Here are some common questions I hear from new authors:
1. Do you have a list of book reviewers who review (sci-fi, romance, business, finance, self-help, religions, etc.) books?
2. Should I send a copy of my ebook to book reviewers by email?
3. If I give you a list of reviewers, will you send them all a copy of my book with a form letter?
4. I need to buy a few dozen copies of my book for reviewers. Who should I send them to?
5. I sent out 50 review copies of my book and nobody reviewed it. Why?
6. My POD publisher was offering a special. I paid them hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to send out press releases/media kits and review copies. Nobody reviewed my book and nobody bought my book. Why? What happened to my books? And why are there a bunch of used copies of my book up for sale on Amazon.com now? Nobody has bought any copies yet!
7. Is it even worth it to send out review copies? What is the correct way to get quality book reviews?
One of the biggest mistakes new authors make is believing that blindly mailing copies of their book (or, worse, emailing copies of their ebook) will result in sure-fire coverage by book reviewers and journalists. They waste this valuable opportunity by making several common mistakes.
1. There are plenty of mentions of book reviewers online. However, different book reviewers review different types of books and finding lists of genre-specific reviewers is difficult, and not terribly effective. Sending out review copies to a list of reviewers, most of whom don’t / won’t review your book, is a huge waste of money. You must create your own list of book reviewers by finding people online who have reviewed books similar to yours in the past. You must then find their contact information, email them, and ask them for permission to send your book for review. You should also ask them what format they’d like to receive your book in – electronic or print. When you do send the book for review, you need to send it with a personal letter, reminding the reviewer of their request to receive your book, and also including your media kit.
2. Blindly emailing an ebook, which can be a large file, may result in spam complaints and/or complaints to your ISP about sending a suspicious email attachment, and may even choke a book reviewer’s emailbox / server if the file is too large. Never, ever send an attachment without first asking permission, while also alerting the recipient to the size of the file.
3. Sending out massive numbers of unsolicited print review copies with form letters is a terrible idea. The vast majority of the books will be thrown away or put up for sale online as used copies (more on that below). The financial investment in this practice is just too great to take this risk. While some authors may be able to afford this, and while many POD publishers seem to encourage authors to hire them to do this sort of thing, blindly sending out materials in this fashion is considered the lazy way out and many book reviewers won’t even consider reviewing your book if you approach them in this impersonal manner.
4. Another mistake authors make is buying a bunch of review copies of their book before they have any idea who might review their book. Before you place an order for review copies, you should research specific reviewers that might be interested in your book, and ask them if they’d like a review copy.
5. Again, blindly sending out review copies to people who aren’t expecting your book is a sure-fire way to find used copies of your book for sale online later. Even if a reviewer agreed to read and review your book, they may not like your book to the extent that they’ll even finish reading it. They would then likely not review it at all, despite their previous promise. In these instances, you probably don’t want them to publish a public review (but you would want them to let you know what happened so you can use those comments to improve your book).
6. At BookLocker.com, we don’t upsell authors on book review packages because we know sending out piles of books with impersonal press releases / media kits is the wrong way to land book reviews. Unfortunately, many POD publishers offer these types of services at great expense to gullible authors. We believe this is just another way for them to finagle authors into buying more copies of their own books, all the while knowing most of the reviewers are going to toss the books in the garbage anyway, or put them up for sale as used copies online.
That’s right. Some so-called book reviewers are just people who slap up a few book reviews just to get free books from authors. They may review only one or two books per year…but they may receive hundreds of free books and profit from selling them online or to their neighborhood used bookstore.
Another disturbing thing to consider is some firms may promise to send out review copies, charge authors for that service, but then never actually do what they promised. Unless the POD publisher provides a list of the “reviewers” to their authors, there is no way for authors to follow up to see if the review copies were ever received at all. Some POD publishers don’t/won’t share these so-called lists because they consider that list “proprietary”, may claim it’s too valuable to share, or may, unfortunately, have dishonorable reasons – meaning there may be no list at all.
7. The way to get book reviews is to approach a potential reviewer up front, addressing them by name, via email, and asking them point-blank if you can send them a copy of your book and a media kit to review. You should also ask them if they want to receive the print version (print book and print media kit) or the electronic version (ebook and electronic file of your media kit).
I only recommend sending out review copies of books if you’re willing to take the time to do it the right way. It may be more time-consuming, but you’ll spend far less money, your reputation won’t suffer, and book reviewers will respect you, instead of tossing your correspondence in the trash. A reviewer is much more likely to not only review your book, but to also treat you with respect (including in the review itself) if you take the time to address them personally, by name, and ask for their permission before filling their physical mailbox or email inbox with stuff they don’t want to receive.
Don’t make the mistake of sending a huge pitch for your book in the email itself. Sending one paragraph after another about how great your book is (quality reviewers will require the book to speak for itself), or how much press you’ve already gotten, or cute quotes from readers are all huge mistakes. Real book reviewers are busy people, too, and they’re not interested in your marketing pitch. A very brief, personal introduction and then a simple, short (VERY short) paragraph (four or five short sentences at the most), along with the request for permission to send the review copy, is all that’s needed.
I’ll conclude with an example of a simple email pitch to a book reviewer.
City, State, Zip
Dear Mr./Ms. ________________,
I enjoyed your recent review of Ina May Gaskin’s fantastic book, Spiritual Midwifery. I was introduced to that classic when I was researching homebirth while pregnant with our fifth child. My doctor refused to let me attempt a VBAC so I fired him.
I’d like to ask your permission to send you a review copy of my book, DON’T CUT ME AGAIN! True Stories About Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC). It features true birth stories from women who refused to submit to the medical community’s threats and fear-tactics. The story of my own successful VBAC is included as well.
I can send it to you as a print book by mail, or via email as an ebook. Please let me know which version you would prefer. If you’d like it sent by mail, please confirm that the address I have for you above is correct.
I understand that your offer to receive my book for review is not a promise on your part to actually review the book. I know how busy you must be!
Have a beautiful day,