How to Get Book Reviews

As a publicist, I find that a shocking number of new writers, even ones whose books are about to be published by a Big 5 house, don’t know how to get book reviews. The process seems to involve lots of meetings behind closed doors, secret handshakes, and vast networks of book reviewers who have deliberately shunned them. That just isn’t true. Most book reviewers thrill at the idea of discovering new talent. I, for one, would love to be the person who reviews that next hit novel before it makes it big.

girl choosing a book from shelves
Choosing a book is hard, even for book reviewers.

But how do you get your book into the hands of a reviewer

I hear this way too much:

Writer friend: “My book is coming out in three weeks. How do I get it reviewed?”

Step one: Invent time travel.

Joking aside, at three weeks until your pub date, you will have already gotten most of the big reviews you’re going to get.

The Real Step One: 8–12 Months Before Publication

Your book needs to go out to big review venues now. Start researching. Of course, you have to send it to the big ones: The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, etc.

But also consider sending it to individual reviewers. Your in-house publicist may already have a list of go-to reviewers that love your kind of book. Super!

You might also not be so lucky. Many in-house publicists have tons of clients. They’re absolutely swamped! And that means they may end up sending your book haphazardly to everyone on their list. Yes, I know of publicists at Big 5 publishers who do this, believe it or not.

Be proactive and ask for a list of where they’re sending your book. See if you can make changes.

If your publicist is sending your book to individual reviewers, look them up on social media. Do they talk about certain types of books more than others? For example, I would never review erotica. I’m not sure I’d know what to say or where to send the review if I did. Any publicist who sent me an erotica ARC would be wasting a copy on me.

You only get a limited quantity of ARCs. Be strategic.

ARCs, also sometimes called galleys, are Advanced Review Copies of your book. Sometimes they are beautifully bound and look a lot like your final product. Sometimes they’re simply bound in paper and still pretty cool.

Before the 6 Month Mark…

Your publicist should have sent your book to a long list of places that write about them. This shouldn’t be just the Kirkuses and Publishers Weeklys of the world. Don’t discount the power of a good listicle. Book Riot dominates these. Bustle Books is pretty good, too. But don’t be surprised when you see books mentioned in glossy magazines, too. I’ve seen book spreads in everything from Real Simple to Vogue. Figure out who writes these front of book pieces and make sure your publicist sends books to them.

If you already sent ARCs to big review publications, consider reaching out to individual reviewers associated with these publications. When books are sent to popular publications and reviewers, they tend to stack up. (See Liberty Hardy’s bookshelves on Instagram.

Be careful though. You can easily nag a reviewer too much and put them off to reading your book. If you do reach out, just do it once.

After you have the professional readers covered…

Start your Netgalley or Edelweiss campaigns. Both of these platforms allow reviewers like bloggers, teachers, and librarians to request digital ARCs of your book that they can read on their devices.

Don’t discount the smaller platforms of these readers. They can add up quickly.

If you’re not getting traction on Netgalley or Edelweiss, consider starting a campaign on your platform. Giveaways, contests, and preliminary blog tours are all ways to direct traffic toward your book. Hyping your book on social media and making sure to use easily accessible links to the book pages helps, too. These are all things an independent publicist (like me!) can assist you with.

When someone posts a review on their blog and tweets it to you…

(Assuming it’s positive), retweet it! Like tweets and Instagram posts that say nice things about you. This is such an easy way to build good will. Don’t ignore it!

As a reader, it is so cool to interact with the writers I love on social media. So many people feel the same way. We readers love to fan girl.

When you get a negative review…

For the love of God, DO NOT RESPOND. Most reviewers write reviews of books for their own pleasure and amusement. They never imagine their review might be seen by the writer.

If you don’t respond, you’ll still be the writer whose book they didn’t like. They might not remember your name. You could end up sitting on the subway across from each other, none the wiser.

OR…you could respond and be that guy. Then your reader will certainly remember you. And she will tell everyone how awful you are. That would be bad publicity. You don’t want that. Resist!

Now that you have reviews…

Keep going! It won’t be time to rest until you’re hunkered down to write your next book.

More marketing ideas:

  • Interact with new fans on social media
  • Hold a hashtag contest
  • Host a Twitter chat
  • Update your website
  • Match your branding across platforms
  • Create an email campaign
  • Host local events at libraries and universities
  • Participate in a blog tour
  • Build up your newsletter subsriptions
  • Book boxes and merchandise
  • Keep blogging, keep writing, keep talking!


This post was originally published on Medium.

Need help? Schedule an appointment to talk about your publicity needs.

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