Author Etiquette - REVIEWS

by Jennifer 30. November 2017 08:40

If you are a published author, or about to become published, you should be aware that reviews are critical for a book. Not only are they a gauge of how people like your work, but it’s also a tool that many distributors and publishers use for various purposes. Some distributors such as Amazon will push your book more often to readers if it reaches a certain number of reviews. More views can mean the book will sell more. This makes it essential that every book reaches its review goals so that it is visible to more readers. Not only that, but reviews can entice a reader you have no contact with, to purchase a book.

 

Book reviewers are everywhere. Some are are long standing members of the writing community. Others are just getting their feet wet. Reviewers post on their blogs, on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and even more sites. With the thousands of books out there, many readers rely on what those reviewers say to help pick out their next book. The problem is, how do you get those reviews, especially during that very fragile launch week.

 

Promotion is Your Responsibility Too

No matter if you are working with one of the big publishing houses, a small press or self-publishing, every author needs to realize that the long-term success of a book lies not in the publisher or even in a publicist but ON YOU. Your publisher is only going to push your book for so long before they move on to pushing the next book on their release list. Four to six weeks is usually the maximum you can expect for a promotion push which usually spans the few weeks before and weeks after the release. Finding reviewers, writing guest posts, answering interviews and responding to requests will endear you to any publisher you work with and help you sell more books. It is important to remember that reviews can be done on books at any stage after the release. Even if a book is a year old, reviews still matter. Your publisher might not have the time to pursue later reviews, but you still can.

 

There’s three things you need to do in finding reviewers: first, build your list; second, gather your press kit; third, send out the requests.

 

Building Your List

I’m sure that everyone spends a little bit of time weekly or daily using social media. While your list might contain co-workers, friends and family, it might also contain other authors or your particular favorites. As an author, you should always pay attention to other author pages. Not to compare your writing to someone else, instead, pay attention to who is reviewing, what they review, and where to contact them at. This can--and should--be done all throughout the year, not just when you are looking for reviews. If you are in a hurry, just click on the site and bookmark it for later. Trust me, this will save you a lot of time later. Just bookmark it, toss the link in a folder and keep building that list.

 

While you are looking at those review sites, pay attention to the sidebars. Many times, a reviewer is involved in a coalition or group and help promote other reviewers. Finding a reviewer that has links to other sites can be a goldmine for an author looking for reviews.

 

Let’s back up just a moment and take another look at your social media feed. Did you know you can ASK the people you are friends with to review your book? It’s not rude or needy or anything shady. The people who follow you are invested in your success and could be a great resource for reviews. Best policy is to ask who would be interested, and put them in a secret group. This way you can keep track of who the book went out to, if they left a review, and maybe give away some goodies to loyal readers. Also you can use the group later on for another review requests.

 

Another way you can build your list is by old fashioned searching. Open up your favorite browser and use keywords to search for review sites. Because there are so many reviewers out there, a blanket “novel review” is going to give you more sites than you want to deal with. Be sure to keep the search narrow enough by using genre or sub-genres and maybe one other specific term. Bookmark the ones that look likely to review your genre.

 

And yes, there are lists on the internet where book bloggers can list their site, what books they like to review, and if they are currently open for submissions. Some can be very helpful, while others, not so much. Be sure that the information is accurate, and be careful of your personal data while mining these sites--not all are what they seem.

 

Lastly, there are sites that offer to send your book to reviewers or review your book for a fee. While some authors and publishers do use these kinds of services, I would advise against it. If you are caught paying for reviews, sites such as Amazon can pull your reviews, rank, or even books and ban you from using their services. Be aware of shady phrasing such as “expedited” reviews as those are just clever ways of saying you pay for a review.

 

At some point, you should create something to organize your list. Spreadsheets allow you to organize your  bookmarks into site, guideline page (very important--I’ll talk more about this in a bit), email or contact page, genre(s) reviewed, and other important information. And I do suggest that you take the time to follow many of the reviewers on social as you can and interact at least a little. This shows you are interested in their work, and might be the deciding factor if they’ve two books that could fill a slot--one of which is yours.

