Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Writing About Sex? Why Not, It’s a Universal Aspect of Human Nature

Author and senior vice-president of sales at Penguin Random House, Ananth Padmanabhan

I came across a review of an interesting book on erotica that poses some interesting questions and concepts Re sex and romantic love.

The book, “Play With Me”, is written by Ananth Padmanabhan, who is the senior vice-president of sales at Penguin Random House, and it is his debut novel.

Author Ananth feels there is a big gap in the market today of books dealing with the heart, mind and body and where do you draw the line between them (and/or connect them) when it comes to sex and romantic love. And he should know about any gaps in the market — being the senior vice-president of sales at Penguin Random House and part of the publishing industry for nearly two decades.

“The past few years have seen a lot of short erotic stories being published but novels aren’t so common. I have written short erotic pieces before, but this is the first novel of this kind from India in the male voice,” he says.

 “How does one draw a line between heart and body? When does the mind kick in? What does pleasure do to our notion of love?” he asks.

I have written a few steamy scenes in my past projects and Ananth’s approach and the questions it raises about sex and love is something that begs more understanding or, at least, consideration in developing motives and characters.

Now, this piece from The Hindu newspaper by journalist Preeti Zachariah:


Love, lust, and life

“It is not autobiographical at all. I wanted to write about sex — it’s a universal aspect of human nature…” says Ananth Padmanabhan, about his debut novel Play with Me.


“Can one person be in love with two people, in very different ways? Yes, he can,” says Ananth Padmanabhan, whose debut novel Play with Me (Penguin, Rs.250) is a somewhat salacious take on the eternal love triangle.

The book tells the story of Sid, a successful photographer in an ad-agency and his two radically different relationships with two women — the gorgeous, free-spirited Cara who changes the way he thinks about erotic pleasure and Natasha towards whom he feels romantic love.

“How does one draw a line between heart and body? When does the mind kick in? What does pleasure do to our notion of love?” he asks.

Here in the city to release the book at Starmark, the author is remarkably candid about his reasons for writing it. “It is not autobiographical at all. I wanted to write about sex — it’s a universal aspect of human nature. And there is a big gap in the market today.”

He should know — Ananth, who is the senior vice-president, sales at Penguin Random House, has been part of the publishing industry for nearly two decades. “The past few years have seen a lot of short erotic stories being published but novels aren’t so common. I have written short erotic pieces before but this is the first novel of this kind from India in the male voice,” he says.

Also at the release was psychiatrist Vijay Nagaswami and journalist Yagna Balaji. Dr. Nagaswami attempted to define erotica. “It’s not just about sex but about people in unabashedly sexual relationships. Erotica is about using a feather, pornography is about using the whole chicken,” he smiles.  Using the popular Fifty Shades of Grey as a reference point, he wondered whether off-beat sexual themes garnered better audience response.

Ananth demurs by saying “For pleasure to be extraordinary, it doesn’t have to be unusual. I wanted this to be real and normal. This is an intense book, written with a lot of integrity that captures what goes on in the character’s mind.” Yagna adds that unlike many other books that claim to titillate, there is no flowery language and veiled allusions. This is the real thing.

Ananth explains, “I wanted to understand how pleasure is impacted by the notion of love. There is no universal formula, however,” he says. “Many times we get into relationships which seem right at that point of our lives, even if we know that they probably aren’t long-term ones.”

“Sex is a fundamental need — there is no morality associated with it,” feels Ananth. Any decision you make is okay if you can live with it yourself.  We constantly seek pleasure. Relationships are all about pleasure. Why should I be apologetic about it?” he asks.

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Paid Book Reviews – Credible or Expensive Trash?

Do Book Reviewers Actually Read the Material?

All the new indie publishing opportunities out there begs the question: Are book reviews functional or even necessary … especially in the digital sector where readers can just read the trailer or synopsis to find if the story may appeal to them enough to fork over $.99 to $1.99 (or a little higher).

I really don’t know. I’m a little conflicted on the whole concept of book reviews … especially paid book reviews.

Even in traditional publishing, book reviews RE fictional story telling, especially, were dubious to me at best. After all, reviews are just opinions … and you know what they say about opinions. Just because another author or other person of note says a story is good or bad, doesn’t mean another one million readers won’t disagree!

