Getting professional book reviews is an essential step in the marketing and promotion process for authors.
Professional Book Reviews are an Important First Step
Positive feedback from others, especially if they are an authority on the subject, is one of the keys to getting readers to take a chance on your book.
Between consumer reviews, expert endorsements, and professional book reviews, this feedback is the best way to gain the interest of readers and institutions like schools and libraries, as well as those planning events that could be important for promoting your book.
Unfortunately, the steps to get these reviews for your book is not always straightforward. Depending on the nature of your work and your goals as an author, this process can vary quite a bit. Professional book reviews are not a one size fits all proposition.
It’s best to start by understanding different types of reviews, and how they can benefit various authors with different goals.
Trade Book Reviews
These professional book reviews are typically considered the most prestigious, and are the most traditional type of book review. They come from time-tested publications with a long history within the publishing industry and are geared toward major publishing companies.
Publishers submit books via general submission, free of charge, with editors choosing which books receive reviews. These reviewers generally require books to be submitted several months before publishing.
With self-publishing enjoying newfound success in the digital market, some trade review companies now offer paid, non-trade review services especially for self-published authors as well, such as Kirkus Indie, and Book Life by Publisher’s Weekly.
Publishing Industry Professionals
Booksellers, librarians, media outlets, and other publishing industry professionals rely primarily on trade book reviews for decisions about new books. These reviews are somewhat helpful for reaching readers, but also offer a way to break new ground within the publishing industry.
Professional book reviews help to build credibility, and can open the door to other important marketing opportunities, but might not always be the most direct route to increasing sales.
These reviews are very helpful for publishers hoping to market their book to libraries or independent booksellers. They also are vital for certain genres – those marketing children’s books, for example, would do well to get trade reviews to help reach libraries, schools, and other educators.
Many of these reviews can be syndicated to online retailers, other websites, and print publications, providing the potential for additional reach.
The category includes established trade review outlets such as Kirkus Reviews, Foreword Reviews, Library Journal, Library School Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly.
Non-Trade Book Reviews
Non-trade reviews are geared towards submissions by self-publishers and indie publishers. They are typically online publications that have been created to meet the rising demand for professional reviews from self-published authors.
This category includes sources like IndieReader, BlueInk Reviews, Reader’s Favorite, and Self-Publishing Review, as well as non-trade services from trade reviewers, such as Kirkus Indie, and Book Life by Publisher’s Weekly.
These are paid review services are geared specifically toward indie and self-publishing authors. While they may not offer the kind of traditional prestige of trade reviewers, they provide high-quality, professional reviews that are guaranteed, for a fee.
In addition, the author typically has total control over whether a review is published, which is not always the case with trade reviewers.
Often, these don’t require lead time – most non-trade reviews can be requested after the book is already published, unlike with trade reviews. These are well worth the investment for self-publishing authors. Prices can vary a fair amount, so be sure to compare your options.
This category simply refers to reviews by readers and normal people on sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. NetGalley reviews can also post to these sites.
While not normally used in marketing efforts, a good number of positive consumer reviews is one of the best ways for self-publishing authors who rely on digital retailers to stand out on a site like Amazon.
Seeking out these reviews has become the preferred method for successful self-publishing authors using online retailers, as reviews, along with the total number of downloads, are key to gaining a high ranking on Amazon.
Positive reviews are essential to success on sites like Amazon, and while these reviews are not generally used for marketing purposes otherwise, they are absolutely vital for authors who expect most of their sales to come from digital platforms.
Paying for reviews or review swapping is against Amazon's policy, so don’t offer free swag like gifts or gift cards in exchange for reviews, and don’t set up review swapping with other authors.
All of these are against policy and could get your book removed and your account banned. Instead, you can contact top reviewers and bloggers, and set up a ‘launch team’ of people who will read your book in advance and provide reviews as soon as your book becomes available.
Remember, you’ll want these reviews posted as soon as your book becomes available.
Endorsements, from relevant experts or well-known authors, are another form of review. You’ll want to look into these early in the process since they’re a great thing to add to your book cover. Think about experts in your field for non-fiction books, or well-known authors in your fiction genre, and try to get creative with this option.
The more specific you can be in identifying your niche and your target audience, the more likely you’ll be able to find someone willing to give an effective endorsement.
For example, if you’re an indie or self-publishing author who writes dystopian science fiction, you’ll have more luck finding a successful writer from that community than simply looking for endorsements from the biggest names in sci-fi.
Choose where to expend time and resources wisely during your publishing process. When it comes to reviews, this means figuring out exactly what you need and where it fits into your broader marketing plan.
For many authors, it will also mean not tying yourself to tradition for tradition’s sake. In an era in which independent self-publishers are on the rise, industry trade reviews may not be worth it for you. In this case, learn how to make the most of your other options.