Our thanks to freelance writer Stephen Jeske for this guest post.
Obtaining some solid book reviews involves “learning the art of asking.” You’ve got to know the right people to ask and the best way to approach them. According to this New York Times article, up to 600,000 self-published books could hit the market in 2015. That works out to one book for every 523 Americans, resulting in more competition in an already competitive field.
Your blog readers may be your best source of reviews.
Ask the Right People
While the chance of getting onto The New York Times Book Review is miniscule at best, realistic alternatives exist for budding authors. Perhaps the best tactic is to start with your immediate circle of influence.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Tim Ferriss, the popular self-help guru. He gave away a thousand advance copies of “The 4-Hour Body” leading up to its publication. Where did these all go? They were primarily sent to friends and associates who helped or volunteered their assistance. On the day of publication, Ferriss asked recipients to write a short review on Amazon. Many complied with the request, and he received about 200 positive reviews within the first week.
While Ferriss already had a large audience, size is actually irrelevant. People who know you are more likely to provide a review. Social media, forums, and your own blog are all excellent methods of building an audience far in advance of any book release.
Maintaining your own blog also provides the opportunity to network with other influential bloggers in your field. Although these people seem to be busier than ever, you’ll gain their attention by following their blogs, posting insightful comments, retweeting a review of their book, and doing anything else that can help them. When the time is right, and you’ve shown how you can help them, then you can ask for a review.
Reviewing other authors’ books is another method to get more reviews for your own book. First off, everyone loves peer reviews since they are considered to be more honest. Second, it’s easier to get a review from another author if you’ve already reviewed their publication. It’s kind of a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” approach, but it works. Just remember to let an author know when you’ve reviewed their book.
Ask the Right Way
Getting solid book reviews demands a certain method in approaching reviewers. Magdalena Ball of The Compulsive Reader provides some useful insight in this OutboxOnline.com post.
First point: Many feel that sending an unrequested book to a reviewer is unprofessional and a waste of your time and money. Send a query letter in advance by email, following the reviewer’s guidelines. Based on your query letter, the reviewer will let you know if they are interested. Take your time constructing your query letter so that it’s concise, enticing, and grammatically correct.
At this stage of the game, your book is being judged by your query letter, so put forth your best effort. Make sure to follow up politely and professionally if you haven’t heard back within a suitable time frame. If you have anything to build on your story, like an award, include it in your follow up email to help build excitement.
Ask Enough People
While it would be wonderful if everyone who received a complimentary book actually reviewed it, reality shows otherwise. In Tim Ferriss’s case, the initial response rate from his giveaway was 20 percent. Even if you restricted complimentary copies to only those people who agreed in advance to review it, it’s unlikely that you’ll receive a 100 percent response rate. Despite your best efforts, people will forget, change priorities, or have any other number of excuses. It still is a numbers game.
Any Publicity May Be Better Than None
Although unknown authors have a hard time getting reviews, there is a bright side. Bad publicity may actually help sales of lesser known authors, according to this The Stanford Daily article.
You’ll have to judge for yourself whether any publicity is good publicity, but either way, it’s a sound idea to monitor the online conversation surrounding your book. The simplest way is to use Google Alerts to set up an alert based on your book title, or use one of the other free or premium services like Reputation.com. This way you’ll get notified every time your book is mentioned online. You can change the notification frequency if you find you’re getting too many alerts, which will inevitably happen if your book becomes popular. It’s a good idea to connect with anyone that mentions your book and thank them for the feedback.
Make no mistake: Getting your book reviewed requires an enormous amount of time and dedication. Start first with your circle of influence, especially those who read your blog. Use well written query letters before sending any material, and follow up in a courteous manner.
Stephen Jeske is an avid outdoor enthusiast with a passion for coffee. He frequently writes about personal branding and reputation.