By launching into self-publishing, I discovered the SPs, namely the “Press Services”. And, from what I have seen, the subject is more or less hot depending on how the author approaches it.
What does an SP consist of?
The principle is simple: the author sends, at his own expense, a copy of his novel to a columnist who, in return, will communicate about his reading to his community. The chronicle is intended to be free and can be positive or negative depending on the feeling: if certain chroniclers demolish the story, many fortunately choose not to communicate publicly when they did not like it, and explain it to the author in private, because they are well aware of the enormous work that writing a novel represents. Let's not forget that you can't please everyone! Perhaps the columnist was not the target of the literary genre, perhaps the summary aroused the wrong interest, the fact remains that it is the game and we must know how to take a step back when the criticism does not live up to our expectations. As far as I am concerned, I have been fortunate to have generally received very positive feedback so far and, above all, with constructive comments/criticisms which have helped me to improve.
As for sharing the novel, there are several choices available: send the digital format or the paper format, knowing that the majority of columnists favor the paper format for various reasons. What you need to know if you want to hope for chronicles, because the ratio for the choice of digital is barely 5% according to my experience. So, for me, the question does not arise, we must offer both formats so as not to close doors, at least when we start.
I have the impression that some self-published authors choose digital, mainly for cost reasons. Which I can perfectly understand because SPs represent a significant budget between printing the paper format + shipping costs. Even more so, if they were burned by columnists who received the paper format... and never returned it, which unfortunately also happens.
Conversely, the digital format can also be a source of piracy, and some authors have thus found their novel on illegal download sites. As with any relationship, you have to build trust on both sides. For my part, I chose not to refuse any legitimate SP request because, as a new author who came out of nowhere, each columnist agreed to give me a chance. I therefore find it normal to return the favor for the columnists. So, unlike some authors, I don't select my SP based on the number of followers for example. On the other hand, I will look at the publications to check that the person is in my literary genre and that they provide regular feedback on their readings. When a reviewer announces a PAL (reading pile) with a hundred titles waiting, I don't see the immediate point in sending him my novel since it will get lost in the mass of those who have already been waiting for we don't know how long. For my very first novel, I only sent paper formats since no one accepted a digital format a priori. And by post because I didn't dare ask to send by Mondial Relay which is almost 2x cheaper. But subsequently, with the relationship that was established, I asked the question and the majority of the columnists with whom I collaborated agreed to travel to a relay point to avoid additional costs for me, knowing that those who refused, doing so pushed by logistical necessity. And since then, others have also accepted the digital format to support me when they can.
When establishing “a contract”, care must also be taken to clearly explain the expected conditions. For example, I ask for feedback within 2 months, which may seem pretty short to some, but that's because I've set an editorial schedule with a new novel at that rate. So I hope to have feedback on my novels at the time of their release (more or less) and especially before the publication of the next one. Most of the columnists with whom I had the chance to collaborate accepted, and those who were unable to warn me by offering me a new date more in line with their schedule. I start from the principle that reading one of my novels should be a pleasure and not a constraint. This is why I greatly prefer to postpone a column date, because let's not forget that we all have a life and that the majority of columnists are volunteers. So of course, there are some who don't play the game and who "disappear from the radar" once the book is sent. Despite everything, I am lucky not to have suffered much from this situation: barely 5% on all the SP sent to date. I obviously follow up, which allows me not to re-propose or accept a request from someone who is not in my world or who does not have the courtesy to respond to my little follow-up message after some months. It should also be noted that most columnists interact on several platforms and take the time to post their opinions on all of them. For example, I got feedback on social networks but also on Babelio or Booknode and especially on Amazon which is essential for me as I am exclusive on this sales site. Finally, some will also take the time to read my novel via the Kindle subscription in order to help me collect the royalty on the pages read.
I am very grateful for all the feedback that I have obtained so far, especially since certain collaborations have been followed on all of my novels since the beginning and are now transforming into a real partnership, which it whether official or not!
