Monday, August 27, 2012


Having a book published is a joyous thing for a writer. The first idea to finished product is a lot of work and while you can breathe a sigh relief because it’s done, there is still much work ahead of you. What about reviews and blog tours? Let's talk about reviews.

  • What sort of groundwork have you laid, as an author, to get your books from the sale shelf to the hands of readers? 

  • Are you creating a buzz for your work (notice I said work and not just the current book)? Have you planned which reviewers to approach?

  • If you’re with a small press or self published, will you have reader’s copies (electronic or print) available in enough time to allow reviewers to read it and publish the reviews before the book is released?

The reviews are generally released the month leading up to the release date. That buzz builds anticipation in readers for getting their hands on the book and reading it—because so and so said it was really good. Good, but honest reviews can boost your sales.

How does the book get to a reviewer?

Some traditional publishers are more involved than others in getting author’s books to reviewers. Aside from the handful of reviewers they might use (and most aren’t going to be People magazine or the New York Times) they will also make copies available to review sites.

Netgalley  is a big one of late. Reviewers (they’re touted as professional readers) can request books from the publisher to review. NG has publishers big and small, which is good because it’s equal opportunity. Reviewers have a profile on the site that publishers can vet prior to releasing a book for them to review (it’s a publisher/publicity team decision). The publisher may only release a few books to a few reviewers or they can release a blanket amount available to many approved reviewers (and because most of the books are electronic galleys or uncorrected Advance Reader Copies {ARC}, it’s very cost effective).

Night Owl  is another good-sized review site and they have a group of reviewers on hand to review about any genre. There are also Book Blogs that review books.

What about the author?

The author cannot simply rely on the publisher to do this work. Authors need to be proactive, not reactive. A smart author has done their research, especially with book blogs and they know who reviews what. They’ve asked fellow authors for reviewer recommendations, they’ve checked out the names of those who do reviews, for example, on Goodreads, and know what genre those reviewers read. Or at least they should have been doing that.

When approaching people to review your books, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

  • Look for those reviewers who read the genre you write. This is important because the best reviewers are going to be those who enjoy reading the type of story you write. They know what to expect from the story, they know the type of words used, plot settings, and characters. They are your target audience (the ones you’re writing for and who buy that genre) and those who read their reviews or follow their blogs, for most part, read your genre. 

  • Keep in mind reviewers (and book blogs) are booked in advance. We have been provided an ARC (advance readers copy) at least two to three months prior to release date (for example, I’m now receiving ARCs for November and December release). That gives us time to read and write the review. Don’t approach them a week before your book is out and expect to get a positive response. If you’re self-publishing, plan to have a reader’s copy ready at least four to six weeks before you release the book. Hint: electronic galley copy

Don’t forget your beta readers. Get them involved to write a review. 
If I might offer a suggestion, don’t have them all release just the book cover and blurb (that’s not a review) on the same day on their blog. I may want to support the author, but oh my god, fifteen blogs with the exact same information is not fun. Have each add something different—tell me something unique about the author, about a character, or something fun about the setting, or something brief about what they enjoyed about the book. 

It’s all about laying the proper groundwork. Planning the release of your book with as much care as you did in writing the story.

  • What sort of groundwork do you put into the release of your books? 


L.G.Smith said...

Haven't had a book release yet, but I see lots of people doing the usual blog tours and contests when their novel comes out. I do think reviews hold more sway with me for convincing me to actually buy a book. If someone else likes a story and can tell me why then I'm more likely to give it a look.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My publisher sends out the review copies, but I have helped track down some book bloggers for them. And they did a Goodreads giveaway.

Kat Sheridan said...

I'm not releasing any books, but I'm doing this sort of advance work for an author I'm editing. Lots of great advice here!

Johanna Garth said...

Great advice Sia. I found the book bloggers to be a mixed bag in terms of actually completing a review. Many of the reviews for my book just come from regular readers.

Ciara said...

Netgalley can be expensive. A lot of small press can't afford it. I've done extensive research into reviewers. Always take a second to check out their rules, you'll be discarded quick if you don't follow one. Also, try to find one thing on their blog that you can mention in your query.

Anonymous said...

Good, practical advice, Sia. If you want support for your efforts, you need to make it easy for others to work with you.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Ciara good for you on doing the research.

Netgalley can be pricey and that is very true. It's something that each company has to weigh the pros and cons of.

