Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Serious Reading, a serious book review/promotional company for authors, or not?

This is NOT a sponsored review of Serious Reading, a book review company for authors. These opinions are my own and are based on my experience with www.seriousreading.com All information, and ratings were accurate at the time of posting. 

 


Why hire a review/promotional company?

I think I can speak for the vast majority of indie-authors when I say we would ALL love our novels to be featured by companies like Book Bub. If you haven't heard of it, Book Bub is a book promotional company that has solidified its place in the literary world with it's reputation. Many unknown authors skyrocketed to Bestsellers status with the help of this company. Sadly, the cold hard fact is that most of us will never get our wish; whether it be because of their entry criteria or because of the cost of running a campaign, which starts in the hundreds. I don't know about you, but as an indie-author, I certainly can't afford that; especially not after paying for a cover and everything else that goes along with self-publishing.

So how can we, the little people of the booming book world, reach the same lofty goals as the literary giants we stand beside? How can we climb the ladder of success whose rungs were made too big for our gait? That is the challenge that I faced when my book, The Paladins of Nareita, was released this year. With little experience, and a bucket full of gumption, I started off the same way every other self-published author does. I began to build my platform. By dabbling in every social media platform available to me, my social reach began to grow. I even got my book onto the shelves of two book stores, Books on the Square in Rhode Island, and Brookline Booksmith in Boston. But I noticed that my online following was mainly other authors.

This led me to ask the same question every author asks, how can I reach readers? After exhausting my brain and researching where many readers found their next reads, my blog, Books and Authors, was born. But I soon realised that there was only so many times I could talk about my own book... I know, I couldn't believe it either. So I began to interview other authors as well. I wanted to showcase their talent, to bring their works of art into the light too. I also wanted the best for them. So, I toiled long into the nights, rose early in the mornings, took time away from my own writing and family, and broke through different barriers of the blogging world to get it to a fairly descent level in five months, (about 5 to 7k views a month). People started commenting on my posts, my Facebook page had lots of interaction, and my twitter account notified me on all the re-tweets and likes. Even my Google + page views skyrocketed, and my Pintrest pins got re-pinned all over the place.With it, notoriety of my own book too.

Sales went quiet well. On average I was selling about four to six books a week. I'm told that's pretty good for a debut author. But still, I felt like I was preaching to the choir, that I was only reaching other authors and the occasional non-author, and that audience would soon run out. Not that I wasn't grateful for them, I was, beyond belief. But an obsession had taken over me... as it does, on occasion. Reaching readers became my own personal enigma I had to solve. However, I soon came to understand that I couldn't do it on my own. I was only one person, a debut author no one had ever heard of.

So, I scoured the web for affordable book review and promotional companies. Someone with more clout then little old me. I came across many and couldn't decide which one was better. They all sounded so appealing, so promising, but I was skeptical. I scrutinized their testimonials and tried to find an unbiased opinion on whether or not it was worth investing in these book review companies. I found very little actual reviews on the net, so I decided to do one myself.

Thus entered Serious Reading

Serious Reading

Serious Reading, at only $49 for a campaign, looked most promising of all. They don't advertise themselves as a promotional company per say, rather as a book review company. But they do say that they will promote your book too. This is what drew me in. I wanted to witness the power of their mailing list and 150,000+ strong promotional power of fans, followers and subscribers. And when they were done, I wanted to shout from the roof-top about how good they were.
But I was to be disappointed.

To be honest, I was tired of self-promoting around the clock, and was really hoping for someone to help me, to give me a little boost. For $49, here's what they promised. (Please note, the red is my experience on how they did with what they provided. If I didn't comment, it means that they did exactly as they stated.)

