Author challenge: Getting online reviews
ONLINE COLUMN: Web Savvy
Published: March 3, 2009
|Whether you're self-published or you have the luxury of a traditional publisher, getting book reviews can be a daunting task. Many of us hope for online reviews because they're long-lasting, durable and accessible to the world. Not long ago I was doing a book event and an author published by a regional press asked me, "What do you have to do to get your book reviewed online?" I told her the easy answer is there's no easy answer. I had a fair amount of success getting reviews for both my books. I admit my publisher made great efforts on my behalf. He donated more than 150 books to a trade show and he promoted me to organizations and schools. But in the end, although I had that traditional publisher luxury, my own efforts garnered key reviews.|
Months ahead of the official publish date, traditional publishers send a tip sheet with a bound copy of the manuscript, and they often include promotional inserts too. My publisher had a list of 50 venues he sent materials to, but I forwarded him names of editors who oversaw magazines and Web sites directly related to my subject matter.
|Go fishing, in a manner of speaking|
I came up with many names the old-fashioned way. I visited the library and I spent hours online. Almost every Web site that reviews books will have a 'How to Submit' link. You have to fish for it—usually that link will be either at the bottom of the home page or within a section titled 'About us.' I made up a list of names and requirements. Note that every publication or Web site is different. Some want the bound manuscript months ahead of publication; others will only consider it once the book is published and available at online sellers. It's vital that your book be sold at places other than your own Web site, by the way. Major online sellers are the first level of credibility. Some Web sites like won't review print-on-demand books. Others like Midwest Book Review encourage them.
I also came up with my own version of a tip sheet. I did a one-page promotional flyer. I listed a brief bio, some speaking credits, a 250-word excerpt and some pre-publication blurbs from well-known writers. I met a number of those writers by going to see them at their own author events. Marketing a book is a people profession; don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. I also included an image of my book cover—I scanned it myself, cropped it and kept that image for future correspondence. I also wrote a few articles for rates that were less than I normally write for. This got my book title mentioned in my bio.
Basically I did the promo sheet, and I drafted a letter to various editors. My publisher gave me 50 free books and I mailed every one of them. One morning I opened my email to find a message telling me the book had been reviewed by a major newspaper. Another day I learned a major magazine in India had reviewed my book. You really can't buy that kind of publicity.
|Be your own (discreet) best salesperson|
When I spoke to groups about my book, I invited audience members to post a review at an online bookseller site. If you do nothing else, do this. Whether the review is kind or not, it's helpful.
I contacted bloggers whose sites related to my subject matter. If you get written up or interviewed by a blog with some sort of decent rank in the search engines, you should see an uptick in sales. Bloggers are always looking for fresh, exciting content, and they are among the most receptive and the most effective in terms of spreading excitement about what you've written. To see what sort of presence a blog has, do a simple search of the name of the blog. You'll learn a great deal by seeing what sites link to that blog and what they say about it.
|Consider doing a short video-3 minutes or less-about your book. It's easy, courtesy of technology, to produce a respectable video yourself. Jot down your talking points and make the viewer aware of the benefits your book will confer. But keep the message personal and don't push your product like a used car salesman. The object is to connect.|
There isn't a magic bullet for getting reviews. They come about because you create a plan and work towards the goals. Bear in mind that most editors, myself included, are bombarded with books and marketing materials. So take the time to be sure your book is a good match for the publication or Web site. I've received all sorts of books, unsolicited, and I often regret the time I knew it took an author to send me the material. But there are those moments when I discover and enjoy a book I didn't know about and those moments usually spur me to write a very positive review.
Book reviews don't guarantee sales. They are one element in an overall promotional plan. Reviews aren't easy to come by, with thousands of new books published on a daily basis. But if you create a viable plan and follow up with action, you should see praise for your words emerge.
|This clip is an excellent promo tool for the author. Notice how she mentions the TV show in the very beginning—this expands her credibility and pulls the reader into her story.|
Author-Friendly Book Review Sites
Midwest Book Review
ForeWord Magazine (print and online)
Book Reporter (No self-publish or POD)
Independent Bloggers: Directory at Blog Catalog
--Posted March 3, 2009
In our next Web Savvy, we share information about doing a live event at your blog. If you've never done this, let me tell you it is fun. We'll offer tips on software and setting up a live stream. It's easier than you think.
Kay B. Day
Florida journalist Kay B. Day has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. The author of two books, she has written for The Christian Science Monitor, United Press International, The Florida Times-Union and Sky News. To read Kay's other Web Savvy columns about writing for the Web, click here.