Book Vetter

Book VetterThe best thing about self-publishing is that anyone can do it.
The worst thing about self-publishing is that anyone can do it
– Anonymous

I’ve yet to see anyone describe the perceived issue better than this anonymous commenter on my blog. The rise of a viable means of self-publishing has given anyone who wants to bypass the traditional gatekeepers and put their work out there a way to do so. Books that deserved to make it past the gatekeepers, but might not have in the past for reasons of marketability or just bad luck, are now getting a shot at finding their audience. But many also perceive a downside. In the past a reader could pick up a random book at their local bookseller or bring up a book’s page at their favorite online retailer, read the blurb, possibly check out the first few paragraphs, and if the story appealed to them they could purchase it with the assurance that all aspects of the book would almost always meet some minimum quality standard.

Today, at least at the on-line retailer, that isn’t the case. Some perceive this as something that needs to be addressed and have concocted various ways of addressing the “problem.” An IU post not quite two years ago told us about one such scheme, The Seal. If you peruse the comments you’ll see that the reaction of the IU author community was mixed. Those who have bypassed the gatekeepers are, as you might expect, reluctant to embrace anything that appears to be aimed at closing the gates, although if we’re going to be realistic, it’s extremely unlikely that will be the end result of any of these ideas.

I think the best discussion of this “Tsunami of Crap” are the thoughts from indie author, cheerleader, and (dare I say) pundit, JA Konrath. His contention is that readers easily avoid the bad stuff while finding the good. Konrath mentions the “crummy cover art, the poor description, and the handful of one star reviews” as a few of the clues a reader has to avoid the worst books out there. A weakness any of the “seal of approval” ideas have is that to most readers, the seal is meaningless. It might be meaningful to an author who makes it through the gate, but isn’t of much value beyond a feeling of validation. These programs have another problem. Who does the vetting and what do they get out of it? Those I’ve seen thus far either use a small number of volunteers, which limits the number of books that can be evaluated or result in concerns about conflicts of interest.

Book Vetter is a relatively new site that came to my attention recently. Its goal is to help two parties in the indie ecosystem, authors and book bloggers, with the result of improving the quality of the books that go through their process and when a book is ready putting it on the fast track to obtaining reviews from the book blogger community, boosting discoverability. It shares some aspects with other sites and services, writing critique sites, book blogger lists like The IndieView, and even those “seal of approval” sites. However, it doesn’t have the same negatives as some of these sites and combines those aspects of these others in a way that I think might result in something where the whole is greater than the parts.

Indie author Marc Brackett conceived of the Book Vetter site and its process and gave me logins to dig around the site viewing it from both an author’s and a reviewer’s perspective. Assuming I haven’t misunderstood or missed something, this is their process in a nutshell:

1) An author signs up as a member of the Book Vetter community and submits their book which includes filling out a profile describing the book and its contents. This profile includes details such as explicitness of sexual content, potentially offensive language, and other hot button content, along with genre and a book description or blurb.

2) The book is made available for other authors to read and review. These reviews are private and intended to uncover issues that still exist in a book the author might have thought was ready for a wider audience.

3) The author then fills out a form that defines his or her reading preferences. Based on these they’re given an opportunity to review books by other authors. An author is required to do a minimum number of reviews of other books in order to access the reviews done of their book.

4) If the initial reviews uncover issues with the submitted book the author feels need to be addressed, they would rework the book and resubmit it.

5) Once a book receives six reviews with an acceptable rating it is considered a “vetted book” and ready for a larger audience.

6) Participating book bloggers also fill out the form to define their reading preferences. They’re informed of vetted books that meet their reading preferences that are available for review. They can peruse that list, looking for books that interest them, and request a copy in their preferred format to read and review on their blog.

7) As an additional service for bloggers, Book Vetter provides a form that can be embedded on their site, to help manage the submission process for books that haven’t gone through the vetting process. An author submitting a book through this form is asked to provide the same information about the book as one submitting the book to the vetting process. If the book doesn’t meet the bloggers reading preferences an automatic email is sent that tactfully says, “thanks, but no thanks.” Those submissions that make it through this filter are then forwarded to the blogger who can decide to accept or reject the submission. This form is intended to reduce the amount of “author spam” a blogger has to deal with by partially automating and streamlining the submission process.

