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May 10th, 2009

12:55 AM

Choosing a book review site for your ARCs

I just read a blog entry by a disgruntled self-published author who, after sending ARCs and final copies to review blogs only to see no significant increase in sales, concluded that all reviews are worthless. I'd have linked there, but given his tone, I don't think he's open to discussion and for all I know, he may show up here to start another "When self-published authors attack!" drama.

I'm writing this now because I love giving patronizing unwanted advice and I don't understand why that fellow doesn't seem to get this.

You see, if I am an author who has to pay for postage, et cetera, to send books to reviewers, here is what I would do.

First, I will decide whether the review site is worth my time and money. How do I know this? There are several ways to do this. One is by checking their website statistics, if available. Some, not all, websites openly display their statistics in hope of attracting advertisers. Another good way is to use Google and search for terms relevant to your books (example, "romance novel reviews", "romance reviews", "romance book reviews") and see which website shows up in the search results. Or if you want to be even more exact, pick a book by a popular author in your genre ("The Earl Who Ate A Carrot by Julia Quinn review") and see which websites show up in the Google search results. These websites are the ones indexed by Google, which means that these websites will ensure maximal exposure for the review of those books.

Google isn't everything, though. If we are talking about a blog (or if there is a forum), having an active community is also a good sign that the blog is well-read and well-trafficked. The thing here is, you need to spend some time looking over the comments - if the community comprise mostly authors, for example, chances are you won't find the readers you are looking for there. You want a community of readers who actively buy books to read the review of your book, remember that.

This is why I'd personally ditch all those blogs or websites that have a large amount of content targeted at authors - chances are, readers rarely go there, and you won't make any sales there. Also, this may seem heartless, but life is life, so I would also ditch smaller or new websites/blogs that haven't proven themselves. At the very least, I'd send them an electronic ARC instead of an actual book, and if they don't want that, well, it's too bad.

Of course, this puts self-published authors in a fix, since many places don't accept their books for review in any format, but let's look at it this way. Reviews don't really move a book as much as book critics would like you to believe. It's word of mouth that makes or breaks your book - when Oprah tells everyone to buy a book, that is word of mouth in action at its most potent form. Perhaps a self-published author has better spend time and money in distributing and displaying books in venues that will move those books better (local bookstores, trade fairs, et cetera)?

Getting your reviews in sixteen small blogs, all trafficked by authors desperate to get their books reviewed with only a small fraction of actual readers, is probably a waste of time and money. It's like advertising - you spend your money hoping to hit the best conversion rate - you want your review, the "ad", to be read by as many book-buying readers as possible. This principle should also be applied to review sites. Like publishers, not all review sites are created equal. Start from the top and work your way down. Don't settle for a small Blogspot or Wordpress blog with traffic of dubious quality and quantity if you feel that your ARCs and money are limited - aim for the big boys.

5 comment(s).

Posted by Sandra Cormier:

With my first two books, I allowed my publishers to send to established review sites with little response. I sent The Toast Bitches to several suggested review sites but was careful to choose the ones that catered to readers.

In spite of limited reviews, I am noticing that my hockey romance's Amazon sales hiccup every few days, probably through word of mouth. After almost a year, it's starting...

Reviews are great - I don't deny that - but the readers count most of all.

That doesn't mean I won't turn my nose up at a review from you, of course :)
May 10th, 2009 @ 2:55 AM

Posted by Barbara Sheridan:

It's word of mouth that makes or breaks your book

Truer words were never spoken. After all these years of getting books out there I'm still dreaming of the day I finally write the story that loads of people will want to read and recommend.
May 10th, 2009 @ 9:07 AM

Posted by Cheryl Anne Gardner:

Agreed mrsgiggles. Spamming review sites with your book will help little, but that doesn’t mean reviews are worthless. It’s what the author does with the review that counts. Review sites should be specifically targeted based on the reviewers speciality. You would want to send a sci-fi thriller to a romance blog, unless an integral part of the thriller is the romance plot-line. But even then, an isolated review on a blog will do very little for sales. The exercise of getting reviews is two-fold: One, the author wants the critical opinion – to learn from. Two, the author wants to increase books sales. So how does one do that??? Well, reviews need to be cross-posted to the sales sites that count. If the review blog doesn’t do that, most will allow the authors to excerpt from the review and post it themselves. Amazon has the option for authors to add a very short excerpt – blurbs – to the top of the product pages. The author should also include those reviews on their own blog or website, pointing back to the review site. Reviews can often be excerpted for back cover blurbs. Reviews can be spread around on social networking sites. Reviews can be used in PR and Marketing Packages. Reviews can released on free or paid Press release sites.

Most importantly, reviews can and should be used for improvement.

Writing a book is not a passive endeavour, so why should selling books be any different? One review on one blog will make little difference. If the review is important, then the author needs to take the next steps and make sure people see that review. Marketing is about spreading the word and presence. If you have no presence, or worse an unprofessional one, a one-off review isn’t going to do an author any good.
May 10th, 2009 @ 8:26 PM

Posted by LKCampbell:

One piece of advice that I can give to self-published authors: DO NOT set your expectations to the level portrayed by your POD publisher's PR department. If you do, you will be sorely disappointed.
To use a farming analogy, choosing to be self-published is a tough row to hoe. While most "traditionally" published authors begins the game at 0, a self-published author begins the game at -100 (or more). Only determination, perseverance and the willingness to learn from your mistakes will lead to success. And also, not blaming others for your mistakes. Don't blame the reviewer, because you didn't get "X" amount of sales from the review. Reviews aren't meant to sell books. Reviews are only meant to give readers and informed choice. YOU and YOU ALONE will sell your books.
May 10th, 2009 @ 9:45 PM

Posted by Lisa Marie Wilkinson:

Mrs. Giggles:
You're supposed to be mean and frightening (which is why I didn't have the courage to send you an ARC of my debut novel!) but what you've recommended here is very good, practical advice. Maybe you're not so scary after all?
May 14th, 2009 @ 6:07 AM