I break down reviews into three categories
- Professional industry giants
- Internet bloggers
Professional industry giants
The first group includes sites such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Foreword Magazine and the like. These organizations require galleys or ARC’s (Advanced reading copies and generally need them 4 – 5 months before release date as they are still produced in print and the magazine closes 2 or more months before the issue is to hit the street. These publications have limited space, and so for the most part focus on releases from large publishers. If you are published through a big-six, you don’t have to worry about submitting to these organizations as the marketing and public relations department will handle this for yourself. If you are from an independent press, or self-published your chances of getting reviewed are slim. For the most part Ridan does not delay the release of a title for these. On a few occasions, when authors have asked us to we’ve submitted. For instance Leslie Ann Moore received (from her previous publisher) reviews by both Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal. Midwest Book Review is known for being more small press friendly” and if you follow their submission guidelines to identify your works as such you have a good chance of being reviewed by them.
Internet Bloggers are extremely influential, and getting a review from them will result in many people hearing about your book since they are in the business of telling others what books are good to read. I attribute a great deal of Ridan’s success in our ability to obtain reviews for our authors. I suggest the following approach. Compile a list of bloggers that write reviews for your genre. The list will grow quickly as most bloggers have a blog role of sites similar to their that they also follow. I personally have a spreadsheet of nearly 800 reviewers that lists their sites down the left side and in each column I record information such as whether they tweet or not, how many posts they had in 2010, how many in 2011, Number of followers, date added to the spreadsheet, date of last post, and on and on. One important aspect I check is “cross-pollination” between the sites. For instance Floor to Ceiling Reviews is followed by sites such as Fantasy Book Critic, A Dribble of Ink, Bookworm Blues, Stopping on Yeti, and many others. This shows me they are writing reviews that peer reviewers read and respect. When I first started out getting reviews for Michael I started with some smaller blogs. Many of these sites do reviews from books they buy themselves so they are delighted when someone offers to send them a free review copy. (As mentioned in my last post you never pay for a review but you should send a book in whatever format the blogger requests (printed or ebook) at your own expense.
Even smaller bloggers have huge demands on their time as everyone these days have huge TBR (to be read) piles. In order to get your review to the top of the list you need to query them professionally. I use Google Docs to make an Ad for the book with a headline, picture of the cover and teaser copy. For instance this is what the email looks like for my husband’s first book: The Crown Conspiracy:
The above is just a template, but I individual the introduction for each person I send it to. You should approach querying bloggers, just as you would agents. Don’t send mass blasted emails for requests. Check their website to determine their submission requirements, personalize to them, and let them know you value your time by researching their stated preferences. Once you get a few solid reviews under your belt, you can start querying larger and more influential sites, you’ll even find that if you generate enough buzz reviewers will start seeking you out.
Some bloggers specifically say they won’t accept books that are self-published. They have been burned by books of low professional quality which have little to no editing. Assuming you’ve put out a good book, and have gotten others to review it, they will often bend that rule for you. One of the things I’ve added in my redesign of this site is a great Reference Page. On it you’ll find a list of review sites (and links to lists of sites) that welcome reviews from self-published authors.
With sites such as GoodReads, Library Thing, Shelfari, and Amazon, readers love telling others about the books they’ve read. Many blogger mention on their sites that they not only post the review on their site, but also Amazon and Goodreads as well. Targeting these people is important as you get three reviews from a single reading.
The biggest obstacle for new authors is establishing third-party validation and the number of reviews on sites like this establish a following and give new readers the confidence to give someone that they’ve not heard of before a try.
Here are some numbers from two of Ridan’s most well reviewed authors: Michael J. Sullivan and Nathan Lowell. With over 2,000 ratings for Michael and 1,100 ratings for Nathan, they have established themselves as quality story tellers.
Don’t be afraid to ask your readers for assistance. When you receive a fan mail singing your praises, or see someone give a high rating of one of your books via Goodreads mention that you’re glad they enjoyed the work, and if they would like to help others to take a chance and give your stories a try to please post a review on Amazon or add commentary to a ranking on Goodreads. Explain that they do not have to write full reviews – just a few sentences explaining why they liked the book. Also be sure to mention that any reviews helps and good, bad, or indifferent all you really want from them is a fair assessment.
While we’re on the subject, a bad or so-so review will actually help you. When readers see only 4 and 5 star reviews they come away with the impression that the posters are friends or relatives of the authors. Having a variety of opinions helps to ensure that the sampling reflects real reading habits. No book is universally liked by everyone, and a few detractors that make the overall number higher are better than less reviews which are all singing your praises. Not everyone is going to find your book “their cup of tea”.
That being said, you can improve your changes by finding people who like books similar to your own. In the past, I’ve used Amazon to find “first readers”. Many of the reviewers post their email addresses as part of their profile. Since you already know they like the type of book you’ve written your chances are better of receiving a positive review.
What not to do
As mentioned in yesterday’s post. You should never pay for a review. It completely undermines your credibility. Again, as I mentioned I found a book similar to Michael's that had a good review by someone called Geri Ahern. When I goggled her to find an email address, I found a blog where she reviews book for a fee. I immediately felt less of the book, not only because I couldn’t trust the review, but it exposed the desperation of the author.
Speaking of desperation, don’t post a review of your own work when you have only a few reviews. It is seen as a blatant attempt to bolster your numbers. Once you have many reviews you can go post on your book – not so much for review – but to give you an opportunity to talk to potential readers about the story behind the book. What your motivation was, were you looking for light and fun, dark and gritty, realistic, fantastical, etc. etc. Use it as an opportunity to show a bit of yourself. Readers want to connect with authors.
Along that same line, my standard response was never to comment back on a review. Awhile ago, as Michael’s following grew, I encouraged him to start posting comments to thank people for helping to spread the news. Many came back completely amazed that an author would take the time to respond. It impressed the heck out of them, and you can be sure they’ve mentioned it to a friend when recommending your book. But of course it goes without saying that you should never, ever, berate someone who gives you a bad review. Take the high ground. Thank them for taking the time to share their opinion and tell them that you’re sorry the book didn’t resonate with them. NEVER try to convince them their opinion was wrong or unfounded.
One last thing to avoid is the exchange of reviews with other authors. Again, in the beginning you are so desperate for numbers you might think doing so would be a great win-win for you and the other author. The reality is it is a land mind of problems. What if you don’t like their book? What if you don’t like theirs? Do you risk your own credibility by saying something that is junk is wonderful? Do you refuse to post and get the author mad such that he leaves a negative review in response? Many authors form friendships with other authors through networking. As such, they sometimes read someone else’s book either out of curiosity or just in a desire to support their writing. If you do this, and you like it then certainly post an honest review to help them out. But don’t ever do it with the expectation of reciprocation.
Well, that’s my little lesson 101 on reviews. I hope you founding something in here that will help you in your own writing. And in keeping with my statements above, if you have read any Ridan book and enjoyed it, then please take just a minute to stop by the author’s Amazon page and leave a comment. Again, even if you didn’t like the book, adding another “count to the tally” and expressing an honest opinion is always appreciated.