After poking around, getting a feel for what was there and what Brackett is trying to accomplish, I think this site has some possibilities Here are a few of my impressions, both positive and negative.

The site is still underdevelopment and while there are books and authors signed up and going through the vetting process, none have yet made it through. As Beckett explained to me, “We are attracting a core group of serious authors but the site is far from finished. People want a finished process that is error free and has large numbers of users. So at this stage we are not for everyone, we do have errors, we do have areas we need to better explain and refine, and it’s not all going to happen overnight. However to make all this happen we need real users, focus groups or test users can only take a system so far.”

I like the idea of using crowdsourcing, authors critiquing books by other authors. Those who are benefiting the most from the process are also contributing to the process. Beckett mentioned a benefit to authors I’ve seen happen elsewhere which he hadn’t anticipated, an author’s own writing skills are improved by reading and evaluating the writing of others, especially when some of those books are less than perfect.

One thing that is a negative, or at least likely to be perceived that way, is the vetting process is likely to be time consuming. As the Book Vetter community grows, the amount of time to get through the process should decrease, but some time will be required for an author to do their part in reviewing other books. However, from my experience reading hundreds of indie books the most common problem I encounter is books that were rushed to market. Many a great idea falls short of its potential when the author doesn’t take the time to apply that last bit of polish. This process is a way of insuring that your book is ready.

The “seal of approval” aspect of this process is becoming a vetted book. But you’ll note that there is no fancy sticker to put on your book with an implicit claim that this will mean something to a potential reader. Instead the focus is more tightly defined, with the vetting process designed to attract book bloggers, a segment of the reading public easier to target.

The benefits to the review blogger are significant. First, the process provides a buffer between reviewers and authors. The lack of this buffer is the cause of many problems reviewers experience. The vetting and process of matching vetted books to bloggers based on reading preferences increases the chances of any particular book offered will be one the reviewer will enjoy. The submission process available for non-vetted books will be an immense help to bloggers in managing their submission process. I expect many review bloggers will find the benefits very attractive.

Although the main purpose of the vetting is as a quality check for authors and a filter for book bloggers, when a significant number of books have made it through the process a listing of vetted books would be of value for readers, just as with the seal of approval sites. But unlike those sites, attracting that audience isn’t required for the process to be beneficial to the other stakeholders.

There is currently no fee associated with using the Book Vetter process and no immediate plans for this to change. The FAQ on the site hinted at as a possibility in the distant future. In an email Brackett assured me that if they were to implement a charge it would be a small amount (low two figures) paid by authors to offset costs. This doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

Now I’m curious what the readers of IU think. Does this process seem like it could be of value? What are your questions, thoughts, and concerns?

Author: Big Al

Big Al (who insists he only has one name, like Cher, Sting, and Madonna) spends his days writing computer programs that are full of typos, homonym errors, and incorrect verb usage. During his evenings, he writes reviews of indie books for BigAl’s Books and Pals and has recently taken over The IndieView, a website founded by indie author Simon Royle as a resource for indie authors, indie reviewers, and those who read either.

45 thoughts on “Book Vetter”

  1. too much work for me right now, but certainly seems more in the right direction; maybe a future post down the road with some participating author reviews; right now i’m just happy to find a few moments to read articles like this, nice to somewhat keep up the flow of ideas in the indie world, thanks al, best wishes!

      1. Ain’t that the truth! I got an unexpected day off from my full time temp work today, and I’ve been readin’ & writin’ and, well, actually, watching a little tv with my wife too 😉

        But I read your post because I saw it was from you. You bring interesting things to light for us to consider and don’t take issue if the reader decides to discourse or ponder etc. Mean a lot 🙂

        Take care, best wishes

        1. Thanks, Felipe. I don’t claim to know everything (actually I’m more than willing to admit there is a lot I don’t know, which goes for everyone). If I’m not open to considering people who disagree with me, I’m throwing away a learning experience. Even if I don’t change my mind, understanding *why* someone disagrees is never a bad thing. Plus, one size doesn’t fit all and this is more true than ever in the indie book world.

  2. Interesting idea, Al. Contributing time and opinion to help vet books has some similarities to the IndiePENdents. It’s time that a lot of authors can’t easily carve away from their schedules, though. I might wait a while until they shake the bugs out. But if they ask for a contribution of time and money, that might put a damper on participating authors.

