Book Marketing – 3 Tips For an Online Book Review

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).

What is a Book Review Service?

A book review service will help you get the word out about your book and hopefully make others want to read it. If you look at top novels, you will notice that there are usually quotes from reviews from publications from the New York Times or other papers. This often happens with noted authors that have books published in large publishing houses. But how does the new author who has perhaps self published or is published with a very small publishing house get noticed? Very often, they use a book review service.

As you know, an increasing number of books are now sold online. This goes for movies and music as well. And most of the online websites that offer books also encourage book reviews. There are several places online where you can review books.

A book review service will read the book and then give an honest review of the book in various places online. These will be posted and may help you promote your book. While it is a nice idea to rely on those who read the book to actually post a review, people do not always do this. As a matter of fact, it is rare for the average person, even when prompted, to write a book review. Most of the book reviews that you see online are the result of a book review service.

A book review service will not just say that the book is good, but why. This is done in a way without giving away the ending of the book. The purpose of the book review service is to get others to want to buy the book. If you are trying to promote a book using the internet, the use of a book review service really makes sense. It may end up costing you a few dollars to promote your book in this manner, but it will work out for you in the end. A book review service is one of the best routes you can take if you are a new author trying to get others to read your book.

Using a book review service is similar to any other type of marketing. The marketing technique of the bandwagon effect is in force when it comes to book reviews. This is the concept that others will want something if they know that other people like it. It is a very old and very effective form of marketing and is used in all forms of advertising. Using a book review service is a way that you can market your book to the general public without it seeming like an ad.

How to Write an Effective Book Review That Helps Readers Decide If They Want to Read a Book

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who review books for publication in magazines and newspapers, many more who review books on the Web. If you add in those who review magazines, newspapers, movies, theater, blogs, websites, Facebook styles, Twitter tweets, what have you, it may reach into the millions (well, that’s an overstatement but you get my point).

Some reviewers are good enough at reviewing that they are paid and paid well for their thoughts on what they’ve read. Some do what I might characterize as a journeyman’s job, competent but not inspired, while others are absolutely, abysmally awful, and shouldn’t be allowed near a pen, pencil or computer when they’re in a reviewing mode.

Reviewers-whether their interest is fiction or non-fiction, pop music or classical, television shows, movies, magazines, blogs or what-have-you-all have their own reviewing styles. I’ve been writing, for pay and for fun, for many years. And I’ve been reading. I’ve read hundreds of thousands of words in print and on the Internet, and have developed strong opinions not only on what makes good writing, but what makes a good review of writing.

What follows is an overview of my personal reviewing style, “reviewing style” meaning how I prepare to write a review, not the actual words I use. But make no mistake, the actual words come from the preparation.

Because I specialize in book reviewing, primarily mysteries and mainstream, with only a smattering about blogs and similar activities, and have never reviewed music or a movie-except among friends-I’m going to limit myself in this post to my thoughts on reviewing books. Another note for complete disclosure: I am not talking about reviewing textbooks, or technical or scholarly tomes that are written for a specific and equally technical or scholarly audience. I am talking about novels, anthologies of short stories, the kinds of things we read mostly for pleasure. So here is my answer to my own question. What makes a good review?

The first thing I do when I review a book is: I READ THE BOOK! Don’t laugh. To write a review by snitching from other reviews or copying what booksellers advertise about it is not at all funny. It is not only unfunny, it’s unfair to the writer, and it’s dishonest. It shouldn’t happen.

Yet I’ve read more than one book review that wasn’t much different from a CliffsNotes. In such cases, it’s easy to see that the reviewer had not actually spent time with the book, except possibly the jacket blurb. In recent days, I’ve read reviews of the same book in different publications that used identical language with no credit to a reviewer, so I couldn’t tell if they were written by the same person or if others were “borrowing.” Sometimes, reviewers apparently skimmed through the book, began to write too soon and in doing so, missed critical points.

Note, however, that I do read ABOUT a book before I settle in to read it for my review. I look at the publishers blurbs, knowing of course their biases. I read the jacket notes, and I always read the foreword and the afterword before I start the actual reading. In books that are heavily footnoted-such as the Teddy Roosevelt trilogy I’m reading now-I look at those back-of-the-book pages also, before I begin reading. I suspect that some writers would prefer that readers not read their afterword until afterward-sorry, couldn’t resist-after they have finished the book, but I find that it makes the story more pleasurable to read, and that’s what, to me, this kind of reading is about.

As I read a book for review, I note chapters and pages to read a second time. I don’t make extensive notes because that interferes with reading; from the earliest pages I want to get a feel for the flow of the story, so I make more mental notes than physical ones. The times when I let my intent to publish a review of the book interfere with reading is when I find a sentence or paragraph that I may want to quote, or if there is a significant philosophical or cultural point being made that I don’t want to lose.

Among the mental notes I make are my reaction to the writer’s style, effectiveness in pulling me in, making me part of the tale being told. I look for idiosyncrasies in people and places that take them out of the ordinary. I note particular turns of phrase or uses of words or descriptions that charm me-or scare me sufficiently to include in the review. And I look for personal characteristics, about the tale being told or the writer, that I can describe that will give the reader additional insight.

My goals in writing a review are two-fold. First, I want to speak to the reader as if we were sitting at my kitchen table sharing thoughts about what we’ve been reading. I don’t pontificate or lecture as if I possess some kind of arcane knowledge about what the writer was thinking. I use first person quite a lot-“I thought… I liked… I hope the reader… my reaction….” and so on. To sum all that up, I want some of me, some of my personal reaction to the book, to come through clearly.

Then, I want to capture the overall feel of the book, share a hint of what I learned about the actors in the story, and the settings in which the author put them without giving anything away that shouldn’t be. Books, I believe, have their own unique personalities beyond their plots, even though they are paper and print or words on a screen, and I want the reader to sense that personality. That’s what makes people want to read something.

If I really don’t like a book at all, I won’t write a review. I am a reviewer, not a literary critic. That’s my own choice. I want to always treat a book’s author with respect, and can usually find a delicate way to put a light critical touch in a review, if necessary. The writer has put time and effort into the work, I respect that, and my not liking it doesn’t mean others won’t.

But I will never resort to sarcasm or nastiness as some reviewers do. I recently-on this blog-wrote a diatribe about a major flaw in a book I had just read. It wasn’t a review, it was just plain old-fashioned blow-off-steam criticism, and I did not use the writer’s name or put any identifying material in it. And I will continue to read that writer’s output.

I’ve had years of experience of having my own writing reviewed and reviewing that of others, accepting and giving criticism, and I’ve learned the importance of saying what I think, but saying it kindly. So that’s how I look at my challenges as a reviewer of some wonderful books, some ordinary books, and some that are, well-unreviewable.

About Marcia Applegate

Retired communications consultant with major firms, writer, columnist, blogger, living in Asheville N.C., moved here from Chicago, love Asheville mountain scenery and people, still miss Chicago, though. Children, Grandchildren, greatgrands scattered across the country. Love reading, of course, love reviewing what I read, and have lots and lots of opinions on this and that.