How book reviews are like one-night stands


So, how many of you have had that walk of shame? Come on… everyone has had a bit too much to drink at the bar and ended up leaving with someone who… well… just doesn’t do it for them once the sun comes up. It’s almost like we are vampires at times with our choices. Solve the need for now and worry about the morning in the morning.

But since we all have been there… yes, I mean you too… there are some lessons that we can learn as writer-marketers from that one-night stand and the walk of shame. So, last night, you were out with your friends, drinking, dancing and putting the moves on the hottest, most interesting members of the opposite sex. Not finding the greatest luck with them, you decided to change your tactics and shoot for a different level, while increasing the amount of drinking and dancing. The drinking helped to lower your standards and by the end of the night, after kissing a bunch of frogs, you found an eligible – that’s a better word for willing, right? – partner and left for the night. You noticed as you were walking out the door, your friends were all trying to get your attention so you didn’t leave with your chosen suitor, but what did they know. You had spent some time talking to them, some time dancing with them and now it was time to go.

See, the mistake that we make as authors, without the big traditional publishing marketing engine supporting us, is that we are willing to accept anyone who is willing to read our book. Now, we really can’t be faulted, with the sheer number of people that put up big neon signs saying “Indie authors not accepted here” or “We reserve the right to deny service to indie authors,” but does that mean that we should just take what we get and hope for the best? I say no. Now, let me tell you why.

The cycle of rejection, much like the bar, starts with the traditional newspapers who close their doors to us and say sorry, not interested. They are the hottest, most interesting members that shoo us away like flies at a barbeque. Now, I am one of those people that says, “forget the book and let’s get to know each other,” but not everyone is like me. I use twitter to harangue them with marketing posts, excerpts and other teasers to get them interested in my wares – wow, I sound like a prostitute, don’t I? Sometimes, I will strike up a conversation with them over a book they have reviewed that I have read, looking for common ground. Something that I can use to re-introduce the option of reading the book, not reviewing it.

This cycle of rejection is continued by book bloggers, who have also started to chant the mantra of “Indie books not accepted.” Many do it because they get so many requests from established, super authors… cough… cough… to review their books that they don’t have time. Others have had bad experiences with self-published books so they have sworn them off. May I ask, if you get a couple apples with worms in them, do you stop eating apples? Of course not, you just take more time in making your selection at the produce counter. Why not apply the same logic to your book selections?

I made a comment the other day in an interview about how books are bought around the world. We all buy books based on two things – what we have read or what our friends have said about them. It’s what takes us to restaurants that we have never been too, trying on clothes that we probably wouldn’t consider and listening to music that isn’t what we normally would listen too. We don’t walk into bookstores and ask – So what has Harper Collins, Harlequin or some other publisher published this week – no, not one of us does that. And let’s be honest, there is a reason that chocolate, bubble gum and batteries are right there at the checkout counter and store “specials” are at the end of aisles. We saw an ad before we left the house, heard something on the radio before entering the store or just had a thought pop magically into our heads and we pick it up and buy it without thinking, without considering whether we need it or not. They want us to make that impulse buy, because they know that we will. It’s human nature to try something different because it was there on a discount or sale. Don’t believe me… stop reading right now… open the drawer in your kitchen or your closet and remind yourself how many things you bought “just because.” I’ll wait, go ahead.

In the cycle of rejection, these two groups push us towards a middle of the road. That person that reads because they enjoy reading. They aren’t genre specific, they aren’t picky about who gets selected and who doesn’t. They just read for reading’s sake. The bulk of these people are authors themselves and have gone through the first two stages of rejection so they make a decision to support the community and read. God bless them! And honestly, they give you the best reviews. The hot, sexy one would have tossed you out of bed because you weren’t as good as their last girl/boyfriend. The next one would have spent the whole time asking why you aren’t doing this or that because that is what they like… and it is all about them. The middle of the road is the best because they are there for the same reason you are, to have a good time. They aren’t comparing you to someone else nor are they judging you based on what they like and don’t like. They are enjoying the experience because they want to have fun as well.

And then there is that person that we don’t want for any reason, but somehow end up with. The person that was left behind, the one that got away because they were supposed to, the one who is left at the end of the night because they were in the wrong place looking for the wrong things. Free drinks are great, but that’s all you should have expected, free drinks. The person that doesn’t read in our genre, doesn’t understand our genre’s books and just does it because they get a free book. These are the people that make my skin crawl because they nit-pick over things that “they didn’t understand.” There are many things that I didn’t understand at one time or another, but you know what I did? I read books. I surfed the Internet (It’s good for things other than twitter and Facebook). I learned so that I could be better at what I choose to do with my life. It’s called being an adult. But we don’t get that option with the beer-goggles and in the morning, we can’t be quick enough to get out before our friends see us.

It’s all a seduction and sometimes we get the belle of the ball, sometimes we get what we get, but we can change the options by changing our approach. Funny part of this whole thing.. it applies to readers as well, but I hate to rush you while you’re getting dressed, but I do have a meeting to get to…

Sure, I had a great time… Will I call you later? Well… you’ll have to figure that one out yourself won’t you?

About the Author

Khalid Muhammad recently published his first novel, Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office, a spy thriller based in Pakistan, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. In his professional life, he owns and manages a marketing services company that specializes in digital and social media marketing. Find out more about him at