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Interview with book reviewer Joe Walters

Joe Walters, for my readers, can you tell them about you? Who you are?

• For one, I’m Joe Walters. For two, I’m the founder of Independent Book Review. For three, I’m a book marketing specialist for Paper Raven Books and Sunbury Press. And for four, I live in Harrisburg, PA, where I like to write, read, and watch the Sixers lose big leads to mediocre teams.

What’s one story that makes you, well, you?

• When I graduated college, I thought I was going to be a high school English teacher. I was wrong. I made it a couple years as a substitute, sitting behind a desk and writing fiction and wishing the kids in the room would please stop talking to me.

• When my then-girlfriend, now-fiancé graduated college, we moved up to Providence, Rhode Island, became servers, and I kept working on my writing craft. After that, we moved to Portland, Oregon where I worked as a server and then as a marketing director at a small press. When it was time for me to move back home to PA, I started Independent Book Review. And now I wouldn’t be me if it weren’t for IBR, so I guess that’s it.

As founder of Independent Book Review, what books might my readers have heard about from your company?

• Not many! One of the benefits of Independent Book Review is that we take on lesser-known books to help them get recognized. So that’s a whole bunch of great books from self-published and small press authors like Ruben Degollado (Throw), Jennifer Wortman (This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love), and Sarah Rose Etter (The Book of X). Perhaps the biggest one we’ve reviewed is Kristen Arnett’s Mostly Dead Things.

What are the best marketing strategies that a small press or self-published author can do to help get their book noticed?

• There are a million, and each book needs different attention in different categories. But I’d say the best marketing strategy any author can take on is finding people who are willing to review their book and sending them a copy. So many authors try to spread their marketing budget out across too many categories, resulting in thinly covered areas and reaching their budget too quickly. My advice for them? If you have a limited budget, consider keeping the biggest budget for sending out paperbacks. You should absolutely try to send digital copies first, but if someone is only willing to read a paperback, send that damn thing. Remember when you first started writing your story? Remember your goal? It was probably so that it would be read. So why not let someone read it?

What is your favourite book of all time?

• I always hear people respond to this question with, “What? Just one?!” and yet, I’m over here screaming, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

Who is your favourite author of a series of books?

• I’m actually not a huge series guy. I tend to pleasure-read literary fiction, which rarely comes out in series, but if I had to choose, I guess I’d go with some of my favorites from childhood like The Magic Tree House and anything from Matt Christopher.

So, sell your service to those that are writers, and authors, and book publishers. That famous interview question sell me this pen.

• If you’re an author or publisher, you need book reviews. If you need book reviews, you need the time to research and pitch the people who review books. Well, I do that. There’s your pen.

• Whether you want to pitch your book for the chance of a free review or if you want to guarantee a review (along with those all-important pull-quotes for your marketing material), you can purchase an editorial review at independentbookreview.com/editorial-book-reviews/.

What genre of authors do you hope to find that could be helped with your business?

• I want to help all of them, so that’s a start, but as of right now, my team focuses a bit more on fiction and narrative nonfiction. We hope to venture out into the wonderful world of picture books and other forms of nonfiction soon, but as of now, let’s stick with those that tell lengthy stories.

What question do you wish I had asked? And what would the answer be?

• Nobody ever asks me what my favorite candy is, and I find it very rude. So…

◦ Haribo Twin Snakes for the win!