Ten Crucial Tips To Help You Get Your Book Reviewed

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How to get your book into the hands of reviewers.

So I did some research a while back on how to increase my chances of getting my novels reviewed and came up with 10 helpful tips.

I’m focusing here on smaller venues for indie authors in particular. Bigger publications like Booklist & Publishers Weekly are fantastic, and you should absolutely try to get into them, but be aware that they only review a fraction (less than 10% I read somewhere) of the submissions they get ~ and that’s from all publishers. So you’re competing against the big legacy publishers, too.

By and large, most review sites want hard copies of the book at least 3 months prior to publication. Keep that in mind when you’re deciding when to launch and in what format to launch. Some will take ebooks and some will review anytime, even after publication.

First, start at the Midwest Book Review website. I used them as a source for nearly all the information that you’re reading here.

1. Don’t advertise it’s a self-pubbed book

For starters, don’t advertise that it’s a self-published book, especially if you have your own small press. If they come out & ask, by all means be honest. And if they have a policy against reviewing self-published books, then you must tread carefully and choose whether or not you want to submit your book since that may be a policy coming from their legal department. But if your book can pass the it-looks-like-it-was-professionally-published test, then not mentioning it’s self-published will increase your chances of getting a review.

2. Feature stories are better than reviews

Having been a journalist for a number of years, I can tell you that book-review editors are not the only ones at a publication to whom you can send your book. You can try columnists. There are feature editors. If your book has a section tie-in (like sports or movies or fashion for instance), you can try the editors of a particular section. Try your hometown paper (both where you grew up & where you live now) or the alumni magazine of your college. You may get a review out of it. You may get a feature story done about you, in which they plug your book. You’re actually better served with a feature article than just a simple review. You’re more likely to connect with readers, who then go out and buy your book, if they get to know something about you as the author.

3. Join the independent book publisher’s association

If you have your own small press, join the Independent Book Publisher’s Association. Not only will you join a network of other small publishers banding together to help each other but you’ll also give yourself an edge with some review sites (Midwest Book Review & Foreword Magazine for starters) who will automatically bump your book closer to the top of the review pile.

4. Call/email first

If possible, call or email a reviewer first to see if they have an interest. You’ll save yourself time and money if they tell you no. Also, make sure once you’ve been given an okay to send it that you address it to the specific person you corresponded with & write Requested Material on the outside of the envelope.

5. Don’t give reviewers a reason to disqualify you

There are a lot of books vying for attention and only so much space/time in a reviewer’s calendar. They are looking for ways to whittle down their submissions; make sure you don’t give them a reason to disqualify yours right off the bat. Follow their directions carefully. If they want a press release, make sure you send one. If they want finished books, don’t send galleys. Make sure they review your genre of book before you submit. Follow their publication-date deadlines. And most importantly, make sure you include all your contact info, including: name, mailing address, website address, phone number, & email address. Also include book information, including: price, ISBN number, number of pages, & genre. And finally, send hard copies of your book in padded envelopes or in boxes. You don’t want them damaged before they arrive and risk an editor passing on them because they no longer look professional.

6. Send a cover letter with your submission

Make sure you address it to a specific person (the editor’s name, the book blogger’s name) and not Dear Editor. If you’ve gotten a good review from them for a past book, by all means make sure you mention it in your cover letter; something to the effect of how pleased you were with their review of your previous book, TITLE, and you’re excited to be submitting your new book, TITLE, for their review.

7. Be aware of publishing cycles

All this information comes from James Cox, editor over at the Midwest Book Review.
Months: Worst months to submit: October & November because you’ll be competing with lots of releases from major publishers. Best months to submit: January & February for spring and July & August for fall, because there’ll be less competition from major publishers.
Days of the week: Do your best so your books arrive on a specific day. Worst day: Monday, because there are more submissions on this day; your book will have much more competition for someone’s attention. Best days: Thursday or Friday, less competition.

8. Keep good records & follow up

Know who you sent a copy of your book to & on what date. Give them at least two weeks, then send a letter or an email asking if they’ve received your submission and tell them you look forward to hearing from them.

If your book is reviewed in a timely fashion & they notified you of the review, put them in your “use again” pile. If they took a long time to review or never notified you of the review, put them in your “maybe use again” pile. If you never heard from them again, put them in the “don’t use again” pile.

9. Post a media kit on your website

At a minimum, your media kit should have your biography, high-resolution (300 dpi) pictures of both you and the book cover(s), a synopsis of the book, any press releases you may have, and contact information for you.

Make sure everything in your media kit/press release is professional, polished, and the very best you have to offer. Don’t send/post anything, ever, that you wouldn’t want to see in print later.

10. Thank reviewers

Send a thank-you note/email to anyone who reviews your book. They took a long time reading and reviewing your work so you take five minutes and write them a thank-you. This one is a must.

A side note on reviewers who want money

This one is your call. As a former journalist, I think there’s an inherent lack of objectivity when money is involved. That said, I also know that the bigger book review publications aren’t open to indie authors. Be aware, though, if you’re going to give them money to review your book, that you most likely will NOT be in their main publication. In fact, you may only be listed on their website that may or may not have anyone at all looking at it. You will, however, be able to use that review in your own marketing, and that may be, to you personally, worth the cost you pay.

Some review sites to consider:

FREE REVIEWS:
FOREWORD MAGAZINE
INDIE READER
LIBRARY JOURNAL
MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

PAID REVIEWS:
KIRKUS

Hope you found this helpful. Wishing you the best of luck & happy writing!


26 Responses to "Ten Crucial Tips To Help You Get Your Book Reviewed"
  1. What would you recommend for first time writers? Isn’t it better to self-publish something, even if its in eBook format than to hold it back hoping for a major deal that might never happen?

