The Secrets to Getting More Book Reviews—even if your book is already out

Note: reprinted with permission from “The Book Marketing Expert Newsletter.” (embedded videos on how to write book reviews have been added by Blog host)

We hear it all the time: “the window for reviews is shrinking,” and yet we still see reviews appearing everywhere. So how can you capture a share of this market? It’s true that often reviews from big-name bloggers go to equally big-name authors. Well, can you blame the blogger? If someone had a choice between reviewing Shades of Grey and one of my recent books, I’m sure Shades would win and I totally get that, but it’s hard when you’re starting out. You often get reviews when you get reviews, so the old adage of “media draws media” is very true. Then where do you start?

Years ago, when I was first in the industry, it was pretty simple. You could find a reviewer, send him or her a copy and that was that. Now, it’s a lot different. Bloggers get hundreds of books mailed to them by publishers on a monthly basis, while book review departments in newspapers have either shrunk or been removed entirely. It’s a whole new world. The good news is that there are still great opportunities to get reviewed, but you need to understand the new rules of exposure.

Blogger reviews: Blogger reviews are still great (even though bloggers are busier than ever) but in order to get your fair share, I recommend networking with the bloggers. How do you do that? By following their blogs and posting authentic and helpful comments on their posts – or by retweeting a review of a book that you particularly loved. Get to know the bloggers you’ll be pitching to. They will also appreciate that you took the time to read their blog, instead of just pitching them. It’s true with any kind of networking. You tend to go to the front of the line when you know someone, right? So get to know the bloggers.

If you have a series of bloggers you are following who are influential but don’t necessarily review books, you could ask them if they might let you guest blog or perhaps run an excerpt of your book on their website or you might coordinate a book giveaway with them. As a blogger myself, I love it when someone writes me for an interview and has actually read our blog. How do I know they’ve done this? Often they’ll weave that into their pitch. For example, “Dear Penny, I saw that you wrote about mobile marketing in January and interviewed Gillian Muessig in May, I think my topic would be a nice addition to your blog because -” See? Now that’s much better than: “Dear Penny, I have an idea for your blog I think you might like.” There’s a chance I will love it, but a far greater chance I won’t because the person pitching just spotted our website and thought: “They might like this.” It takes a bit more work to do it the other way, but your returns will be greater and you’re also building relationships as you go, making the tradeoff worth it.

Review other books: In order to get reviews, you might need to become a reviewer. I know this might sound crazy. Who has time to review books? Well, that’s how we got here in the first place, remember? Reviewing other people’s books (who write about similar topics to you) is not only a great thing to do for your industry but a great way to network. I review every book that’s appropriate to my market (on Amazon). People love peer reviews, trust me. Imagine if the person you’re reviewing reviewed you? See how that works? Make sure to send them the review when you’re done. It’s a boatload of great Karma that could help you get some reviews, too.

Media connections: With newspapers eliminating review departments, how on earth can you get some traction for your book? How about articles and write ups? And even when newspapers do reviews, it can still be a hard road to get them. Especially if your book is self-published, POD or eBook. With 1,500 books published each day, it’s tough to weave through the maze of authors out there trying to get attention for their book, too. Here’s what I recommend. Get to know the media in your market. Pick a series of newspapers in your immediate area or state. You can find a pretty good listing here: http://www.newslink.org. You can also select other areas, depending on your book, the reach of your topic or your business. Often smaller regions of the US will still have active review departments so be sure to check all appropriate papers for both reporters who write about your topic, and review department criteria (where they want you to send the book, etc.). By getting to know the reporters who write about your topic, you can network with them early (pre-release) by commenting on articles they’ve written, or offering them ideas or statistics for future pieces. Remember the networking piece for bloggers? That works here, too and it’s a great way to gain attention for your book and get a mention or review in a local or national paper.

Media Leads: I wrote an article on media leads, how to get them and how to respond to them. You can see it here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/penny-c-sansevieri/maximizing-media-leads_b_748574.html) and suffice it to say that the sooner you start with this (yes, long before the book is out), the better. It’s another great way to network with a reporter.

Amazon Reviews: We’ve all heard of the big, top ten Amazon reviewers, but like any big-name reviewers they get inundated, too. Amazon is a great portal to expand upon and you should do whatever you can to populate your page with reviews because rarely do readers buy books “naked” (this refers to the book page, not the state of dress). I highly encourage you to review the Amazon list of top reviewers (folks who do post reviews on Amazon) and then pitch the ones that are right for your market. The lure of the top reviewers is that they possess a certain clout, but because of that, the other folks who are solid, faithful reviewers tend to get overlooked. Consider your options with Amazon, and definitely do your research and find some reviewers: http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers.

Social sites: Websites like Library Thing and Goodreads offer another great opportunity. First, these communities have millions of very active members and are a great place to garner reader reviews. Both sites have a great Reader Giveaway program that we love and use often; in exchange for handing over a free copy members (winners) are encouraged to post a review of the book. Very win-win if you’re looking to get the word out there about your book.

While the world has changed a lot in regards to reviews, there are still a lot of opportunities out there for getting to the right people and getting those people to talk about your book. Not only that, but building a strong community of media and blogger contacts will help you not just for your current book, but for future titles as well.

