Booksellers love them. Librarians use them. For authors—especially new ones—getting a professional book review can be a game changer. And if you’re publishing with a small traditional press (with little or no publicity department) or publishing independently, the task of identifying review outlets and sending out copies falls to you.
But getting your book reviewed is well worth the effort: not only can a good book review boost your marketing presence and even open doors to additional professional book reviews, it can earn you publicity that can be spun into more attention and even more book sales.
As with all aspects of publishing, competition for a reader’s eyes is fierce. Kirkus Reviews receives between 100 and 200 review submissions daily. San Francisco Book Review reports that they received 4,600 books in 2017 alone and only managed to review 40 percent of those submissions.
So how do you give your beloved book the chance to catch a review editor’s attention? Follow these essential tips:
1. Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
By the time you have your published book in hand, it may already be too late to submit your book to some of the top book review sites and publications. While some publications are happy to review your book up to 90 days after publication (such as San Francisco Book Review), other publications will only accept your book well in advance of your publication date. The New York Times, for instance, only accepts galleys (advance copies) of books 3 to 4 months before publication.
If you’re self-publishing, finding media outlets that will accept an indie book is much harder, so you’ll need to do additional research and planning. The New York Times has very rarely reviewed a self-published book (their first was in 2012), and other publications such as Booklist or Shelf Awareness have strict requirements that not every self-published author can meet (such as galleys well in advance of the release date). Your best bet may be to reach out to smaller sites and publications, local newspapers and magazines, and popular book bloggers. You might also want to consider a trade publication (like Kirkus Reviews) that offers paid review services specifically for independently published books.
Our Tip: Once you have a publication date for your book, spend some time researching the newspapers, magazines, and websites that might consider reviewing it. Most of these publications and sites have submission guidelines that will clearly outline their specifications, including when to send your book—and how.
Plotting out the dates for sending review copies should be a key part of your marketing plan. Consider setting up a calendar and reminders to ensure you get your book to editors in a timely and organized way. Check the editorial calendar for every potential review site or publication, so you can record when the best time would be to send them your book.
2. Follow Submission Guidelines Exactly
One of the most important factors in getting your book in front of a reviewer is to follow the submission guidelines to the letter. With so many other books competing for precious time and editorial space, you can’t afford to give a review editor a reason to not review your book. Submission guidelines will generally tell you what format they will accept (digital or paper), how and where to send the manuscript, what information to include, and when they will accept books for review, as well as outline their process should they accept or decline your book for review.
According to Kirkus Reviews, “Our editors decide which books to slate for review or feature coverage first by referring to the submission guidelines detailed above and then by trying to predict which books will generate the most interest among our readers.” With this in mind, you’ll want to ensure that not only are you following the publication’s guidelines but that your book fits with their audience. After all, you don’t want to send a how-to guide to a site that only reviews fiction, or your sizzling x-rated erotica to a family-oriented publication.
Our Tip: Work on a great pitch letter to send with your book. Short, snappy, and well written, this is your chance to tell editors why they should review your book. Craft a catchy description of the book, a bit about yourself, and why you think your book will be a great fit for their readers.
3. Increase Your Odds by Broadening Your View
Sometimes you can do all the right things and still not get your book reviewed. Maybe the magazine or newspaper has run out of space and your review is the one that is cut. Maybe an editor just reviewed a similar book or your book is not quite the right fit for their readers. In many cases, you might never know the reason. With editors flooded by so many requests—especially for coveted spaces in internationally recognized publications—it’s easy to get discouraged. Don’t be. You’ve already written a book and published it, so you have proven that you have serious persistence chops. Just keep looking for outlets and sending out review copies.
Our Tip: As an author looking for promotional coverage, targeting only the top-shelf publications for review is the biggest mistake you can make. Look for review opportunities with smaller and midrange publications and websites, as well, and make sure you reach out to independent reviewers. Smaller publications can still offer great coverage, and soliciting them may also increase your opportunity for a feature or author profile.