How many times have you heard that mainstream media outlets don’t review self-published books?
That statement is both true and false.
It’s true that most mainstream media outlets aren’t interested in self-published books that:
- Don’t meet traditional publishing standards
- Use an obviously do-it-yourself cover
- Name a commonly known self-publishing company or anything else that shouts “SELF-PUBLISHED!” on the copyright page
That doesn’t mean you can’t get your self-published book reviewed by the big guys, though. You just have to know what you’re doing, from beginning to end.
Here’s what you need to get around the “we don’t review self-published books” obstacle.
1. A well-written book that looks and reads like anything coming from a traditional publisher
This is non-negotiable. If you want trade/literary/media reviews, your book has to be a good read – and look like one, too.
If you’re not a good writer, hire a reputable ghostwriter. Association of Ghostwriters members need documented experience to qualify.
Pay a professional editor.
Work with a cover designer with experience in your genre.
2. A publishing company name that disguises the fact that you’re self-published
It’s common knowledge that Lulu, BookBaby, Xlibris, and “Independently published” (that’s what Amazon is now using instead of its defunct CreateSpace), among others, mean the book is self-published.
Create a publishing company for your book, using a name with no connection to you, your book title, or your family. Make it as generic as possible.
Do not use:
- References to where you live (I live across the street from the Erie Canal, but I’d never use “Erie Canal Press”)
- Anagrams of your first or last name
- Your book’s topic (a book about spiritual guides by “Spiritual Guide Publishing”)
- A combination of family names
When you create your publishing company name, make sure it fits the types of books you write. If you plan on publishing several children’s books, you want your company name to be light and fun. Writing business books? Let law firm or consulting company monikers inspire you.
3. Bookstore and library distribution
A friend who reviews books for the Christian Science Monitor told me recently that books he reviews for that media outlet “should be widely accessible.”
He went on to say, “The Monitor won’t like it if I review a book and readers go to their local B&N and can’t find it.”
Add to this the fact that bookstores and libraries aren’t interested in carrying self-published books that aren’t well-written and professionally packaged.Now you understand how important it is to meet accepted quality standards.
One major exception to the “we don’t review self-published books” problem
A significant exception to this – in theory – is Publishers Weekly’s (PW) free review program for self-published authors, BookLife.
A BookLife review lets you tout the fact that your book was reviewed by the best-known publication in the book publishing industry. BookLife reviews are attributed to Publishers Weekly and published alongside the other PW reviews in the main part of the magazine.
The only difference between PW reviews of self-published and traditionally published books is the word “BookLife” in parentheses at the end of the self-published book’s review.
She says, “If you look on the ‘Submissions Guidelines’ page, it does say that their process ‘is highly competitive — both for self-published and traditionally published authors…. If your book is chosen, know that it truly stood out.’ Which is always great to read!”
Skip the reviews, go for publicity
Another valid and valuable option is pursuing publicity instead of or in addition to mainstream media reviews.
Publicity is that free media exposure you get when your book is mentioned in the press. It might be:
- A short news note announcing your book that results from your book announcement press release
- An interview with you about your book’s topic or an element in your book
- An article you write about your book’s topic
- An interview with you on a related topic that showcases your expertise
- News items that run because you sent a killer tip sheet-type press release
One advantage of this approach is that the journalist doesn’t need to see or read your book. What counts is that you wrote a book related to a topic that’s interesting to the outlet’s audience.
As with reviews, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the publicity you seek. But you won’t know until you try.
It’s not hard to get this publicity, either — you just have to know how to do it. Learn now in Book Marketing 101: How to Build Book Buzz. There’s a course for nonfiction and another for fiction.
One of the beauties of learning how to get publicity is that you can secure this media exposure long after the book launch. I once generated three press runs of one of my books on the strength of sales generated soley by publicity. Why can’t you do that, too?
If you’ve got a standout, professionally packaged book, go for it.
If it’s too late to do this for your present book, follow these steps for the next one. You’ve poured your heart into that book. Why not give it the best possible chance of success?
Was your self-published book reviewed by any traditional media outlets? Please tell us about it in a comment.
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