How to Garner Book Reviews Part II
By Nina Romano
Picking up where we left off last week on garnering those precious book reviews, I would like to share some experiences of mine:
What Strategies Have I Employed?
I got onto a half hour program at a Public TV station and was interviewed on “Between the Covers.” Here’s an example of how difficult marketing is and getting reviews can be. There were over sixty people in the audience. The hostess complimented me and said I did a great job. So how many books were sold? Exactly three copies and one of them was purchased by a friend.
However, that appearance did lead me to get into an independent bookstore with my novels and one of those novels was chosen for the store’s book club! Ask your local independent bookstores to do readings, panel discussions, presentations, signings, “meet and greets.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Put Yourself Out There!
You need to push yourself out there—show up, be personable even when you want to cry, or every person walks out of your talk or book reading without buying a single, solitary copy of your book, or no one shows up for your book signing! YOU SHOW UP. SMILE, and suck it up, baby.
Speak cordially to the owner of the store with thanks and an open heart, and you talk with the sales people and ask for their support. Bring copies of your books as gifts for these people! I not only gave away copies of my novels, but I also gifted many a copy of my poetry collections, my short story collection and even the cooperative nonfiction book, Writing in a Changing World that I wrote with my ex-writing group. You need to be as generous as you can when asking favors.
I actually brought my new autographed novel to Mitchell Kaplan, of Books & Books in Miami, and asked him if I could do a presentation in the Miami Book Fair International—and that, folks, is the absolute truth and how I was able to present my entire trilogy over a two-year period!
Contests are Important
Once the book is published send it to Book Contests—if your publisher will put up the dime, great—if not, guess what? You’d be smart to do it if you have faith in your work. Why? Because getting a little bit of “bling” on one of the covers of your books is a great selling point. And many of these book contests offer reviews in their magazines.
Each book of my Wayfarer Trilogy was a finalist in some book contest—being a finalist is like saying, “Nominated for an Academy Award”—didn’t win, but nominated is up there: FINALIST = a bit of clout! 9
Join Writing Organizations!
Join writing organizations like: Mystery Writers of America, Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America, etc. they usually publish reviews. I belong to the Historical Novel Society—my first book got a great review, the second was scorched because and, this shocked me, a writer of a different kind of historical novel—British stuffy stuff—wrote a scathing, and may I use this “H” word: horrible review. Personally, I would never do that to another author—EVER!
So remember that when you’re penning a review—seek out the good in the book and stress that—be kind, because it’ll be your turn soon to be on the receiving end.
Many authors do blog tours—try to get your work onto someone’s blog site. I sent blogs to my publisher, to conferences for their websites, and I published blogs about writing on my own website. I wrote articles and submitted them to a local magazine published in my town. They actually published two of my articles and also wrote an article about me and two other authors because we were invited to participate in a library event in Lighthouse Point—a panel discussion!
Other Things You Can Do.
Donate your published books to libraries. If you know anyone who writes for the Library Journal ask to have your book reviewed in it—by all means solicit them. I was fortunate once to have been picked up by a lovely journalist for one of my poetry collections, but my novels—no go!
If you have the credentials, teach workshops and seminars in writing conferences. Once you have a captured audience and you’re on a one on one with people it’s easier to say, “My books are on sale here, there, and Amazon!” Or: “Buy my book. You’ll love it!” Go to independent book stores and bring your books. Give the owner a signed copy! Try to get an appearance either by yourself or with another author. Leave books on consignment. Not only bookstores, but any little gift shop in your neighborhood if you think they’ll be willing to showcase your books!
When my first novel started selling I asked, cajoled, begged anyone I knew who’d purchased my book to review it on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble. I went to Barnes & Noble stores and spoke to managers and got my books into stores—but as far as I’m concerned it’s easier to sell a book where no other books are—not where there are abundant choices of thousands of books. Now I ask readers to leave reviews on BookBub.com, which I find to be a good venue for authors…join, it’s free. You get to leave a bio on your profile page, as you do on amazon and Goodreads.
You can also try to get your books into book clubs and be willing to address the group. I’ve done many of these—some are profitable and some won’t buy or read your book, but show up for your talk or Q & A. I think it’s worth the effort to get more exposure.
You’ll find some of your friends and even relatives will betray you! They won’t buy the book let alone write a review for you. Or even worse, they’ll give you three or four stars when complete strangers are giving you five. Jealousy and human nature are at play here, so do be careful who you ask. I can speak with the voice of experience that even so called writing group members can and will skunk you! Get over it and on to the next thing. You’ve got to take rejection in all forms if you’re going to be a writer.
So how do I get reviews now? Good question!
A Few Words About Social Media ...
I’ve found that Facebook has done nothing for me in the way of securing readers or reviewers—other writers swear by it. I only post things on Facebook about my appearances, articles, reviews, or blogs about my book, and any awards. I like Twitter. You need to be on some social media—why not this one?
On Twitter you meet and greet so many people in your profession, so it’s easy to make connections. What do these connections yield for the writer?
I joined Twitter in 2014 and now have 23,100 followers—none of them paid for. I contacted one gal who retweets for me—the cost was so unbelievable inexpensive, I couldn’t resist. She also makes inexpensive banners. There are many of these little advertisers on Twitter. Select one, if you need to or want to. I like working with her because she has also become a friend and has given me tons of promo information. You need to make connections. It’s a lovely way to “network” and I’ve made many lovely acquaintances, links, and associates.
I’ve sold over three dozen print book and many, many e-books on Twitter. From these, I have gathered numerous, beautiful book reviews; and have had articles, blogs, and scores of interviews published. I also connected with a publisher and two of my short stories were sold as e-books. That company closed its doors, but I was sent the two entire formatted books and covers if I even decide to publish them independently. There is the possibility to make audiobooks of these independently published books as well. One of these stories was included in an Christmas anthology along with two of my poems, and is still selling on Amazon.
When a reviewer from Twitter has posted their review on their personal website or blog, I ask them to also put it on Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub. Some do, and some don’t. You still can get more mileage from the review by “tweeting” and “retweeting” about it, and by thanking the reviewer. Also post something about the review on Facebook.
Always Be Prepared.
Carry books with you. Always! Everywhere you go. Keep them in your car trunk! Or as the Brits say, the boot! Have business cards and or bookmarks with you at all times. Introduce yourself—be polite! Hand the person a card or bookmark, and make sure to ask the person to please be so kind at to review the book if they purchase it. You can have an email list and write friends and basically do what I call “guerilla marketing:” ask them straight out to support you and to buy your book, and of course, leave a customer review.
Newsletters are a great incentive for readers/writers to follow your blog and website. You can have postcards made up with the cover of your book and a little excerpt on them to send out to a list of people. You can do book giveaways—I’ve only done these on Goodreads., but now I believe they are expensive to do. Don’t be afraid to give away copies of your books in exchange for a valid review.
I wish you all Godspeed on your journey to a modicum of writing success, much happiness in your chosen field, and bountiful book reviiews!