  3. This content from their site amuses me:

    “You are broken, warped, and damaged beyond repair—you’re an author. Your work, on the other hand can become extraordinary if we can just separate you from it.

    “Bookvetter will tolerate and develop you in order to create the next great story. It’s the content you create that gets measured here, so don’t take it personally—it really isn’t about you here.”

    1. Thanks, Laurie.

      I agree, it’s an interesting idea. I also don’t think it is for everyone (nothing is, right). But I think it is what some authors and authors-to-be need which I’m sure is a thought I’ll expand on in subsequent comments.

  4. Al, sounds like a good site with lots of potential. I will definitely check it out. I don’t know if there will ever be a good solution to the quality vs gatekeeper issue, but it sounds like this place has put a lot of thought into it. Thanks for the thorough report.

    1. Thanks, Melissa. I don’t think we’ll ever see a return to the gatekeeping of the past. The gates and the whole damn fence have been trampled, never to be rebuilt. There are still gates, but to individual places (trad publishers, etc). I also don’t think there is any one correct answer or one-size-fits-all solution to the quality issue.

      What I like about this site is they aren’t keeping anyone out of anywhere with the possible exception of a book blogger who decides she or he won’t review books that haven’t been through the vetting (not a requirement, but a possibility). But even that isn’t keeping a book out of the book blogger community, only from an individual book blog, not unlike the gates that still exist to a traditional publisher.

  5. I think there are some very positive aspects to this proposal (ie, the secondary benefit of working collaboratively to improve an unpublished manuscript), but the one thing that struck me reading both this post and the Bookvetter site is that no one seems to be vetting the bloggers. The FAQ even says “starting a book review blog is a very simple task”. So, authors are expected to carve yet more time out of their writing and marketting time to be ‘approved’ to be reviewed by anyone who sets themselves up as a blogger?

    If Bookvetter can fast track books to bloggers with many thousands of followers (or at least some meaningful minimum), or to print journalists, great: it’s a worthwhile investment in time. But as it stands this model risks penalising what is potentially the most professional side of the deal in favour of what is potentially the most amateur. I overstate a little for emphasis, but do you see my problem here? Yes, authors need bloggers, but we need bloggers who can show a return on our investment in going through the time-consuming process of being ‘vetted’! Show me that and I might get on board.

    A very thought-provoking post, Al!

    1. Thanks, Alan.

      I didn’t go into it, largely because it is still taking shape and wasn’t the focus I was aiming for with this piece, but I think I might remember something on the blogger side that would look at the quality of reviews from a blogger and potentially have some kind of peer review process. I know Marc Beckett (I got the last name wrong above, maybe Kat will see this and fix it), the founder of Book Vetter is looking for ideas to fine tune the process and likely to see your comment. Possibly he’s already thought of this or possibly he’ll consider it when he sees your comment.

      1. Hi Alan,

        I’d be happy to explain what we have in mind for reviewers. However I have a tendency to monologue, especially when I’m passionate about the subject. To save some space for other people here, go ahead and just email me at admin @ and I will provide you with more information. Thanks

  6. Very interesting concept, and I’m curious to see how it develops. Like Laurie up above, I think I’ll wait until some of the bugs are worked out before jumping in, mainly due to time constraints.

  7. Like Konrath, I think the Tsunami of Crap issue eventually resolves itself. The un-edited, poorly written books with horrible covers don’t sell at all after the first week or two and slowly drift down into the 2,000,000 range on ‘Zon. I read a lot of indie works (although not as much as you, Al!) and, yes, occasionally I come across a stinker but it is very rare – not much higher than it was when I bought Trad pubbed books exclusively.

    At the same time, this idea is appealing. Yes, the commitment of time is a downside, but I do still read for pleasure as well as research, so I guess I don’t mind finding my books at this site as opposed to writer’s groups, blogs, bookpushing websites, etc.

    I’m willing to give it a try, so thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Shawn.

      The interesting thing about Konrath’s Tsunami of Crap is that he points out the other areas where there is arguable the same thing at work, specifically web sites and You Tube videos. There are, IMO, two main ways we weed these out.

      The first is the equivalent of the crappy cover, et al. We start the video and a few seconds in abandon it. We pull up the website, take a glance, and because of something we don’t like (a billion pop-ups, unreadable color scheme, illiterate writing, or something else) jump ship.

