There are many ways to market your self-published book, and getting a pile of reviews to link to your website, blurb on your press release, and cite in your future pitches is a great way to show the world that you aren’t the only one out there who’s serious about your writing. With no press to help you plug your book, this can require some knowhow. Use these tips to help you land those rave reviews!
Like it or not, getting reviewed is often about having lasting relationships or affiliations with particular reviewers, editors, or journals. Make a list of all the people you already know who fit the bill. Include every place you’ve ever been published, as well as former colleagues, writing instructors, the editor friends you meet at writing conferences and, yes, Facebook connections. Know influential bloggers? Great, they go on the list.
But that’s not all. Before a book launches is also the time to start forging new relationships. Introduce yourself to the editors of journals and blogs in your genre, as well as local city papers, literary societies and book clubs. Follow them on social networking sites and email them with your press material, blurbs, and cover art.
If they are at all responsive, send out a review copy! It is fine to request the exact address and contact person, but keep in mind that many journals make this information readily available on their websites, so do your homework first.
Most reviews editors will have a lot of requests clogging up their inboxes, so get straight to the point when you reach out. Be personable, describe your book, explain how well it fits with their aesthetic or theme, and highlight your writing publications and accolades. There’s no need to beat around the bush — these are business relationships, and they are designed to be mutually beneficial. They might not pan out for the current book, but it’s never a bad idea to build up your network.
The time to think about review copies is not your date of publication, the day you receive your galleys, or even when you send the book to the printer. Start making your list months before your book comes out. True, you can always reach out later — there is no end to publicity, especially when it comes to different types of marketing — but, as far as reviews go, most places want to pick you up early in the game.
Also, if you are doing a first print run of your book, you will need to know how many to order. Estimate your review copies and the free copies you will send out for other marketing purposes and include them in this figure.
Print-on-demand services can be useful for small orders, but it is always advisable to have at least a small stock of books on hand so you can immediately ship them out when someone requests one to review.
Make sure you send out physical copies at least 1-2 months before the book becomes available for sale. Certain journals will not even consider review copies received beyond a certain window. Keep in mind that they want to get the word out first, and remind them that they’re receiving your book well before the publication date.
Give it Away
The people who will consider reviewing your book do not expect to pay for it, no matter how big your name is or how many copies you will sell. It’s that simple. They have enough people knocking down their door who need their publicity. Many smaller or specialized journals do not even pay their reviewers, short of letting them keep reviewed books. Consider the price of the book to be the price of a shot at a review.
Also, keep in mind that the price of a review should be no more than the price of a book. Avoid services that will give you glowing reviews on sites like Amazon or GoodReads for a fee. If you want to buy publicity, take out an ad. Keep reviews on the up-and-up.
At the same time, don’t put all your efforts into securing reviews from the big boys just to forget about your customer reviewers on Amazon who have actually purchased your book. These are great people to know, and it’s worthwhile to reach out and offer them (even those whose evaluations were less than stellar) review copies of your next book. This is all just part of expanding that network.
Nobody likes being stalked, but it’s perfectly fine to follow up on a review request, especially if you know the writer or editor or have received any feedback from the journal. If you have a book in a specialized genre, you should always stay connected with journals who traffic in your niche.
As with any business relationship, give back as much as you can. Be attentive and considerate (but not obsessive) on social networking sites and blogs, and always send thank you notes when your book gets picked up for review.
How did you secure reviews for your self-published book? Any advice?
Kimberly C. Steele is a freelance writer and small-press publisher living in Philadelphia and New York. When she’s not working, writing short stories, or reading manuscripts, she is researching the next big trends in copywriting and indulging the guilty pleasure of tech blogs.