This week, we have a great guest post by award-winning author, Nina Romano, with a tutorial on garnering reviews and getting publicity/sales for your books. Her advice is priceless. Enjoy! Oh, and yes, I did meet her on Twitter 🙂
For a published or an unpublished author it can really be a challenge to obtain book reviews—you know those darling little things with stars and someone’s opinion of your book? There isn’t an easy formula to follow, and you have to cover many bases, but there are initiatives you can take in order to get readers to notice and buy your book and then review it.
If you have money to blow, you can pay Kirkus for a book review for $425 that they say will basically give you an “opportunity to build some name recognition and get noticed by agents, publishers and other industry influencers.”
Does this mean that Kirkus is promising a great review of your book even if it is merely mediocre? I don’t know.
Not everyone has this kind of money at their disposal, or willing to take a chance the review may be extremely beneficial or maybe even harmful.
Amazon has what they call VINE readers—however, I’m sorry to say that I’m not versed in this—I haven’t a clue how it works, but you can check it out.
However, dear author, you’ve got a product—your great little novel in hand—and now you want book reviews for it. Here’s a great article to get you started:
“How to Get Reviews For Your Book (Without Begging, Bribing or Resorting to Subterfuge)” February 9, 2014 by Kimberley Grabas.
What else can you do to get book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and other sites?
Open up a Goodreads account and list your book (s) and an author’s bio on it and get your books onto Barnes & Noble online, onto Amazon, most especially because it is a GIANT in the publishing industry today. Make sure you write an author’s bio for them. In fact, get your author’s bios published wherever you can. Try Wikipedia.
Now a little word of caution as to getting reviews on Amazon—they’d better be authentic. Never pay people to review for you—these reviews can be spotted and will be deleted. Also, no two people in the same household can review for you. I learned this the hard way—they deleted both reviews—doesn’t matter that both people read and loved the book! If Amazon suspects you know the person, they have and will, delete reviews. I’ve had honest reviews written by people I’ve never met and they have been deleted by Amazon—you can write protest letters till you turn pomegranate red—they’ve set themselves up as judge and jury, and they will not reinstate the deleted review! Trust me, folks! I’ve sent them a stack of letters—it’s a waste of your precious time. Don’t bother!
Here’s another great piece from Publisher’s Weekly, “The Indie Author’s Guide to Free Reviews”
Through my publisher and an overpaid publicist (I don’t recommend hiring a publicist for beginners or even published authors unless your name is Dan Brown), I was able to send out many review copies—either in hard copy ARCs (Advanced Readers Copies) or E-copies. My publisher paid for these. The publicist was given twenty-five paperback copies from my publisher! She even sent out some e-copies.
Did all of these outlets respond? No way. Probably not even half. But some will. If your publisher is willing, write them a list of names and places (reviewing sites) you want the review copies to be sent. If not, purchase copies of your book and send them out to reviewers. Ask other authors where they sent their books. Too shy for that? Get over it! Try to get the books in hand to send out at least two months or more before the book is released. As I said, some will respond, others won’t, but that’s the chance you take when you invest your money into review copies if your publisher can’t or won’t.
What other things did I employ to get my name and titles in the news?
I got onto a program at a Public TV station and was interviewed on “Between the Covers.” Just so you know, here’s an example of how difficult marketing is and getting reviews can be. There were over sixty people in the audience. The hostess complimented me and said I did a great job. So how many books were sold? Exactly three copies and one of them was purchased by a friend.
However, that appearance did lead me to get into an independent bookstore with my novels and one of those novels was chosen for the store’s book club!
Ask your local independent bookstores to do readings, panel discussions, presentations, signings, “meet and greets.”
So what I’m saying is you need to push yourself out there—show up, be personable even when you want to cry, and every person walks out of your talk or book reading without buying a single, solitary copy of your book, or no one shows up for your book signing! YOU SHOW UP. SMILE, and suck it up, baby.
Go to independent book stores and bring your books. Give the owner a signed copy! Try to get an appearance either by yourself or with another author. Leave books on consignment. Not only bookstores, but any little gift shop in your neighborhood if you think they’ll be willing to showcase your books!
Speak cordially to the owner of the store with thanks and an open heart, and talk with the sales people and ask for their support. Bring copies of your books as gifts for these people! I not only gave away copies of my novels, but also gifted many a copy of my poetry collections, my short story collection and even the cooperative nonfiction book, Writing in a Changing World that I wrote with my ex writing group. You need to be as generous as you can when asking favors.
I actually brought my new autographed novel to Mitch Kaplan, of Books & Books in Miami, and asked him if I could do a presentation in the Miami Book Fair International—and that, folks, is the absolute truth and how I was able to present my entire trilogy over a two-year period!
Once the book is published send it to book contests. If your publisher will put up the dime, great. If not, guess what? You’d be smart to do it if you have faith in your work. Why? Because getting a little bit of “bling” on one of the covers of your books is a great selling point. And many of these book contests offer reviews in their magazines.
