The Value of Book Reviews

Book reviews serve a number of purposes. First, they often aid in answering potential readers’ questions: What’s this book about? Would I be interested in that subject? Is this a new author or have I read anything of theirs before? Have I read anything similar? What can I learn from it? Is it worth my time? Do I want to download it for my eReader or would a hard copy look nice on my shelf when I’m finished? Reviews also provide you valuable feedback, generate more interest, increase readership and boost sales.


In a rapidly expanding world, where you have multiple reading and selling formats, odds are you’re going to want more feedback from a variety of sources. But how do you get people other than family and friends to offer analytical and beneficial responses?


One trend is putting a blurb somewhere in your book itself — we’d suggest the back cover or a page immediately following the end of the story for maximum results — asking for the reader’s feedback and providing links to the appropriate channels to do so.


As you’re preparing your materials, you may want to craft a brief cover letter explaining who you are and what your book is about. Also have decent photos of yourself and your book cover ready for release. Print reviews will require higher quality images while online sources typically prefer smaller files, so have both versions prepared.


Send Your Work to Professional Reviews


Many agencies — such as Reader Views, Kirkus Reviews and Publisher Weekly — exist purely for the purpose of reviewing written materials for newspapers, magazines and network stations. They can also serve to keep stores and libraries well informed regarding new titles and trends. They offer complimentary reviews as well as other fee based promotional services.


You can reach out to any number of such places — usually via email with an electronic copy, though mailing options also exist. While costs are generally reasonable, navigate them with caution. With so many free options around the web, it is becoming easier to fall prey to scams and unnecessarily biased results.


For more specialized attention, seek companies that focus on your specific genre. Take, for instance, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. They assess these futuristic and experimental works while also promoting, awarding and advocating for their authors.


When working with any reviewer, be sure to check in with them once in awhile. Not to nag them, but for concerns such as making sure they received all your materials and establishing a tentative time frame (especially considering reviewers you find on blogs may not have as structured a timeline as some of the entities whose employees do this for a living.)


Engage in Peer-to-Peer Online Reviews


Seeking reviews online is a bit more flexible. You aren’t at the mercy of an editor trying to sift through a plethora of manuscripts. Instead, you can take the time to find the right people — those who have similar interests, enjoy particular styles and read within certain genres — to provide insightful remarks.


Major seller sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble have their own review sections on product pages. Other users can give you a 1-5 star rating and write detailed and well thought out comments. Many users do this voluntarily and enjoy it as a hobby, which should ease any concerns over how genuine they’ll be. In turn, the reviewers receive their own ratings according to their activity and helpfulness. A small graphic next to the username usually indicates the top in the field. You can also employ a similar strategy at blogs and online magazines, such as Dear Author, Book Browse and Honest Indie Book Reviews.


According to Amazon’s own advice on the matter, you can anticipate about 45 responses from every few hundred people you ask to review your book — not bad for a couple of days’ worth of researching and emailing!     


Stay Connected With Apps


Many, many mobile apps now exist to generate the same kind of conversational feedback. Perhaps the most popular (and available for both the iPhone and Android) is Goodreads. More than 20 million users rate and review books, share lists of recommendations and receive suggested reading based on what they’ve already read. And just as Amazon and Barnes & Noble have mobile apps, Goodreads also has a web-based site. Plus, all are equipped with social sharing tools. The circulation and availability of these tools are limitless.


Spread the Word on Social Media


Sharing content on social media sites may be the quickest way to receive any kind of feedback. At the forefront, more than a billion Facebook users across the world share, like and comment for several hours a day. You can link to your site, blog or point of purchase, or just ask for opinions in a short post. You can answer questions quickly and converse openly. That may yield some nice but superfluous comments or even the occasional spam or negative response, but any kind of communication increases visibility of and momentum around your book.


There are many tricks of the social media trade, so we decided to detail additional guidelines. To learn more about different platforms, strategies, trends, advice and advantages read, The Value of Social Media


Become the Reviewer


Now that you’re on your way to getting as many people as possible to review your book, consider writing some of your own. Utilizing the same online, mobile and social venues, you will increase your credibility while networking with other industry fans and gurus. You’ll also keep your critical thinking and writing sharp. Over time, you’ll find you’ve created a nice community for yourself.


Keep in mind that reviews on any scale are not intended to make you (or any author) write and re-write to please every critic. You’re entering the forum with an already-made quality product. It wouldn’t have gotten published in the first place if it was anything less. You get to choose which feedback best applies to what you’re trying to accomplish. Even unfavorable reviews can have merit — whether by helping you determine your audience, improve your style or call attention to grammatical nuances of which you were formally unaware. Always try to take away the positives and allow yourself to grow as a writer.

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