Tips for Scoring Book Reviews

24th December 2020
7 min read
24th December 2020

Looking for reviews to help boost book sales? Karol Owens from Reedsy offers some advice...

Getting Book Reviews_Karol Owens

You might already know that book reviews can make or break your book. While they won’t directly sell copies, they offer critical social proof that makes readers willing to take a chance on your book. Good reviews will tip prospective readers over the edge and make them click ‘buy’ — and poor (or non-existent) reviews will be all they need to check out another title.

Now, as a self-published writer, getting book reviews is easier said than done. It can be very difficult to get newspapers, magazines, and blogs to give your book a chance. But the good news is that it’s not impossible. Here are a few tips to help you score those reviews.

1. Make sure your book is ready

First impressions matter. While it’s easy to think – and hope! – that your book will only be judged on the quality of the story, that is rarely true. Amy Edelman, founder of review site IndieReader, says that “aside from the story itself — which is the big one — there are three core elements by which your book will be judged:” editing, formatting, and the book cover. Without impeccable editing, proofreading, typesetting (which you can secure for free), and a professional-looking cover, most reviewers will regard your book as the work of an amateur.

2. Know your audience

Sure, all press is good press — but the right kind of reviews are invaluable. So, before you send your book, you need to identify if it’s the right outlet for reviews based on your genre. You don’t want to waste your time pitching to publications that are wrong. If a blog’s target audience doesn’t coincide with your book, they’re unlikely to review it.

Think about your target audience and ask yourself whether they are likely to read or frequent the magazine, blog, or website you are considering for reviews. If the answer is no, then it’s better to do your research and look for another, more appropriate outlet.

3. Consider your options

Once your book is ready and you know your target audience, it’s time to actually try to obtain reviews. As a self-published author, there are two main places to get reviews, both of which have unique requirements, restrictions, and, most importantly, consumer reach. (Trade publications are another option, but these are geared towards those working in the publishing industry — such as booksellers and librarians — so they are not the best outlet for indie authors.) 

That being said, here are two options that fit the bill. 

Consumer publications

These are publications geared toward the general public, such as magazines and local newspapers. While it’s next to impossible to get your indie book reviewed in The New Yorker, there may be local papers interested in local authors and their stories. Contacting these local outlets is a good way to get publicity for your book and for you, since in most cases you can also offer to be interviewed. However, don’t worry about staying TOO local — feel free to look at publications outside your own town for potential reviews! You never know who might be interested. 

Book bloggers

Book bloggers are particularly popular right now. Generally, they only focus on a specific genre, so it’s worth it to dig into their blogs to find the perfect book blogger for your book. That said, some book bloggers only review traditionally published books. Others only review self-published ones — and still others will accept both.

Look at their submission guidelines to see what they want! The biggest advantage that book bloggers offer to indie authors is that they’re easily accessible and many boast a big following. Some of them are also BookTubers, who film reviews and recommendations on their own YouTube channel, which is a great way to get additional exposure for your book.

These book bloggers often review books for no more than a free copy and a love of sharing stories. They’ll post their reviews on their own website on YouTube, Amazon, or Goodreads. Be warned: depending on how big their following is, they might have a lot of demand. Just because they are not associated with a “traditional” outlet doesn’t mean that getting a review through them will be any easier.

4. Know how to approach potential reviewers

Depending on the type of outlet you have decided to contact, there are different ways and requirements for approaching them. Be proactive with your research so you know exactly what what you need before contacting anybody.

If you are approaching someone from a consumer publication or a blogger, the best way is to reach out through email. First, you need to identify who to contact. For a local magazine or newspaper, Amy Edelman advises you to “see if they either do interviews with local residents and/or book reviews. Note the name of the person who wrote the piece and check their job title on the masthead.” This information will show you the right person to contact. Then you can try getting their email address either through Google or through the publication itself.

Unlike publications, there are a variety of ways to contact bloggers. Amy explains that “some have forms on their websites, some can be reached via email and some are okay via Facebook.” If you are unsure, check their website or write a short email confirming their preference before sending your book. 

Once you have their preferred contact information, know the best way to approach them. Make sure they review books in your genre (don’t request a review of your Historical Fiction book to someone who only reads YA books). Another important point is to check which format they prefer — whether that be ebook or paperback — and make sure to send it in that format.

When you send an email, be succinct about what you need and include all information requested. This will vary, so be sure to check beforehand as it may include anything from publishing information to a book cover image. Make sure all the information is clear and ask to be notified if they decide to write a review, the turnaround time, and request the review in advance of posting. Above all, be polite and not too insistent: follow up a few days after the first email if you don’t get a reply, but don’t overdo it.

As a self-published author, getting reviews takes time and work, but the benefits of getting them are worth it. Don’t lose hope if your book is not getting the exposure it deserves: be patient, do your part, and the reviews will likely come.

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