The only legitimate book reviews, I believe, probably exist in the science, math and technical areas when an expert in the field of the subject matter comments on its viability … But, this is something that can be politically motivated, so you have to be careful here, also! 

So, are book reviews necessary or good? I feel they might have a certain marketing value among those enamored with the reviewer … usually this applies to the adolescent, younger crowd.

Reviews will also be taken more seriously if the reviewing source has worked up a certain credibility (this seems very hard work) and track record amongst a particular niche. “I have enjoyed every single book that XYZ has reviewed and recommended! I will always read their reviews.”

If your e-book is good, it will get great word-of-mouth (or social media rush) and that is the best reviews you can receive … and they are free!

Here is a good insight and view on book reviews by indie author advocate Lynn Osterkamp, Ph.D. at

Are Paid Book Reviews Credible?

What if you could get 50 people to post positive reviews of your book on Amazon? For a reasonable fee?

I know the importance of having reviews of my books on Amazon. A mix of professional reviews and customer reviews is ideal. But for indie publishers and self-published authors, reviews–especially professional reviews–can be hard to get. Many professional reviewers still refuse to review books not published by mainstream publishers.

Sites that will review our books are increasingly charging a fee for what they term an expedited review or for posting the review they write on sites like Amazon and B&N. While most of these book review sites continue to offer free reviews, they warn that due to increasing numbers of submissions, a book submitted for a free review may take months to get reviewed or might not get reviewed at all.

So should you pay for a review?

Purists on author discussion groups and blogs continue to insist loudly that paying for a review with anything other than a free copy of the book, it is wrong. They say these reviews have little to no credibility and will ruin your reputation.

Read and learn more

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The First Ultimate Online Book Site Has Arrived! will be the ultimate site for all things literaryThree major publishers…Penquin, Hachette Book Group and Simon & Schuster…have committed to financing a one-stop book marketing and selling site.

The site will be called and will be operational late this summer.

“The site intends to provide information for all things literary: suggestions on what books to buy, reviews of books, excerpts from books and news about authors. Visitors will also be able to buy books directly from the site or from other retailers and write recommendations and reviews for other readers.”…Julie Bosman , NYTimes.

From Julie Bosman:

Publishers Make a Plan: A ‘One Stop’ Book Site

Publishers have spent a lot of time and money building their own company Web sites with fresh information on their books and authors. The trouble is, very few book buyers visit them.

In search of an alternative, three major publishers said on Friday that they would create a new venture, called, which is expected to make its debut late this summer. The site intends to provide information for all things literary: suggestions on what books to buy, reviews of books, excerpts from books and news about authors. Visitors will also be able to buy books directly from the site or from other retailers and write recommendations and reviews for other readers.

The publishers — Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group USA and Hachette Book Group — hope the site will become a catch-all destination for readers in the way that music lovers visit for reviews and information. The AOL Huffington Post Media Group will provide advertising sales support and steer traffic to the site through its digital properties.

“There’s a frustration with book consumers that there’s no one-stop shopping when it comes to information about books and authors,” said Carolyn Reidy, the president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster. “We need to try to recreate the discovery of new books that currently happens in the physical environment, but which we don’t believe is currently happening online.”

Read and learn more

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Book Reviews & the New FTC Guidelines

Filed under: bloggers,book reviews,FTC guidelines,publishers — gator1965 @ 4:57 pm

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has come out with new book review guidelines (and what in the hell does review have to do with trade, anyway?) that are patently prejudiced against bloggers reviewing books. The FTC did not include newspapers, magazines, radio, TV or other book review sources in a clear & appropriate “review policy” that applies to all.

Anyway, Ron Hogan, from the GALLEYCAT wrote an interesting post about the FTC faux pas:

Book Publishers, Bloggers, & the FTC Guidelines
By Ron Hogan

Shortly after the Federal Trade Commission issued its “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” yesterday, the world learned that the FTC judges newspapers and blogs by different standards—while newspapers (and magazines, and radio shows, and TV shows) are able to receive consumer products for the purposes of review with no requirement to disclose the provenance of those products, the FTC’s stated position is that bloggers are receiving those same consumer products as compensation for a presumed endorsement: Nobody but a blockhead ever gave a blogger anything, according to the FTC, except for good reviews.

