Book reviews, those long, thoughtful, critical New York Times-style reviews and “blurbs” – short reviews or testimonials – are some of the best ways to bring your book to the attention of a new audience. The more people who review your book, the greater exposure it has to potential readers. Don’t underestimate the power of both types of reviews. Think of them as a form of peer pressure. We are all influenced by what other people are wearing, buying or talking about. I know a lot of you just turned your noses up at that idea. “I don’t care what other people think! I make my own decisions,” you said to yourself. But think again. Do you check Consumer Reports before purchasing a large ticket item? Do you ask your friends for recommendations when you need to find a doctor, dentist or car mechanic? Have you ever bought a book because you heard other people talking about it?
Yes, you are influenced by what other people think. That’s why getting your book reviewed is an important technique in selling it. It’s a great idea to have some reviews or testimonials before you publish your book. Who should you ask to give you these reviews? The most influential people that you know who are in your field. A review from an unknown person is much less impressive in this case than a review from someone with credentials. A review from someone whose expertise is totally unrelated to your topic, particularly if it is technical in nature, is also fairly meaningless.
Who is considered a leader in the eyes of your target market? If you are writing a book about health care, get a leading doctor to write the review. If you are writing a book with a regional influence such as a history of your town or region, ask the head of a local museum to write a review. You get the idea.
I’ve spent more hours coaxing writers into asking their heroes for reviews than I can count. “He won’t review my book. He’s so much more important than I am.” That’s the line I often hear. It’s amazing, though, how many times a simple e-mail asking for a review is answered in the positive. When you ask, however, make sure you give a deadline date. Even the most well-intentioned person will put things off.
Sometimes the reviewer will ask you to send something specific, three chapters for instance, or a paper copy. If no special requests are made, the easiest thing to send is a clean final draft of your book in PDF form. Make sure that it is the most complete and error-free copy possible. Have the manuscript checked by a proofreader before you send it to someone to review. A manuscript filled with typos and mistakes won’t make a great impression. If this is not the final draft, make that clear to the reviewer.
Of course, you’ll want to put a couple of great reviews on the back cover of your book, and if you have gathered enough of them, on the first page as well. You may need to shorten the reviews to just a sentence or two to get them to fit. You can also put lengthier reviews on your website, use them in press releases about your book and add them to your author page on Amazon.
There are dozens of blogs on the internet that focus just on book reviews. Shelfairi and LibraryThing are two examples. Some major newspapers and magazines still have book review columns, and there are also radio shows – on the air and on the internet –devoted to books. Once again, figure out who your tribe reads. Are there blogs aimed at your target audience? Send those bloggers copies of your book.
Some authors now distribute complimentary review copies of their books through at least two online sites, Goodreads.com and LibraryThing.com. You can ask – not demand – that reviewers who receive a copy of the book post a review at Amazon as well as on the site where they received the book. Some reviewers will do this, others will not.
There are also book review journals that are read by librarians and bookstore managers. These people make a lot of their purchasing decisions based on reviews in these journals. Unless you have a major publisher behind you, however, it can be difficult to get your book reviewed in these journals unless you pay for a review.
Book reviews and testimonials are an important marketing technique for authors. It takes time, but it does pay off in added recognition and added sales for your book.