In preparation for my second Liberty Frye series book, Liberty Frye and the Sails of Fate (scheduled for release on May 2!!), I’ve collected a few more reviews for the first in the series: Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen, in the hope that the same reviewer might then be able to review the next. I’ve been fortunate to receive three wonderful, brand spankin’ new reviews from great middle grade book sites: The Children’s Book Review, Kid Lit Reviews and LitPick, so I thought I’d do a post on book review sites for indie middle grade novels. Maybe it will help somebody else out.
The idea came to me because, from my experience at least, it’s actually quite tedious to find reputable, well-trafficked sources to review an unknown novel. It’s especially difficult if said novel happens to be an indie middle grade novel. I mean, if I really wanted to write a book that sells, I should probably start with erotic, sci-fi romance where a tough-as-nails scientist (but she isn’t really tough as nails; she’s really warm and fuzzy inside; it’s all a front for her fragility, you know) has a thing for despotic aliens who were abandoned as children, so you still feel sorry for them, even as they ravage and pillage. Or something like that.
Unfortunately, my story is about a quirky, big-footed girl named Libby who discovers she’s actually a witch, but doesn’t know what to do about it. Chaos ensues. Shape-shifters, geriatric World War Two pilots, magical fireflies and tippling, temperamental bakers collude and collide. Stuff like that.
So, where can an unknown, middle grade author/publisher potentially find reviewers who reach an audience that encompasses both traditionally published and indie published books?
Well, here’s a list of some great book review sites for middle grade novels that I’ve worked with, with more recent reviewers listed first. I’ve no connection to any of the below other than my own experience with them as an indie author and publisher, and cannot of course guarantee a review, positive or otherwise:
The Children’s Book Review provides a variety of review and promotional resources for both indie authors and traditional publishers. They review anything from picture books to YA. Free and paid services are listed under their Submission Guidelines. But what I really LOVE about this site is the very kind customer service as well as the quality of the reviewers used. My recent review for Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen was from a writing teacher at New York University with a PhD in Comparative Literature! Sweet.
Having posted a whopping 846 reviews on her site thus far (and 87 book reviews in 2015 alone), Sue Morris of Kid Lit Reviews is a reader of children’s literature extraordinaire and a prolific reviewer. Before submitting Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen to Ms. Morris a few months ago, I’d read several of her reviews and realized that this is a lady who knows her kid lit, and who really takes her time to absorb the story and compose meaningful synopses and opinions. I also realized that she read mostly non-indie novels, so despite her acquiescence to review my novel, I kind of shivered in my books for a couple months while I waited for her verdict. When I finally saw Liberty Frye posted as review #826 on her website, I was floored by her attention to detail, and her genuine appreciation for the characters and the world they live in. This sounds a bit silly, but I actually got a little teary-eyed when I read what she had to say.
Kid Lit Reviews consistently publishes thoughtful, constructive reviews for children’s literature ranging from picture books to full-length chapter books, and won’t review anything deemed under three stars. In addition to its regular review service (which typically takes 12 to 16 weeks), for a small fee, a review submission can jump the queue and be completed within one or two weeks.
I love this website, which encourages children around the globe to be avid readers and writers. It’s a collection of students, teachers, parents and authors. Authors submit their books to be reviewed while students sign up to become reviewers. LitPick’s admin oversees the process as students receive and review the books (assuming the book is approved for review). Reviews may be posted on LitPick as well as Amazon and Goodreads. While the standard service is free, paid promotional packages are also available.
UPDATE: In addition to reviews, LitPick sometimes also features author interviews. Here’s mine, posted on January 18: http://www.litpick.com/author/jl-mccreedy
Listed by Blog Metrics as a top-fifty book blog site, Book Room Reviews offers thoughtful, honest, free book reviews for both traditionally published and indie published books. Also, if asked, your reviewer may agree to post their review on Amazon and Goodreads as well. When I was struggling to find reviews because of my completely [and still existing] unknown status, Book Room Reviews gave me the time of day and respect given to fancy authors. That’s hard to find.