(This position isn’t unique to the FTC—three years ago, before he became the editor of Granta, John Freeman attacked book bloggers by making much the same argument, particularly with reference to blogs that participate in ecommerce affiliate programs in order to generate income by commissions on referrals leading to consumer purchases.)

Obviously, these guidelines apply to all consumer products; it’s just that books happen to be our particular area of interest here at GalleyCat. With that in mind, what can book publishers do to challenge this pernicious double standard? I am not a lawyer, so the following should not be construed as legal advice, but perhaps publicists at book publishing companies might wish to discuss it with corporate counsel. In fact, I strongly encourage them to do so.

(1) If the Federal Trade Commission sincerely believes publishers send books to bloggers with the expectation that those books will receive endorsement in the form of a positive review, perhaps it can be disabused of this notion. What if publishers developed a standardized document to accompany any books, whether they be sent to bloggers or media companies, explicitly defining the conditions under which that book has been distributed? This document could state, among other things, that the book it accompanies is being sent to the recipient for the purposes of review, that it is in no way intended as compensation to the recipient, that the publisher places no condition upon the recipient as to the handling of the book, that the publisher has no expectations as to how or even if the recipient will review the book, and so on. (Again, I’m not a lawyer, so the actual language of such a document, should a publisher choose to create it, is likely to be very different.)

(2) Let’s be honest, the FTC is much more likely to listen to Bertelsmann or News Corp. or other publishers of similar stature than it is to the bloggers. If whoever it is that lobbies the FTC on behalf of those companies—not only as individual corporations, but also as the Association of American Publishers—were to go to the FTC and argue against the way these guidelines define the relationship between book publishers and bloggers as distinct from the relationship between book publishers and other media companies, maybe that would effect some change in the situation. Or maybe it wouldn’t. We won’t know, though, if the book publishers don’t make the effort.

Of course, both of these proposals depend upon book publishers actually believing that when they send a book to a blogger, it’s for the purposes of review and not for a presumed endorsement. So maybe, before we go any further, bloggers need to have some frank conversations with book publishers about their expectations, and if it turns out that (some) publishers really do expect endorsements, bloggers might want to ask themselves: If this book is intended as compensation, is it enough compensation?


Jeanne Scott Said:

Filed under: book reviews — gator1965 @ 3:21 pm

Excellent information, John. Am forwarding as well as saving for future use.


Types of Reviews And Where Do I Send My Books For Reviews?

More on Book Reviews. Various Types of Reviews:

Pre-publication reviews

There are still some hold-out reviewers who expect to have a galley or f&g four (that’s 4) months before publication of the finished book (otherwise known as the “street date”). Unfortunately, they are all the most important reviews a publisher can get. Note that most of these sources rarely review a self-published book.

Although you may produce galleys at the same time you have your finished books done, you cannot offer your books for sale to the trade (to booksellers, librarians and on Amazon) and expect to get one of these important reviews. They check for that sort of thing—and they are looking for reasons to disqualify your book (they get 1500 books a day. They don’t need much of a reason to throw yours in the trash). If you intend to sell your books to sources outside the book trade for the intervening 4 months (at speeches (called Back of the Room sales (BOTR), at local book shows or at craft shows) you would not irritate the pre-publishing reviewers.

Always send these galleys USPS Priority Mail (with tracking) or FedEx / DHL / UPS ground. You can use overnight if you want, but it’s expensive. NEVER send your galley USPS Media Mail. These reviewers reportedly routinely toss such packages on sight:

Publisher’s Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
School Library Journal for children’s and Young Adult (YA) titles
Other reviewers
Back to top

Why are these important?

Kirkus, Library Journal or School Library Journal, and Booklist all go to libraries. One good review in any of these 4 publications (and to some extent, Publisher’s Weekly) can sell around 1000 books.

If you don’t care about trade sales, don’t do this step.

Post-publication reviewers

These magazines, newsletters and websites will be happy to review the finished book, which you should send as soon as you get the books from the printer. These reviewers will be satisfied with books that come to them USPS Media Mail. But always use Delivery Confirmation.

Midwest Book Reviews Note: this publication is the most pro-self-publishing review source in existence. They post all reviews on Amazon.Choice Heartland Reviews

The best idea after these few generalists is to find the folks who review your sorts of books and target them.
Other reviewers

Why aren’t paid reviews recommended?

