Last week, I gave some pointers on ethics and etiquette for book reviews. Some great discussion followed, especially on the point of whether it's a good idea for writers who know one another to provide honest reviews of each other's books. Traditional reviewers tend to follow the journalistic rule of not writing on topics in which you have a vested interest, like your bff's latest book. But even among traditional reviewers, this rule is sometimes bent by author/reviewers, who often are acquainted in one way or another with the authors of at least some of the books they review. Then there's the question of whether the reading public expects customer reviews to follow journalistic standards.
Mike Spinak makes a case for writers not reviewing one another's books. "There's potential incentive for favorable bias/mutual backscratching," he points out. "It brings all of your reviews into question of being partial/fake if people become aware of the reciprocal reviewing." For his book that came out last year, he contacted several hundred reviewers and got 75 reviews, most from strangers. "There have been several cases when people have asked me to review their books, when I told them I couldn't since they reviewed mine. In a few cases, I've requested people remove (5 star) reviews of my book, because I had already reviewed theirs."
How to find and approach potential reviewers? Spinak shares his experiences here. On approaching Amazon reviewers in particular, check out this advice from Laura Pepper Wu on The Creative Penn.
Other tips on where and how to get your book reviewed:
- The Writer Cube database will point you to reviewers in traditional publications and in blogs. For each, read the submission guidelines carefully. Most traditional publications only review print books. They generally want two advance reading copies (ARCs) at least two months, preferably four months, in advance of publication, with a press release and cover letter included in each. (That’s why my mail-out last week took so long to prepare.) Some won’t take books that are independently published. Some receive upwards of 60,000 submissions a year, so the odds that your book will get reviewed are slim.
- Publishers Weekly and Kirkus both have programs that allow independent publishers to commission reviews of their books, though again there’s no guarantee that these reviews will get published. If you belong to the Independent Book Publishers Associaton (IBPA), you can get substantial discounts.
- Through Net Galley, you can make your digital ARCs available to tens of thousands of potential reviewers, in theory at least. The ARCs are secure and the reviewers are vetted. I’m not sure about discoverability on Net Galley, though, which is why I’m considering Story Cartel as a substitute in my launch plans. IBPA members also get discounts on Net Galley.
- Story Cartel sets up a free download of your book for three weeks. There’s no charge, but you have to offer an incentive for reviewers—either free print copies of your book, or Amazon gift cards. Reviewers have an extra week beyond the download period to post their reviews, which enters them in the giveaway. Email addresses of the potential reviewers are shared with the authors. A similar service with a different angle is Rooster Cube. For $67 (none of which goes to reviewers) they share free electronic copies of your book with a cadre of reviewers interested in your genre until the book has ten reviews.
- On Goodreads and Facebook are review groups where you can announce that your book is available for review.
- Book reviews can be part of your blog tour. Use Writer Cube and Google to find bloggers to approach.
- If a vendor doesn’t allow pre-orders, consider a soft digital launch of your book (up to a month in advance of your hard launch) to allow time for reviewers to post their reviews.
- Your beta readers can be your best reviewers. Email them at launch with more profuse thanks and a gentle request, with links and a copy of their most quotable comments to make posting easy.
- Consider review alternatives like author interviews. Don’t forget about specialty groups. Example: 49 Writers, which offers a “Spotlight on Alaska Books” feature free of charge to writers with an Alaska connection.