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Monday, October 27, 2014

Author Resource Review: The Books Machine

Reviews are everything to a new writer. People often make decisions whether to risk their money on your book based on your Amazon or Goodreads star rating.
Finding those reviews, though, can be time consuming. A lot of readers never bother to leave reviews. You can contact book bloggers and top reviewers and offer them free copies in return for an honest review, but most have huge waiting/reading lists. I figure for every ten review requests I send out, only about half get back to me with so much as a "sorry, but I can't fit you in right now," and of that half maybe one or two actually agrees to read and review my book. After almost a year, Dragon's Curse, only has 19 reviews on Amazon. A fair percentage of that 19 did come from reviewers I pursued and gifted a copy too, and those reviews equal hours and hours of work, finding reviewers, emailing them, over and over again.

So when I got an email advertising a new site "the books machine" (link here)  offering to connect writers with reviewers, I was intrigued. Yes, the site did have a pretty hefty membership fee ($30 a month is not cheap), but they offered a 6 month trial and didn't ask for credit card numbers or other personal information, so I gave it a go.

Here's a quick run down on the "author" side of the site (you can also sign up as a reader/reviewer, but I haven't tried that so I'm not sure how it works or what it looks like).

The book machine's site
Anyway, so the site is pretty easy to navigate. That's one definite positive. You create a user name/password, pretty standard, and then you  can set your books up.



I chose to list books one and two from my series. You just fill out basic information and then click if you want your book "visible" or not and if you are willing to gift it.

After this reviewers can request copies of your book and you manage these requests from your  author dashboard.


You don't have to accept pending requests immediately. You can sit on them for a while, but this is where the site starts to break down for me. There isn't an on site messaging system to contact the reviewer. They do provide their email address (marked out for privacy reasons in the picture above) and the reviewer can add in a quick note when they send you request, but there really isn't a lot of 'communication made easy' here. If you click the "accept" check box on the request form, an email goes out to you and the reviewer letting them know they are accepted, but then you have to independently email the reviewer and set up book delivery. That is also not done through the site. It's very impersonal, honestly.
After the reviewer receives your book, they have thirty days to read it (though they can request an extension, apparently). Once this 30 days has past, you have to "rate" the reviewer. There are only 3 options.

As you can see in the picture above, you can rate the reviewer "not fulfilled," "fulfilled," or "fulfilled efficiently." So you can't rate whether it was a "good" review or not just that they did the review in a timely manner or not. Now on one hand this is good because allowing authors to down rate reviewers who found honest problems with a book could backfire. On the other hand, there really isn't any protection from the author against "troll" reviews or lazy reviewers who don't read the book and just leave vague "Okay book. 3 Stars" reviews or something like that. Fortunately, neither of these things happened to me. Unfortunately. . .

In the past four months or so since I signed up for the site, I've only gotten a single review out of it. I have one person who requested a copy who still has a a little bit of time to come through before they are past the 30 day limit.

The review I got was a good one. The person seemed to have read my   book and gave it five stars. That's great, but I'd have to be all sorts of crazy to say with a return rate like this, the site is worth anything close to the $30 a month they plan to charge for it. I definitely will not be renewing my account past the "free trial" they gifted me.

So my final conclusion: good idea, lousy results, I'll stick with emailing bloggers on my own.


As always, you can check out my Amazon author page and books here
My Author Page
Who knows? Maybe you'll want to review my books!

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