The theory goes that if you pay for it, the reviewer will have to give you a positive review—thus it’s biased. The rule of thumb is, if someone asks for money to review your book, it’s time to leave that conversation.
On the other hand, there are some cases when it is worthwhile to pay for a review. For instance, academic and esoteric books. For this type of book, two of the best review sources are Kirkus Discoveries or (not to be confused with the regular, unpaid magazine reviews for Kirkus and ForeWord) .

There are some genre magazines (Romance, mystery and science fiction) which will review a self-published or small press book with the order of a small ad (ad size varies). These can be a bit pricey, but put you in front of your readers. Go to your local newsstand and look for the type of magazine that fits your genre and contact the editor on-line. Then consult your Marketing Plan.

What do I do with reviews?

While having a good review can sell hundreds of books, what you DO with it can sell lots more. Post excerpts of good reviews on your website. Put it on your Press Releases (if it’s important enough, make a special release touting the review). Put it on the back cover when you reprint. Reviews are an important part of your Marketing Plan. They’re an impartial pronouncement on how good (or bad) your book is.

How do I edit a Review?

When you receive a review, you may use parts of it, as long as you include attribution (give the name of the review source. For instance: —ForeWord Magazine. Or —Curled Up With a Good Book). One or two lines is usual.
Most reviews are at least a paragraph long. You are free to use what you like of this, as long as you do not change the words or intent. This is something of an art.

Example:Happy Sails is an excellent guide to taking a sea cruise in the most enjoyable manner possible. It covers: what to take and why, the etiquette of a cruise ship experience; what lines are know for specializing in what types of trips, dealing with children or not, how to get the most out of a trip, how to pack intelligently, how to avoid Montezuma’s revenge, how to eat, how to party safely, and much more. It even covers how and who to tip. This is a must reference book for all who are hoping to go on a cruise some day. It could help you avoid making mistakes that might degrade your experience. We rated this delightfully helpful book a high four hearts.—Heartland Reviews

When edited, it reads:Happy Sails is… [a] delightfully helpful… guide to taking a sea cruise in the most enjoyable manner possible.—Heartland Reviews


More On Book Reviews…The ALA (American Library Association)

This post explains how to get your book reviewed by the American Library Association (ALA) and into libraries.

Q. I’ve just written/published a book. How do I get it into libraries? Doesn’t ALA tell libraries what books to get?

A. Please be aware that individual libraries are responsible for their own collections. There is no one place that distributes books to all libraries — and that includes ALA. Although, some main libraries purchase books for their branches as well as themselves. And some libraries purchase their books through such distributors as Baker & Taylor, Ingram Book Services, Emery-Pratt Company, and other book suppliers and wholesalers. At best, ALA can review your book in its publication, Booklist. For more information on telling libraries about your own book, first access the ALA Library Fact Sheet 5 – Marketing to Libraries, which lists strategies for informing the library community about your product or service. Then access the ALA Library Fact Sheet 3 – Lists of Libraries, which lists companies and groups that sell library mailing lists and mailing labels, and includes a suggestion (at the end) on how to compile a list of e-mail addresses for libraries. You might also want to contact book distributors directly to see if they would be interested in providing your book to libraries. You can find directories of library vendors, including book distributors, on the ALA Library Fact Sheet 9 – Library Products, Services and Consultants. If you are a publisher wishing to donate books to libraries, please see ALA Library Fact Sheet 12 – Sending Books to Needy Libraries: Book Donation Programs for groups and organizations that accept and distribute book donations to library and other recipients, as ALA does not provide this service.
Q. How do I submit my book to ALA’s Booklist review periodical?
A. See the Inside Booklist web page, which provides submission guidelines and contact information.


Frances Jeanne Scott Said:

Filed under: book reviewers,book reviews — gator1965 @ 6:59 pm

Shows how tough it is for unknown writers to gain a foothold even if they are very talented. The comment re writiing in a less crowded and competitive field reminded me of a marathon composed of thousands of runners all hoping to be the winner! Takes a great deal of persistence, dogged determination in the ongoing process of seeking out the publisher that wants what you have to offer!

Also shows how hard-nosed reviewers, book editors, etc. become as they represent their managments’ interests.

