Getting book reviews is one of the harder parts of self-publishing – and truth be told getting a lot of book reviews by no means guarantees book sales (unless it’s an Oprah review, which isn’t going to happen). However, it can be gratifying, so long as the reviews are good, and instructive if they’re not. It’s important to keep in mind that even if you publish a book with a traditional small press it will likely be up to you to bring in reviews and interviews, so it is a good skill set to have for any writer.
There are thousands of traditionally-published books put out every year, let alone self-published books, so the competition is fierce. The reason that so many book reviewers draw the line at self-published books is not necessarily a blanket statement that all self-published books are bad, but they’ve got to draw the line somewhere – even by refusing to review self-published books, there are already too many books to review in a given year.
Tips for Getting Book Reviews
One tip to getting your book reviewed is to not necessarily reveal that your book has been self-published. If your book is professionally designed and comes with a professional media kit, the reviewer will not automatically know it’s self-published. At the same time, this is not foolproof, as a reviewer can just look up a book and author online and if there’s a Lulu or Author House listing for the book, the reviewer will immediately know its source.
This is an argument for possibly using a less well-known self-publishing company or merely printing books with a book printer using your own imprint. In this way, you become an independent publisher, rather than one part of a large self-publishing company. Given the fact that it costs money to both print and ship books, you may not want to take a chance that a reviewer will not review a book – though you must factor in that only a percentage of the books you send out will ever get reviewed. 70% reviewed is not a bad figure for books you send to reviewers.
The Marketing Pack
A self-published novel will really stand out if it comes with a press pack that is similar to press materials sent out by major presses. If you’re devising your own imprint, you should make up stationary with a logo and masthead so it looks like it comes from a professional, and independent, source. Next, a postcard with a picture of the book’s cover on one side and purchase information on the other will make it seem like the author takes marketing seriously. A service like VistaPrint can cover these types of marketing materials – including logo design.
Also include a glossy author photo and a brief bio of the author and description of the book written on the letterhead. Don’t oversell the book: “The best book of this generation,” is taking it a step too far, but include any reviews you have – preferably from legitimate review channels and other writers.
What all this means is that you should set your budget for getting reviews ahead of time, as the cost of printing books, shipping books, and printing marketing materials can be significant.
Where to Find Self-Published Book Reviews
The Internet has opened up the avenues for getting book reviews and as most of a self-published sales are going to happen online, this is where you should target your reviews. Every major newspaper has a corresponding website as well, but it is much more likely that you’ll get reviews via litblogs and other new media sources. There are countless litbloggers, which you can single out by the genres the blogger covers most. Contact bloggers providing a short synopsis of the book and a bio (or whatever the requirements) – and try to cater to each blogger individually, rather than sending out mass emails.
Some other websites that review self-published books:
- The Compulsive Reader
- TCM Reviews
- Midwest Book Review
- Front Street Reviews
- Foreword Magazine
- Reader Views
- January Magazine
- Critique Magazine
- All Readers
- Self Published Authors
- New and Used Books
- Book Ideas
- Club Reading
- Rebecca’s Reads
- All Book Reviews
- Authors Den
- My Shelf
- Ralph Magazine
- American Book Review
- Book Pleasures
- Curled Up with a Good Book
If the book is of local interest, you can certainly contact local newspaper columnists and reviews. Paying for a review from Kirkus is something to consider, but it is very expensive, and as there are a number of free review sources, you might want to exhaust these first if you are on a tight budget. Given that a Kirkus review doesn’t guarantee big sales, it may not necessarily be worth the expense.
Amazon Book Reviews
The best possible route for self-publishing may be Amazon. Readers tend to trust Amazon reviews more than other types of reviews, as they have the appearance of being non-commissioned – even though some of the time that’s not actually the case. Surf around and find top reviewers in your niche – especially those reviewers who have been amenable to self-published books in the past.
Of course, you should always get family and friends to review the book on Amazon as well – but like a press pack make sure that your family keeps the superlatives to a minimum. Amazon visitors are savvy and can tell when a reviewer is not impartial.
A final tip: follow up on the books you send out. Don’t contact reviewers incessantly, but a nudge a couple of months can light a fire under a reviewer. At the very least, you could get a note back telling you that the book will be reviewed soon, so you won’t have to be on pins and needles.
Simon Royle’s List
Check out The Indie Reviewers List for the most up-to-date listings of independent reviewers.
About the Author: Henry Baum
I’m the author of The American Book of the Dead. The novel won Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival and the Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction. Largehearted Boy says it's "reminiscent of Philip K. Dick and Haruki Murakami, a book that boldly explores the future and defies genre." I'm also the author of North of Sunset, winner of the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize, and The Golden Calf - first published by Soft Skull Press, with editions in the U.K. (Rebel Inc.) and France (Hachette Littératures). Visit henrybaum.com for more information. I’m the editor of Self-Publishing Review.