Traci Sanders is an amazing lady I had the pleasure of meeting a while back in an online writers’ group. Apart from being an early educator and caregiver, she is an award-winning multigenre author, book promoter, family person and all around one of the most supportive people in the independent writing world. She is here today to talk about her latest venture the Readers Review Room.
Hi, Traci! So good to have you over again. So much has happened since your book When Darkness Breaks. Your novel Unsevered went on to win several nominations and awards, the non-fiction parenting guide to potty training got a complete make over, you wrote a children’s book The Chocolate Monsters, and you are running a family and two businesses. Have I missed anything? When do you sleep?
Believe it or not, I do, for the most part get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. I have to in order to do what I do every day.
So tell us a bit more about Readers Review Room. What’s the main goal of the site? Who are the clients?
I’m thrilled to talk to anyone about the Readers Review Room. This is my latest baby. I’m actually even more excited about this than my own books. I know that sounds backwards for an Indie author to say, but it’s true. Anyone who knows me well enough is aware that I find great joy in others’ success, and if I can lend a hand in even a small part of that success, that’s even more exciting for me. It’s just how I was raised. That’s not to say I don’t still enjoy writing. It was my first love and will always be something I’m interested in. With less time on my hands now, I simply write poems and short stories instead of novels. Okay, on to the RRR. We are changing the way authors get reviews and readers find new favorite authors, and we are doing it in a fun, honest way. The readers are excited about discovering new titles on our site, and some even end up joining our review team. And the authors are excited about getting feedback from their target readers. We’ve even added early readers (ages 8-12) and teen readers (ages 13-19) as reviewers. Authors who write these genres are thrilled about this.
In short, we find the perfect readers/reviewers for our clients and provide them with honest reviews they can share with their fans.
Your rating system is somewhat unique. Could you explain it to everyone?
Sure! Every week I have to explain this because people are seeing our colored worms everywhere. I’m excited about that. When I founded this site, I wanted everything to be unique, from the way we promote books, to the way we review them.
Instead of stars or hearts, we use bookworms. These were custom-designed by my right-hand girl, my website designer, the one who designs everything but my book covers, my sister Jeni.
A Gold Bookworm is the highest rating we offer a title – it is similar to a 5-star elsewhere
A Blue Bookworm is similar to a 4-star elsewhere
A Green Bookworm is similar to a 3-star elsewhere
But we take the review process a step further. In order to offer the author a chance to use our site as (almost) a storage place for ALL of their reviews, we invite authors who list with us to ask those who have reviewed their books on other sites to submit those reviews to us. We not only list them on our site, but we also apply a color-appropriate ribbon to the review, to signify what star rating it received on other sites. We call these “other reviews”, which means they aren’t done by our in-house review team.
And one of the coolest things about our review system is the ranking badges. This is similar to the “overall” star rating on other sites. Except we give the author a step up. Any title that receives at least three of the same color bookworm rating from our in-house reviewers will be awarded a ranking badge for that color worm to be placed on his/her site/blog, and really anywhere the author wants to share it.
This proclaims that the title was good enough to be chosen by at least three of our reviewers. That way, if a book starts out with a Green ranking badge and several other members of our team happen to pick it up over time, and perhaps the book has been edited or the author addresses certain issues that kept it from receiving a higher rating, that title has the chance to earn a higher ranking badge later on. So, it’s like climbing a ladder. Ranking badges are NOT easy to earn and Gold’s are NOT easy to come by. We have some tough reviewers, but every one of them offer their honest thoughts on books and that’s what matters.
Your review team has had quite an increase in numbers, which must make your clients happy. How do you choose your reviewers? How do the reviewers choose the books and authors?
I’m thrilled to have so many reviewers on our team so far. My goal is to have fifty regular (adult) reviewers, ten Teen Turf reviewers, and ten Rising Readers reviewers by the end of this year. We’re on target to reach that goal. I post on Twitter and Facebook consistently to find reviewers. Of course I started with the readers I knew personally or online first and I ask for referrals.
And sure, some fall out off the grid at times; that’s to be expected. Family obligations, time issues, life happens. But I just keep going and recruiting more. I treat my reviewers very well. I protect their privacy and time by not revealing their names until the reviewer is ready to submit his/her review. That way my reviewers aren’t hounded or attacked by authors. The reviewer can read in peace.
What do you think makes a good book review? How can you vouch the review is unbiased? What happens if an author doesn’t like a review?
