Our guest columnist this issue is my friend and colleague, Dana Lynn Smith. Dana is a book marketing coach and author of several books, including The Savvy Book Marketer's Guide to Selling Your Book to Libraries. For more tips, follow @BookMarketer on Twitter and visit Dana's book marketing blog. Get a copy of the Top Book Marketing Tips e-book when you sign up for her free book marketing newsletter.
Book reviews can be a powerful marketing tool for books of all types. Potential customers learn about books by reading reviews in newspapers, consumer magazines, professional journals, newsletters, e-zines, book review Web sites, online bookstores, and other blogs and Web sites. In addition to bringing books to their attention, well-crafted book reviews also help the reader determine if a book is a good fit for them.
Submitting books for review can be time consuming and the costs can add up quickly, but the selling power of reviews is well worth the effort. You can save time and money by planning in advance, being selective about where you send review copies, and following submission guidelines exactly.
Competition for reviews in newspapers and book review journals is fierce. When submitting review copies to publications, make sure your book's subject matches the audience and the book meets the publication's review guidelines. Some publications review only certain types of books and some only review prior to or within a certain time after publication. For example, The New York Times only reviews books available in retail bookstores.
Book reviews in newspapers are getting harder to come by, but many special interest magazines and newsletters do book reviews or mention books in articles related to the book's topic. Use a search engine or library reference desk media directory to find consumer and trade publications or check the magazine database at Wooden Horse Publishing (there is a small fee).
Bookstore buyers and librarians base many of their ordering decisions on reviews in the major book review journals. Eligibility and submission instructions vary by publication, so be sure to read the requirements carefully.
Online book reviews can also be a great book marketing tool. Having lots of good reviews on Amazon.com can boost sales, especially for nonfiction books where customers are comparing several different books on a particular topic. There are numerous other Web sites that feature book reviews. Even if reviews on these sites don't generate many sales, they are a good source of testimonial quotes to use in your marketing. Use a search engine to look for book review sites and book blogs related to the type of book you write.
For a list of online book review sites, along with tips on getting reviews on Amazon.com and other Web sites, read Annette Fix's article about online book reviews at the WOW! Women on Writing Web site. Yvonne Perry at "Writers in the Sky" has also compiled a list of people and organizations that do book reviews.
Use caution when sending review copies to individuals who request them. Some people have good intentions, but simply won't find the time to write a book review, while others offer to write reviews mainly as a way to get free books. If you don't know much about the reviewer, it might be a good idea to politely inquire what other book reviews they have done and where they were published.
"I sent copies of my book to book bloggers who responded to my e-mail that they indeed wanted to review the book, but who never reviewed it. I later realized that I wasn't anyone to them, so my book got buried in the avalanche of books they receive," says Phyllis Zimbler Miller of MillerMosaic.com. "I found that bloggers on my virtual book tour and book reviewers whom I connected with through social media were much more committed to actually reviewing my book."
Several publications, including Kirkus Discoveries and Clarion, offer paid book review services. In addition, many online book review sites will guarantee a review within a certain time frame in exchange for a payment. However, the practice of paying for book reviews is controversial. Some people think that paid book reviews are biased since they are done for a fee and that it's a waste of money. Others maintain that paid reviews are just as fair as other reviews and that reviewers need to be compensated for their time.
Librarians and booksellers know which publications do paid reviews, so reviews from those sources won't carry much weight with them. But paid reviews might be seen by consumers and they could generate good quotes for book marketing purposes. If you do use paid reviews, be cautious about investing too much.
Wherever you choose to send your galleys and review copies, plan ahead and get them out as quickly as possible. And, whenever customers give you good feedback on your book, be sure to ask for permission to add their quote to your testimonial list and ask if they would be willing to post their comments on Amazon.com.