Our thanks to literary publicist Claire McKinney for this guest contribution!
When I worked for publishing houses in New York City there was a debate about book review coverage: Does seeking book reviews really sell books? The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no, but with a bit of knowledge of the media and how things work, it is possible to influence some control over the results.
Here is a list of some of the Do’s and Don’ts of seeking book reviews:
- Don’t put your review eggs in one basket, like only being satisfied with a big review in the New York Times or another major newspaper. I have had front page reviews in the New York Times Book Review that have not done a thing, and I have had reviews in the daily section that have tipped a title over the edge on the road to being a bestseller. It depends on the book, the quality of the review, when the review comes out, and the person who reviewed it.
- If you are self-published don’t try to get traditional newspapers to review your book. Most of the book editors will not accept these titles because they are overwhelmed with traditionally published books already. Here’s the thing, every in-house publicist sends almost every book to USA Today’s book review editor. There are upwards of 700,000 books published every year. Granted, not all of them are new, but that’s still a lot of stacks to have in your office if you are an editor.
- Don’t automatically send your books to bloggers without asking. Bloggers are often working from home and don’t have the bandwidth to accept that many packages from the postal service (or big digital files in their inboxes). Email them first with a pitch about your book and offer to send a print or digital copy if they request one.
- Don’t send the wrong book to the wrong person. If you have written a self-help book on how to buy jeans, the literary editor at The New Yorker isn’t going to be happy receiving an unsolicited copy.
- Do search for other books like yours on Google to see who has reviewed them, and where. Your book could be perfect for these reviewers. Go track them down on social media or elsewhere and pitch the book to them directly.
- Do know the content the outlet covers. Visit the blogs and know what kinds of books they review. Go to Barnes & Noble and check out print publications to make sure your title fits their bill. While you are at it, check the masthead to see who the editor is for entertainment, culture, and/or books. Make a note of this person as the right one to contact with a review copy.
- Do look for people other than book review editors who might be interested in your title. If you have an historical novel based heavily in World War II, you might be able to send a copy to historical publications or people who are specifically interested in that era. Research the internet to find the right places.
- Research, research, research, if I haven’t said it enough. One of the biggest ways to manage how well your book will be reviewed, if it will be reviewed, and whether the review will influence readers is to find the best people and places to cover it. Matching the interests of the publication or blog’s audience to your topic and a good review balances the scale in your book’s direction.
Keep these tips in mind when you are seeking book reviews to maximize your outreach to book bloggers and media outlets!