      But we have to become aware of the site or video first. That may be from a search, but the more common is some variation on word of mouth. Someone posts the video on facebook, a new site is linked to from another one, etc. I’ve always said that a book blog is just amplified word of mouth. One of Book Vetter’s goals seems to me to be to maximize your chances of that word of mouth. I think Konrath has said that new ways would arise to help find the books you wanted that were different than the ways that were used in the past. I think this might turn into one of those new ways.

  8. I’m going to check it out. I’m not sure I like the idea of a gatekeeper, but Bookvetter doesn’t seem to be that. If you don’t pass the vetting, you can still publish. Getting a second opinion on whether the book is ready or not is important, and often hard to find.

    1. That’s exactly it, Perry. I’m sure I’ll be expanding on your thoughts in a later comment. 🙂

  9. Seems to me that this site really isn’t about the Tsunami of Crap myth… It’s about marketing.

    BookVetter is to book bloggers what Bookbub is to readers. It’s a marketing website designed to gather the target market and give them some assurance of quality. And if BookVetter becomes as good at getting major book blogs on board as Bookbub was at getting readers to buy, then it’ll be a great deal.

    But it’s not really related to the whole “tsunami” myth. If it was, I’d be adamantly opposed. 😉 The problem with someone setting themselves up as an “indie gatekeeper” is simple.

    It most likely will mean nothing at all to readers. I can make up my own seal of approval, stamp all my books with it, and have as much value to almost all potential readers as the IndiePENdents seal, for example.

    On the flip side, if a seal ever DID become known by millions of people, it would also become almost mandatory – at which point they’d likely start charging thousands of dollars for their seal, and people would have to pay or suffer the consequences. It’s unlikely any seal would ever actually become effective, but if one did it would have a chilling effect on the industry.

    1. Kevin, thanks for the comment.

      My short response is, you’re right, in that it doesn’t directly stop the Tsumani of Crap. However, if an author doesn’t doesn’t have access to critique partners, beta readers, and other means of insuring their book is ready, this is an alternative available to anyone, or it can be used in addition to those others as backup or to get additional opinion. I think it has some value to some authors even without the marketing to bloggers aspect.

      However, some authors have a good support system of editors, critique partners, beta readers, etc. In fact, many of the authors whose books I’ve read who have commented here do. Some of those authors, from their comments, seem to indicate that they’ll keep an eye on Book Vetter, I suspect with the hope that it might provide an easier way to get access to bloggers.

      As for a seal, I absolutely agree. I think by focusing on bloggers and providing some real benefits to them there is a decent chance that going through this process could be worthwhile, even for those authors who clearly don’t need the vetting.

      1. Yes, that is the appealing part to me. I have half a dozen critical beta readers, an editor and a proofreader. I have an artist design my cover and do my formatting. I don’t see this as replacing any of that. Instead, I would hope that it would serve as a potential introduction to bloggers I may not know. If they look at me more seriously because I have passed through this vetting, that’s great.

  10. Ludicrous. Just another wannabe gatekeeper. And once it gets some notice, then come the fees. I’ll give them a kudos for at least mentioning the “possibility” of it coming, but you know it will.

    1. Not really a gatekeeper at all, Rich. But if “it gets some notice” (and that, to me, implies they are providing value to the author), what’s wrong to charging a *reasonable* fee. The site is incurring expenses. I believe Mr Beckett’s preference would be to monetize the site in other ways, but a minimal fee *if* it provided value to the author worth that fee, doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal.

      I asked about fees specifically because I had the same concerns. I really don’t expect predatory fees to be the result of success, but if they are (as some people might feel is the case with Bookbub) then the solution would be easy. Don’t use them.

    2. Agree completely, Rich. And writers should be very, very careful about throwing around terms like “crap”. Because the next time you turn around, you’re liable to find yourself included in it. Readers can judge what to buy, just like farmer’s market or eBay shoppers do. We keep seeing this things come along, they keep sinking without a trace. Remember Misha and his little gold merit badges? Remember the Legion of Decency? Remember “If nobody among a thousand dweebs in Manhattan like your book, nobody gets to see it”? Anything that plays into the “crap stigma” is a huge mistake for indie writers.

