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We were thrilled to recently welcome Christopher Locke, Director of Membership and Member Services for IBPA, to the All Things Book Marketing podcast. Christopher manages IBPA’s member benefits to curate the most advantageous services for indie publishers and authors, as well as oversees IBPA’s NetGalley program, which generates buzz and garners reviews for indie publisher titles. Additionally, Christopher is passionate about indie publishing because he’s an indie author himself, having published two novels so far in his YA trilogy The Enlightenment Adventures.
Christopher joined us to talk about the four types of book reviews, which he categorizes as endorsements, trade reviews, media reviews, and consumer reviews. What are the benefits of each?
Endorsements are an act of support from a reader, usually a fellow author or expert in your field who has a good reputation. Endorsements are important because they add credibility to your book and are usually prominently featured somewhere on the cover or inside cover of your book, so potential readers can see them as soon as they pick up your book.
Endorsements don’t only signal credibility to readers, but also to booksellers, librarians, and educators. Those folks – the people between you and your potential readers – are going to really appreciate having books with solid endorsements on their shelves.
Authors often wonder how to ask for an endorsement. It can be nerve-wracking to reach out to those you admire asking them to endorse your book, but Christopher advises to shoot for the moon: “Something that helped me was sometimes the person would be interested in doing a blurb, but needed an example, so I’d write up an example endorsement for them and then they could have a starting point to adjust and customize.”
The earlier you can ask someone to endorse your book, the better, as you’ll need to give them a reasonable amount of time to actually read your book and begin to form their blurb. As for how many endorsements are ideal, Christopher recommends getting as many as possible, but asserts that collecting at least five would be ideal.
There are specific types of reviews for specific reasons, and trade reviews exist for booksellers, librarians, and others who are going to be buying your book to sell your book. Though your average reader will likely not come across trade reviews, they’re still extremely important!
What’s very important when going after trade reviews is timing, and also in doing your research (or having your book marketing team do it!) to figure out which trade outlets are the best fit for your book. Each has a different audience, and you want to make sure you’re aiming for reviews in the outlets where your ideal audience is most likely to be. Three to four months before publication is usually the time to submit your book for a trade review (though some outlets now require closer to six months ahead of publication), so authors need to be thinking ahead when they plan for these submissions and, again, doing their research into each outlet and what they require.
Christopher also points out that a lot of trades have paid review options, which are completely legitimate, but it’s good to keep in mind when reviewing which outlets you want to submit to. What does your budget allow for? Does this outlet accept indie author submissions?
Chances are, your ideal audience of potential readers consumes other media. A great way to get your book in front of them while boosting your credibility is to garner media reviews! This is where enlisting the help of a book publicist really helps you to shine, as your book publicist is well-connected and experts in pitching the media. Book marketing professions know what types of media will make the biggest impact on your book and how to ask for reviews/media placements.
Many authors get discouraged if the largest outlets, like The New York Times, don’t cover them – but it’s important for authors to be realistic about chances of coverage in these types of outlets and even whether certain outlets are the best fit for their book. Sure, a segment on The TODAY Show sounds exciting and impressive, but there’s a good chance that an interview on a popular niche podcast may actually get better results for your project than a three-minute national television spot. Don’t rule anything out!
In addition to traditional media outlets, a rapidly and constantly growing and evolving segment of media is, of course, social media. The BookTok and Bookstagrammer worlds are huge and many accounts of hundreds of thousands of followers who trust their recommendations.
Consumer reviews carry a ton of weight when it comes to growing an author’s credibility. When we head to Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check out a book online, most of us check out how many stars a book has and then read the consumer reviews to see if this book is really something we want to pick up.
These reviews aren’t just important for potential readers to see, they’re important for authors to see, as well. Authors can get a sense of the general feedback on their book by seeing: what did my readers think of my book? What did they love? Where did it fall short?
Authors may wonder what the best way to get consumer reviews is. Christopher points out the power of NetGalley. NetGalley is a platform where readers/reviewers can go to request advanced review copies of books and leave reviews. They can then link their reviews to sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble so their reviews show up there, as well.
One often overlooked way to get consumer reviews is simply to ask for them! Many authors feel awkward asking their own networks of family and friends to read and review their books – but these are their biggest supporters and would likely be thrilled to contribute. Christopher advises that kindly letting your network know just how much these types of reviews mean to the success of your book will give them a friendly and non-imposing nudge.
No matter what type of review we’re talking about, it’s important to note that just getting the review and then not doing anything with it is selling an author short. Reviews should be added to an author’s website, reposted across their social media pages, and amplified as much as possible to get the absolute most out of them.
Thanks to Christopher Locke for joining All Things Book Marketing to shed some light on this exciting and important topic!