Book reviews are a great tool to increase book sales, they work much better than paid ads. While big publishers have their own, established venues of gathering reviews for their new releases, small press and self-published authors, who need reviews perhaps even more, often do not know where to turn.
In case if you are wondering why you should make an extra effort to have your book reviewed, the answer is simple: reviews sell books. Advertising has become ineffective these days; people are tired of paid ads and simply ignore them. You can pay hundreds, if not thousands, to place an ad for your book in some magazine and have little or no sales increase in return. Reviews, on the other hand, are regarded with much more attention. People trust book reviews because it is someone’s independent opinion.
Big publishers have their own, established venues of getting reviews for their new releases. Review copies of every new title are sent out automatically and well in advance, before publication. Authors who work with such a publisher don’t have to worry about that. But what about those who have their masterpiece printed with a small press publisher?
Asking your friends and family to review your book on Amazon and other sites is fine, but this should be your last resort, not the first. Friends can be forgetful, and you don’t want to be a pest reminding them about that review they’d promised to write over and over again. Besides, not everyone is a gifted reviewer. While something like “This is such a cool book, I couldn’t put it down!” may be touching, it is not a quality review that portrays your work well. That’s why you need to contact someone who is an experienced (not necessarily professional) reviewer.
My first advice would be, forget about the New York Times – for now. Dream big, but start small. Many renowned, well-established book reviewers do not accept small press and especially self-published titles. Discrimination? Perhaps, but they’re the boss.
Do some online research, find book reviewing places that are open for titles like yours. Midwest Book Review is one such place, they actually state on their website that they give “priority consideration to small publishers, self-published authors.” Reader Views is another website that does not seem to scorn small press books.
Another thing you can do is to go to Amazon.com and contact reviewers who post there. As you probably know, Amazon has its own system of product reviews done by customers, and each book reviewer has their own profile where they often leave contact information. Some even invite authors to send review queries. One way to go about it is to find a book similar to yours and see who reviewed it; then you can go to the reviewer’s profile.
When you have found a potential reviewer, study their submission guidelines and make sure you follow them. Never send just the book: provide a cover letter and, of course, don’t forget to thank them.
Now, what if you send out a copy of your book and do not get a review? Or get one that is not very favorable? Well, it happens. Be prepared to waste a copy or two. Some book reviewing places specifically state that your book may or may not be accepted; in other cases, they invite you to send the book but later on cannot find a reviewer for it. It is up to you whether you take the risk. I always say, if you do nothing, nothing happens. Would you rather waste a copy of your book or an opportunity?