A Conversation About Getting Your Book Reviewed

In this post I’m relating a conversation that will give you a good insight into the book review business and prevailing attitudes.

Mike Tibby works for Quality Books Inc. For more than 4 decades Quality Books Inc. has been dedicated to being the premier supplier of small press titles and special interest non-print resources to the library community. They stock titles from nearly 1800 small and independent presses and are committed to bringing the voices of the vibrant small press community to a larger audience through libraries.

Rick Gelinas (an aspiring author): “How does a first-time, unknown self-publisher of a hardcover modern-day romance/adventure novel get a professional review?”

Mike Tibby (a publishing professional): I don’t think there is a simple answer to Rick’s question. A cynical–yet truthful–reply might be: Write in a less crowded field. There are so many “hardcover modern-day romance/adventure” novels out there that you are fighting some well-established authors and publishers for space and time.

Rick: “It seems to me that signed and well written reviews by honest ordinary folk–let’s say strangers one meets at the supermarket, or readers who respond to a notice at the public library–will look a lot better on my dust jacket than no reviews at all.”

Mike: They may look better but they may not read well at all. And when QBI (Quality Books Inc) considers a title for distribution, oodles of reviews by “honest ordinary” but unknown folk, no matter how warm and friendly to the book the reviews are, are considered less than meaningless.

Rick: “I’m more than a little put off by the ugly things being written every day by so-called professional reviewers whose grandiloquent prose reveals they write while drunk on self-love and with a universal disdain for all unknown writers. What do you call a thousand professional reviewers tied together at the bottom of the sea? A good beginning. Do I sound teed off at professional reviewers? Well gee whiz!”

Mike: Well, that diatribe is certainly a good start for getting professional reviews. As a professional, if freelance, reviewer, I am greatly put off by the drivel being written every day by so-called professional authors whose copious prose reveals an unmerited enthrallment with their writing style and subject matter. Yet I’m always eager to start–or at least browse–the next title. Do I sound teed off at authors? Well yes and no: I’ve never rejected reviewing a small press title for crappy writing, but I’ve rejected many titles from larger publishers for that very reason. (Disclaimer: I review only non-fiction.) This dichotomy probably reflects the more arduous path small press titles face in getting past my editor and his selectors rather than the relative merits of large-press authors’ abilities, but the big guys publish more bad books as well as more good ones. Golly gosh darn. Have you tried Midwest Book Review? Jim’s stable of reviewers are erudite and well thought of. Many librarians read MBR and once you get a reliable bibliographic and sales history, the prepublication reviewers may well fall in line. But seriously, the genre in which you say you are writing is a very crowded field. Review organs have only so much space.

Rick: “I hope you recognize the implicit Catch-22 here.”

Mike: I do. I hope you realize that the review publications don’t view their reason for existence as providing sales tools to any and all authors.

Rick: “If someone is a writer of literary–or even commercial–fiction, telling him that it’s easier to get nonfiction reviewed is only moderately helpful”

Mike: It may be only moderately helpful, but it’s definitely true. As I’ve frequently posted here and on the evil, alternate small press email discussion list, there are many other crowded fields in which it’s difficult to get reviews. For instance: guides to life that concentrate on getting on the right side of the Deity; personal finance be-all and end-alls; disease of the week biographies; personal journeys of self-fulfillment, etc. None of these fields are my cup of literary tea, to be sure, but whether they are or not, they’re crowded fields in which it’s tough for new authors to get recognized without Oprah’s indulgence. Personally I can’t get enough of biographies of important reggae musicians and singers, but other than works about Bob Marley there are virtually none out there. A book about Peter Tosh or Burning Spear would probably get lots of reviews; the 3,699th bio of Bob Marley might not. In any case, a little bit of a lit search to see what one will be competing with before writing is almost always a good idea. If one wants to be noticed, it helps to offer something new or different.

Rick: “for the dedicated novelist, it’s very discouraging to hear that, essentially, there are too many damn novels and you should go find some other way to spend your time because you’re never going to make a living this way.”

