Did you know there are two types of book reviews?
When I talk to authors about reviews, many think only of reader reviews – those reader comments that appear on Amazon, Goodreads, and other online sites. Reader reviews are important, essential, and influential.
But you also want to know about – and pursue – what the publishing industry refers to as “literary” or “trade” reviews. These are the critical, in-depth reviews of books offered by professional reviewers writing for media outlets.
Literary reviews carry more weight
Reader reviews have exploded all over the Internet in recent years, which is why most authors are more familiar with them.
And while there are fewer options for literary reviews today because so many publications have folded, reviews by trusted pros at media sources still carry more weight than reader reviews. That’s because book buyers know they’re from an objective media source with a name they recognize.
In addition, many bookstores and libraries won’t purchase self-published books that don’t have them. They are essential social proof.
Consider these scenarios:
- Let’s say you love romance novels. Whose review would you trust more – a detailed and thoughtful commentary from Historical Romance Magazine, or a two-sentence reaction from the average reader you’ve never heard of?
- What if you’re thinking about adding a deck to your house right about the time you read a good review for Build a Deck in a Weekend: 18 Plans You Can Use Right Now in your favorite magazine, Family Handyman. Think that detailed review might influence you? If you’re like most, it will.
- If you wrote How to Hire, Motivate, and Retain the Best Restaurant Staff: The Only Guide You Need to Succeed in the Restaurant Business, you’d be grateful for a review in Nation’s Restaurant News. That’s a trade magazine read by restaurateurs — your book’s target audience.
When my book, Publicity for Nonprofits: Generating Media Exposure That Leads to Awareness, Growth, and Contributions was published, I was pretty happy with the review in trade publication Bulldog Reporter’s Daily Dog.
It said, “Publicity for Nonprofits doesn’t just explain why publicity is important, but shows you how to use cost-effective public relations plans and tactics to reach fundraising goals, recruit employees and volunteers, and educate consumers.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Plus, while The New York Times Sunday Book Review section is out of the reach of most authors whether they’re traditionally or self-published, there are still other legitimate outlets for literary reviews.
They include your local daily or weekly newspaper, city and state business journals, trade journals, and association newsletters. They’re all easier to crack than Cosmopolitan or The Los Angeles Times.
What can you expect?
What’s realistic for your book? It depends on these and other factors:
- Your traditional publisher’s quality standards and reputation
- Whether your self-published book looks and reads like a traditionally published book
- The size of the book’s genre or category (and hence the competition for attention)
- The book’s topic or niche
- The author’s reputation
- Your local media options
- Honest feedback you’ve received from early or beta readers
How to get them
Pursuing literary reviews is a smart and effective book marketing tactic for many authors and books. Are you one of them?
Learn more about this process as well as how to snag those important reader reviews in the two Build Book Buzz Book Marketing 101 courses — there’s one for nonfiction and another for fiction. You’ll learn how to get both types of reviews in Module 1 of the four-module training program.
What does your favorite review of your book say? Please share it in a comment.
(Editor’s note: This article was first published in March 2015. It has been updated and expanded.)
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