**"1.We will publish a review of your book.
Within 2 weeks we will publish a review of your book. (My review took nearly three weeks)The review includes 3 parts: author bio, short description of the book and overall editor opinion with a rating. As an editorial review, it can be used on your Amazon or Goodreads page as a means of promotion. (Serious Reading does not put a review up on Amazon for your book)

2.We will publish an interview with you, the author.
Readers love to get to know the author better. This is how they end up following and reading all your existing and future books. (But yet my interview featured NONE of my contacts, not my website, not my facebook page, not my twitter) We will publish an interview with you on our platform.
We have prepared over 200 questions for you to pick from. We recommend answering a minimum of 20 questions.

3.We will promote your book.
Your book will be recommended to our over 150,000 subscribers, fans and followers. Not only we will publish your book on our Facebook wall, but will also include it on our biweekly newsletter.

4.We will include your book in our recommendations.
Every-time a reader sees a review for a similar book (or a book from the same genre as yours), your book will be recommended too.

5.We will include your book in our libraries and book stores catalog.
Every few months we release a recommendations catalog to over 5,000 book stores, academic and public libraries. That is your best chance of getting your book ordered in bulk by the hundreds. Your book will be there!

6.We will Feature your book on our Homepage
We will feature your book both on our Homepage, giving it maximum exposure, but also at the top of each category your book fits into."

They also now have an fabulous online magazine out, check it out here.


My Expectations. 

It all sounded wonderful, but my expectations weren't overly high. I knew I wasn't going to hit the Bestseller's list anytime soon. I also knew there was going to be some things on this list that I could not check for the purposes of the review. But I was determined to give Serious Reading a fair review on the things that I could.

What I was hoping for? To see a quality review of my book, and, despite a couple of typos, I was pretty happy with it. I was also hoping to see my interview, complete with my contact details (ie website, twitter handle, something so readers could find out more about me). I expected to be featured on the pages they promised, to see some kind of interaction on their posts, and, although not promised, to see an increase of sales. After all, why else would any author pay for a review company if not to increase their visibility and therefore increase their sales?

To make sure that I didn't taint the results of the sales, I stopped all my self-promotion. But that was never going to be a permanent state of being. I had to resume my promotions at some stage, or see my book drown amongst all the others. So I gave them the same amount of time I dedicate to my own authors, one week. As they linked my book on their website to only Amazon, this is the platform I based my sales results on.

What happened?

My initial experience with Serious Reading was a good one. Their website worked well; no broken links. They used Paypal, which meant I had some security when it came to claiming money back. Even though they promised that my review would be up "within" two weeks, it wasn't. I don't blame them, however, my book is quite long. When I contacted them to ask what had happened, they were polite and responded quickly. This was very reassuring, and they get full marks for this.

In my review, however, they scored my book at 96%. Ninety-six percent of what, exactly? There was no info given on criteria or where the number came from or what it's for. Does it mean that it's 96% a good read? I guess we'll never know. Not that I'm disappointed with 96%, I'm not, I just don't know how they came up with that number. As with my review here, I expected some kind of breakdown. But that was only a minor issue in an otherwise wonderful service so far.

As someone who is only just beginning in the blogging world, I can see the importance of linking authors with their audience, and I do so on every one of my author spotlights. It makes life so much easier for the reader to be able to click on a link to connect, rather than having to search through the internet for the author. For me, this is networking 101. But yet, neither my interview nor my review had any links to me, and I found that quite disappointing. More so, I noted that there was no comments section on their posts. With my own blog, and I am aware the review isn't on a blog but I'm pretty sure a comment section could be added, I get in excess of 20 comments on every post. It's a good way to demonstrate your followers interactivity. Without this, I have no idea if it's just me reading to myself, or not.

It was only after Serious Reading posted my link to their Facebook page, that I also realised 100k+ of their 150k+ followers, came from there. This didn't bother me so much, because I use Facebook for the very same thing and I know it to be a powerful tool. But my posts often have 10+ comments on each, and many more likes. I was expecting some kind of reaction from their post (actually more because I only have 600+ followers on mine). But I was disappointed again. To date, there are six likes and no comments. Granted, this is more than the average author post on their Facebook page. Likes and comments aren't the success at which I gauged my entire experience, but they do give a good indication as to how much interaction Serious Reading has with it's audience. It is also a good indicator of how sales might go from my investment.

