In all fairness, I must also acknowledge that there are many good, honest, devoted and ethical book bloggers out there. I have been fortunate to make contact with some of them and they are gems in the sea of spam and scams targeting independent authors, and particularly new and inexperienced authors.
Despite this, I probably won't be wasting anymore of my time on sites like IndieView (even the admin didn't respond to my emails) looking for reviews or anything else for that matter. I'll probably just hire one of the many companies that get book you a complete virtual book tour complete with reviews, interviews and guest posts often for only around $50.
They'll handle all the dirty work and the frustration for me, and I'll only be paying them to do that service. None of the people who will be reading and reviewing the book will be getting a dime. That's the real difference between hiring a company to do the work and paying someone to read what you give them for free, something that I find absolutely disgusting considering how difficult and expensive it can be to put out a book by yourself.
This is a cautionary tale for other indies who might just be starting out and trying to find their way around this maze. My advice to you is that you should never pay an average joe to read your book. The only time you should ever pay for a review service is when getting a professional editorial review from a trusted company who is a reputable name in the publishing business. There are many out there, do your homework and you'll be rewarded instead of scammed.
As we go along, I will be sharing my own experiences with different services and companies that I'll be using and that I have used up until this point. Ultimately you'll have to decide for yourself what you want and what works for you as no two authors will be successful the same way, but with my two cents I hope to pay it forward and thank those who have advised me and guided me on the right path.
If you have any questions or just want my objective opinion on something don't be shy to post a comment or send me an email. I won't ignore you (unless you spam me of course) and I'll try to help you as much as I can, free of charge.
Any independent author knows that it's hard to make a meaningful connection in a sea of people when new faces are popping up constantly. Any author also knows how important it is to make these types of connections, but what few people are willing to talk about is how hard and frustrating this process can be, especially when it comes to book bloggers.
Since the very start of my publishing journey one message has been the same: book bloggers are your best friend. In theory they can work a miracle for your career, but in reality is that what's really going to happen? After two books I've come to this conclusion: no.
This month alone I must've sent out between two and three hundred queries to different bloggers and it was probably the biggest waste of time of my career. First off, good luck finding one who still accepts submissions! I understand that they are busy and in demand people but it makes it no less frustrating at the author's end trying to find what's basically a needle in a haystack.
Secondly, good luck getting a response. You will not get any type of response from the majority of those who do accept submissions. In all fairness, some do write on their blogs that they'll only write back if interested, but for the rest how hard is it to actually politely decline a submission? Or at the very least, acknowledge the person?
The part that gets under my skin the most has to do with those so-called "reviewers" who only want your money. I did get a bunch of responses to my many queries, mainly from people who wanted me to pay them to review a book that I'd be giving them for free despite being listed on websites such as IndieView who list bloggers who review for free. At least it's all supposed to be free.
And don't even get me started on all the unsolicited spam emails you'll then be getting from even more people wanting to dip their fingers into your wallet. This enormous frustration of mine has even boiled over to me starting my own (actually free) book review service. I don't promise you the world, my opinion probably won't be the break your career has been waiting for, but I'll be your ally. I'll give you the time of day, I'll acknowledge your hard work, and most importantly I won't demand any money from you.
I also won't be accepting all the submission requests that I get, and I probably won't be advertising this review service outside of my own social media (at least not for now) to keep things clean, honest, ethical and personal.
On June 26th I had the great privilege of being interviewed by Mistral K. Dawn on her blog of the same name, and I must say that this has probably been my favorite interview so far. Read the original post on her blog or just keep scrolling for the text!
The fabulous Jamila Mikhail is here with us, today! Jamila, will you tell us about yourself and how many books you have written?
Jamila: Hello everyone! My name is Jamila Mikhail, I’m 22 years old, I’m a human rights student from the capital of Canada and earlier this year my dream of publishing my first book finally came true! In January I published Innermost which is a collection of poems written over half a decade. In February I was also one of the people awarded the title of Top Writer for the year 2018 on Quora. That was quite a shock (but a good one) because I never in a million years would have imagined that my writings about World War II, Islam and my bad experience wearing braces for 4 years would ever earn me such a title!
Me: Congratulations! What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Jamila: The only book I currently have published is Innermost, my collection of poems that includes both free form and fixed form poetry. It’s about a variety of topics but mostly the human experience; the good and the bad, from romance to war and everything in between. For most of my life writing poetry (and just writing in general) was the only socially acceptable way to express myself so I did it a lot. I’ve also written a few short story compilations (about just as many topics as my poetry book) and novels that are available for free download on my website. I’m also very much working on some new projects that will be released shortly right now as well!
