Do Book Reviews Matter
The Sunday edition of the Arizona Republic Newspaper has a circulation of over 500,000 copies. Each week in the Arts and Entertainment section, they review four books. I normally read these reviews because I'm interested to see which four books are selected each week.
Last week the Republic reviewed a new thriller from a first-time author, Steven Gore called Final Target. With the limited review space, all four of the books are always positive and the review for Final Target was no exception. I looked for a copy at my local library but they did not have it so when I was in a local bookstore last week, I picked up a copy of the book, which is an oversized paperback (tall for a mass market-sized book). I've not started to read it yet but I would not have known about this book or purchased it without reading the review in my local newspaper so it had significant influence for me. The newspaper's choice of a thriller from a first-time novelist struck me as unusual. Most of the reviews are from well-established writers who have released a new book but one which will likely become a bestseller. What drew the book review editor to pick that thriller out of the stack?
Years ago I was the book review columnist for Christian Parenting Today (a magazine which no longer exists). I selected ten to fifteen books in a broad range of topics and genres for the audience, read the books and wrote my reviews. The magazine circulation was about 150,000 copies and I received stacks of "review copies" from various Christian and general market book publishers. In fact, it took my continued maintenance to open the packages and see the various book possibilities--much less actually read and review the titles. My limited experience made me wonder how many books each week the book editor at the Arizona Republic receives for review consideration.
Last year, Janice Harayda wrote a Soapbox column for Publishers Weekly called "Critics Don't Need Free Books." She worked for 11 years as the book review editor for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland. Here's the sentence which stood out to me in her article: "At the Plain Dealer, I got more than 400 books a week from publishers, a landslide hard to handle even with another person helping me." The Sunday circulation of the Plain Dealer is similar to the Republic or 400,000.
See the long odds to get your book reviewed in a major city newspaper? It's somewhere in the range of four books get reviewed out of over 400 books that are received. So do you give up and not try to get book reviews? No, you simply try more niche oriented markets where your probability is more likely of getting your book reviewed.
Recently Publishers Weekly wrote about this topic of book reviews. Peter Hildick-Smith who works for Codex Group, a company which tracks the impact of reviews on sales said in the article, "reviews help both to raise awareness of a book and to persuade people to buy it."
Here's a couple of websites with lists of places that review books:
As with any marketing effort for book reviews, there are several elements to keep in mind. First, select your targeted publications carefully. Do they review your type of book? If so, how frequently? Which editor handles the book reviews? Make sure you address the right person. Second,. a key ingredient is follow-up. After a short period of time when you are certain the book has arrived, place a short phone call to simply see if the book has arrived and will be considered for review. Your conversation isn't chatty but short and professional. If the editor says they will be considering it, then call back in a few weeks and see if they had a chance to read the book. The follow-up shows you are professional and are expecting results from the review copy. Possibly your publisher is handling these book reviews. The time and number of books that they push for review are limited. In a proactive way which encourages your partnership, ask your publisher's publicist for a list of where they sent your book. You want this list not to criticize their efforts but to go to the places they did not promote your book.
Book reviews matter and are another element to include in your arsenal for marketing and promoting your book.