I tried to find Serious Reading's twitter account, to see if they had posted about my article. I was gobsmacked to find that they don't have a twitter account. In fact, I couldn't find any other social media outlet for Serious Reading other then their website and Facebook page. Knowing the power behind twitter posts (as I get most of my blog views from there) I couldn't fathom why they didn't harness that outlet. When they email you with the links to your interview, they give you a twitter handle to use when you (and I stress YOU) tell the world about your interview, @seriousreading. But when I looked at the tweets that were used with this handle, I saw it consisted SOLELY of the author's own tweets about the article. Not only that, but the handle wasn't attached to ANY twitter account at all. Serious Reading, aside from the one Facebook comment and the invisible lists they promised to put me on, did not do any promoting of my article or interview. This, to me, was a huge letdown.

And now, for the all important question that every indie-author wants to know, how did all of this change my sales? The week I stopped promoting, the same full seven days I gave to Serious Reading, I sold three books. One of those books I know came from a direct sale from me as the buyer emailed me to say they had just bought it. The other two I couldn't tell you where they came from. There are some lovely authors friends of mine who post about my book and help me promote, so those book sales could have come from them. However, in the interests of fairness, I will assume they came from the readers of Serious Reading. My sales, therefore, are down significantly this week.

The results of my review. 


Initial contact 1/1*
Concerns/questions answered quickly 1/1 *
On time delivery 0/1*
Completed as promised 1/1*
Visible Interaction on posts 0/3*
             Facebook 0/1*
             Twitter 0/1*
             Comments 0/1*
Response to campaign 1/3*
             Were there any sales? 1/1*
             More sales than normal 0/1*
             Was my investment returned 0/1*

Total score for Serious Reading was 4/10 stars. 

My conculsion

Do I believe my investment was returned? No.
Do I believe I had just paid for a lovely article on a pretty website? Yes.
Would I use Serious Reading again? No.

I truly would love to give Serious Reading a better score. I had much higher expectations for this company than they produced. Although there may be some residual sales produced from their promotion, I will not be able to determine the origin of the sales once I restart by own promotions. I believe a week is a fair trial time.

There certainly is a need for good, inexpensive promotional sites for indie-authors who just want to be heard. I know there are many other promotional companies out there who might get better results, and I am open to hearing about them. Heck, I might even review them. I am so dying to find that 10/10 star company. If you have had experience with a good book review/promotional company, comment in the comments below and I will certainly look into them.

**All credit for this quotation/information goes to seriousreading.com

I acknowledge that my experience is my own and other authors may get different results.  


47 comments:

  1. That sounds like a great idea for authors. I think all authors should check into this.

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  2. One of the problems with paid review sites is that the reviews may or may not be honest. That's why, I suspect, they aren't given much credibility. Plus the reach of this company is not so good. Thanks for this info.

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  3. What an amazing resource for other authors out there. It must be challenging to figure out how to best promote yourself and what your budget allows for. This is a great list!
    Karen | GlamKaren.com

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  4. Thank you for your time and well...your money to point out another setback for indie authors. This is a hard business and self promotions is brutal, but thankfully authors, such as yourself, post about experiences such as this.

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  5. 96 sounds pretty good to me, but you are right, out of what? They need to give some criteria so you can get constructive criticism.

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  6. Thanks for sharing your honest feedback on a service you used. It helps other form an opinion of whether or not they want to spend their hard earned dollar after seeing an honest unbiased review!

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  7. I think hiring people to help you out is always a good idea. i have reviewed a few books myself and enjoy doing it.

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  8. That's frustrating that with such a large Facebook audience the interaction is so low. It makes me wonder about the quality of their page 'likes'. I am not a book author, but I do love reading. I tend to get most of my online reviews from either Goodreads or Amazon (I also heavily rely on personal recommendations from friends).

