Book reviews are still a great way to sell a book, even in 2019. The truth is, people like what other people like – and book reviews are a nod to that. But with so many books published each day (4,500 or more) it’s getting harder and harder to gain access to book-review sites. We all have limited time to market, and going after book reviews takes time. In some cases, a lot of time. So which reviewers should you target, and which should you leave behind? Let’s break down all your book-review options!
Is There Anything Wrong With Paying for a Review?
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. At one time, a lot of people had a problem with paid reviews. Many publications that now offer it outright said that paid reviews were a scam. In years past, there wasn’t quite the need for them that there is now, since the market is so saturated. So paid reviews, in general, aren’t a bad way to go. I’d try to avoid doing a lot of them, because this cost can quickly add up.
With paid reviews, you need to be sure they’re coming from a reputable company and that the fee is worth it. Some of the paid reviewers that offer a quality review are places like IndieReader, BlueInk Review, and Kirkus Reviews, to name a few. There are others: Publishers Weekly now has an entire arm of their publication dedicated to indies.
Frankly, a lot of paid reviews came around because there were so many authors needing a professional book review that it was difficult for places like Kirkus and Publishers Weekly to keep up. Authors show their serious dedication to their work when they’re willing to invest some money in getting a review.
As long as the organization is reputable and the review will have some reach, there’s nothing wrong with paying for a review.
Exposure varies for each of these paid-review opportunities. IndieReader, as an example, posts the review on their site and the reviews are also shared/syndicated by Ingram. Books that receive a 4-5-star rating are IndieReader Approved and are included in a monthly “Best Of” round-up on their site (which is also shared via MailChimp with approximately 5,000 readers and the Association of Independent Author’s (AIA) Facebook page).
Not All Paid Reviews are Created Equal
It’s hard to talk about paid reviews without mentioning Amazon, which has spent a good amount of time and money taking down sites that offered “10 reviews for $5” – that’s neither a good investment of your time or money, even though it’s only $5. Why? Because paid reviews like this are against Amazon’s terms of service, whereas professional reviews are not.
The difference is that lots and lots of reviews aren’t well-written, or thoughtful, or even (in a few unfortunate cases) only one sentence long: “Great book by this author!” may send a signal to Amazon that there is a problem with this book and often reviews will get pulled. Often their internal guidelines look for super short, less specific reviews in general. In some cases, authors who do this a lot will be banned from their site.
Professional Review Publications
Most authors I speak to would love to get a review in the New York Times, or the New York Review of Books, the Wall Street Journal, etc. However, for all these publications, the book needs to be sent to them early. How early? In some cases, six months, and sometimes as little as 90 days. But that’s rare. This is one of the many reasons that trade publishers work so far out from publication date: they know that if they want to get a coveted review in the New York Times, they’d better start early.
Much like the professional reviews I just discussed, pre-publication reviews fall into a similar bucket in that if you’re targeting these folks, you need to go after them early. I did a blog post on campaign timing and pre-publication reviews that you can see here.
Publications such as the Midwest Book Review, Portland Book Review, and the Seattle Review of Books all welcome your book after its publication date. Some of these folks will accept a book that’s even 3-6 months old, which means you have a lot of time to target them.
Timing & Planning for Paid Reviewers
So, to reiterate, the segment of paid reviewers such as IndieReader, Kirkus, etc. can all be pitched post-publication, and timelines for getting reviews back vary from publication to publication. Though candidly it’s better to pitch them earlier in the game. When I asked Amy Edelman of IndieReader about their review process and timing, she offered this: “IndieReader has two types of Pro Reviews. The regular has a turnaround time of 7-9 weeks; the RUSH is 4-6 weeks, so it’s up to the author how quickly they’d like to get it back.”
These are reviews by Amazon reviewers (and in some cases, top reviewers) and you can get these anytime. But, as with anything, it’s good to go after these folks early on in the life of your book. I wrote a blog post on Amazon reviewers, which you can see here.
