Sunday, August 29, 2010


Reviewing and Review Copies
By Wendy Gager

I’m writing a blog this week on something I know next to nothing about in the hopes of those with more information will comment and I will learn something. The topic is getting reviews for your book.

Everyone wants good reviews and I would even take a few bad reviews if they were constructive criticism. My question is how do you get good reviews? I’ve asked fellow authors and been turned down. (None were Oak Tree authors) Is there some unwritten rule that says you can only review books if they are by the same publisher?

I know most “reputable” reviewers need the book at least two months in advance. How do you do that? Do you send them a printed second-edit copy or electronic PDF? I’ve asked for volunteers to review it and sent out books to people and no reviews. Big publishers send out advance review copies by the hundreds in the hopes they will get a few good reviews. I don’t have the budget for that.

I get notes from readers that they like it or they couldn’t put it down which really keep me going, but no notable reviews. I thought I would be better at it with the second book but I’m not. I would like to send out more books but with the cost of the books and postage, it is costly. I would like them to go where it will make an impact. What are some of the ways you have gotten reviews? (Mike I will be curious to hear your response from Dorothy L)

Just trying to create a buzz outside my little circle but can’t seem to even catch the bubble.


Monti said...

Sunni, this is a frustrating and apparently complicated issue. I've had the same experience you have. BTW from what I've noted on some of my loops, there are more sites that review erotica which I don't write. Often people will love my books and say they are going to post a review, but it never appears. Part of that is because it seems if you haven't purchased from Amazon within a certain time frame, they won't let you post a review there.

I think Oak Tree authors should review each others' books so we would have a few reviews. We could review PDF files if Billie would get them to us. That way, no postage would be involved.

This is an important issue. Thanks for bringing it up.


Kit Sloane said...

I have very mixed feelings about anyone's reviewers being from the same publisher. Number 1, I can't imagine a fellow author really "criticizing" a fellow author's book, and 2, it's the old preaching to the choir bit. To a lot of readers, the opinions become suspect. An author friend and I finally refused to comment on fellow author's books for those reasons.

What I DO think is special are the bookmarks Billie has had printed which encourage readers to review on Amazon the book they've purchased and then they get a freebie! Wow, that's a win/win situation. Fresh blood, etc.

I've been lucky enough to get really nice reviews from the biggies (eg Library Journal, Booklist, even old PW). I simply recycle these. A good review of a series is good forever. How did I get them? Well, "they" do say they need ARC (advance review copies) early and I guess they got mine early enough from my then publishers, to get attention. I also think my unusual covers are a draw. If you're a reviewer with a desk top full of books, it's normal to pick up the one that attracts your visual attention.

I also really think these ARCs carry a lot more weight if the publisher is able to send them on, rather than them coming from the author. Somehow I don't imagine most of these reviewers are too interested in downloading PDFs or reading mss from their monitors. They like the real thing. And they get HUNDREDS a week to choose from! Yikes, it's tough to get their attentions!

So, just my usual 2cents worth, not based on quantifiable facts since, in our business, there are few of these!


Holli said...

Wendy, my strategy has been to contact reviewers at the websites who do reviews and ask them if they would be interested in reviewing my book. I include a little bit about myself, only the most interesting things and things that make it sound like I know what I'm talking about, and if they say yes, I do send the book for free. I've gotten a few reviews this way.

Then, on Amazon, you can take the best two sentences out of each review and post them yourself, as long as you give credit to the reviewer and do not go above the word count so you avoid copyright issues. It will show up as "added by author," but when you give credit to the reviewer I don't think it makes a difference whoa dded it. You can also add these two sentence review blurbs from individuals who do not post them on Amazon, again, abiding by the world count. (You can't go over the word count because it won't allow you to post them.)

I have had one reviewer who ultimately did review my book and gave it quite a hodgepodge of a mix review, make a comment to the effect that he could see from my Amazon reviews that I had the whole promotion machine going from my publisher, which was a little strange since only two of my reviews were from other Oak Tree writers. I think he believed that the reviews from other N.O. writers were a part of some promotion ploy, but I freely admit I ask people I know who liked my book to write a review. I won't mention his name because I don't believe in burning bridges I may want to cross someday.

In any event, I have found that everyone I have sent a free copy of my book to review has in fact reviewed it and posted the review somewhere.

Martha Chevis does reviews on her site, Apex reviews does free reviews and posts them to Amazon, although you will have to wait 6-8 weeks for them. also does reviews, as does Clark Isaacs, Debbie Mack, Kevin Tipple, Mystery Lovers Corner has an email contact for their review section, and the Book Club Queen webiste does reviews. I don't know if they will automatically review a book, but shooting an email to ask is free, so it's worth a try.