  11. Pffft! I send my mss to Carolyn Steele to polish. I send the polished mss to Rich Meyer for perfect formatting. I publish and let the readers and reviewers take it from there. That said, eNovel Authors at Work does the very same thing as that BookVetter. We look at a submitted book. If it needs work we say so and suggest what a title needs and who can help. The authors do NOT have to commit to reading another author’s work. The group is all volunteers. Members only have to commit to their own book. Some do the work–some don’t. Some never will. The author’s who don’t follow up on suggestions–don’t sell books. Somewhere down the line they might rethink it–but I don’t hold my breath. The process the BookVetter is speaking to is time consuming Beta Reading. The author would still have to commit to doing the work required to polish the title–nothing takes the place of an editor–which is why the book needs vetting in first place. As for book bloggers: Authors already know their preferences. Hey! It is costly to maintain a site. I know. I maintain two. The BookVetter will end up charging the authors unless he has pockets so deep he can tuck ’em into his socks. I’m not going to address bloggers That’s a whole other topic. On a final note. I almost got snagged into one of those sites wanting me to put their seal of approval on my books for $100. I checked out their preferred reviewers and the reviews they wrote. Awful! Many reviewers were authors whose titles were sucking mud in ratings. Some were touted as editors. NOT!

    Jackie Weger

    1. Nothing wrong with your process, Jackie. You have a good team for your books, you have years (decades, maybe more 🙂 ) of experience and know what it takes to create a book. Not all authors and wannabes do and some need help in finding help or direction. This is where this site could provide value to those that are a good fit. You aren’t now for sure. As other have expressed, better access to bloggers might change the picture at some point in the future.

      As for the critique or vetting process in your group, I don’t know the details, but could guess based on the vetting process we do before books are eligible for some promotional opportunities at IU. The biggest problem any such process has is that it doesn’t scale well and can easily get overwhelmed with a relatively small number of books (compared to the number of indie books being published every day). This process does scale because of the method of using other authors to do the vetting. This also keeps expenses down. (Google crowdsourcing, it isn’t a new concept.) It’s this issue of scaleability that causes those “seal of approval” programs, like Awesome Indies, to start charging.

  12. I agree that this sounds a little like recruiting other authors to be your beta readers. But I also agree that, depending on the influence lever of the bloggers who are recruited to offer their reviews, this could end up being a good thing for both bloggers and authors — and for readers, by extension.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Lois and Lynne. I agree Lynne, it is doing that. For authors who have critique partners and/or beta readers already, that part doesn’t have as much value. But some authors don’t have those and in some cases don’t know how to go about finding them. (I could point you to one book that I’m convinced no one other than the author, not even his mother, read the book before he published it. I’d like to hope it is because he couldn’t find anyone to critique.) Plus, until you’ve worked with those kind of people for a book or two, it is hard for a newbie to know where they stand.

      Even though I know I could easily find several experience beta readers if I were to write a book, I’d still consider going through this process after as an additional assurance. Of course, that book would be my first and I’d be in a different position than you are.

  13. It may be a great tool for some, but I think I will stick with my Critique group for now. We meet weekly (face to face) and use our red pencils liberally. It takes a lot of my time to read 8 submissions each week, so more now is not an option anyway.
    If anyone wants honest input, I think it is important to understand where its coming from. To ask for some unknown person’s opinion, and then have to pass some sort of bar – well, it seems like a wanna be gate keeper. Maybe its not – I will keep an open mind for now and see how it grows.

  14. I remain completely opposed to the impulse to set up new gates to be kept and guarded. Readers either know how to judge what to read, or they don’t. I assume they do, and don’t need any help or steenking badges or Coldcream guards at the door. If they don’t, nobody else can really help them.
    It’s indie publishing–straight from author to maket–and I see no reason not to keep it that way.

  15. I’d first like to thank Al for writing a better description of what Bookvetter is and how it works than anything we have created so far. This is a perfect example of how easy it is to become blind to the flaws in your own work and the benefits an outside point of view can offer.

    I’m noticing two common themes in the comments so far that I will attempt to address.

    One, Bookvetter is not a replacement for professional services and especially not a substitute for writing groups. Rather we are another tool for authors to use in the pursuit of writing an exceptional book and then finding the right audience for this content. We like to call this concept “Team Publishing.”

    The second area of concern I’m seeing in the comments is over potential fees in the future. Here’s the options we have available.

    1. Allow advertising; banner ads, popup ads, questionnaires, etc.. Not going to happen as this would degrade the user experience and has the potential to impact our objectivity.