Each book of my Wayfarer Trilogy was a finalist in some book contest—being a finalist is like saying, “Nominated for an Academy Award”—didn’t win, but nominated is up there like FINALIST! The first book in the trilogy, The Secret Language of Women, was not only a finalist twice, it also won an IPPY gold medal. There’s the BLING! on the book which helps marketing and getting reviews.
Also join writing organizations like: Mystery Writers of America, Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America, etc. they usually publish reviews. I belong to the Historical Novel Society. My first book got a great review. The second was scorched because and, this shocked me, a writer of a different kind of historical novel—British stuffy stuff—wrote a scathing, and may I use this “H” word: horrible review. Personally, I would never do that to another author—EVER! So remember that when you’re penning a review—seek out the good in the book and stress that, be kind, because it’ll be your turn soon to be on the receiving end.
Many authors do blog tours. Try and get your work onto someone’s blog site. I sent blogs to my publisher, to conferences for their websites, and I published blogs about writing on my own website. I wrote articles to a local magazine published in my town. They actually published two of my articles and also wrote an article about me and two other authors. We were invited to participate in a library event—a panel discussion!
Donate your published books to libraries. If you know anyone who writes for the Library Journal ask to have your book reviewed in it—by all means solicit them. I was fortunate once to have been picked up by a lovely journalist for one of my poetry collections, but my novels—no go!
If you have the credentials, teach workshops and seminars at writing conferences. Once you have a captured audience and you’re one on one with people, it’s easier to say, “My books are on sale here, there and Amazon!” Or: “Buy my book. You’ll love it!”
When my first novel started selling I asked, cajoled, begged anyone I knew who’d purchased my book to review it on Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble. I went to Barnes & Noble stores and spoke to managers and got my books into stores—but as far as I’m concerned it’s easier to sell a book where no other books are—not where there are abundant choices of thousands of books.
You can also try to get your books into book clubs and be willing to address the group. I’ve done many of these—some are profitable and some won’t buy or read your book, but will show up for your talk or Q & A.
Some of your friends and even relatives will betray you! They won’t buy the book let alone write a review for you. Or even worse, they’ll give you three or four stars when complete strangers are giving you five. Jealousy and human nature are at play here, so do be careful who you ask. I can speak with the voice of experience that even so-called writing-group members can and will skunk you! Get over it and on to the next thing. You’ve got to take rejection in all forms if you’re going to be a writer.
So how do I get reviews now? Good question!
As per social media, I’ve found that Facebook has done nothing for me in the way of securing readers or reviewers—other writers swear by it. I only post things on Facebook about my appearances, articles, reviews, or blogs about my book, and any awards. I like Twitter. You need to be on some social media—why not this one?
On Twitter you meet and greet so many people in your profession, so it’s easy to make connections. What do these connections yield for the writer?
I now have 8,000 followers—none of them paid for—I don’t have anyone tweet for me either. It’s a lovely way to “network” and I’ve made many lovely acquaintances, links, and associates. I’ve sold over two dozen books, gathered many beautiful book reviews, and have had articles, blogs and interviews published. I also connected with a publisher and two of my short stories are going to be sold as e-books and possibly made into audiobooks. One of these stories will also be included in an upcoming Christmas anthology along with two of my poems.
When a reviewer from Twitter has posted their review on their personal website or blog, I ask them to also put it on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Some do, and some don’t. You still can get more mileage from the review by “tweeting” and “retweeting” about it, and by thanking the reviewer. Also post something about the review on Facebook.
Carry books with you. Always! Everywhere you go. Keep them in your car trunk! Or as the Brits say, the boot! Have business cards and or bookmarks with you at all times. Introduce yourself—be polite! Hand the person a card or bookmark, and make sure to ask the person to please be so kind at to review the book if they purchase it. You can have an email list and write friends and basically do what I call “guerilla marketing:” ask them straight out to support you and to buy your book, and of course, leave a customer review.
Newsletters are a great incentive for readers/writers to follow your blog and website. You can have postcards made up with the cover of your book and a little excerpt on them to send out to a list of people. You can do book giveaways—I’ve only done these on Goodreads, but now I heard it’s costly. You can also do giveaways on Amazon, although I’ve never done it, so I can’t write knowledgeably about it. Some people do it on Facebook or from their own website.
To sum this up: You need to sell books in order to garner reviews. To get reviews, you must learn to reach out and ask for them, and research how to get more of them. Read blogs, articles, posts, and tweets—anything that will assist you in acquiring the information you seek.
I wish you all Godspeed on your journey to a modicum of writing success, much happiness in your chosen field, and bountiful book reviews!
Nina Romano has taught English and Literature as an adjunct professor at St. Thomas University. Her short fiction, memoir, and poetry appear in numerous literary journals and magazines. She has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry. She has co-authored Writing in a Changing World.
Romano has published the Wayfarer Trilogy with Turner Publishing. Book 1, The Secret Language of Women, set in China, won the Independent Publisher 2016 IPPY Gold Medal. The other two novels are Lemon Blossoms, set in Sicily, and In America, set in New York. A new novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, a Western Historical Romance will be released in early 2019.
Romano’s website is under re-construction: www.ninaromano.com
Connect with her on Twitter: @ninsthewriter