Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reviewers and Self-Publishing Authors

I have always known that different people will have wildly different opinions of the same book. I have a friend who rereads Lord of the Rings every year, and I have another who thought it was intolerably dull.

It never occurred to me (until this morning) that other people might have differing opinions on my book. My subconscious tells me that MY book is clearly less a matter of someone's taste, and more a matter of being totally appropriate and incredibly useful to all people everywhere. Otherwise (duh!) I would not have taken the time to write it. Therefore, no one should have anything but a favorable experience with it. Or so my subconscious tells me. This weekend put my subconscious on a forced march back to Reality.

I had my book out with two reviewers. One in collegiate academia, and one in a large industry which employs a lot of college-age folks. I'll refer to them as Industry and Academic. Both had enthusiastically agreed over the phone to review the book. Academic even asked if I might come up and speak to the students once the book was published, which was extremely flattering.
  • Industry got his on Jan 10 and finished on Feb 1. (22 days)
  • Academic got the PDF on Jan 28 and finished on Jan 30. (2 days)
Academic's response was via email:
[...] my honest opinion:

Easy to read.
Good format.
Some good ideas.
Got a little tedious around idea number 7, but then again I'm 60 and clearly not in your target demographic.

In general, I think it's a good book, but would be surprised if college students -- particularly business students -- would give it a second thought [...]

By the time I got to [Section N], I started to wonder if you were serious or this was a big goof. Sorry man, I just don't know about this book and who I would recommend it to. Maybe the local SBDC.

Anyway, thanks for thinking of us and good luck.
 Summary of Academic's review:
  1. He literally feared my book was a joke. That's supposed to be hyperbole!
  2. He doesn't think college students would give it a second thought.
  3. He can't think of anyone specific to recommend it to.
  4. That kiss-off at the end is pretty epic.
Being in the traditional publishing pipeline would have been more comfortable: once you're in the pipeline, you can be fairly sure you're not just fooling yourself about the value of your work. Self-publishing authors have no such security blanket. I had Industry's response coming up in two days, and now I was dreading it. It came this morning.

We set up an appointment to talk on the phone
He was impressed. He stopped just short of saying everyone in his industry would profit from reading the book, and suggested some industry rags where I might be able to publish articles to market my book, as well as some more concrete marketing ideas. He followed up with an email:
[This Book] provides the reader with a "Gee, I can do that" idea that these professions are within their reach.
[People in this industry] would find this book of great value
And went on to remind me of some of the marketing ideas we'd talked about on the phone.
Now that is a different story. I think I may have experienced Bipolar Personality Disorder on a very small scale in the last two days.

So if you're out there, writing your own book, and the reviews are bad, keep in mind that some people are just incorrigible Luddites masquerading as evolved humans. The rest will enjoy your book thoroughly and heap praise on your name. Or so my resurgent subconscious tells me.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Jeff:

    I think your project is a unique one -- one definitely built to suit a niche market. Is that market a business major? Possibly, but probably not. Remember niches sell. You can't please everyone all of the time.

    I'm looking forward to reading your book!