    2. Receive a royalty from successful books. Also not going to happen. Not only do we have no desire to enter into the legal world of contracts and managing authors, but this would also destroy our objectivity.

    3. Charge a fee when a book is uploaded. This is our preferred option. As the workforce is free our analysis suggests this fee could be very small ranging from $5-$25 per book depending on participation rates. Not everything has to be about making a gazillion dollars/pounds/rand/euro/rupee.

    4. Your suggestion???

    Bookvetter isn’t a gatekeeper rather it is a connection. The outcome from this connection is not controllable. The concepts involved here, as some have noted, are not new and used in a wide range of other enterprises (Wikipedia, Pandora, Blacklist).

    At this stage we are looking for the early adopters who can help us create what they are needing. We need people with opinions and patience.

    1. Thanks for stopping in and commenting, Marc. (Sorry about the name thing.) I think the comments you’re seeing cover most of the spectrum of potential reactions people (at least author type people) might have.

  16. This is an excellent post that covers the subject well, Al, soliciting a wide range of responses. The idea seems alright if you want to buy into that sort of thing; however, I feel that most independent authors are time poor, having to support their writing by other means. If and when they reach the stage where they have time, because their writing is fully supporting them, they won’t need the services of such an idea. Just another point of view.

    1. A reasonable response, TD. You and many of the other authors who have responded have multiple books and an established team of editors, proofreaders, and beta readers with books that are market proven. Those authors aren’t going to see much value to them, at least right now. I understand and agree.

      However, many authors are in a different place.

      If the Book Vetter community expands and gets a decent number of book bloggers onboard I think it could reach a point where if it is providing easier access and could be worthwhile for more established authors. Time will tell.

      As for bloggers, I definitely see the appeal. It takes me at least an hour or two a week just managing, checking in, and evaluating submissions.My submissions process is different than most and I’m relatively high profile, so I’m not sure I’m a good example. However, for a blogger with a more typical submission process (author queries, blogger responds if interested and author sends book) just managing the queries takes a lot of time.

      The tools Book Vetter provides to bloggers streamlines the process immensely. It cuts out “author spam” – things like queries that clearly don’t meet the bloggers reading interests or don’t provide the information the blogger needs to make a decision. While the process as envisioned will need to be tweaked to work for multi-reviewer or high volume sites (something Mr Bracket realizes) the process as currently pictured would be an immense help to the majority of bloggers. I think there is a good chance we’ll see many sites begin using this process. That might change the equation for authors over time.

  17. I am involved in the Bookvetter community. This is why.

    I am a new and serious author that does not have years of relationships and trusted author friends to give me quality beta read feedback. I have published several books and have a couple new books in differing stages of completion that will not be published until they are much more polished and ready than my earlier books were. One is at Bookvetter going though the beta read process. The next one is on the way.

    I believe my books have the basis to be successful, but based on my inexperience I am not capable of seeing the flaws and weaknesses on my own. I had my first book edited by four professional editors only to have it shredded by one honest author off line. While painful, I paid close attention to all that was said about my book and had to admit it was not anywhere near the quality I wanted it to be.

    This experience taught me that professional editors are not a panacea. Nor do I expect other authors will be perfect, but I the feedback I have received so far has been exceptionally helpful and beneficial toward making my recent books much better.

    About the ‘cost’ of doing business with Bookvetter. I am perfectly willing to do an honest beta read of six books to get in return six beta read reviews/critiques of my book. Sure it takes time, but then I read other peoples books just about every day as a way to both enjoy myself and help make my writing better. By adding the beta read aspect I am just focusing my perspective a little tighter on improvement.

    If eventually the cost includes a modest fee I will pay for the service without complaint. I expect pay a fair price for what I get, most people get paid for the services they provide, I expect to be paid for the books I sell and don’t see how a site like Bookvetter could survive over time without the people running it getting something for their time. Just like there is a pricing strategy for selling books, the market will surely provide feedback on what is a fair and equitable price to have your book vetted. I see it as an extension of what I pay an editor to do (but a whole lot less – editors are expensive!).

    The unexpected perk is I do believe my story telling and book crafting is getting much better much faster than I expected by looking carefully at other books in a manner that counts. I do my best to provide my fellow authors with an honest beta read with significant detail and as much insight as possible. Back to costs, this is an added benefit that was unexpected and free. And yes, I do pay for seminars and buy books on how to become a better writer.