Erik of This Kid Reviews Books is possibly the world’s most voracious reader and reviewer of children’s stories who also happens to be the target audience AND an author himself! Erik, who is now 14 according to his About page, reads and reviews just about everything kid-lit related, though his review request page lets authors and publishers know the genre he is currently interested in reading. Even though Erik mows through a bewildering selection of books each year, he found the time to review Liberty Frye a few years back and, like his other reviews, I found his honest, kid’s perspective approach refreshing and helpful. Keep up the amazing work, Erik! (UPDATE: It appears that Erik has updated his website and I can no longer find his review for my book there. His review on Amazon can be found here.)
While their published book contest may or may not float your boat, Readers’ Favorite still offers free book reviews for traditionally and indie published authors, along with other paid promotional options. I’ve never submitted to their contest, but I did submit Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen for a free book review a couple of years ago. As they do not guarantee a review, I wasn’t sure if anyone would pick it up … especially since I’d not entered their contest or paid for other services. BUT, to my surprise, not only did I receive a glowing, thoughtful review – by a professional journalist, no less! – but I was awarded the Readers’ Favorite Five-Star Review badge. (It’s featured above. So pretty!) While the reviews are posted on Readers Favorite website, they are not posted on Amazon or Goodreads. They do post on Barnes&Noble and Google Books (as well as Twitter and Facebook).
The Kindle Book Review offers free book review services, along with other paid promotional options. For their free service, a review is not guaranteed, but if picked up, their reviewers are sometimes on the Top Amazon Reviewers list. Although, curiously, I just looked up my KBR for Liberty Frye and my YA novel, The Orphan of Torundi — which were once posted on Amazon and had a Top Reviewer badges — and have found that they are removed. Grr! In addition to posting on Amazon and Goodreads, if asked, your review may also be posted on Barnes&Noble and Library Thing.
If you do a search for indie author book review sites, chances are, Big Al’s Books and Pals will show toward the top. Reviews are done for free, but the catch is, they don’t guarantee a review – and if a reviewer from Books and Pals decides to accept your request, they don’t tell you when the review is completed, either. You’ll just discover it after obsessively Googling your title for the zillionth time in the hope of finding shiny new reviews, and then, bam! It’s there. The Books and Pals review for Liberty Frye was posted on their website as well as Amazon and Goodreads (under the reviewer’s name for the latter two).
9. NetGalley (via a co-op such at Patchwork Press)
When I first began in indie publishing, I didn’t know about NetGalley. In case anyone out there is in those shoes, NetGalley is a major tool in the professional publishing world for gaining book reviews on mostly galleys and ARC (Advance Review Copy) books. It works like this:
Publishers/authors post their books on NetGalley, and then reviewers with NetGalley accounts request the book. If the publisher approves the book, then it is expected (but not required) that said reviewer will then read and review the book in exchange for the free copy. Sounds great, right? Well, it is when it works out in your favor, but one problem with NetGalley is that, as far as I can tell at least, it seems there isn’t much of a vetting process when it comes to who can hold a reader/reviewer account … other than being over 18 and agreeing to their terms and conditions. And since being a registered reader/reviewer on NetGalley is free, there are a lot of amazing, intelligent NetGalley member readers, but also a lot of snarky ones who are out for free books and a chance to feel like Roger Ebert on a grumpy day.
While big time publishers hold accounts on NetGalley, for small fries with limited budgets, you may want to consider signing up via a co-op such as Patchwork Press. (UPDATE: It appears that the Patchwork Press domain, and their NetGalley co-op, are no longer active. If anyone has better info on this, please shoot me a note and I’ll update this post further.) Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for an account on NetGalley, you can pay as little as $50 for a one-month listing through a co-op.