Me: Wow! Sounds like you've been busy. :-) What are you working on now?
Jamila: I’m working on my first young adult novel called Don’t Let Me Go that is currently available for preorder on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Kobo and Smashwords. It’s only $0.99 (USD) for a limited time too! It officially comes out in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats on August 1st and I actually have quite a list of people already anticipating it. While I’m at it let me share with you guys the blurb! On top of battling the normal teenage angst that everyone goes through, Joanie is also reeling from her parents’ bitter divorce and having to cope with her mother’s new boyfriend and father’s new family. Alone in a new town and without friends, she turns to passing the time by indulging in her longtime hobby of making toy models of soldiers and is both amazed and shocked when one of them comes to life. Despite her millions of unanswered questions and having to make sense of new mysteries every day Joanie comes to find a loyal and trustworthy companion in Adler, a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht and a member of the German Resistance during World War II who must also find a way to handle living in modern times on top of being invisible to most of the population. The two of them will have to fight several battles on many fronts in both the physical world and unseen realms as they both try to comprehend Adler’s new existence and piece Joanie’s broken life back together.
Me: Sounds interesting! What authors or books have influenced you?
Jamila: I could probably write an entire book just about the other books that have influenced me in life! I especially like to read non-fiction, in particular the memoirs and autobiographies of those who lived through major or unbelievable events. I’ve been particularly influenced by Elie Wiesel and Irene Nemirovsky since I am a huge history buff who fully intends to write historical fiction in the future. Stories about war always have a profound effect on me because my grandfather served in both WWII and Korea and it’s in large part his stories that have motivated me to get into human rights.
Me: Cool! What are you reading now?
Jamila: Aside from my own proof copy of Don’t Let Me Go, I’m only reading a few books about 20th century history for school. My final essay is due extremely soon but this is in fact quite boring and irrelevant because I’d much rather be reading the books of a fellow indie author! Last month I’ve just began a free review program for my fellow indie authors where I get a free book and they get an honest review posted to Amazon, Goodreads, my book blogs and other social media pages.
Me: That's kind of you. I'm sure there are a lot of authors who are grateful. :-) For those who might consider reading your book, what would you tell them to expect?
Jamila: I’ll say straight up that my work isn’t for the faint of heart! I like to write about important and relevant issues in society and I don’t shy away from hard topics either. I don’t write to escape reality, I write about reality. My poetry book is for mature audiences only, but Don’t Let Me Go is geared towards the 13-17 age group (though adults will be able to enjoy it as well) and deals with domestic violence, bullying at school and teenage anxiety with a bit of history and a twist of fantasy!
Me: Sounds intriguing. What’s your favorite part of being an author?
Jamila: It’s definitely being able to push boundaries. Your writings don’t have to be socially acceptable. You can write whatever you want, create worlds that would otherwise not exist and experiment with whatever you want as much as you want in a safe environment. When I’m writing nobody can tell me what is right or wrong, or what I can and cannot do.
Me: I agree; writing is definitely liberating. What motivated you to become an author?
Jamila: It was my therapist that suggested that I begin writing seriously actually. While I was being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2011 and 2012 I told him that writing journals and snail mail letters he challenged me to write a full-length novel. And so I wrote what is now known as The Distant Factory available for free on my website but it was many years before it went from a messy file to an actual book.
Me: Yeah, there's certainly a learning curve when it comes to writing books. Do you have a day job as well?
Jamila: No, I’m still a student actually. I’m currently studying human rights and it’s a small job in itself. For many years my “job” was caring for my grandmother but she recently passed away in March of this year so you could say that I am in a transition phase in my life, actively looking for what to do next.
Me: I'm very sorry for your loss. What would you tell up and coming writers?
Jamila: I would simply say to go for it. A world of opportunities and amazing things is waiting for you out there. Believe in yourself and let the world know about your book. I honestly didn’t think that I’d make it in a sea of authors but my first book did much better than I ever could have expected, and poetry is just about the hardest thing to sell! The sky is the limit as I don’t believe they have books in outer space.
Me: Yep. You never know unless you try. Thank you so much for stopping by, today, Jamila. And thank you, as well, to the rest of you who joined us.
Can't wait another month to get your hands on my upcoming novel? I have some good news for you! You can not get a digital copy of Don't Let Me Go on NetGalley! I am seeking some pre-release reviews and feedback in exchange for you getting a free book. What do you say? Request your free copy by clicking on the link below!
In other news, I'm also happy to tell you that the audiobook version of this novel is very much underway and is sounding fabulous! The ebook, paperback and audiobook versions will be released to the world at large on August 1st and don't forget that you can pre-order the book for only $0.99 for a limited time!
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