I sort of stumbled onto the OnlineBookClub website about two years ago and didn't really know what it was all about. I decided to try out some of their services, starting with reviews, and have ended up working with them quite a bit to promote some of my books.
Who runs the club? Scott Hughes is the guy who created it, but he has a full team of people working with him now who help run social media accounts and other services, as well as assistance from review writers and editors with helping to work through the backlog of reviews and make sure they get vetted and released properly.
It's been building up for over ten years now and Scott is constantly releasing new features and services.
Who writes the reviews?
The community. This is a benefit and a curse for the company, but in general the benefits outweigh the negatives. Basically, this means that professional reviewers who have worked in the industry for a long time are not likely to review your book when you submit for a book review, but since the system is based on a scaling system whereby the better a reviewer does the faster they get access to reviews, it means that paying for more expensive packages means you are more likely to get a better reviewer.
Better reviewer, in this case, means a few things: they will write a better review (which can be beneficial for you when quoting it) and they probably have a bigger audience of readers who watch out for their reviews.
What this also means, however, is that if you submit a lower level package through the system you are less likely to get one of these 'big fish' reviewers and more likely to get a bottom feeder who is trying to become a big fish. That isn't necessarily a negative (because why wouldn't they want to offer larger benefits for more expensive reviews) but it is definitely something to keep in mind when buying a package.
Reviews are their first service, and you have to pay for one of those before any other package to promote your book. Everything is built around a funnel whereby the first thing you must do as an author is buy a review. You cannot just drop in there and pay for advertising on their email lists or other services until you have been vetted, and they take the reviews seriously.
This forms a sort of self-selection process when an author submits. An expensive gate, if you will. Everyone has to start at the same point and work their way up through the club, and they will point out mistakes with style, grammar, editing, and anything else in your review, along with recommendations about how you can make your book better.
The reviews are guaranteed to be multiple paragraph and at least four-hundred words, which means they will go pretty in-depth without getting into major spoiler territory. This is great, because it means there will definitely be something in them you can pull out to help promote your book as an editorial review.
This is very important, because a lot of authors (including myself) can hit roadblocks here. When reviews are less than you had hoped for, your response can be:
- Denial (I know my book is awesome)
- Ambivalence (Oh well, who cares about this website anyway?)
- Acceptance (Maybe they have a point...)
The first two cases usually mean that author is done working with OnlineBookClub. Either they make the decision to give up and move on, or the decision is made for them when they act aggressively about the review and shoot themselves in the foot.
When I first submitted books, I sent in early titles that were less than stellar and needed work. The thing was, they had taken months of my life and countless hours to put together, and getting bad reviews (3 out of 4 on both) was difficult to swallow.
However, the points they made were actually very true (especially looking back) and I have since had both books re-edited, re-worked, and both are better than they were partly from these reviews.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you get a bad review, it isn't the end of the world. You can always resubmit for another review later when you fix up a book, and once you do make it through the gate you will have access to a lot more stuff.
The cost keeps climbing and in general I find it difficult to recommend them to anyone who is looking to get reviews for their book. The biggest problem is that considering how expensive they are, there are far more professional and well-known services out there that you could be using instead.
Use at your own risk.
More Options With Positive Review
If you do make it through the review roadblock, then you open up a lot of other services that can help drive your book. There are quite a few of them, but two in particular that are worth focusing on: Book of the Month, and Book of the Day.
With Book of the Day, you get some hefty promotion across a myriad of social media platforms over the course of one day, and in general you get a few thousand people looking at your book. If you offer it for free, you also get a ton of downloads and they have managed to push author's pretty high up the charts with this promotion.
Book of the Month is different in that it is a slow burn campaign. You get your book posted (for three months) on every page of the website with a direct link to your book page on their website. You also get a book of the month forum dedicated just to your book for readers to discuss it.
Both options also come with built in giveaways (daily, or monthly depending) and book of the month includes a book of the day share along with it.
Here is Raven Peak's book page on the website.
From here you can also permanently get to the book forum about your book and see all of the compiled data and links about your book. There is also a book of the year option for all books that received a 4-star review from a top level reviewer whereby readers can nominate their favorite book.
They also offer social media advertising, bookshelf advertising, and a few other things, but in general you are much better off to go with one of the packages to drive your promotion because it includes these other features in it.
How much does it cost?
Quite a bit, actually. The prices also go up regularly, so I don't want to mention them in the post. Suffice to say, many authors won't really want to take a step down this road because of the sheer up front investment.
However, the results you can achieve through their programs are pretty incredible, including building a new fan base, selling a lot of books, and meeting some great readers who are always interested in finding new authors.
Do I recommend it?
Somewhat. It was hard to swallow those first few expenses to get started with the company, but what I love most about Online Book Club is just how willing they are to try new things and work to customize promotions. They are also incredibly loyal to the people who pay good money to promote with them, so that is a huge plus in their favor.
They take book marketing very seriously over there and are constantly getting new members. Their lists are huge and full of very responsive readers, and you are bound to make a lot of new fans and friends working with them.
The problem is, again, cost. It is just too much money to justify spending considering the results that you will receive. There are enough alternative companies out there for authors to use that this one just doesn't rank up.
They also offer personalized service and will go out of their way to create any promotional service authors can dream up...for a price. This is the key to their value: I requested to do a promotion for a Kindle Scout campaign I was running recently and they built me a custom promotion to reach thousands of people and get tons of nominations. Scott and his team are responsive to requests and always willing to engage with new ideas to make their offerings even better.
I can see great things in the future of the company, and everyone can find something to benefit them from the club. The problem is, if they keep jacking up their cost without improving their results they will falter and fall apart after a while.
For readers, they can get free books and a chance to make some extra money writing reviews, and for authors (the focus of this blog post) there is some powerful promotion and a lot of constant growth that make this a website to look out for. But, don't be fooled by the dramatic numbers they throw out for 'results' because often they aren't even remotely close to the cost.
I recommend using them, but keep in mind that their overall cost can be incredibly high. If you do want to take the plunge, the first step is going to be signing up for a review.