Mike: If an aspiring novelist is encountering this sort of thing for the first time in this forum, I wonder how prepared they are. I’ve heard the same thing from creative writing instructors, writers’ workshop profs, and sundry grizzled veterans of the publishing game for decades. Similarly, I remember in my freshman year in college, the professor for my section of Drama in Western Civilization (the intro course for drama majors) told the assembled would-be actors, directors, and playwrights that if we thought going to college would get us started in the theater or movie world we were kidding ourselves, and that if we wanted to do anything other than teach we should haul our sorry behinds to the Guthrie or some similar real world milieu. We didn’t want to hear it, but she was right. For every well-known Lawrence Ferlinghetti, there are several Larry Levises who were very good poets but remained largely unknown. (Levis was an instructor at the U of Iowa who I greatly enjoyed. He was well-known in the world of poetry, but largely a cipher to the broad commercial publishing market).

Rick: “at least in the small sample of authors I’ve encountered, the nonfiction authors have less need of exposure through reviews; they’ve already got a platform, either through their own speaking engagements (back of the room sales) or through an established Web business or fan base. I realize reviews can be helpful for many other categories of nonfiction authors, but as a group they tend to be better connected to alternative channels, whether they are professors writing textbooks or journalists writing political analyses or whatever.”

Mike: I don’t think this is a useful generalization. Books by authors who do a lot of speaking engagements which result in back of the room sales are also quite frequently non-starters for professional reviewers and library distributors like QBI since frequently, but definitely not always, these books tend to be more entrepreneurial than literary. Writers of true crime titles, for instance, may not “be better connected to alternative channels, whether they are professors writing textbooks or journalists writing political analyses or whatever,” though certainly some are. True crime is a thriving genre.

Rick: “Seems like a raw deal for the novelists, if you ask me.”

Mike: Perhaps it’s a raw deal for the novelists, but the review journals are not in business primarily to further novelists’ or any other writers’ career opportunities, they’re in business to advise consumers.

Rick: “Maybe the review pubs–at least some of them–would do well to concentrate on new fiction. What do you think?”

Mike: They’re also in business to make money. I think if concentrating on new fiction were a way to do so, they would have done it. As it is, Booklist at least, and I suspect the other review pubs, do run regular features concentrating on new fiction, science fiction, genre fiction, graphic novels, Christian fiction, and nearly every other identifiable sort of fiction imaginable. They just don’t do it every issue. No more than 5% of submissions to Booklist make it into the magazine. That’s fiction and non-fiction alike.

Mike Tibby is a Senior Cataloger for Quality Books Inc.


Who Uses A Book Review Company ?

Filed under: book reviews,manuscript reviews — gator1965 @ 3:32 pm

This post will kick off a discussion of book reviews, how to get them and finally how to break into the more recognized book review sources.

The following short article by Michelle Spoils will get us started:

‘You might wonder who uses a book review company to review books. There are a variety of different people who might want to use a book review company. Most of them are unknown authors who have published through self publishing or through a small press.

The face of book publishing has changed dramatically over the past few years. There are more smaller publishing houses and self publishing houses available today more than ever. Because these companies are able to print on demand, using computers instead of presses, it is now more affordable than ever for someone to self publish and easier to find smaller publishing houses that will publish your book for you.

The problem is that some of the very good books that are being published by small presses and individuals are not getting the recognition that some of them deserve. There are stories of people sending classic novels to large publishing houses to see if they even read manuscripts submitted by unknown authors, only to find them returned with a rejection letter. It is very difficult for an unknown author to be able to get their work noticed by any of the big publication houses. For this reason, many people are choosing to publish their own novel rather than compete with noted authors who are on contract for serious money to produce books for larger publishing houses.

So how does an unknown author who has published his or her first book by use of small press or self publishing get noticed? One way is to use a book review company. A book review has two purposes – it will give the reader a taste of what the book is about and why they should buy it and also recommend the book. Both of them steer the reader of the book review into buy the book.

A book review company will be able to let others know what the book is about. Even if your book is listed online in a prominent place, people will want to know what the book is about before they buy the book. Also, because a book review company will give a favorable review of the book, this will add to the marketing plan.
Books are not like other products as no two are a like. This makes them tough to market. Book reviews are the primary source of book marketing but it can be tough for a self published author to get their book reviewed by the New York Times, if not close to impossible. This is why a new author needs the services of a book review company.

Michelle Spoils is a consultant and author. Find out more by visiting

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