Today, I want to talk about the money quote. What is a money quote? It’s the single sentence from a professional reviewer that you can “take to the bank.” And, why does your book need at least one money quote, and preferably more than one? Here are some reasons:
- You need to convince readers that your book is worth their time.
- Your sales page needs to convince librarians that your book will be a worthwhile addition to their collection.
- You need for your sales page to look as much like the books that are coming out of the big publishing houses as possible.
- You need to persuade readers that your book has been professionally edited and that a professional reviewer has found the content worthwhile.
Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of finding money quotes. After that, we’ll talk about adding them to your book page.
Where Can You Find a Money Quote?
A money quote comes from a professional review site, meaning a site that is known for providing objective, professionally written book reviews. The three sites that are most highly regarded are Publishers’ Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Forward Reviews. However, if you’re a self-published author or an author published by a print-on-demand publisher, then you will be unable to get a review by either of the above entities.
But, all is not lost. Publishers’ Weekly has an indie publishing division called BookLife. And, if you’re self-published, you can also get a review from Kirkus by going to Kirkus’s indie portal. As for Forward Reviews, the indie review site there is called Clarion Reviews.
The Good, the Bad, and the Expensive
All three of the big name professional reviewing sites charge a bundle for a review. And, then, after you’re gotten the review, they typically try to upsell you a marketing package. That could include a listing in the indie section of Publishers’ Weekly magazine, an author spotlight feature on the main Kirkus site (a $299 “offer” to have your profile on ProConnect), or an advertising package that might include a certain number of Tweets or banner ads in their publications or newsletters.
To even get offered the “offer,” your review must rank in the top 10 or 20 percent of all of their reviews. First, however, you must pay for at least one professional review from the company, and then you will be shunted over to their advertising department.
Confession time. A couple of years back, I tried several of these “offers,” and I saw no noticeable uptick in the sales of my books.
The money you spend on a money quote, will undoubtedly not be the last time you could spend money with this company. Click here to see the money quotes for my books on Kirkus Reviews. Here are examples:
- “A touching personal account of a journey to understanding and acceptance; informative and unsettling.” (for Surrender, a memoir of nature, nurture, and love)
- “With elegant prose enlivened by shards of mean humor, MacDonald captures how hard it is to love and/or trust abroad or at home.” (for Bonds of Love and Blood, short stories)
- “A well-wrought collection that finds moments of transcendence in the personal quests of its characters.” (for Body Language, short stories)
- “An affecting, deeply honest novel; at the same time, a lacerating indictment of our modern health care system.” (for Montpelier Tomorrow, my debut novel)
Are these quotes “worth it”? I have found the Kirkus Reviews’ quotes useful when I create the kind of “swag” one likes to have for in-person events: bookmarks, T-shirts, and tote bags. I felt more confident sitting at a library’s Author Day table because I had a foamboard poster with a large Kirkus Reviews’ excerpt, and I know that librarians often choose books based on that site’s reviews.
Also, when I look back on my publishing history to date, I recall being proud to have been a Finalist in Foreword Reviews‘ INDIEFab contest–a finalist in the short story category, not a finalist in the whole shebang. The idea is that an indie author will gain recognition among the book-buying public, thus, increasing an author’s sales or “brand.”
BookLife has a similar contest that claims to “get your book noticed.” Although I published three books in 2020, I won’t enter that contest. (I’ve found BookLife’s reviewers to be more snarky than the reviewers used by the other two sites, and I don’t want to waste my money. Also, the winners seem to fall into genres that are a lot more widely read than literary fiction, which is what I write.)
Less Expensive Sites for Professional Reviews
The thing about professional reviews is that even if you pay for them, the reviews will not be posted on your Amazon page. That’s because “professional reviewers” are not allowed to post reviews, according to Amazon’s Terms of Service (TOS). This means you can’t count on professional reviews bulking up the number of reviews you have overall, even if the reviewer were to use language that conforms to Amazon’s TOS, namely, “I received this book in exchange for an honest review.” So, what’s the point of shelling out $400 if your overall review numbers don’t go up?
That’s where your Amazon book page comes in. I’ll talk about that in just a sec, but first, I want to show you that there are plenty of places that can provide professional reviews–and for a much more reasonable cost. (I have just updated my list of review sites, so be sure to grab this Excel spreadsheet and use it.)
