A short primer on how to get your book reviewed
It’s not true that all book reviewers hate self-published books. I speak for myself and will give any author a chance for alternative opinion. Authors, you can get your book reviewed, but I will caution you to be astute and choose well. You should research the market and be on the lookout for reviewers that truly understand the craft of writing, and those that can be most fair in their assessment. Of course, there are other things that you should look for, including credibility and their reputation. There’s a rumor circulating that self-published authors have a hard time getting their books reviewed. This may be true to some lesser degree, but I will go on record to say that the majority of reviewers to not share that sentiment, especially in the African-American literary Diaspora where self-publishing is a healthy alternative. Other persuasions may feel this way in light of the fact that they are mainstream, and a different set of rules apply.
In our world self-publishing is so inexpensive and so accessible, that publishing this way is affordable and best when the majors are restrictive in whom they let in their doors. Regardless of the deep-seated sentiments of the mainstream relative to reviewers dismissing self-published authors, they are accepted and can get reviews from the major reviewers catering to them. And it has definitely been worth the effort of late, especially in certain genre’s namely the Urban Fiction class. The industry is slow to change, and will allow status quo to usually dictate modus operandi as long as readers are buying what they want to read. Bookstores and libraries still rely heavily on the reviews in the major book review journals, online, and what is given to book clubs. If you get a good review in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, BookList, RAWSISTAS, or The Romer Review, you will probably get high visibility, and the publicity factor will eventually set in for readers to find what they are looking for – and the book review is key!
What must an author do to get reviewed? You get your book reviewed by using savvy ploys to solicit your work. I always look for visual things in choosing the books I review. I like for authors to present me with a good press kit and a plan! Making your book available to review journals, and soliciting to have it inclusive to viable review outlets can mean the difference in your readers knowing what is available, who you are, and why you write as you do. In my opinion, there really is no such thing as a bad review. And many bookstores and libraries just automatically order any book that is reviewed by the majors. In many cases, depending on the subject matter and niche, you’ll sell a great deal more than expected with a good favorable review. And if you follow up that review with formidable publicity campaign that should include a high-quality direct mailing initiative to bookstores and/or libraries, quoting the review. So it’s definitely worth pursuing a quality reviewer and be part of these review journals.
There are caveats, however that you should always consider. Your chances of getting a review, at face value, can be rather dismal when all the factors are in place. The key is understanding the industry and what you are up against. When you take in consideration how many books are being published, you will be cognizant of how the numbers can be for and against you. Not everyone can be in position to have his or her books reviewed by Publishers Weekly. My research indicate that Library Journal, and others, reviews closer to 15% -20%. Yet, other factors are considered when decisions to pick your book for review. If you have a quality book—with good information, good writing, a nice looking interior design, and a well-designed cover—you can get your book reviewed. Besides the quality of the book, what’s important in getting your book reviewed is the timing. Most authors dismiss certain protocol for review policy & procedure. I know that a few review journals will only consider reviewing books that have not already been published; they feel that it’s a certain advantage to have books that are not yet available, books that are not yet in the marketplace. This way, publishers know that they must be sure to get their advance reading copies, or galleys to reviewers well in advance of the official publication date when the finished book will be available. I personally love to receive my galleys at least three to six months earlier.
I find that most self-publishers especially, don’t have stronger marketing plan upon submitting their books. The higher your chances of being reviewed are to have a plan of action to market it adequately. Let’s face it, because the review journals know that if you present a powerhouse marketing plan and seem to be prepared, you boost your chances of selling the book exponentially—and they want to make sure they review books that are going to sell well. So make your package stand out, have press kits well garnered with the appropriate information. Give your book the best graphic design possible, make sure the typesetter has done his/her job, and that you’ve chosen a credible editor.
Describe the highlights of your marketing and advertising plan in your cover letter, or on the bound galley itself. It’s imperative to get those galleys to the reviewers three to six months before publication. Getting reviews can be challenging and daunting at times because of the nature of the industry, and the fact that everyone thinks that they can render a good review. But despite certain flaws in the system, you as an author must have a business sense, and a flair for discernible options to help your cause. You must pay attention to the rules, and make sure the reviewer understand your writing style. They must also themselves know how to write. Choosing the right reviewer often will spell the difference between success and failure. Do your homework; learn as much as you can by watching trends. Do this and the bottom line will pay dividends for the good effort you put in for it to be a benefit to you.