Publishing Insiders Wrap-Up – Book Reviews: Do You Need Them?

by | Apr 18, 2012 | Book Marketing Basics, Social Media for Authors

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We had a great show with host Penny Sansevieri leading a discussion on why book reviews matter, how to get your book reviewed and pitfalls to avoid when seeking reviews. Our special guest was Amy Collins.

About our guest: Amy Collins is the owner of The Cadence Group, a sales and marketing service provider for the publishing industry. In 2008, The Cadence Group launched New Shelves Distribution, a full-scale book warehousing, sales and fulfillment company selling publisher’s books directly to the national chains and independent bookstores in North America. Learn more at

Do reviews matter? 

Yes, despite all the changes in the publishing world and how books are promoted, reviews are still important. The difference between now and then is that 15 years ago a really good review from a respected review outlet would convince a national chain and most of the top independent bookstores to carry the book. These days there are fewer chains or independent bookstores so a good review doesn’t have the same impact.

Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Authors wanted reviews back then because a good review was worth a couple thousand units to the library market alone. Now, Amy says, libraries don’t have that kind of budget anymore, so a good review is not an automatic buy – just a better chance to be considered.

There are more places to get reviews in this new world, although the review space is highly competitive.

Are paid reviews OK?

Amy says whether paid reviews make sense depends on the outlet and why an author wants reviews. Amy recommends Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus and Library Journal to clients because those reviews will affect their standing in the industry. Are you going after reviews to drive consumer awareness, or for the literary or industry cache and approval that will get you better stocking in stores and libraries? For awareness, go after book bloggers (who usually don’t charge a fee). For cache/stocking go after industry review sites like PW – which may require payment for a review.

At Publisher’s Weekly, authors can pay $149 to submit their self-published work to be considered for review. That is the best use of money, in Amy’s opinion. It also gets the author listed in PW’s self-publishing quarterly. Kirkus charges a fee for self-published book reviews via Kirkus Discoveries.

Amy says her company does not participate in campaigns where reviewers state they have to be compensated for their review time. She feels that if a review site has enough followers and advertisers, the site will be self-supporting.

What authors can do

Wuhan's largest bookstore, I presume. The book...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At last count there were an estimated 1,500 books published every day in the U.S. As a result of this deluge of books, reviewers have become more selective about the books they will review.

Authors should build a relationship with reviewers before they publish. Get to know people in your niche or genre. Follow their blogs. Comment on some of their reviews.

Despite the number of ebooks published, many reviewers do still prefer a print review copy.

When it comes to ebook reviews authors need to get over the idea that it’s an electronic file and possibly not safe. If you’re dealing with a legitimate reviewer it’s OK, says Amy. Send reviewers books in the format they request – they don’t have to review your book, and there are plenty of other books they can review, so cooperate.

Review request dos and don’ts

Don’t start an email with “Dear blogger.” Look for the reviewer’s name on his or her blog. Read the review policy on the site, show that you know who the blogger is and what kind of books he or she reviews – and make the case for why he or she would want to review your book. Is your book in a genre they typically review? Can you compare your book favorably to other books they read and enjoyed? Making those kinds of connections can lead to a review request instead of a rejection.

Do not hound reviewers for how long it will take for a review, only check back if they give you a timeframe.

For more on the don’ts of review requests, see:

Reading a book

Reading a book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you don’t like the review, deal with it. It’s part of the process. Try to take it in stride, see if you can learn from it and move on. Read what they’re actually saying: was the topic not their cup of tea, or did they say the writing/execution was bad? If the reviewer criticizes the writing/execution you need to work on the book, Amy says. If it’s not their cup of tea you need to let it go. It’s hard, but let it go.

Will a bad review hurt you? Not necessarily. Amy had a client who got a bad review, and the reviewer really went into detail about why she hated the book. The review actually compelled people to buy the book – what didn’t appeal to the reviewer did appeal to some of her readers.

If you have professional reviewers reviewing your book, respect their work. Take a look at your expectations. There may be valid points in the review. Also read the review and consider what the average reader will pull from it.

How to tell if a reviewer is legitimate

Visit his or her site and check the site’s Google rank, following, comments, social media use and review policy. You want evidence of regular activity, and to see who they are talking to, and where their reviews appear (many reviewers cross-post reviews across a number of sites). Look for people who post reviews on social media and other forums. This research takes time but it’s worth the effort.

When authors seek their own reviews, they should realize their book will show up for sale on used book sites. It doesn’t make the reviewers evil, Amy says. Reviewers get hundreds of books so every so often some of them will sell the books. Putting a sticker on the book doesn’t prevent this.

How late is too late to go after reviews? Five years, says Amy, other than that you’re good. Two months before the book’s publication date (when the book is available for readers and consumers to purchase), Amy’s company reaches out to reviewers. Time reviews to make sure people can buy the book when the reviews are published – people won’t remember to buy a book weeks after they’ve read the review.

Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade, Newtown...

Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade, Newtown, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of biggest obstacles to being reviewed is being self-published; there are still gatekeepers who will say no to books just because they are self-published. Authors should be persistent, target reviewers in their genre and make a case for why those reviewers should consider reviewing their book.

Some book review directories:

* Book Reviewers on the Web – this list includes industry standards, literary blogs, off the beaten track blogs and the more opinion-driven book bloggers,

* MidwestBook Review – a listing of a number of sites to check out,

* Free Book Reviews – a list of blogs that will also consider self-published books; a description of the blog follows each listing,

* Best of the Web blogs – blog listing with a description of each blog listed,

Download the full show at:


Upcoming Episode:

We’ll be back May 1, at 4 p.m. Pacific, with Liz Goodgold, a branding and marketing expert, speaker and author, who will discuss How to Create a Brand-Building Buzz with Media. Be sure to join us!

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  1. Andrew

    Awesome read.

  2. Katy Huth Jones

    Thanks for explaining this so succinctly, and thanks for the links. Publishing has definitely changed drastically since my last foray in the late 1990’s.

    • Paula


      Thanks for stopping by! Yes, publishing keeps changing, and we work hard to keep up with it so we can keep you informed.


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