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Friday, March 20, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Book Reviews

When Touch Of Fire first came out, the advice I got from other authors was to obtain as many reviews as I could. The idea was to get the book into the hands of people who could spread the word.

Kind words are great for the ego, but even sharp words can be helpful—though it might not feel that way when it happens. What's the old Broadway adage? It doesn't matter what they say about you as long as they spell your name right.
Of the eight reviews I've netted so far, seven were pretty darn good. One, while not terrible, felt to me like she missed the point of the story. The thing to remember is that not everyone is your audience. Your book will not appeal to every living soul, even to those who claim to like your work. Sometimes the shoe doesn't fit.

As a potential marketing venue, I have mixed feelings about reviews. Many people base their buying habits off reviews. For me, it totally depends on who's doing the reviewing. If it's someone I've read for a while and who has earned my respect, I might be willing to invest my dollars on their recommendation.

But I am more likely to buy on the recommendation of a friend. And even more swayed by the quality of the excerpt--but that's a topic for another post.

The professional reviewers I like tend to be fair, honest and passionate about their work. I might not always agree with their assessment due to a difference in taste, but I have never bought a review-recommended book that fell too short of their appraisal.

For the author, the real question is: Where can you get the most exposure?

Big review sites like Coffee Time Romance or The Romance Studio have a lot of reviewers. You have no control over the quality or impartiality of the review. You could wind up with a very thoughtful and articulate reviewer or you could find your book in the hands of a newbie. But big sites have a large platform. You could potentially reach thousands.

Small review sites on the other hand have a much smaller audience. The reviewer may be experienced and professional, but if the site doesn't get a lot of traffic, that great review will fall on deaf ears.

My publisher, Samhain was excellent in getting me started by sending my book to different review sites. I relied on them heavily because I didn't know who to ask or even how to approach a reviewer.

I haven't sent my book to too many other places on my own, but when I did, I write a very short email introducing myself, my book and asking whether they have a place on their roster for a new book.

In my email, I include:

• a short blurb
• my genre
• the book's tagline
• publisher's information

From there, I leave it to the reviewer to tell me whether they're interested in pursuing it further.

I always do my homework. Some sites won't review e-books. If it's not on their site's "About" page, I will often email a note inquiring to make sure.

Poke around the website before you ask for a review. Read previous reviews to get a feel for the reviewer's voice. Snark makes me very irritable. Not because I don't admire snark—me being a prime disciple—but because it seems out of place. As a consumer, I'm not interested in the reviewer's clever repartee. I just want to know whether a book is going to be worth the money—and more importantly, my time.

Avoid casting your book to any and all reviewers. And make sure they aren't swamped. I made the mistake of sending my book to a review site that had such a backlog of requests that the glut of books seemed to homogenize in the reviewer's mind. What shot them in the foot is when the reviewer wrote to tell me the review was up for "NOT MY TITLE" and told me how much she enjoyed "NOT MY CHARACTERS".

Thanks, but I don't need that kind of help.

Cast your net widely, and wisely.

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