks your book stinks? Now you can. A literary agent and the former book editor of the Rocky Mountain News have co-founded a new book-reviewing website that does just that.
At BlueInk Review, "serious reviews of self-published books" come at a price – $395 or $495 each once you click the "Order your review!" button. That's a lot of money, but it comes with control over whether a review ever sees the light of day. If you don't like the review of your book, it doesn't run.
The BlueInk Review will be a boon for authors if they can manage to get positive reviews and find someone (readers, mainstream publishers, libraries, their moms) to care about them.
Unfortunately, BlueInk Review fails – so far – to prove that the self-publishing world is bursting with hidden talent waiting to be discovered. Yes, a few self-published authors have become stars. But such a high level of success is exceedingly rare, and the latest several reviews published by BlueInk Review as of Aug. 10 tell us why.
Almost all of the reviews are lukewarm or negative. They describe books as "stilted" and marred by "many faults," an "unprofessional tone" and "promising but underdeveloped stories."
Wow. This is a small sampling to be sure. But they're all reviews that the book authors themselves allowed to be published. How bad might the killed reviews be? We'll never know.
There's one thing we do know: the self-publishing industry and the new pay-to-play book-reviewing industry thrive on amateur authors who are full of dreams and money.
Keep your dreams, folks. But first spend your money on classes, workshops, and honest guidance from professional writers who know what they're doing.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.