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  9. I think the concept here works on paper but the execution, like you stated, falls flat. I love your honest review!

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  10. I didn't know that you could hire a company for something like this! I do a lot of reading for books companies and I love it!

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  11. This is an interesting concept for authors. I never thought about how hard it must be to share a book. You worked hard on your book and you didn't get all that you were promised from the company. I would be skeptical going forward working with any company that claims to promote it.

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  12. This is a great idea - not only for authors - but for bloggers to realize how the process works

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  13. Hello TP! Thanks for such a wonderful and informative blog post. Like you, I'm a new novelist and I couldn't help wondering about these paid for book reviews for myself. Thanks for sharing your experience. You certainly answered my questions and confirmed by doubts about them.

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  14. I appreciate your honesty here. I know a few people who do real book promotions and I can't imagine someone neglecting social media if they promise promotions. That doesn't make sense at all.

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  15. I think indie authors definitely have a harder time - obviously since there is no large publisher behind them. I work with several book promoters, and they send me copies of books in return for reviews on my blog as well as Goodreads and Amazon. They do book tours etc. I'm not sure how it is on the author side of things, but I know when I am looking for a good book to read, I can usually rely on them to provide one for me! One that I work with is http://www.sagesblogtours.com/

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  16. The more post that I see from authors, the more respect I have for someone who writes a book. They face so many obstacles in getting their book published. I believe your review would be beneficial to any other author out there.

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  17. Thanks for the review and feedback. I'm an indie author as well and notice it's not easy to find a good, and host promo service. Some over-promise and under-deliver. I do think that with more promo services out there, and flood of books on the market, promotion will be more challenging than ever. Sure appreciate hearing your thoughts on this service.

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  18. I know how hard it is to get blog posts out there and retain a following. I can't imagine trying to promote books and reaching readers. It must be so hard. I was so invested in Serious Reading when you started to talk about them...I am so disappointed to see that it didn't benefit you very much. That's disheartening. To invest in something that seems to ultimately do the bare minimum in return.

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  19. I've never heard of Serious Reading but I know a few book tours websites (as a blogger, I've signed up for a few), and I guess some of these campaigns do reach a fair amount of bloggers (so you'd have more than just one pretty article, plus honest reviews, that could be positive or not, but definitely it's more helpful to have honest reviews even if they are negative, in my opinion).
    Nowadays, I receive many requests via my blog directly, authors offer me review copies (to me and other bloggers) so we can provide them with an honest review. Of course, this is lot of work, and of course, as a blogger, I can't accept all requests I get, however if I do accept, it's purely due to interest on the book, being it that it's free, and honest (positive or not).
    To reach these bloggers, websites like The Indie Book Reviewers List (theindieview.com) are excellent resources!
    I've also heard of Book Gorilla (I am signed up for their newsletter), and in this case you pay to have your book featured in their newsletter (which has a huge database), I know this worked for some authors.
    Whatever you do, best of luck. The journey is hard, I know that.

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  20. You would think that a company who charges to review a book, or any other product, would be more forthcoming on exactly HOW they arrive at the score they assign to the item. What are the various merits that an item is based on and at what percentage of 100 does each category represent. I am sorry that you a less than favorable experience from a company that you had such high hopes for.

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  21. Thank you so much for your post. I am a newbie writer trying to finish off my first novel at the moment, currently on my second edit soon to go on my third. I never knew what to do once my editing was done, but because of your post I have a clearer direction on my journey to become a best-selling author.

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  22. As someone who has a book review blog as well! I believe its better for the Author than contacting one site like this in order to review the book to participate in one of the Blog Tour sites so that you get reviews, spotlights, and interviews from multiple blogs so your exposure is greater.

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  23. What a great idea for authors and I appreciate your honest review here. Great post!!

