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Monday, March 19, 2012

Securing Online Reviews

In today's publishing world, more and more of the burden of publicity and marketing falls onto the shoulders of the author.

I've had quite a few newly and soon-to-be published authors ask me if I knew a way to get online reviews. More specifically, good online reviews. 

The answer is yes and no. 

First, what is a good review? To me, a good review is a thoughtful, professional, honest opinion of the book. That doesn't always mean it's a favorable review. 

How does one find reviewers? Well, it depends, in part, on the type of book you have written. I was fortunate. My publisher sent my book to the big review sites like Publishers Weekly and Booklist on my behalf. They also sent ARCs to reviewers who requested through the marketing department. But I did the grassroots campaign myself. 

Again, I was fortunate. My book is traditionally published mainstream YA. There are multiple tour sites that handle my kind of book. I researched and found a great fit with a teen book tour site. I did a 120-stop blog tour that included video interviews, written interviews, previews, live chats, character interviews, this or that lists, essays relevant to the book and, of course reviews. Lots of early reviews. 

But what if your book targets a niche audience or isn't traditionally published? 

I would recommend researching recent releases in your genre. You should be doing this anyway. Get some titles with readership similar to that of your own book. Google those titles and read the reviews. If you like the style of a reviewer, find his or her site and read the review policy. If your book fits the criteria, send a review request. 

The research is so important. Many reviewers put what they exclude on their site. It will save time and aggravation both for you and the reviewer if you research first. If reviewers state they don't review horror or BDSM or inspirational or whatever, and that's what you write, don't get offended. You do NOT want them to review it anyway as they've already stated it's not their cup of tea. Some don't review self-published books. Again, it's their blog; if they don't want to read it, that is their choice. Don't try to change their minds (you would not believe how often this happens). Go find someone who will. Approach reviewers who have written reviews for similarly published books. 

Summing up:

Accept no. For all the reasons above, if a reviewer declines to review your book, consider it a blessing. That review may not have helped you. 

Research, research, research. Sometimes blog tours are effective, other times it's better to arrange specific targeted reviews. Know your market and new releases in it, then figure out whose hands your book should be in to give it the greatest positive exposure. 

Be professional. As I said before, a good review does not always mean a favorable review. Not everyone will like your book. Not even those you provide with a free review copy. Hold your breath and your tongue (or fingers on the keyboard) and move on. 

One final observation: Big isn't always best. Many of the huge review blogs have redundant readership. In working with my tour coordinator, we made sure that we included many smaller blogs with unique readership in my target audience in addition to the larger blogs. 

Do you have tips for securing reviews? I'd love it if you'd share them in the comments.

Wishing everyone a fabulous week! 


Mary Lindsey lives in Houston, Texas, where she teaches acting to children and teens. She has one husband, two dogs, three children and dozens of hissing cockroaches.

Her debut novel, Shattered Souls, was released in December 2011. Upcoming projects include Annabel, a YA gothic based on Edgar Allan Poe's poem, "Annabel Lee" (2013), and a companion book to Shattered Souls (2014), all from Philomel/Penguin. 

For more about Mary or her books, please visit her website: www.marylindsey.com


Natalie Aguirre said...

These are all great tips. I'm watching other writers' blog tours who write in my genre to help me focus on the reviewers that are right for me.

I know you can't give away a book with every tour stop but targeting the giveaways to the blogs that will get a good response will help spread the word about your book. At least I'm hoping so.

Sarah Nicolas said...

I review at www.siftreviews.com (we review sefl-pubbed sci-fi and fantasy only) and the big thing for us is how many authors don't follow the submission guidelines!

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

Almost every blogger/reviewer I've spoken with has said the same thing about writers not reading the guidelines, Sarah. Thanks for including your link so folks can find you.

Hi, Natalie. Thanks for the comment. Giveaways are a lot of fun. I only gave away two of my ARCs during my tour. Your suggestion of giving away on the blog with the best exposure is excellent. During the chat, I gave away friends' ARCs to get some promo for them too.