When you’ve downloaded the spreadsheet, look on the tab labeled BKReviews. You’ll see that I’ve highlighted several entries in pink. These are the review sites that are currently providing the most value. My favorites are the four below, but there are other good ones.
- Midwest Book Reviews
- Readers’ Favorites
- The Prairies Book Review
- Book Review Directory
You’ll find links for all of the review sites on the spreadsheet.
What Will These Reviewers Provide?
They will provide an overview of the book so that a person looking at the review can tell whether it’s a book they’d enjoy. If a reader gravitates towards thrillers, then if you offer them a free romance, that reviewer is not going to leave you a favorable review. Once you have a professional review in hand, however, you can excerpt parts of it to include in your Twitter and Facebook posts. This excerpt will attract readers who do want your book, and more important for your overall ranking, it will tell readers who wouldn’t like your book to simply avoid it.
Professional reviews often end with the “money quote.” This is the quote you can use in your advertising, on social media, or on your Amazon book page. The quote is a distillation of the reviewer’s overall opinion about your book.
I’ve shown you the money quotes for my books above. Now, I’m going to show you how to use them where they can do the most good for your book.
Your Amazon Book Page
If you are self-publishing your book, no doubt you’re familiar with the ins and outs of KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). If you are publishing with a small press or independent publisher, then you will not have had access to the electronic files that created your book. However, you will still have access to Amazon Author Central. If you have never set up an account, you can do so by entering your email address and following the instructions. You will need to set up an Author Central account in order to add professional reviews to your book page. Go here to Join.
When you are through the portal, make sure all your books are listed. If they’re not, then add the one that’s missing. Now, you’re ready to begin.
No doubt you have a book description for your book. The description gets put in when you upload electronic files to KDP. But, KDP doesn’t automatically add professional reviews, so we’re now going to the page that allows you to put them in.
Editing the Review Section
There are two sections on the book page. One is the Product Description. That’s what you created when you uploaded your KDP files. It may also be the product description created by your publisher. Once the book is live online, you should be able to edit the description yourself.
Add professional reviews to the topmost section, labelled Review. Let’s say you’ve taken my suggestion that you gather a handful of professional reviews. You may also have three of four endorsements by authors in your genre. How do you get them onto that Review section of the page?
Type your reviews in a plain text editor such as Notepad or Wordpad. Then, paste them into the box all at the same time. Do not use any special fonts, and do not use italics or bold. Wait until you’ve pasted in the plain text, and then use Amazon’s editor to add those formatting features.
Editing in HTML
After you finish fine-tuning, make sure to preview the file. This will show you whether you’ve made the text look the way you want it to look. If not, you can always edit in html.
Groan! Html is a pain. Don’t be surprised when you face frustration. Also, sometimes, the preview feature locks up. I’ve had the text disappear completely. It’s easy to waste a whole day trying to get the book page to look right.
Dave Chesson’s Essential Tool
If you’ve tried Amazon’s formatter and feel frustrated, there’s a great alternative: Dave Chesson’s formatting tool. This online app puts your text into a form that’s compatible with Amazon’s Review and Product Description sections.
If you have a print book that you’re producing through IngramSpark, you can also use the tool to ensure that your book pages at Barnes & Noble look the way you want them to. If you need to change your book description, do that with this tool.
One Final Note on the Importance of Professional Reviews
Getting reviews may seem like a whole lot of hassle and an unnecessary expense. Most of us are on a budget. However, I want to mention just a couple of more reasons for you to solicit professional reviews.
The first is that a reviewer provides objectivity. That objectivity may include a way to describe your book that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. It’s often the case that we don’t understand what we’ve written until an outside party tells us what they experienced as they read our books.
The second reason to seek professional reviews has to do with the Amazon bots that crawl your page. The Amazon bot–an automated spider that crawls through your words–will be looking for keywords. Those keywords–such as “thriller” or “memoir” or “medical” or “strong female protagonist”–may help Amazon decide which customers get shown your book.
First and foremost, Amazon is a search engine. When a customer types a word in the search box–“adoption,” let’s say–they’re more likely to get shown my memoir Surrender if the word “adoption” appears in both the Review and Book Description sections of the page.
Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, a short story collection, and THE RUG BAZAAR, a chapbook. Her books and stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, a Readers’ Favorites Gold Medal for Drama, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and many others. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State, and when not reading or writing books, she loves to walk on the beach and explore National Parks.