    • Hi Robert!

      You know, it’s really a matter of personal preference. Self-publishing takes a lot of work since you’re doing everything yourself or hiring people to do it for you but you still have to supervise the whole thing. It’s also tremendously rewarding and lets you have a lot of creative freedom. So I can’t really offer a recommendation because it depends on each person and what it is they are looking for from their writing journey.

  2. Some great tips here, Shelli! I especially like the one about having a media kit on your website. That is a fantastic idea, since what I usually do is email head shots, bios, book covers, etc. Having it all available already is helpful. Thanks!! Hope all is well with you!

    • Hi lovely Dina!

      It’s great to see you. Thanks for the fab compliment. Made me smile this morning. 🙂 The media kit is such a time saver for that very reason: if someone needs it, they don’t have to email me, they can just go download it. I’m doing fantastic, thanks. I hope you are, too. Cheers, darlin.

  3. I think 2, 9, and 10 are key points.
    Too many folks no longer read the book reviews- but a well placed article in the business, finance, Metro, or Style section will help you plenty.
    Thanks for the advice.

    • Hi Roy!

      Lovely to see you here on my blog. 🙂 I agree with you that lots of people don’t bother with book reviews from professional sources (but they do pay attention to their fellow reader reviews). A lot of newspapers don’t even have book sections anymore. A feature article with a picture of you/your book is definitely the way to go. Cheers!

  4. Sandy Coelho says:

    Shelli,
    This is exactly what I needed. A point by point reference, perfect for the introvert who is uncomfortable asking for help. Thank you so much for posting this. The post will go in to my ‘marketing’ folder.
    😀

  5. Jonathan says:

    Hi Shelli – Question – as a 2 time self published author. How would you suggest we develop a “long list” of prospects to approach for a review?

    • Hi Jonathan!

      Congrats on your books!

      There’s a link above for the Book Blogger Directory. Also, you can find review sites you like that serve your genre & check out their blog-roll. Make sure you keep records so if someone gives you a great review, you can ask them again for any future work. And ask other writers who write in your genre where they sent their books for review, sometimes they’ll give you a list. Visit other writers’ websites in your genre & if they’ve posted reviews of their books, see who wrote them (& contact those same people).

      The most important thing, I think, is to keep good records. You’ll add to your USE AGAIN and DON’T BOTHER lists & make a long list over time.

      Hope that helps. Cheers!

  6. Dawn Mena says:

    Hi Shelli – Love this article – and I totally agree with Dina. Having a media kit readily available is a great time-saver, as well as highlighting our professionalism and making it easier for readers to get the full scoop at the moment when their attention is focused on us. I’m motivated to get mine out of my computer files and live on my site asap – thanks so much!

    • Hi Dawn! *waves*

      Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed the post. I love this: “the moment when their attention is focused on us.” It’s so true that sometimes all you get is a moment of someone’s attention; you have to make the most of it. I’m glad you’re motivated to get your media kit online. Cheers, darlin.

  7. Wanda Paryla says:

    Shelli,
    Thanks so much for the informative article, and for taking the time to post each link at the end. They will be helpful!

    ~Wanda

  8. Audra says:

    For those of us still stumbling around in the dark, what is a media kit exactly? What should it have in it? And how does one assemble such a thing on a website? Thanks for any help you can offer.

    • Hi Audra!

      A media kit is for use by anybody in the media (reporters, bloggers, etc) so they don’t have to track you down and get information. They should just be able to go on your website & get what they need, preferably all in the same place. The media kit should have your biography, high-resolution (300 dpi) pictures of both you and the book cover(s), a synopsis of the book, any press releases you may have, and contact information for you.

      As for assembling it on a website, it depends on what software you’re using to create your site. You could make a media kit that’s a zip file has a link so it downloads or you could make a Media Page and have everything together on one page but in individual pieces.

      Hope that helps!

  9. Yarro rai says:

    I am very young and I have just self pubhlished my book. It’s a collection of poetry and I am in nowhere, totally in darkness. Could you please tell me what to do or just help me out?

    • Hi Yarro!

      I’m sorry to say that I don’t know anything about marketing poetry. Here’s a website that’s been very helpful over all: Novel Publicity. My suggestion would be to start there for tips & tricks. Good luck to you!

  10. Yarro rai says:

    Thank you shelli

  11. Tora says:

    This is such a great article, thank you so much. Any tips on “how” to first approach journalists/bloggers. Just a simple email saying “Hi, would you like to review my book, and here’s a quick summary of the book?”. I know this is the next step for me but don’t want to blow it by approaching them incorrectly. Thanks!!

    • Hi Tora!

      Thanks for the fab compliment. Made me smile. 🙂

      Well, you’re selling yourself and your book so write an email like you would a query, one that grabs their attention & tells them why they should read your work. For journalists, the best way is to also have a press release that gives them all the information they need. If your book has some kind of tie-in to either a section (like sports, fashion, etc.) or to something currently going on in the news, make sure to mention it early on. For bloggers, make sure you give them the information they’re asking for in your email. You could also approach bloggers whose reviews you’ve seen on books that are similar to yours, much like you would when you query an agent who represents books similar to yours. For instance, mention that you saw they read and liked, BOOK TITLE, and that your book is similar because FILL IN THE BLANK. The biggest complaint I’ve heard from bloggers is that writers don’t give them the information they want; so make sure you check out their submission guidelines and follow them precisely. Oh, and make sure to only ask for reviews from bloggers that enjoy reading your genre; that came up as a pet peeve of many book bloggers, too. Hope that helps.

      Cheers!

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