 

Press Kit

So now that you have your review list, what do you do next?

 

Before you even begin to contact reviewers, you should start out by creating a press kit. For those who are unfamiliar with a press kit, it should contain:

  • Your author photo

  • Book cover images

  • Your bio

  • Information on your publisher (if you have one)

  • Your book pitch

  • Website and social media sites

  • Book trailers

  • Buy links

The book pitch is quite similar to the pitch you send to an agent or a publisher as it tells what genre the books is, length, who the characters are and what the main plot is. You can use the blurb on the back of your book or create your own. You can combine the bio, publisher information, and book pitch into a single introduction letter or leave them separate. Have someone else check for spelling and grammar errors (trust me it’s important that your first impression to every reviewer be professional, and we all know that humans make mistakes.) Once all that is completed you are ready to start sending out requests.

 

Sending Out Requests

While some reviewers do take unsolicited book review submissions, most do not. Remember that little comment about the guideline page being very important? Here’s where that comes in.

 

Before you start, get comfortable, because this is the part that takes a bit of time. Hopefully you’ve already organized your list so that you can easily find the guideline page or at least the review site home page. Unfortunately, not all guideline or contact pages are easy to find so it might take you a bit to locate what you need.

 

Once it’s found, READ THE GUIDELINES.

 

Then read them again.

 

If a reviewer is closed to requests, make a note and come back later. DO NOT go ahead and send your review request unless you have been personally asked to do so.

 

If the reviewer is open to review submissions follow their guidelines. Pretend that every submission is just like a new book submission to a publisher. You have to follow their guidelines in order to give the impression of a professional. By not following their instructions, your book might not even be given a passing glance. Fill out the form or send an email with the information the reviewer requests. If they don’t have specifics, send an email with your book pitch, bio, publisher information, book cover, and where to contact you. DO NOT SEND YOUR BOOK unless directed to.

 

You might think it’s a time saving step to go ahead and send your book out, but it could potentially be more trouble than you think. First, not all review sites are what they seem. Some could be sites that phish for books so that it can be pirated. Second, sending a book increases the file size of your email, which could get it blocked by some servers. This would prevent your email from even being received by the reviewer. Thirdly, do you know what format the reviewer would like? Some request physical books, others prefer PDF, Mobi, or ePub files. Find out before you send a book out.

 

I encourage authors to also state that they are open to interview and guest posts opportunities when sending out reviews. Some reviewers receive thousands--yes THOUSANDS--of book review requests a year. There’s no way that any reviewer could possibly read all of them in a single year. Most also have jobs, families and other responsibilities along with their voracious reading habits so there’s always empty spots to fill on blogs and websites. By offering some free content, even if the reviewer can’t read your book, you still have a chance to sit in front of an audience and share a little about you and your work.

 

Then comes the part that no one likes, you wait--or in a smart author’s case either write more or send out more review requests. Most reviewers, unfortunately, will not respond. Either the book did not catch their interest or they are full and cannot review your book. However, don’t give up hope on a silent inbox. Some reviewers are so backlogged it can take months to hear back from them, and in rare cases it can take a year for one to make a request. A few will respond that the book doesn’t entice them at the moment. And a tiny portion will request the book or request a guest blog or interview. Don’t be disheartened by the percentage of responses you get, it will probably be low.

 

When you do get a request, respond to the reviewer as soon as you can with either the information they need or the book format they request. Thank them for their time, even if they haven’t read anything but the request. Be patient for reviews but you can expect that most will have something up within a month or two. As they go up, be sure to thank the reviewer and share the links if they put the review up on their site.

 

We hope that this helps you find reviewers and answers some questions about what the author’s responsibilities are when finding review sites. Good luck and may the reviews be with you.

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