Historically, publishers sent books for reviews which were then used in publicity campaigns, targeted to booksellers to stock those books. The bookseller used those reviews to entice readers to their store to buy that book, and more. An author today has to do both, solicit the reviews and find readers. Reviews were (and are) part of a strategic business plan to make sales.
Kirkus Reviews and RT Book Reviews were established as catalogue style magazines for booksellers and libraries to choose which books to stack on limited shelf space. Kirkus includes all types of books, RT showcases genre fiction. These catalog magazines are still the primary information for booksellers. But, digital and indie books have seen success and now RT and Kirkus have added interactive webstores offering all kinds of products and services for independent authors and small press publishers. A book review in one of these catalogs is still the primary way to reach thousands of booksellers and libraries in one month.
It may seem like a gamble to spend over $400 for a book review but, if an author already has a solid backlist of at least five well reviewed books, that gamble could pay off in sales. That review could interest a bookseller because they do read them. If a quick internet search on the author is engaging, and reveals more books, the bookseller may add that reviewed book to their order. It’s a business decision.
The bookseller highlights the review as a reminder as to why they chose to purchase that book to stock in their store. They continue reading the reviews for more books to sell. A few minutes, and the decision is made. The bookseller moves on. The library process is a little more involved but each of these catalogs is sent to about ten thousand potential markets every month. Even a one percent return on that review could land that author on 100 bookstore or library shelves around the country. It’s a good gamble for an established author.
However, to become an established author and garner reviews and sales for the first books, an author today has to gamble on the free or small fee sites. New digital review sites and book bloggers have multiplied along with marketing myths, publicity scams, and book pirating sites. Authors must do their research and here are two primary questions to consider when soliciting a review. Does this review site or book blogger actually reach readers – or – do all the posts have comments from the same six people? Will I want to promote that review site to people who may actually read my book? Remember the business model that reviews are a tool for making sales.
I’ll offer two examples I consider as the best I’ve experienced of innovative review sites for indie and genre fiction authors.
InD’ Tale Magazine is relatively new and mirrors the catalogue style publication of reviews, in addition to great articles and author interviews. Text reviews are free and include a To Buy link. [Hint, no To Buy link with a review – no bother!] This magazine is the most impressive digital magazine I’ve seen. The 100+ pages of full color graphics and interactive links loads quickly even on my antique system and slow modem. There are guidelines to be eligible for a review, and a priority tier, so Read Them. For an additional $10 the author can include their book cover and a direct link to their website.
The other example is Night Owl Reviews (NOR) . This “Find Your Next Great Book!” site is older, more established, and even their monthly magazine is in website format – no downloading required. NOR accepts a broad variety of books to review, including children’s and nonfiction. Submissions are put into a pool for a set time frame and become featured on the site after a review. Here’s the downside, if a reviewer hasn’t picked your book to review after six months it could be purged from the pool. It’s a gamble but didn’t involve any cash.
What is good about NOR is authors can engage with readers directly through weekly chats, seasonal contests, give-away specials, and more. Readers return to NOR because they can be interactive with authors and win free books, and cash! Authors sponsor the contests, like this month’s Winter Wonderland Booklover contest. As an author sponsor, for the next month, contestants will have to read the blurb of my book and see my book cover, in order to win cash prizes. This could translate into new readers for me and be worth my $50 investment to be discovered. I am also writing more books.
So those are my two examples.
Please share your favorite review sites, contests, book bloggers, and advice – in the comments!
And visit the: Winter Wonderland 2015 (NOV 20 – DEC 17)
All cards will be purchased via the Amazon.com website.