When to Get Reviews
The best time to start getting reviews is long before the book has gone to print. When you think about it, how else do authors get those nice snippets from reviewers on their back cover, front cover, inside pages, websites and promotional materials prior to the release of their book?
However, reviews are valuable at any time during the life of your book. In fact this should be an on-going process throughout the marketing plan. So pace yourself a little - you will want continued exposure for the long-term. Also, keep in mind that a publication will not likely include a blurb about your book if their direct competitors have just recently done the same thing. Your budget will determine how many copies you can afford to send out for review. So, again, pace your marketing plan.
How to Get Reviews
As always the most essential key is to research the publication you want to query and learn about their readers. The next essential key is to research their submission guidelines. Then you can query the reviewer with a nice letter that includes some basic ideas about the book. Be clear about why the book fits their magazine and their targeted audience at this time. If they feel it does not fit, do not argue. You can always try again, but let several months pass before you query the reviewer again with a new approach.
Always query with a professional informative letter. Books sent without prior communication will just result in yet another book in the trash bin, and that is hard on your budget, use of time and the environment. Queries ensure that they are interested and able to accept more work. It is also necessary to confirm the format they require. The query should relay why your book is going to be something they don't want to miss out on. What is so special about you or your book that will get them to sit up and take notice? THIS is what you need to say, but say it softly. No one likes a loud, pushy or bragging voice.
In addition, it is helpful to prospective reviewers if they know more about your book. Is it a children's book? A religious book? Do you consider the content as humorous or adventurous? Is it a book that will compel feelings of happiness or sadness? Do you have an informative website? What format is the book available to review in at this time -- galley, PDF manuscript or a published review copy? Are you in the manuscript, editing or publishing stage? Do you have an ISBN and a release date? Do you plan to provide other promotional materials (author bio, etc) for reviewers? Are you looking for review blurbs for the back cover or first inside pages of your book? Or are you looking for general reviews for promotion materials and online stores? Are you in a hurry for the review? Provide this information before reviewers are forced to ask. They will appreciate a considerate and prepared author and because of your foresight they will feel valued, respected and will not have to spend time searching for the information.
Most professional reviewers do not usually work with manuscripts. Typically, more than 80% of the books Lillian has reviewed to date were either published copies or Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs), which are manuscripts printed on paper and attached with spiral binding. Occasionally, the publisher will provide ARCs, however the author normally provides these. Some reviewers will work with electronic books; others do not. Be sure to clarify all of these things prior to sending your query letter.
Look at the books on your shelves and see how reviews are used. Through this simple analysis, you can glean information for your own promotional material development as well.
What Happens to the Review Copy?
Most reviewers are not paid for their work. Only a few hard working reviewers are privileged to land a paying position for a publication or online site. Therefore, the book is the payment. Some authors find this worrisome. They are concerned that the reviewer will sell or exchange the book at a used bookstore. It is our opinion that if someone has spent several evenings reading our book, then several more hours writing a review, publishing it, then giving it to us for free and sometimes posting it online for us… well, they can do what they like with our book! When you think about it, if your book is worth $20, they are “earning” less than $5 an hour.
We always include a letter along with review copies that gently reminds them of our conversation in the past and requests a notification of the book's arrival and their decision on it. We suggest that if the book is not destined for their own bookshelves, that they consider donating it to a library, school, mission for the poor or women's shelter. We even had responses where the contact was thrilled that we had considered this as they have been throwing rejected review copies (usually unsolicited) away in the past. Perhaps this small suggestion will help keep other authors' books out of their trash bin as well. However, the main goal is not waste reduction or community good will in this scenario - instead, the idea is to keep your book in circulation, continually building exposure and extending the value of your marketing budget.
Be very selective when querying reviewers. Make sure you have visited their website and are familiar with their style and preferences. We recommend reading the article: "How to spot a phony reviewer" at http://www.midwestbookreview.com which will help you avoid some pit falls.
If you are trying to get into a pre-publication magazine like Publisher's Weekly, you are looking at a three to four month lead-time. This means you need to submit the book to one of their reviewers about three or four months before the deadline date.
These kinds of publications often require ARCs or Galleys because they only review books prior to their publication. Unless your publisher provides these you will need to print out the manuscript and send it with the other promotion materials. These pre-publication magazines are published for wholesalers, larger bookstores, distributors and libraries. Some are targeted towards a specific audience, while others are more general.
…And one final tip we’d like to leave you with today is that being reviewed online (e-newsletters, review sites and e-zines) is often easier than getting printed reviews in newspapers, newsletters and magazines.
~ Lillian Brummet: Award winning author, book marketing guru, owner of the award winning Brummet’s Conscious Blog, and both the host and executive producer of the Conscious Discussions Talk Radio show. (www.brummet.ca)
*Excerpted from Chapter 3 of the book: Purple Snowflake Marketing – How to Make Your Book Stand Out in a Crowd, by Dave & Lillian Brummet