Granted, these are not the NY Times book reviews, but my feeling is that a review by anyone "in the business" carries some weight.

Holli Castillo

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Wendy, I'll review any of your books and put something on from my other publisher, how would that work? Any one who is interested, I have the uncorrected galley for my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery if anyone would like to take a look at it and write a review. It's a PDF file.


BillieJohn said...

I am delighted to have this discussion. For some time, I have been toying with ways to increase reviews on OTP books.

Since I have a lot to say on this, and a lot of it is more "inside baseball" than is appropriate here, I am going shift over to the in-house memo.

Stay tuned...

Billie Johnson

Monti said...

Apologies, Wendy! I saw the posted by Sunni and thought it was her post. Now I see the "by Wendy Gager." How did I manage to miss that?

Sunny Frazier said...

I posted for Wendy since her computer was acting up.

I'm in agreement with Kit. I think people will catch on when we review and even blurb within the house. Holli has named many of the reviewers I use. With the Internet, we can support reviewer sites that are "friendly" to small press.

As for reviews prior to publication, the Internet is instant. That requirement is old news. Print publications and people who want to be first out with the news want advance notice. I've had reviews with books that have been out for years.

One of the earliest reviews I received was at Bookland Heights. Also, do you check Books 'n Bytes?

Another way to find review sites is to google another author's name and see the sites they have been interviewed and reviewed on. Often you'll find places you have never heard of before.

Plus, think outside the box. I got my astrology mysteries reviewed in a Wiccan magazine!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered reciprocal reviewing where you agree to do one for them if they will do one for you? I understand that to leave a review on Amazon one needs to have purchased from them which I don't have a problem with. I buy any books I need for research from them and I believe even buying a second hand book from them counts.
Of course, if you agree to review other peoples work you have to agree to the genre of the books you will read. Doubly important you will have to make time to read them. So ask yourself the question if you are finding the time to read other books difficult what are the reviewers you asked experiencing?
I have read all the other comments and it is a tricky subject, with some review concerns you can't get around the time issues; I am told slush piles exist in others so perhaps reciprocal reviews could work and any review in-house or not is worth more than nothing and can always be quoted in blogs.
My time is as constrained as any one elses but I will take an occasional book and read it in Word or PDF as long as it is fast paced and not a love story.

Suzanne said...

Big wave to Sunny and Billie after Killer Nashville!

PW, LJ et al. receive so many requests for reviews that they often ignore offerings from small presses. I'm published by a small press and feel fortunate that my books received five-star reviews from the Midwest Book Review.

Here are my suggestions for finding additional reviewers for books from small presses:

o Create an author profile on the Amazon boards, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. Participate in and start discussions, but *do not* hard sell (ie. "Buy My Book!") your book except in areas where that is permitted. Make friends! If other subscribers ask you about your book, refrain from hard selling in your response. Also check for special features that allow authors to offer their books for review.

o On Amazon and B&N, look for books like yours and check out the reviewers. Many have book review blogs. Follow up.

o Join book discussion lists (ex. Dorothy L for crime fiction) and contribute to the discussion without hard selling your book. (In other words, make friends.) From time to time, other subscribers will mention that they want books to review. Follow up.

o Review books and interview authors on your own author blog. Tell people about it on your social networking sites.

o If someone contacts you about how much they liked your book, thank them and ask them to post a review. Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, LibraryThing -- wherever they feel comfortable posting.

All of the above take time, and you have to be willing to maintain a consistent presence in your networking efforts.

Suzanne Adair

Lee Braff said...

Thanks for bringing up the topic, Wendy. It's more important now than ever. Publisher publicity "support" has always been pitiful for non-stars, but now it doesn't exist at all.
The best approach has always been reciprocal. If you belong to a critique group or an organization such as Sisters in Crime, you have a leg up because you can voluteer to review your friends' books as they get their work accepted, posting in appropriate locations. Then when your book comes out, there are people willing to return the favor by reviewing yours.
Clearly, this one is not a short-term solution!
Lee Braff

Lew Stonehouse said...

Though I've been writing for about four years now, I'm new to the publishing side. I find these comments fascinating and hopefully useful to my future endeavors. Thanks for this discussion and nice meeting you.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I'm happy for a review from anyone as long as they don't give away the ending. I asked for someone, anyone to look at the PDF uncorrected galley proof from my other publisher for Invisible Path, but received no takers here, though I did on DorothyL.

I get reviews all sorts of places--many of the same places already mentioned.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

DorothyL is the place to get the most bang for the buck if you get favorable reviews there. DorothyL has over 3000 mystery readers who read and participate on the list.