I systematically group together all the columns received on my site. Why that ? On the one hand to relay the account of the people who took the time to read me and provide feedback, and on the other hand, to keep track without being dependent on a social network which can sometimes be blocked from day to day. next day (and then it also “feeds” the content of my site for the Google robot). It's, finally, a way to highlight them without republishing/sharing each column on my social networks so as not to "drown" my followers.
How to get SP? This is THE question every author asks!
Several options are possible: firstly paid columns, then sites which connect authors and columnists, finally direct contacts and/or calls for columns on the different networks. As for me, having no vision of my own at the start, I decided to test everything. So, I collaborated with La petite édac which produces paid reviews. Why she ? Because Orianna, in addition to the quality of her feedback just when the title is released, also creates very relevant free content for authors. It's my way of supporting her for everything she can give me at the same time (and her prices are very affordable).
I also tested the Netgalley platform and we are not talking about the same budget! €350 excluding VAT to be positioned on a targeted newsletter is huge, but the promise in return is to reach both booksellers and columnists by the thousands. Here, for once, I am very disappointed by the results, we are not going to lie: 355 views, 159 clicks and 36 downloads to date... for only 16 columns after 5 months. Knowing that these columns are published on the Netgalley site and that they will no longer be accessible at the end of December, since I will not pay to extend my account. However, if we're positive, it allowed me to reach a few columnists who now follow me, and who would probably never have discovered me otherwise given the twists and turns of the Instagram algorithm in particular.
At the same time, I tested the Simplement Pro platform which I find particularly well thought out! First of all, the service is free (with a paid option) and you can not only offer your SP, but also invite columnists who interest us through them. I have had very good feedback through this platform! Once your author account is certified, you also benefit from options such as personalized lists which are very practical, and columnists can also subscribe to your account to be notified of a new SP.
I also discovered and joined the Une Pinte de mots association which promotes self-publishing in a remarkable way. In addition to highlighting authors, organizing specific fairs and SPs, there is above all benevolent mutual assistance between all members! I can only recommend that you go and see their values that they apply on a daily basis, on a voluntary basis. I met some great people there, not only for the promotion of my books, but especially for my daily life as an author which can sometimes be lonely.
Finally, I directly approached columnists who I found in line with my universe, and I also had some great collaborations... as well as unpleasant surprises. You should know that very few respond to direct requests, which can be discouraging. Because it's not easy to approach someone when there is no established relationship beforehand, but you have to start somewhere. In all cases, I subscribe to at least the accounts that interest me and interact on a recurring basis (even if not very often due to lack of time) on their publications before possibly contacting them. It takes time, but columnists also invest their time when they read an author's novels.
Is my experience representative? I don't really know, because I also chose to "pamper" my SP by systematically adding personalized goodies to my mailings, which seems quite rare, especially for a self-published publication. I rack my brains to find "the little extra" that has a link with my story in order to bring a more personal touch to my collaborations. For example, the Pythian Oracle game or the Tisiphone bath pearls. And I'm sending them to everyone while supplies last for the entire release month. Because I don't want columnists who agree to read digitally to be harmed while they help me save money. As a result, my budget for SP is quite substantial, around 15 to 20€/shipment on average depending on the carrier/country. It's very heavy in my newly launched self-publishing budget, but it's a real bonus for the columnists who receive the surprise: over time they are impatient to discover what will put them in the mood for my novel and they immerse themselves in it all the more willingly. Because I am convinced that a potential reader will be more tempted by an enthusiastic response from another reader than by more impersonal advertising (which does not prevent me from also testing advertising campaigns on Amazon, but that, that's another subject).
You will have understood, I am FOR SP under certain conditions. In terms of "rules", because with the number it takes, I now offer my SP in preview for the digital format (including goodies) a few weeks before the release, in paper and digital format with goodies during 1 month after release, and digitally without goodies only thereafter.
And what do you think about it? How do you manage MS whether you are an author or columnist? Don't hesitate to leave me a comment because I'm really curious to learn and improve.