Pros: Listing your title on NetGalley gives your book a chance to be reviewed by high profile bloggers, librarians, bookstore owners and other book reviewers. Many reviewers post their reviews on sites like Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes&Noble as well. I’ve had some great blogger reviews through this service, such as The Book Faerie and Plots and Pickaxes. Also, if, like me, you discover NetGalley a little late in the game, you can still submit your published book for review; it doesn’t have to be an ARC. It’s just that most books on NetGalley are submitted by publishers that way.
Cons: If you submit your title directly to NetGalley as the publisher/author, you pay a lot of money to do so, but you also get to control who gets approved to review your book. If you submit your book through a co-op for listing, you save some cash, but you also have no control over who is approved to review your book, because the organization that founded the co-op decides (which may or may not be a good thing, but it is a point worth considering nonetheless when making a decision). Also, since you are basically dangling your little indie baby out in the Big Bad Publishing World for criticism, be prepared for some potentially harsh reviews and comments. While I never received any truly bad reviews for Liberty Frye, I will say that, with one exception, my only three-star reviews on Amazon are from, I believe, NetGalley-sourced reviewers. I’ve had five-star reviews from NetGalley reviewers as well, but I’m just saying it’s a mixed bag. Gird your loins for potentially harsh reviews.
Booklife is a newish site developed by Publishers Weekly that is geared toward indie authors. They’ve got lots of paid services listed – as well as recommended resources for editing, promoting, etc. –, but one great resource they offer for free is a chance to be reviewed by Publishers Weekly.
How it works: You list your novel with Booklife by setting up an account, linking your book to your commercial sites, completing an author profile, etc. Then, you can elect to submit your completed novel for review consideration. The process from submission to acceptance to published review can take quite some time (up to around three months).
I wasn’t granted a review for Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen through Booklife, but that may be because I didn’t list it on their site until last year, when LFWH had already been published for a few years. I have, however, received a PW review for The Orphan of Torundi, and I’m still processing that one. I fervently disagree with the reviewer’s assessment of my character and her love interest (which you can read here), but I respect that everyone has their own tastes, world view and internal processes. When you submit your book for someone else’s opinion, you’ve walked into that choice knowing the reviewer may not like it or “get” it. Sometimes that works out great and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a gamble, but if it does work out, then you’ll have a shiny review from a Goliath in the publishing industry.
11. Library Thing
Library Thing is like Goodreads meets the Dewey Decimal System, except instead of the DDS, you’ve got a nifty search bar to find, sort and file books. But in terms of its review service, it works a lot like NetGalley … except it’s free!
Penelope Pipp Publishing listed my YA novel, The Orphan of Torundi, through the Early Reviewers program. This is a great resource to reach bloggers, librarians, booksellers and other reviewers. However, like using a co-op system for NetGalley, you don’t have any control over who is awarded your books for review (but you can decide upon the number of copies given out). I’ve had some glowing, five-star and four-star reviews through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer’s program but I’ve also had some stinkers. Also, like any other review service, there is no way to ensure your book will actually be reviewed by the reader. If your book is reviewed, it may or may not be posted on Library Thing. I’ve had at least one LT reviewer who posted an extremely thoughtful, detailed review on The Orphan of Torundi, but only posted it on her own blog, Amazon and Goodreads. So, you never know.
A final note on Library Thing:
From my experience, I think several of the reviewers were older readers not as accustomed to reading ebooks, and since (at the time) Penelope Pipp didn’t offer print books as an option (all my titles are now available in both ebook and printed format), I think it might have frustrated a few of the reviewers to be forced to read electronically. Just something to keep in mind if you do enroll in the program.
12. The Indie View
The Indie View posts indie author interviews and reviews, but what I like the most about this site is the extensive, searchable list of book bloggers who review indie books, complete with the genres covered by each reviewer. Indie Authors can list their profiles on the site, too, should they so wish. I’ve used this website to find reviewers in the past, and have made a few helpful contacts as a result.
So that’s my list of ten great review sites for indie middle grade authors!
I hope it helps … and saves you some time in the process! Good luck with your book, and if you have success with any of the above sites, I’d love it if you could share your experience with me. Also, if you have any suggestions for other free book review services, please do tell!