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If You're an Independent Author, Check out Big Al's Books & Pals

Would it surprise you to know that the Big-Five traditional publishers account for only 16% of the e-books on Amazon's bestseller lists? If you are an independent author or working with a small press, then these are promising statistics. And that's why Kindle and indie-focused reviewers like Big Al's Books & Pals can be a great resource for gaining reviewer exposure in a marketplace tilted significantly in your favor.

Why is this? Because the rest of the books populating those lists are from independent authors, with nearly 40% of the e-book sales going straight into the writer's pocket (as it should!). Sci-fi and Fantasy dominate the e-book and Amazon Kindle Store market, but all genres are seeing a significant rise in sales.

Exposure for indie writers

Big Al's Books & Pals is an excellent resource for a glimpse into the latest and greatest in the independent literary world. Whether you are an independent writer looking to gain exposure, or an avid reader who just loves independent authors, this website has you covered. With reviews, news, and commentary, Big Al, a self-admitted avid reader for many decades, curates a blog along with a team of fellow reviewers that helps sift through the variety of (sometimes disappointing) options available on the independent publishing market. Put simply, the reviewing team is focused on helping readers find the writers and books worthy of attention, and on helping independent authors gain the exposure they need to achieve success in their writing.

I think we're living in an exciting time. The opportunity to experience a variety of voices, different subject matter in fiction, and to find quality reading off the beaten path is greater than ever before. This is why I focus on indie authors.

Big Al

How it all started

With extensive industry experience writing music reviews for a variety of websites and magazines, Big Al speaks of how he was always approached by readers asking why he didn't have a book review blog. People trusted his opinion and wanted to know how he felt about books, as well. One thing led to another, which eventually led to Big Al's Books & Pals.

His other website, The Indie View, includes resources for independent authors and their readers, interviews with some of the best writers in the business, and a database of reviewers who are indie-friendly for authors interested in getting the word out about their books. Along with his contributions to his two websites, he also regularly contributes to Indies Unlimited and is listed as a contributing author to Indies Unlimited: Tutorials and Tools for Prospering in a Digital World (Amazon US, Amazon UK, Smashwords) and Indies Unlimited: Tutorials and Tools for Prospering in a Digital World Vol II (Amazon US, Amazon UK, Smashwords).

How writers can benefit

For an independently published writer, it doesn't take long to discover that writing the manuscript was only the first challenge. After the final draft has gone to print, authors are left with a major life accomplishment crossed off their list but months and years of marketing their work if they expect to find success as a writer.

There's no question that getting great reviews for your book is the key to increasing exposure and sales in a digital format. In fact, Amazon reviews are one of the main driving factors to people's purchasing decisions.

And it's not just Amazon reviews that drive this. One survey published on YouGov reveals that 78 percent of U.S. consumers make a decision to purchase an item based solely on online reviews. In fact, there's survey data showing that 87% of consumers will come closer to trusting information presented in an online review than they will information given to them by their close friends or family members. That's a lot of sway that online reviews have over an independent author's book sales.

Put simply, when your book has positive reviews, especially from a trusted source like Big Al's Books & Pals, the audience of that review will trust that purchasing your book will be a good investment for them. Reviews also benefit your marketing strategies as a self-published author in that they can be used on press releases and other communications to draw the attention of local and national bookstore chains.

A large hurdle that many indie writers face is the bulk of professional book reviewers who won't review anything published outside of the major publishing houses. That's why reviewers like Big Al and his team — who focus their work entirely on self-published and small press books — are such a valuable resource.

What to expect

With a mixture of humor, intelligence, and skepticism, Big Al's reviews offer a no-holds-barred look at everything from narrative style to overall impact of a story or work of non-fiction. Across the website, you'll find evidence that Big Al knows what he's talking about in what's moving and shaking in the world of independent publishing. He knows what he's talking about to such a degree that he promises his readers an honest review, so there's no going back once your book is submitted. He's even had authors demanding that he take down negative reviews of their books, which doesn't happen often since he curates from a large selection of submissions.