Julie Duck said...

I recently concluded a three-week blog tour for my book. The experience was like a whirlwind, and I believe it helped get the word out in a much better way than had I not toured. It was not necessarily easy to get on a tour, mind you, as the original group I signed with decided my work wasn't generating enough interest with their bloggers - and they dumped me before it started. Nice. Not.

Fortunately, another blog tour group picked me up and it went very well with lots of interest. Who knows. In the end, it generated a considerable amount of online reviews at each blogger site, as well as reviews on Goodreads and Amazon/Barnes and Noble. I did have to do a bulk of promotional activity via blog/Twitter/Facebook but it was worth it.

Diane Kress Hower said...

Great timing and thank you for this post. I just returned from a monthly "on air" Morning Show with my local NBC affiliate KKCO, News 11 in Grand Junction, CO. I am talking about children's literature and making book recommendations. I have started a blog just for this process where I will review books that I have chosen for the show. So authors will get plugged on live TV that is streamed online and reviewed in a post. I am doing this to get the word out about great books and to help adults find suitable high quality literature. My platform is being an author and a child development specialist and school counselor working with kids for nearly 20 years. I can not accept everyone and am looking at SCBWI members first with some local, regional, and national in the mix. You can find me at: bookwisdombydiane.blogspot.com where soon I will have info on how to contact me for submitting.
Thanks. Diane

Red Tash said...

I'm still agape over 120 stops on a blog tour.

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

Yeah, Red Tash. It was pretty overwhelming. I'm still agape myself. :)

R.E. McDermott said...

Hi Mary,

This is aimed more at self-published folks and more applicable to ebooks, but I offer it for what it's worth:

I’ve done pretty well with reader reviews on both Amazon and B&N (currently +100 on both sites since September)I worked like hell to get the first 50, but after that they kind of hit critical mass. I’m getting 4 or 5 a week now, without doing too much. Obtaining reviews is a grind, but it’s not rocket science. My experience is you just have to ask for them, by:

1. Making sure there’s a closing note in your book, asking readers to post a review and also inviting them to email you. Make sure you provide full contact info.

2. Answer every single reader email, blog comment, or what have you, and always include a polite request for a review and links to both Amazon and B&N to make it easy for the reader.

3. Do a Library Thing giveaway. You will get a list of folks to email copies of your book. Look at each recipient’s profile on Library Thing, and those for those that are active reviewers, make a special effort to send them a personal email based on your review of their profile. These reviewers are gold, because they’ll likely review on LT, and also Amazon, B&N, and maybe Smashwords and GoodReads as well.

4. Which brings me to GoodReads. You need a physical book to do a GR Giveaway, but if you have one DO IT! I ran my GR Giveaway for 2 weeks (most run much longer) and had 700 people sign up for an opportunity to win one of 3 autographed paperbacks. I sent the books off to the 3 winners, and then started reviewing the profiles of the other 697. It they looked like active reviewers with ereaders, I sent them a polite message offering them a free copy of DEADLY STRAITS. Some declined. Most accepted, and it yielded several reviews. BTW, this is a slow, methodical, process of a maximum of 10 or 12 messages a day. Actually look at these folks' GR profiles and only message the ones that look like good fits. Out of almost 700, I think I contacted about 150.

There are other things you can do, but those are the most productive, at least in my experience. They don’t cost much money, but they do require a lot of time, but nothing in life is free.

If anyone is interested, there is a 'reviews' page with links to all reviews at www.remcdermott.com.

And BTW, you never did tell the story about those cockroaches.

Mart Ramirez said...

Thank you for sharing your tour! Awesome!

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Great post, Mary! I'm impressed. And Congratulations on your book! It's fabulous. :-)

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

Hi, Kimberley and Martha. Thanks for the comments and kind words.

Sharon Bayliss said...

Thanks for the great tips! This is something I've been thinking about lately.