Book marketing used to require live book tours, where authors visited bookstores all over the country, making speeches and reading from their books. These tours were supplemented by book reviews in newspapers and magazines. Reviewers in those print media would receive complimentary review copies, often in pre-publication form as Advance Reading Copies (ARCs).
Today fewer publishers are willing to pay for live book tours and few authors enjoy the hassles of 21st century air travel followed by impersonal hotel rooms. These days more and more authors and publishers are turning to online reviews, especially reviews published in the Amazon online community.
Amazon has become so critical to book sales that publishers now send ARCs to ordinary people who are the most prolific and effective online reviewers. Authors allocate a hefty portion of their publishing budget to getting online book reviews.
Yet many authors hold inaccurate beliefs about what they need to get an online book review. The steps are actually quite simple and easy to follow.
First, there is no need to pay anyone to write a review for your book. You will be wasting money and you will most likely not get a quality review.
A better idea: Use your book review budget to buy extra review copies and send them to the reviewers who seem most suited to review books in your field. If your book is a how-to manual for training an adopted dog, look for reviewers who seem to like books about dogs. Some will even mention the breed of their dog in their reviews and/or online bios.
Second, offer reviewers a complete hard copy of your book. A hard copy doesn’t mean a hard back book; most reviewers will work with paperbacks. However, reviewers often resist reading pdf copies online and they most likely will balk at the idea of printing their own copy of a 250-page book at their expense.
With the increasing popularity of readers, these preferences may change. Always ask before sending a pdf file and be prepared to offer a print copy.
Third, after someone agrees to review your book, simply send the book. You do not need to send promotional material. Editors of print book review sections and managers of book stores will be concerned with the book’s publicity plans. Most online reviewers are ordinary people who just want a good book.
Do not write to the reviewer asking, “Where is my review?” Reviewers tend to have stacks of books on their coffee tables, all awaiting review. They may choose not to review a book if they realize they would have to write a negative review, especially if the book appears self-published or from a very small press.
While it’s nice to get a thank you note after a review, this step is not at all necessary. Even more important, do not complain about your review. A few negative or neutral reviews might actually help your book. Readers realize you didn’t get all your friends to write puff pieces.
Some authors actually write reviews of their own books to respond to reviewers. They write comments on reviews to defend themselves. These efforts nearly always backfire. If the reviewer was wrong, others will jump in to make corrections. As an author, you would not make a favorable impression by attacking the reviewer (although it can be tempting to do so).