Book Reviews – Aiming for the Pot of Gold

As authors what do we most want from the publishing of our books public recognition, skyrocketing sales, or simply spreading our message?

We may want all three and receiving a review can be reaching that pot of gold. A review in a prestigious print magazine can truly make an author’s name and multiply sales. Even a review in an online magazine can be archived and available to the internet for years. But how to achieve this goal in a competitive market is tricky.

The quid-pro-quo is that publishers send reviewers a free copy of a book as part of their marketing plan, in the hope that it will be reviewed and brought to the favorable attention of the reviewer’s audience/readership. All books sent to a reviewer for review consideration, requested or unrequested, become the property of the reviewer to dispose of as he or she deems fit.

Before you begin sending books out to all possible magazines do your research. Despite Oprah’s popularity, O magazine isn’t right for every author. Maybe your book is a better fit with Prevention magazine or Popular Mechanics? Or maybe is your best bet. Read what books are reviewed in your magazines of choice. Then research who is the best person for you to contact. Is it the feature editor, or is there a book review editor? Keep in mind that you are competing with thousands of other authors for the diminishing number of publications that review books.

But first create 3 lists of possible review sites, magazines, and newspapers. This list is meant to offer a sampling of book review options, there are many other magazines and newspapers not listed here.

1. The “pot o gold” list – We characterize these magazines as gold because any review or mention of your book in their print publications will result in more sales, more recognition and your message received by large numbers of people. All magazines and newspapers in this category require advanced reader copies sent at least 4 months in advance of the books launch. Prepublication magazines include Publishers Weekly, Booklist Reader and Library Journal. Post publication magazines in this category include People, New Yorker, Reader’s Digest, or Slate. To claim a little of the gold by submitting their books to Publishers Weekly PW select. For the small fee of $149 you have a better chance to reach that gold.

2. The “silver lining” list – We characterize these magazines or newspapers as silver because they have a great circulation and maybe a little less prestige. From the Los Angeles Times, to the Boston Globe, to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, to the Christian Science monitor all have a great deal of power to launch a book. Most magazines and newspapers in this category have both a print edition as well as an online edition, and they accept books that have already been launched. Landing a review in The Atlantic would be a huge boon to any author. The Bloomsbury review has eclectic tastes, has been around for decades and often prints authors who reside in the West. Regional magazines in your area like Virginia Quarterly Review tend to favor local authors. Online magazines in this category because of their huge circulation are Shelf Awareness and Huffington Post. Depending on the genre of your book other magazines that review books are Crosscurrents magazine, Tricycle, Insight Retailers magazine, Psychology Today and Utne Reader.

3. Evergreen list – I refer to these online magazines and review sites as evergreen because they archive their reviews. Anyone can find the review months later and also having your review online will help build your overall SEO ranking. Getting reviewed on Amazon or Barnes and builds recognition as well as sales. Many of our authors have become best sellers. Goodreads is a social media network for authors to create a fan base. My personal favorite online review magazine is of course San Francisco Book Review. Other favorites include Midwest Book Review, Bellaonline or Women’s Review of Books. For a small fee of $59 you can obtain an express review from Readers Favorite reviews –

Of course a review doesn’t guarantee that you will get a good review. Even a review that starts with “This is an amazing book” and finishes with criticizing the author’s purple prose can be useful.

You can go for reviews yourself or you can hire a publicist to make this task easier. A publicist has the contacts and skills to get your book in front of interested editors. There is a great deal of work involved in going for reviews, from research to query to follow up. But any review can be used to promote your book and improve your sales which is well worth the effort. And the possibility is always there that you will be fortunate enought to find your own pot of gold!

© January 2017

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Getting Book Reviews

Book reviews are one of the most potent of all marketing activities. There is no such thing as having too many reviews. What’s great about a good review is that it tells potential buyers that someone else read and liked the book. A good book review is a powerful marketing tool. You can use it by positioning it on your blog. You can also share it by using the social media links. Another tactic is to add it to your book page on Amazon Central.

