Reviews are very important to an author in two ways: they can provide valuable feedback to the author, and they can arouse the interest of other potential readers. Reviews can also come to the attention of a prospective publisher. It goes without saying that authors want favourable reviews, but, in my opinion it’s better to have an honest, unfavourable review than no review at all. After all, one wants to learn and grow as an author.
There are two measures of the value of a review: credibility and expertise. A review by, for example, the book editor of the New York Times is far more valuable than a review by your aunt Martha. The trouble, from an author’s perspective, is that its pretty easy to get a review by Aunt Martha, and it’s very difficult to get one from the editor of the Times.
So, how are book reviews used? The short answer is that they are used in a myriad of ways to market an author and his/her book. They appear on the Amazon book web pages and on Goodreads. They are on the back cover of the book, inside the front cover and bits of a review may appear on the front cover. Reviews are featured in billboard and newspaper/magazine adverts, and on promotional materials in book shops.
How do I get my reviews? There are several ways. I have an old friend who reviews my books; I think she does a thorough and objective job. I have used paid review services like BookReview.com, but their credibility is fairly low. There are book bloggers who offer to review books – mostly for free. At one point I must have trolled through fifty book blogger’s sites to find three that said my book sounded interesting, would I please send it? I think all this resulted in one review. I have given away books on Goodreads as a part of the contests they run. Theoretically, the deal is that if you win a free book from an author, the winner is supposed to write a review. I sent out ten books to the winners and received one review. Perhaps people just like to have free stuff! There are spontaneous reviews that one tends to get from readers who have bought a book on Amazon. These spontaneous ones can be interesting. There was a one-star review who didn’t like my book at all because it ‘wasn’t credible’. (That was the complete review.) There was one that looked like a third grade book report. And, of course, there are insightful, semi-professional reviews. I have a practice of not commenting on reviews, except – where appropriate – to say ‘thank you’.
Yesterday, I signed onto a webinar that was put on by the Independent Book Publishers Association. It featured a spokesman from Foreword Reviews who explained how they chose books that they review. Having a review on Foreword Reviews would be very helpful. Their quarterly magazine reaches plenty of librarians, publishers and editors – as well as the general public. From my point of view, it also has the advantage or specialising in indie (independently published) books. Two problems, though: first, there has to be intense competition to be selected: the magazine is published four times a year, and there are well over a hundred thousand indie books coming out every year. And second, one has to submit the book near the publication date, so if a book has been out more than six months, it is probably of little interest.
If any of my readers considers himself/herself to be a budding reviewer and would like to have a go at one of my books, please choose a title on my website (www.williampeace.net), send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your address, and I’ll send you a copy.