In my opinion, a good review is one that is thoughtful, specific, and well-written. I do check the reviews for grammar and punctuation, but I never change content or theme. I know each of our reviews are unbiased because most of my reviewers don’t know the authors who list on our site, and because my reviewers choose which books they read. They are not influenced personally, professionally, or monetarily.
If an author does not like a review, he/she usually emails us at the RRR and we remind him/her that our procedures plainly state that all reviews are unbiased and honest. We don’t give refunds for unfavorable reviews, or lack of reviews. I don’t assign books to my reviewers. Like I said, they choose. An author is welcome to remove his/her title at any time.
Being an author yourself, what do you expect in terms of support? What do your author-clients expect from RRR?
In terms of support from my reviewers, I basically expect him/her to read the book, offer honest thoughts on it, and submit a review by the deadline. We only require reviewers to commit to one book/review per month. That’s not a rigorous schedule for most people. But sometimes reviewers ask for a little more time. I generally check in about two weeks in to see how the book is going, and then again about a week before the review is due, just as a gentle reminder.
Our listing fees are quite affordable at this time – just $9.95/year for up to three titles, and $14.95/year for unlimited titles. I rotate promotion between books on a list and promote four books per day in the Facebook group. We list all titles on Pinterest and we’re working on the best way to promote reviews as well. We also promote on Twitter by scheduled posts and manual posts.
There’s really no other site that offers that type of personal/balanced promotion for that small of a price.
I also think our clients expect reviewers to submit their feedback in a timely manner, which I do my best to stay on top of. I’m sure as the team grows, I may need a digital system of some sort to keep up with it, but this is how it works at the moment.
What do you think are the most difficult aspects of authors’ life today? How do you deal with them?
I think marketing is definitely the most challenging part of authorship today, because the market is so saturated with so many books. Readers don’t know which ones to choose, which ones are a waste of money, or which ones might just become their next favorite reads. We are working to tap into that system and simplify it. Readers can trust our reviews, and these are not all reviews from industry professionals. Many are simply avid readers, stay-home moms, etc., who love to get lost in a great book, without pressures from the author. That’s one reason I don’t announce names in pick-ups.
Could you share with us some of the most memorable and rewarding experiences with working with the RRR team? An anecdote, perhaps?
I can share many! The words of thanks I hear every day from the authors, whether privately or publicly in the group, thanking me for finding their target readers. The words of thanks and praise from my reviewers who “just love this system”. They say it’s well-organized and I’m quick to get books in their hands and post their reviews.
Could you tell the readers a bit more about your own books? And what is your work-in-progress all about? Oh, and you have a short story coming out in Crooked Tales, too, right?
I really don’t talk about my books much because this site is all about promoting other authors. I never want this to seem like a catapult for my own books. If anyone would like to check out my credentials to learn a bit more about me, however, here is my Amazon page.
(I made this for Traci as a surprise. Shhhhh….)
How do you balance everything? Do you have a magical pair of shoes you put on in the morning – ‘book-promoter shoes’, ‘writer shoes’, ‘mommie shoes’, ‘just-me shoes’? What do you do to relax?
Ha ha! No. I wish! I’m just a good time-manager. I always have been. I know how to make the most of every moment. I’m never bored, and I rarely sit still for long. I do what needs to be done and move on. I used to do yoga to relax, and write, but I don’t have much time for those things anymore. I am slowly scaling things back in my life, though, to make time for me again soon :)
What makes you happy?
Honestly, seeing someone reach a goal, especially because of anything I contributed, thrills me. But I’m also happy when I reach goals of my own. I’m happy being with my family and friends and appreciating every moment life has to offer. You have to have the bad moments to be able to recognize the good ones. I’ve suffered a great deal of loss in my life, enough to make sure that I hug and kiss my kids before bed each night and say “I love you”. In fact, I say “I love you” to anyone I love, before leaving their presence or hanging up the phone. You just never know when the last moment together will truly be the last.
If anyone would like to submit a book for our site, please send buy links to email@example.com.
You can learn more about our review process, listing process, and meet our reviewers by visiting Readers Review Room – Your books, Your reviews – Forever!.
As well, if you would like to join our team as a reviewer, please email us there and let us know. It’s really easy and we have a lot of fun!
Thank you so much, Traci, for taking the time out of your incredibly hectic schedule and all the best with your new enterprise!