There are several strategies you can use to acquire more reviews.

Goodreads groups are a fertile area to request reviews. Use these groups as your first recourse. A few such groups are listed later in this chapter.

Another approach is to contact a review site. These come in two flavors. One will review your book, usually for a fee. Self-publishing Reviews is such a site. So is Booklife. Some sites will review your book for free. Reader’s Favorite is one such free site although it will prompt you to upgrade to a paid review.

The second type of review site won’t actually review your book, but will make it available to a number of potential reviewers. I list a few of these later in the chapter. There are many more besides the ones I mention, but I only included ones I’m familiar with. A simple search will give you a list of more sites offering to get book reviews in return for a price.

Let me be clear: if you use one of these services, you are not buying a review. You’re paying for a review service that will put your book in front of many potential reviewers who may or may not elect to review your book. Reviewers who chose to read your book are not paid by the review service. What you are paying for when you sign up for a review service is access to all the potential reviewers on its list.

Some of the review services will not deliver the goods. They talk a good story about the many reviewers they have on their email list, but you won’t get the number of reviews you signed up for. These sites simply don’t have enough readers on their list to deliver the reviews. Others, a small number, are just scammers looking to rip off authors.

Another strategy is to give away copies of your book, hopefully in exchange for a promise to review it. You can use your social media contacts here. Ask if anyone wants a free eBook review copy. I’ve found this tactic to be marginally effective. The main reason is that some people ask for a review copy only because it’s free and they have no intention of ever writing a review. Also some readers won’t like the book and won’t write a negative review. My experience is that around 25% of these readers will write a review. However, eBooks don’t cost you anything to send to potential reviewers so you aren’t incurring any costs.

It’s my observation that many people don’t write reviews for books they enjoy because they aren’t sure how to go about writing one. To alleviate this problem I wrote up a series of questions to help readers compose a short, simple book review. There are two versions of this: one for fiction and one for nonfiction. When asking someone to review your book or when sending along an eBook copy for review, paste the questions into the email or you can create a document and attach it to the email.

Fiction Book Review Questionnaire:

1) On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the highest) how would rate this book?

2) Did you like or dislike the book?

3) Please explain why you answered 2) as you did.

If you liked the book, please answer the following questions:

4) Why did you like the book?

4) What didn’t you like about the book?

6) Did the main characters seem real and believable to you?

7) Did you want the book to continue beyond the ending?

Use your answers to these questions to write a few sentences about the book. Hint: don’t write a brief synopsis.

As an example, here is a review I received for one of my novels:

I enjoyed reading “Falstaff’s Big Gamble: A Fantasy Adventure to Get Shakespeare Spinning in his Grave (Gundarland Stories Book 2)”. The author has written a hilarious lampoon and is a very entertaining read. I felt the author was highly creative and knowledgeable of the writings of the famous Bard of Avon in writing this light, imaginative, and delightful tale.

Non-fiction Book Review Questionnaire:

1) How many stars, from 1 to 5 would you give this book? (Five is the highest rating)

2) What did you like about the book (if anything)?

3) What didn’t you like about the book (if anything)?

4) Did you get the information the author promised in the book blurb and other promotional material?

5) Did the book contain information you weren’t expected or didn’t know about?

6) Would you recommend this book to others?

Use your answers to these questions to write a few sentences about the book.

Here is an example review for one of my non-fiction books:

Full of diagrams and written almost like a step-by-step guide for authors, ‘Creating Stories’ is a must-read book if you’re a new author or you’ve been struggling at all with writing your next novel. This is a guidebook for novel writers and short story writers. It covers character development, plot development, and more. In fact, it even gets down to the nitty-gritty of things. I like that it even touches base on things like comedy writing and satire.

For a new author, book marketing is oftentimes an inexplicable

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