Reprinted from “The Book Marketing Expert newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com

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MORE ON THIS TOPIC from the Blog’s host

After watching the embedded videos, if you are still unsure of how to write a proper review, I suggest visiting Scholastic and following their five step plan. Before you know it, you will be writing better reviews than most media professionals.

In addition, the Midwest Book Review is a reputable source for reviews of self-published/indie authors in addition to traditionally published authors. However, be aware that the Midwest Book Review reviews less than a third of the books that are submitted. In addition, the reviews are often shorter than average.

For example: “Many nations adopted modernism in their own ways. ‘The Concubine Saga’ is a historical novel from Lloyd Lofthouse, following famed modernizer Robert Hart, a man who has contributed greatly to China’s advance in the nineteenth century, gaining much power and influence for a foreigner during the period. Drawing on heavily researched passages with great dramatization, ‘The Concubine Saga’ is a strong pick for historical fiction collections, highly recommended.” (68 word review) – July 8, 2012 Midwest Book Review

Note: Established in 1976, the Midwest Book Review is an organization that maintains several book review publications per month. It selects about 450 books to review out of the 1,500 submitted each month. The organization has a focus on serving community and academic library organizations located in California, Wisconsin, and the upper Midwest.

Make sure to also read and study the Midwest Book Reviews Submission Requirements and follow the directions.

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Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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An Author Lost in Amazon.com’s Rainforest

Guest Post by Katherine Ashe

Let me admit at the outset that I have, from birth, had a problem with identity.  When asked what my name was to be on my birth certificate, my father blurted out my mother’s name then, as an afterthought, tacked on Junior.

Now that might be troubling enough, but my mother’s name was Ann Frank. We both heard more than our fill of very sick jokes. I suffered but supposed I would marry and the problem would go away. I reached my 34th year still thinking that.

As a writer of art books the name Ann Frank had posed no problem for me, though Barnie Rossett of New Directions commented, “When did yuh change yer name t’ Anne Frank, when yuh thought yuh’d sell more books?”

So when I did begin to write in a general way, circa 1976, I recognized the necessity of changing my name. I took my nearest cousins’ name of Ashe, and because I liked the scene in “Henry V” where Katherine de Valois is learning English, I opted for Katherine, changing my name legally to Katherine Ashe. Even my family was relieved. My Ashe cousin offered to trade his daughter Penny to my father in exchange, except that Penny Frank would sound like a one-cent hot dog.

Everything went well. I embarked upon my 34 year project of writing the Montfort series, and also wrote plays, screen plays and radio drama, all as Katherine Ashe.


Simon de Montfort

Then two years ago all that changed. A KathArine Ashe appeared—writing bodice rippers. Now I had been offered a contract for Montfort (sample and outline) as early as 1977—from Playboy Press, and had turned it down because my intention was to write a novel that was serious history. With the first draft done by 1985, I was offered a contract by Random House—provided I turned the book into a romance. I turned that down, and another from Crown, and another from Simon and Schuster—and so on, until 2008 when my agent, Jacques de Spoelberche, no longer could get anyone to even look at the manuscript since I refused to make a woman the central character.

So I went the tough route of self publishing, with Booksurge. Montfort The Early Years was the first manuscript to pass through the process as Amazon bought Booksurge and it became Createspace.  That was the winter of 2009.

Now, in 2010, here was a KathArine Ashe with the formidable promotion machine of Rupert Murdoch owned Harper Collins, publishing exactly the sort of trash I had refused contract after contract for in an effort to have the name Katherine Ashe known for historical integrity.

Friends in publishing told me I could do nothing, but not to worry—she would probably soon disappear. She hasn’t disappeared. In fact, since Harper Collins can outsell me any day of the week, and since this mistress of the bodice ripper churns out two to three books a year, the algorithm at Amazon hijacked my name and referred all searches for books by Katherine Ashe to her.

By last month, two years into the publishing existence of KathArine Ashe, it had become impossible to find my work through a search of KathErine Ashe.

I wrote raging emails to Amazon via Author Central—threatening to tie up at least one member of their legal staff in a courtroom in rural Honesdale PA, with a hostile judge and jury and a claim for damages.  And friends pitched in on line! The independent Authors Guild, English Historical Fiction Authors and Facebook friends, and friends of friends hit the “like” button for all four volumes of Montfort. A ruckus was raised!

And today Amazon, after numerous emails that they could do nothing about the search procedure, capitulated. Though a book search for KathErine Ashe still first turns up KathArine Ashe’s “Swept Away by a Kiss,” a picture of me comes up second with access to all of my books. On a Kindle or amazon.co.uk search of my name, I come up first.

Sword rattling or the power of friends—or both? I think it’s been the power of friends and the “like” button! And I’m very, very grateful—and renewed in faith in the power of people.

If you enjoyed this guest post about challenges with Amazon, you may also want to read Amazon’s Jungle Logic, an Op-Ed piece by Richard Russo that appeared in The New York Times on December 12, 2011.

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Katherine Ashe (with an “e”) is the author of: Montfort: The Early Years 1229 – 1243, Montfort: The Revolutionary 1253 – 1260; Montfort: The Angel With the Sword 1260 – 1264, and Montfort: The Founder of Parliament: The Viceroy 1243 – 1253

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