Pitching books to bloggers is something I’ve done almost since the first day I opened the doors and began my business (18+ years ago). But blogger pitching has changed through the years. Blogs have consolidated topics. For example, you used to be able to find a lot of blogs for cozy mysteries, but now it’s all under the “mystery” umbrella on one blog. Bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, and to reach the top bloggers, you probably have to start pitching them early because their TBR (To Be Read) lists are generally pretty extensive.
We’ll talk more about guidelines in a minute, but blogger guidelines in particular are some to watch out for. Carefully navigating this and making sure that you’re pitching the right blogger, at the right time. The other piece of this is the timing. Pitch bloggers on the early end of your campaign. If you wait till the book is six months or older, blogger reviews can be tough to come by. Here are some of my best practices for getting bloggers interested in reviewing your book.
Reader Book Reviews
These are golden. The more reader reviews you can get, the better your book will do overall. We know that 95% of books are sold word of mouth, and reviews (especially reader reviews) go a long way to hitting that mark. I have a number of blog posts on reader reviews, how to get more of them, and how to build your fan base. You can read more here.
Trade Book Reviews
This very niche, somewhat off-the-radar review opportunity is a great one to consider if, let’s say, you have a book that feeds into a supported industry. Trade reviewers are specific and, often, niche to a trade. For example, there are publications that serve everything from HR markets to sewing and quilting. And while these may not do reviews in the traditional sense, there’s some potentially nice exposure you could get from them.
The other good thing about trade publications is that you can target them any time after publication date. Most of these publications are so hungry for content, they won’t care if your book is a tad older. Note about trade publications: These can be print publications or online-only publications. In either case, they’re certainly worth a shot!
Where Should You Invest Your Time?
Now is the time to build your list or whittle it down, because while you want lots of reviews for your book, you may not be the right target for a pitch to a publication that doesn’t take indie-published books. Or if you know that you don’t have a shot at a pre-publication reviewer, you may not want to invest your time there, either.
You’ve got to determine what you have the best shot at and build your targets accordingly.
For most indie authors, you’ll probably bypass the advanced reviews, and for obvious reasons, you probably won’t go after places like the New York Times. But even so, there are a lot of review opportunities still out there for you as I’ve outlined in this piece.
The other element to consider here is who you are trying to reach. While it may seem glamorous to go after the “tough to get” reviews, if this isn’t your exact audience, why would you bother?
If you have a book that ties into a trade, I mentioned trade reviews above. These can be a fantastic resource for you, too – and don’t require a lot (or any) advanced pitching.
Finally, ask yourself how the review will help. Is this your target audience? Is the readership of this publication or blog going to really be interested in your book? Because, while you may not get a review from every publication or blog you pitch, you still have to invest your time researching, pitching, and in many cases, sending them a book.
Submitting Books and Book Review Guidelines
Finally, let’s talk about book review guidelines as these are important. Surprisingly, they are often overlooked. Pitching guidelines can take up a lion’s share of your time, which is why I mentioned that you may want to be selective about who you pitch for review.
My firm does this work – meaning vetting and pitching bloggers – and I can tell you that we spend a good deal of our time reviewing blogs, making sure their guidelines haven’t changed, etc. Before you start, make sure the investment is going to be worth your time.
The Timing of Going After Book Reviews
If I’m working with an author to get them reviews, I’ll often look at this as a tiered effort. Reader reviews, as an example, is an ongoing thing. On the other hand, blogger pitching should start pretty early on in your marketing effort. Post-publication reviews can happen anytime between the street date of your book and 4-6 months later. If I’m pitching trade publications, I’ll generally slot that in after the blogger pitching is complete.
The right kind of book reviews can really help to boost your book’s exposure. Understanding the different types, and how to target them, can not only help increase your exposure within their market reach, but as these reviews start to populate on Amazon, they will help you gain more traction there as well.
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I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about book reviews, and encourage you to share in the comments any tips that have really worked for you!
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