Publishing Tip: Book Reviews

There was a time, not all that long ago, when small ads would sell new books, when large ads would sell large numbers of new books, and when catalogues were the media to which librarians and bookstores looked for stocking books. Books in Print was an essential tool for everyone -- researchers, reviewers, writers, booksellers.

Times have changed. Two revolutions have taken book marketing into very different directions.

First, the accessibility to self-publishing for authors struggling to be picked up by a major (or any) house resulted in an explosion of books. Some of these have been as good as those published by traditional publishers; many, if not, most have not because authors lack the full range of expertise and resources available from a traditional publisher. Nonetheless, these books make it onto the shelves of bookstores or at least onto the virtual shelves of online stores in droves, droves being thousands every single day. Given relative steady and limited opportunities for print ads, the cost of advertising in magazines, newspapers, journals, etc., has skyrocketed. Supply and demand! For small publishers, advertising has soared out of reach in many cases. Further, with so many books being advertised, even in catalogues, book purchasers are inundated with piles of "ads." Expecting any one book ad to attract sufficient attention even to pay for itself is unrealistic.

Second, very few people read print media ads anymore. The social media is where a large percentage of the reading public goes for its information. Yes, there are some ads there, but what readers and book purchasers are looking for is information. After all, that the is value of social media: its ability to deliver information.

Why are reviews important? Because they cost little to nothing (paying for a review is not the wisest use of a publisher's or author's money -- that is pretty much the consensus of publishing professionals), provide in-depth information that book purchasers are looking for, and can be linked to all sorts of social media for  modern-day advertising.

Recent data (per SPAWN) indicates that 100 reviews on Amazon is the tipping book for book sales. In our experience, 75 reviews across media sources will do a good job as well.

So, the publishing tip today is: go out and get those reviews! Ask
  • colleagues in your field if you have written a professional book;
  • specialists in your field even if you have never met them -- make the contact or have your publisher make the contact;
  • friends of friends (friends are generally biased in your favor and when they identify themselves as such can make the review questionable in readers' minds);
  • bloggers;
  • online reviewers (e.g., Readers' Favorite, Goodreads, Library Thing -- though our experience with Library Thing has been mixed, with only a small percentage of potential reviewers who receive free copies of a book actually posting a review and most of them posting it only on Library Thing);
  • MidWest Book Review (a great resource);
  • the traditional pre-publication reviewers (Library Journal, Foreword Reviews, Book Page, Book One, Kirkus, Publishers' Weekly -- all great resources and powerful mavens for your book if you can get a pre-review, which is difficult, given the thousands of books for review that they receive daily, yes, daily);
  • newspapers (look for the "living" and "book" sections);
  • magazines;
  • book clubs (make the book available to the club in exchange for reviews);
  • fans and trainees at your workshops, seminars, and public speaking events;
  • fans who come to your book events and book signings; and
  • anyone else you meet -- this list is not exhaustive.
Posted by BL Ham, author of Publishing for Smarties: How to Find a Publisher.

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