    Bottom line, I am grateful for the opportunity to have my books beta read and receive truly honest (anonymous) feedback before I publish them.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jason. It’s nice to hear from someone who is actually going through the process.

  18. This service sounds like it could be beneficial, especially to new authors without blogger connections. I have several questions, though. Since I primarily write early chapter books in the 50 to 60 page range for children, could I specify that those are the types of books I would review for others? The time invested in reviewing novels would not benefit me.

    Is BookVetter ensuring that the author and reviewers never cross review each other’s works? This would help reduce the chance of an author skewing reviews in return for receiving good reviews.

    I am not opposed to a small fee. They are similar in nature, and more cost effective to the Writer’s Digest critique service and you get six reviews of your books. Will BookVetter post these reviews where ever the author requests (i.e. their sale sites and Goodreads)? If so, will the author be allowed to choose which reviews are posted? Should it be limited to one review the author likes the best to avoid the appearance of overloading a website with reviewers from the same source?

    And, finally, is there a possibility that BookVetter will develop a relationship with the newspapers and feature exceptional books in a weekly or monthly column similar to traditional publishers? This would serve one of the main things that indies need, which is publicity. And as is mentioned above, many bloggers do not have a sufficient following to make a difference in sales.

    1. PJ, thanks for the comment and you’ve got some good questions.

      Hopefully Mr Brackett will answer the questions I can’t, but there are a few I think I know the answer.

      First, on the question of your books being short children’s chapter books and what you’d need to read and critique in return. You define your reading preferences using an extensive list broken down by genre, subgenre, sub-subgenre,etc. As an author, the books you’d be offered to read would be those that fit your reading criteria. If you defined your reading preferences as children’s books only, that’s what you’d receive.

      The downside of that would be a function of the number of books they had going through the process and how they are spread across genres. If there weren’t a lot of books that fit your preferences it might take a long elapsed time for you to be able to get enough books to review. However, if you read for pleasure would reading a novel that was longer, but in a genre you like to read would be an option although, as you pointed out, isn’t without some negatives.

      Cross reviews, I’m not sure whether that can happen or not. However, author reviews are anonymous (as in the other author doesn’t know the reviewers name. (I’m not sure if the author of the book is anonymous or not.) But with at least one side of the equation anonymous, an author who didn’t like your review wouldn’t be in a position to do a revenge review if that is your concern.

      The reviews of authors reviewing other authors are for evaluation purposes only.I don’t believe they’re seen by anyone except the author of the book.(Public posting would kill the anonymity of the review.)

      Once a book is “vetted” and made available to book bloggers those reviews would be public and posted according to the book bloggers normal policy. (Some post to their blog only, most post elsewhere. For example, I post all of mine to Goodreads, and UK, and Barnes & Noble, as well as my blog. But every blogger is different.)

    2. Hi PJ,

      Al, pretty well addressed all of your questions. If you need more specifics I can help with that as well.

      I wanted to touch on your final question regarding publicity. The reviews for Vetted books are the foundation from which everything else develops. While book review bloggers are our focus in spreading the word about books via word of mouth and obtaining more reviews for a book, there are three other entities we are recruiting for author profitability. Libraries, book clubs, and agents.

      Public funding will always be limited for libraries, thus whatever new titles are acquired need to be of value. Our system will match libraries reading needs with Vetted books for free. There’s no paid subscription or books being offered as part of a sales package. We merely show libraries what books our community has found to be exceptional that match their needs. It’s then up to libraries to purchase the book, no pressure or hype.

      Book clubs are another group we are focusing on. These groups tend to purchase multiple copies and have focused reading needs. We feel the extra level of detail our system gathers about the content of books will prove beneficial.

      Here recently we have been approached by several agents and individuals representing traditional publishing interests. They are looking for a means of quickly finding books with commercial potential. We have not yet moved on this request yet as there are privacy issues to address and we currently don’t have authors with Vetted books to question about this feature.

      We haven’t yet given much thought to newspapers or other forms of traditional media. Primarily because most of these require payment.

      1. Thank you, Al and Marc. This looks like a well thought out venture. Hearing that libraries, book clubs and agents are being considered as partners is an excellent addition to the article.

        I understand your concerns about payments to traditional media outlets since the goal is to remain cost effective.

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