So, if you do submit your book to be reviewed, know that the review will be honest and non-negotiable. Which is what any great book reviewer should supply to his trusting readers in the first place.

Submitting a book for review

For writers wishing to take advantage of Big Al's Books & Pals' wide audience of avid readers, the website accepts books for review as long as the book meets specific criteria. Again, as noted above, it's important to note that after your book is submitted, all reviews are final.

Here are the specific criteria your book must meet to be reviewed by the team at Big Al's Books & Pals:

  1. It must be available as an eBook from
  2. It must be one of the following--short story (or short story collection), novella, or full-length novel.
  3. You can submit any genre of fiction. Big Al and his team will also review non-fiction books, but it must be a subject that is of general interest and one that can be understood by a layperson. This means that if it is on a highly technical theme that requires a lot of background knowledge, your book will likely be passed over and not chosen for review.
  4. Only authors, publishers, or other valid representatives can submit books. However, it should be noted that the reviewers for Big Al's Books & Pals also review books that have not been specifically submitted to them, or that they find on their own.
  5. The book must be "indie published." According to the website's definition of "indie published," the book must be self-published or from a small press and cannot be from one of the big publishing houses. However, if a book was previously published by a large publisher but was re-published as an indie book, then the reviewers will consider it for review.

Formats required for submission

Big Al's Books & Pals accepts manuscripts in any Kindle compatible format (non-DRMed .AZW, .PRC, or .MOBI) or as an email attachment. They also offer submission options with a Smashwords coupon code. However, they will not accept book submissions as Amazon gifts or other formats such as .DOC or .PDF.

How books are accepted

After you have submitted your book following all guidelines, you'll receive an email confirming your submission. While the website makes no promises that any book submitted will be chosen for a review, there's a good chance your book will be chosen by one of the reviewers on the Big Al's Books & Pals team as long as you follow the submission guidelines.

However, due to the nature of the reviewing process, note that it could take up to one year for a reviewer to select and read your book, although reviewers generally get to it before that timeframe if the book is chosen. After one year of being on the list, your book will be dropped from it if it hasn't been chosen by that time.

If your book is chosen for review, a review will be written and posted without further notice to you. The easiest way to see if your book was chosen is to follow the Big Al's Books & Pals blog. After the review is posted to the blog, it will be posted to within two weeks. Reviews might also be posted across other websites, including Goodreads, other eBook retailers, and personal blogs.

Special promotions

One of the best parts of the website is the special promotions and giveaways it offers, as well as an annual Reader's Choice Awards.

Review format

While the best way to see how the reviewers at Big Al's Books & Pals go about their reviews is to visit the website, below is a quick overview of the sections of each review published. Basic information about the book is provided, including links to purchase it in various formats.

  • A brief author bio with a link to the author's website or social media.
  • Description of the book.
  • An appraisal, including the reviewer's overall impressions of the book and how well the author tells the story. This is essentially the "meat" of the review and will contain the most information.
  • An FYI section that includes information that might affect a reader's decision to buy and read this book (for example, language or sexual situations). If your book doesn't have any such situations, this section might be left off.
  • A review of any format/typo issues that might be present within the book. What this means is as a self-published author, it's important to get your book edited by a professional editor before sending it to print. Even the smallest of typos can have a big impact on your book's reception by reviewers and readers alike.
  • And finally, a star rating on a five-star scale.

A final word

In the world of independent publishing, it's important to know the right resources to help you to market the book you spent so much time working on to create. Without these well-informed marketing strategies, even the best-written masterpiece can perform poorly with sales—simply due to lack of exposure.

Finding the right exposure is crucial, and Big Al's Books & Pals is an example of doing it right. Even if you're unsure of how well your book will be received, if you're publishing it, it's already going to be out there for the world to read. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain, so go ahead and submit it for review!

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