Book publicist Ben Cameron has been in the game for twenty years, working with both traditional and self-published authors.
But he’s noticed a bigger change in the publishing world in the last five years than he has in the last fifteen.
“That’s come down to the self-publishing revolution, and the revolution in ebooks,” Ben observes.
He recently talked to us about these changes — and what they might mean for self-publishing authors’ publicity games.
In this article, he offers his professional insights on what kinds of reviews are out there, how to find them, and how to get them. Let’s take a look at what he has to say.
TYPES OF REVIEWS
First up: the types of reviews out there that you can secure. As you might expect, the Internet’s revolutionized this quite dramatically, such that Ben now divides them into two categories: professional reviews, and “real people” reviews.
Professional reviews are reviewers paid by media companies to review books. Places like Kirkus Reviews, The New Yorker, and The Guardian are a few examples.
These tend to work best for literary or academic books — but their standing in the industry is so great that even just one of this type of review can make a big difference for any book.
“Real people” reviews
“Real people” reviews are reviews from, well, real people. In the age of the Internet, you’ll tend to see these on Amazon and Goodreads, with 1- to 5-star ratings.
This type of review works better for genre fiction and you generally want to collect them into an amalgam for people to make a judgment about your book.
And if you’re wondering where bloggers fall? Ben has an answer for you:
“Bloggers can be anywhere in between in that mix. Bloggers can be very professional, they can write as well or better than professional reviewers, or they might just be hobbyist, enthusiastic readers.”
But he notes that it’s a good idea to include both types of reviews under your belt.
HOW TO FIND REVIEWS
Next up, let’s take a look at how to actually find these reviews. There are multiple ways to find reviewers — some admittedly might take a little more legwork on your part. But this section will at least give you a head start and get you looking in the right places.
Do your research
Take a step back from your book and think about your target reader — particularly, what kind of media they consume. What TV programs do they watch? What radio stations do they listen to? What newspapers, magazines, and online media do they read?
Hone in on the media your reader consumes and make a list of those places.
Then it’s time to track down a contact that works for some of those media outlets.
“Go to the library, go to the newsagent and find out those contact details,” Ben urges.
After that, email your contacts with the details of your book. Ben also recommends that you follow up with a phone call after you send an email — an email is easy to overlook, so it’s important to follow up with that more personalized touch.
And if you’re pitching somebody for a book review, be prepared to send a copy of your book.
One of the most popular ways to get your book reviewed is through Netgalley.com — a website where individuals, publishers, and publicists subscribe to list Advance Review Copies (ARCs) for reviewers’ attention.
How it works is pretty simple: simply upload your ebook, whereupon reviewers on the site will request to download it for free.
“You get probably around 10 percent of people who download your book that post a review,” Ben says.
Note that you’ll get most of your requests upfront — within 4-6 weeks — then your requests begin to dwindle over time. But it’s a great jumping-off point to start the review process.
Book review blog directories
In addition to your own research and Netgalley, there are also blog listing services that can help you navigate the vast array of book blog review sites out there.
Reedsy, for instance, can recommend over 200+ book review blogs, given your book’s subject or genre.
Once you find blogs that are a good fit for your book, they’ll often have listings of other sites that review the same sorts of books — a.k.a. an endless trove of reviewers for you to discover! — and you can work your way out from there.
Take advantage of giveaways
Giveaways (when you give away your book for free in hopes that readers will post a review) are another clever way to source reviews for your book.
According to Ben, one of the best ways to conduct a giveaway is via Goodreads. Goodreads has a system where you can offer as many books as you’d like to, in turn, get book reviews.
Of course, in order to access this system, you need to join Goodreads’ free author program — but it’s usually well worth the effort.
Don’t forget that you can also host giveaways on your website.
“This works particularly well if you’re writing a series. If you’re two or three or more books into the series, you can give away your first book for free. That’s a great way of getting people into your series,” Ben suggests.
HOW TO GET REVIEWS
Once you’ve found the right reviewers for your book, then it’s time to grab their attention (with tact, of course). So what does it take to start reeling in the reviews? Here’s some valuable advice:
Sell reviewers the idea of your book
Oftentimes people are skeptical of free books —
“And rightly so,” Ben adds. “There are a lot of free books flying around and a lot of them aren’t very good.”
So assure your reviewers that you sought them out specifically. They need to know that you are approaching them because you think that it would interest them — tell them why your book would intrigue them.
Don’t just copy and paste a template! Tailor your pitch to the specific reviewer. Different people will be interested in your book for different reasons, so it’s important to hone in on these aspects.
As Ben explains:
“That’s really the key to approaching reviewers. You have to make that pitch where you’re selling them on the idea that your book is really something they should cover. And if you do that and you do that well, there’s a very good chance they’ll say yes.”
Be persistent, but polite
There is a fine line between being persistent and being annoying.
Even if a reviewer says no, it’s very important to remain cordial. Remember that reviewers don’t have any obligation to review your book. They have a lot of books constantly coming their way, and there’s a lot of competition out there.
But it pays to be polite even in the face of rejection. Who knows when you may cross paths again in the future? And, if you do, you certainly don’t want to be remembered for a negative exchange.
Let reviewers know what you expect
Although this may already be obvious to you, it’s important to be clear about what you expect from reviewers.
If you’re looking for a review, be straightforward about it. If you think the outlet would be a better fit for an author interview, be sure to let them know you’re interested in that. If you’d like them to post the review on Amazon (which is a good idea), let them know that as well.
The more upfront you are about what you are asking, the better the chances you’ll get what you want.
Don’t be tempted to pay for “good” reviews
It may seem like a tantalizing shortcut, but Ben warns against paying for “good” reviews. This can get you into deep water with Amazon and other retailers, which just isn’t worth it.
Instead, go about it in an honest way. Make sure that your book is as polished as possible (and edit it thoroughly) before sending it off to a reviewer.
Of course, this is tough work. But you should trust that your endeavor is beneficial in the long run — if you put in the effort to write a great book and track down reviewers for that book, they’ll (hopefully) be eager for your next book.
Keep in mind that not all paid reviews are illegitimate! (For example, Kirkus Reviews and The Bookbag are highly reputable paid review sites that will write lengthy and independent reviews of your book.)
The main message here is just to be discerning when exchanging reviews for cash.
By keeping a professional like Ben Cameron’s considerations in mind, you’ll be on your way to building a successful repertoire of reviews that will get your book the consideration it deserves — and the sales that you want.
So go forth and conquer like the self-publicist you were meant to be!
Questions or comments? Please leave them below.
Tess Patalano is a writer at Reedsy, a marketplace giving authors and publishers access to talented professionals and free educational content. In her spare time, she enjoys writing poetry, taking pictures, and scuba diving.
Believe, Plan, Act: A Platform + Productivity Planner for Writers
A complete platform + productivity planning system for your author business.