Are book reviews important?

Book reviews are important to authors. But are they too important?

As my friend and colleague Dana Lynn Smith writes in her new e-book, How to Get Your Book Reviewed, they:

  • Can close the sale for people on the fence about buying
  • Are used by bookstore buyers and librarians when deciding what to stock or purchase
  • Drive traffic to online purchasing sites

This makes them pretty important, right? Of course! So we should all learn how to get book reviews. And yet, they can be too important when authors (and publishers) focus all of their promotional energy and budgets on generating reviews and do nothing else to get people talking about and buying a book.

Focusing on nothing but reviews is dangerous because:

  • Authors often have unrealistic expectations for book reviews. Before Oprah ended her show, she was the mecca for 95 percent of all authors. For some reason, everyone thought they should — and could — be on Oprah. When it comes to reviews, authors of all skill levels and genres expect to be reviewed in large circulation, major media outlets that include USA Today, The New York Times, and People Magazine. Those outlets are naturals for certain books — including the paperback version of one of my faves, The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch — but not good fits for the majority.
  • Media outlets want to review new books. Once your book isn’t “new” anymore, there are still many, many tactics you can use to keep your book title in the news and in front of the people you wrote it for. If you limit your activities to generating reviews, though, you will completely miss these longer term opportunities.
  • Most of the people who will be interested in your book won’t see the reviews. Many of them will, of course, and that’s why reviews are so important and influential. But what will you do to reach those people who aren’t review readers?

My advice is to learn how to get book reviews, then put a lot of energy into getting those reviews when your book is new. But save some of your energy (and enthusiasm!) for other activities that will generate offline and online exposure for your book. What else are you going to do to build buzz for your book? What are you going to do that will get people talking about your book — and buying it?

And remember to start the process for generating reviews several months before your publication date. Print magazines will want to hear from you at least three months before your publication date. On the other hand, you don’t have to start contacting bloggers for reviews until a few weeks before your book is available for purchase (you want those reviews to appear when people can purchase, not pre-order).

Want to learn more about how to get reviews, testimonials, and endorsements for your book? Dana Lynn Smith’s new e-book is an excellent “here’s how to do it” resource that I highly recommend. She covers everything from the specifics about how to get reviews (what to send, who to send it to, when to send it) to how to use those reviews to sell more books. I’ve got an excerpt of the book on the power of endorsements and testimonials in the August 10, 2011, issue of my free Build Book Buzz newsletter. To read it, please subscribe on the right side of this page because it’s only available through e-mail.

Keep working on those reviews, but don’t forget to think well past your book’s launch when it comes to book marketing, publicity, and promotion.


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Sandra Beckwith is an award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to market their books. Three groups have recognized her BuildBookBuzz.com site as an outstanding resource for authors, so you know her advice is author-tested.

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9 Responses to Are book reviews important?
  1. Dana Lynn Smith
    August 6, 2011 | 2:55 am

    Nice post, Sandy, and thanks for recommending my book 🙂 While most print publications want to review books within a few months after they are published, other review sources such as blogs tend to be less concerned with the pub date. And encouraging reviews on the online bookstores should continue for the life of the book. An author’s work is never done!

  2. jeune hall
    August 22, 2011 | 6:34 pm

    Very thoughtful and sound, far as I can tell. I’ve found similar advice from knowledgeable friends in the business, but it bears repeating and consideration; good advice is like that. Thanks.

    P.S. It’ll likely get you a copy of my book, also; coming september. Thanks for all you do! Best,

    • Sandra Beckwith
      August 22, 2011 | 6:38 pm

      Thanks, Jeune! I’m glad you found it helpful. Best of luck with your book.

      Sandy

  3. Kevin Cullis
    August 29, 2011 | 3:02 pm

    Hi Sandy,

    There’s one thing that needs to be clarified, this is all about Marketing and as I was writing my first book I realized too late this issue. I, too, second the fact that you need to get the buzz going early on, but that should not stop you if you’re behind. Just use events that can catapult your book into the buzz stream, take a look at my site and my “Labor D…, er, Startup Day Offer.”

    Kevin

  4. Sandra Beckwith
    August 29, 2011 | 3:11 pm

    I agree, Kevin. Never stop working at it.

  5. herbert Ray Pitre
    February 8, 2012 | 4:07 pm

    This is very informative, & I do agree that book reviews are just as important as any other effort given in building exposure.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      February 8, 2012 | 5:44 pm

      Thanks, Ray!

  6. Andrea Bouchaud
    August 23, 2013 | 8:54 pm

    Hi Sandy,
    I recently came across your blog (and you) and am my book published (which I ended up e-publishing earlier this month), I completely overlooked things like marketing and connecting with my target audience until after the book was published. I did not research book reviews and how to get them, how to use social media or any other book buzz building tool until after the fact. Now I am playing the catch up game. Thanks to you and Dana for an informative blog post. Thank you for writing about this topic and all book buzzing topics. Best regards, Andrea

    • Sandra Beckwith
      August 23, 2013 | 9:00 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Andrea. Honestly, you’re in good company — MANY authors don’t think about this until they’re holding their books and thinking, “What’s next?”

      You’ve got time to play catch up. Just keep learning and working at it.

      Cheers,
      Sandy

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