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  24. Sometimes, I think it's best to reach out to influencers within that community and see if they are willing to review for you. More than likely, they are going to be honest and they're followers respect them enough to check out the book (whether it's paid or not).

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  25. Sounds like a great resource for authors, as hiring people to help you, could do some wonders for sure. I love how your review is pretty straight forward which is always good to do, so book lovers are going to get a clear idea.

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  26. Although I have never experienced this, I appreciate your real and honest feedback. It think it is important that we provide our readers with the real so we know what to expect or what to avoid.

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  27. This is really helpful to authors!! I enjoyed this post as well since I am an amateur author and I try to cook something up on Wattpad in my spare time.

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  28. The Facebook engagement raised questions on my end, and also the 96% score without any indication. By sharing your experience, you're going to help a lot of other writers.

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  29. Thanks for sharing your honest feedback. Sounds like a great resource for authors! Thanks for sharing this experience.

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  30. I never wrote a book but reading this article it made me realise how hard it would be to actually get it out there, if I ever did. I suppose it's a tough competition out there. Regarding the Facebook engagement, you can clearly see that while you have people interested in your content on your page, the website's one is made out of people that are not. Might even be bought, who knows? I work in social media and I always say, better 100 real people interested in your company and product then 100K than don't care. As you know that you can turn some of those 100 into real customers, while you will achieve that with the 100K.

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  31. We have always had great respect for writers, writing isn't that simple as it seems. There are many struggling to get fans for their blogs and get readers for books seems much more difficult. Your post is definitely going help the newbies struggling with their new ventures.

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  32. Well done about being so honest! I am a little gobsmacked that they didn't have a Twitter page especially of they are meant to be promoting you?

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  33. This is an interesting service. I had no idea that there was something like that. I'm not an author though. At least not yet but maybe someday. So good to know about this.

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  34. Sorry it didn't work out perfectly as you had expected. But thanks for the honest reviews for the rest of us!

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  35. Reviewing a product/service is always interesting because it varies from person to person and we get to know the broader perspective of the same picture. As a travel blogger, I have done many reviews of Hotels and resorts and sometimes it become really hard to give constructive feedback!

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  36. I am glad there are book review services available for independent and self-published authors. Very helpful indeed! Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  37. Such an honest review, I have been approached before to write my own Ebook on my experience and expertise on the performing world. I think it would be a scary thing to tackle on my own , would definitely need the help!

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  38. I might be the only one stupid here, but what really is an "indie author"?

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    1. lol, you're not the only one. An Indie-author is someone who is self-published and doesn't have the might of big corporate publishing houses behind them

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  39. Never heard of this but would be great for authors! Thank you for your honest opinions

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  40. This was so helpful! I've been trying to working on a young adult novel for some time (work has gotten int he way) but have always been curious to know how people get reviews out there. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the service this site provides, it was really in depth.

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  41. To be honest most books that I've bought are reviewed books. I like reading a review first before buying the book. And now I know the meaning of Indie-author. I had to google it :)

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  42. Reviewing is important - I am thinking of doing it myself - thank you for the cool info

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  43. Thanks for your review. There are a lot of such companies out there and all of them have glowing testimonials, but one can't trust those, you know?

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    1. Hi Brian,
      All the testimonials from our page are fully verifiable. You can contact any of the authors who left the testimonials for confirmation.

      Thank you

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  44. I am confused by some of this. They DO advertise. They offer a $1 a month free trial on Facebook. I heard from my "account manager" within a couple of days then I quickly sent an author interview, blog, and advertorial. All were published on THEIR website on the same day. There has been no contact and no activity since then. It goes up to 14.95 basic membership next month but I've had a slew of PMs from other authors who've all experienced the same thing. A huge disappointment. I've contacted Paypal and my account manager to cancel this service.

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    1. That's the extent of their advertising that's visible. They post it on their facebook and website then their done. There's little to no interactivity and no way of telling if anyone has seen the post. I'll be reviewing another company soon, but only if they work out. stay tuned.

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