You mention query and that is also true. Unless you already have a rapport the reviewer, it is good to handle the request in a professional manner. Give them the title, blurb, genre,page length and release date. They may have other *rules* and it's good to look them over.

wishing you lots of success on your release!

Carol Kilgore said...

I spent some time looking for appropriate reviewers, but came up empty-handed. My books are a genre blend. Finding a reviewer that reviews all turned out to be next to impossible, so I opted to go with reader reviews only.

I like your suggestion about bloggers doing different things on release day. I'll be doing some heavy thinking about that before my next release.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Johanna, unfortunately, there are book bloggers that don't handle themselves in a professional manner. That can be frustrating for an author. Asking around can help eliminate some of this. Check with other authors. Also, you can and should, let the book blog owner know you would like to be informed if for some reason they will not be able to do the review.

My thing is, this is a business. Whether you're paid or not for a service offered, you should handle everything in a professional manner--author or reviewer or blog owner who sets up a guest spot for a blog tour. Some don't subscribe to that ethic.

~Sia McKye~ said...

James, it is very much a project requiring cooperation and professional courtesy.

I've run across a few I choose not to work with. :-)

Gina Gao said...

This is good advice. Thanks for sharing these questions.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Carol, there are readers AND reviewers that like that blend. Also, there are quite a few books out there that are a blend these days. Don't be discouraged, it will come.

As for bloggers doing more than showing your cover and blurb, there are things they can get from you. give them some tidbits about you to talk about. If they've read your book, something short about what they liked. Heck they can do one of your ten things. They're fun to read and can be adapted to almost anything.

The main point I was making is, exact duplication is boring. You have to give the reader a reason to stop in--especially when they're part of the same community as you are. Make your *splash* as interesting as you are--and you are--and as interesting as your book is. Bait and hook. :-)

Mark Koopmans said...

Oh my,

*THANKS* for such an informative post. I'm several months away from needing a reviewer, or six, so this is perfect timing for me :)

Thanks again... I owe you some *cold* amber ale :)

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for this post, Sia. It is an upcoming period that I dread as my debut novel nears completion.

But, as an indiepubber, no-one else is going to do it except me, so I'd better get on with it. This is the most difficult part of the whole process.

Jo said...

From a reader's point of view: I rarely read a book because someone recommends it. I read the blurb which tells me what the book is about and if the subject appeals to me, I will read it. I very rarely take notice of recommendations. I don't know if all readers are like that, but I am the same about movies too, I don't give a damn what the reviews say, I make up my own mind if I want to see it.

Witness Fifty Shades of Grey (think that's the title) despite all the favourable hype one hears, I couldn't be less interested. Of course if a friend, who's taste runs with mine, recommends a book, I am right there.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Mark, you're welcome. So many times we're so focused on final edits and all the things that lead up to being published we forget to look ahead at those necessary steps.

That amber had better be really cold, lol! Be glad to lift a glass with you!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey, JD! Thanks for stopping by. Promotion is hard work for any author, but being an *indiepubber* you wear all the hats and do all the work.

As with any task, attitude can make it harder or easier. Your *baby* is ready to start walking. You're just helping it do so. It's a joyous time but also scary. You look at everything in your environment differently. You do everything you can to make that transition safe and successful for the *baby*. Any parent knows there's a lot trial and error. A lot of adjustments.

Your *baby* will be walking in no time!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jo, the first thing I look at, when it comes to a book, is the cover and the blurb. If it interests me I read it. I do pay attention to book blogs and some of the recommendations they make. I've found a lot of good books to read that perhaps I wouldn't have known about or even seen. Ultimately I make own decision based on books and movies based on interest.

I rarely ever read a book or see a movie because everyone is raving over it. And no, 50 Shades isn't one I'd rave, lol!

Since I review I probably pay more attention to them, but I tend to look at the overall picture the reviews tell.

You can usually tell those reviewers that are written by friends and who are hyping the author. They're going to say it's good no matter what.

The low star reviews also tell a story. I look at the content--what points are consistently noted. And you can tell which ones are merely trying to trash the story.

The range in between the "this is fabulous" and "this sucks" are usually the most accurate. And reviews are highly subjective because it's based on personal likes or dislikes.

There are reviewers and readers that share similar taste in reading with me, I pay attention to them, too.

Sheila Deeth said...

I should have read this three months ago, but I didn't have final copies of my novel until just before it released. Now I'm wondering what to do about getting reviews. Thank you so much for all this useful information.