Saturday, April 12, 2014

Making the Most of Book Reviews



Recently someone on one of the forums I frequent expressed the idea that readers are impressed by any review--good or bad. I responded to that “good or bad” aspect of reviews with a bit of a how-to on making the best of reviews--good or bad:

I've seen some authors weigh in on positive reviews with negative comments because they're sure the reviewer has an agenda (And that's a really stupid approach to marketing, if I do say so). I've also seen them dispute negative reviews and that isn't a much better tactic in terms of public relations.
 I’ve also seen them pay for reviews, apparently unaware that librarians and bookstore buyers don't give either paid-for review or Amazon reviews much—if any--weight. They may also be unaware that there are other ways to get reviews. Namely by asking their readers for them. Or asking bloggers for them. Or using alternative online review sites (like my http://TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com where you’ll find guidelines for submission in the left column).

That said, we all need good reviews and we can even make the bad ones work for us. We should keep the gems in any review to use in media kits, on our Web sites, etc. Yes, even negative reviews can sometimes be excerpted to find little jewel soundbites.

And as long as we're on the subject, I've heard that a good review on Amazon can up sales by 10%. I don't remember the source. I  suspect that reviews also help with Amazon's logarithms and whatever formula Amazon uses takes hold, they start sending out your book in their mass e-mails for suggested reading--obviously a very targeted advertising campaign we should all aim to be part of.

I also encourage authors to post reviews of others’ books on Amazon. It’s a lovely gift for a fellow writer in 2014.

Here’s a real upside to reviews. Since they have (mostly) moved from the pages of literary journals into the hands of amateur reviewers (meaning—sadly—readers!), we authors have more power over getting reviews for our books. We also can more easily determine how effectively good reviews can be used. There is always a risk factor with reviews, but even ones we might consider bad can be learning tools.
One technique I like is picking up little positive soundbites from a review. Say even a bad reviewer says the characters are dazzling. The author can then quote that one little tidbit in their media kit, their newsletter, their Website. It would look like this:
 "...dazzling..." ~ Kirkus Review
The ads for movies do this all the time. You can, too. 

So have at making the most of reviews. Just don’t pay for them.
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

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