It’s finally, finally finished.
You brainstormed, you drafted, you agonized over every little detail and cried a bit (a lot) when your editor suggested you scrap the whole scene you copied from a dream (but you wisely obeyed). Your cover art would intrigue even the most apathetic of readers. The amazing team at Publishing Xpress helped you through the entire printing process and now your beautiful, bouncing bildungsroman is ready to go out and change the world!
…But wait – how will people know they read should it? You’ve been so focused on cultivating your creation that you forgot to build up hype or line up book reviews! You are woefully lacking in connections, and as nice as your Creative Writing 205 classmates are, you’ve read their stuff and…well, let’s call them a last resort. What do you do now?
Do You Have to Get Book Reviews?
While it would have been nice to have done some of the groundwork prior to publishing, you can absolutely still garner book reviews…and you should! Considering that nearly a million books are published each year – in the U.S. alone – your majestic masterpiece will need all the help it can get to stand out from the crowd. However, unless you happen to buddy around with household-name authors who are happy to do you a solid, you’re going to have to solicit book reviews from strangers. This is awkward. There’s no getting around that – but thankfully, the self-publishing business has become so widespread that there are now fairly streamlined options available.
Do your research! Before you contact anyone, you need to look at what they have done in the past. If their prior book review work is not thorough or within your genre, do not send them a request.
You can always seek out book reviewers you have noticed previously. They likely have their own website or work through a reviewing site. If you contact them directly through email, make sure you give them the appropriate amount of detail. You should politely ask if they would be interested in reviewing your [insert genre] book, which is about [insert basic premise]. Let them know if the book has been published yet or not. Give them your contact information so they can let you know if they are interested. Do not attach a PDF of your novel – that is presumptuous. Do not direct them to purchase the book because they are doing you a service (and you will likely not hear back from them). Just offer to send the book to them.
If you decide to use a book review website, it is very important that you read the guidelines for the site thoroughly. Each site is different and you may risk getting a bad review just for not following the rules. Make sure the site reviews for your genre (you can even specifically look for sites that focus on your genre). You will likely need to have multiple format options available aside from a print copy, such as e-books in PDF, mobi, or Amazon GIFT.
Whichever one you choose, your message to them should be polite and typo-free. Do not offer to pay for the book reviews, because honest reviewers will only request the book itself. Never, ever ask for a positive review – that not only sounds dishonest, but also desperate. Once they have accepted your request, give them time and space to read the book and compose their thoughts. Do not impose a deadline. No one likes a pest, and most reviewers have multiple projects going on at once. If you do not receive a response, they are not interested in providing the book review and you should not continue to ask them for anything. If they reply but decline to review the book, accept that graciously (don’t burn bridges!). When the reviewer who accepted the request has completed the book review, be sure to thank them.
When You Have the Reviews…And You Don’t Like Them
Your reviewer is not your best friend and it’s entirely possible they will not appreciate your genius. Don’t expect raving book reviews and don’t retaliate if the reviewer does not have a good opinion of your work. Choose to use this experience to grow as a writer. Never ask a reviewer to revise their book reviews or comment on it online. If you are looking for reviews to publish on your own website or on your book cover, you have full control and can decide what to include and what to move on from, but you generally cannot have book reviews removed from other sites, so be choosy about who reviews your book.
Where Are They?
- Review sites (see: http://www.bookrevieweryellowpages.com/book-reviewer-list.html and http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers)
- Book bloggers (see: http://bookbloggerlist.com)
- Amazon – try to target Amazon’s Top Reviewers (see: https://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers/ref=cm_aya_bb_tr) for the most influential book reviews
- Goodreads and LibraryThing
- Social media like Facebook and Twitter
- Paid book review sites like Kirkus, BlueInk, IndieReader, and Booklife/PW Select
It can certainly seem like a lot of work to solicit book reviews, especially after everything that went into publishing your book. It’s tempting to try to bypass it altogether, but it is an important part of introducing your book to the world and making yourself known as an author. Just remember to choose the reviewer wisely and not take anything personally – who knows, you might end up with a good list of people lined up to review your next opus!