Books flood into review sites, and the sheer numbers overwhelm book review editors. They must make choices: the big New York publishers or the little guys?
Publicists are Tweeting the editors and importuning them with e-mails. “Well, are you going to review my guy or gal or not?”
Probably not. There’s just not time. And the number of newspapers with book review sections keeps shrinking.
If this is publishing’s new reality, how are unknown authors supposed to get pithy, cover quotes? Hire a publicist? Sure, but not everyone can afford that.
If you want to throw a “Hail Mary,” you can join the National Book Critics Circle and gain access to the members of that organization. Alternately, you can monitor the group’s Twitter feed and collect Twitter addresses. Be forewarned, however.
Without a publicist, small presses, independent publishers, and self-published authors have very little chance of making it into the book review sections of national newspapers.
But, don’t give up yet. There are paid and unpaid review sites that will give you what you want–a “money quote.”
The Money Quote
Long before a book goes to press, the author or publisher needs to solicit reviews. Why? Because it’s good to have a “money quote.” That’s a single sentence you can put on the cover to promote it.
Here’s the money quote for my novel, Montpelier Tomorrow. “An affecting, deeply honest novel; at the same time, a lacerating indictment of our modern health care system.”–Kirkus Review
And, here’s a money quote for Bonds of Love & Blood. “MacDonald applies insight, power, and delicacy to create characters between whom the psychic space virtually sizzles.”– Foreword Reviews
You need quotes like these in your marketing campaign. That campaign can involve Tweets, blog tours, press releases, podcasts, and speaking engagements. But, all that effort begins with you deciding which review sites you’re going to target.
In this post I’m going to cover free review site and sites that charge money. Sometimes the same review organization will do both. (Foreword Reviews, Kirkus Review, and Publishers Weekly/BookLife are examples of two-tiered review sites.)
The Skinny on Review Sites
I’ve seen disparaging comments on the web about sites that charge authors money in exchange for reviews. Honestly, it’s a very competitive world out there, and most sites that want you to pay for a review do not guarantee a positive outcome.
The reviewer can pan your book or give it a lukewarm endorsement. In that case (since you’ve forked over money), you can ask the site not to publish; but that’s the only break you’re going to get. Money doesn’t buy happiness, and it doesn’t buy a five-star review.
I’ve solicited both paid and unpaid reviews. Some of the paid reviews have been the best, not because I bought the reviewers’ good opinion, but because the readers took time to read thoroughly and respond in a “feelingful” way.
Apart from reviews, what authors want most is that vital connection with readers. Our chances improve if the review sites allow reviewers to self-select from among the many books available for review. One site, for instance, says they receive 1,000 books per month. There’s no way the editor who manages that rising tide can possibly know which readers who will be receptive. As I said, review sites are literally being inundated.
Review Sites | Free or Cheap
The Midwest Book Review — This is a site that favors small presses. If the book has not yet been published, the author or publisher can pay a $50 “reader fee” (which is an administrative fee) and MBR will assign a reviewer. At that point the author or publisher will send the reviewer a pre-publication manuscript, galley, uncorrected proof, ARC, or pdf file. Turnaround isn’t instantaneous, so it’s important to allow enough time, especially if you want a money quote for your book cover.
If your book is too far along to qualify for a pre-publication review, you can still try to get one from MBR, one of the oldest and most respected review sites in the country. The editor, James Fox, asks that you send two copies of the book, a press release, and a physical address to which they can mail the review.
If the book isn’t picked up by one of their volunteer reviewers during the 12 to 14-week time window, you can submit a review from any other reviewer (with their permission), and they’ll run the review in their newsletter.
While you’re on their site make sure you take note of their info about Book Review Magazines Used by Librarians and Other Book Reviewers. The latter is a helpful list because it includes review sites for academic books.
Foreword Reviews is one of my favorite sites for small and independent presses and for indie authors.
“To be considered for a review in the pages of Foreword Reviews magazine, a review copy (printed or digital) of the title in question must be received in the Foreword offices at least two months prior to the book’s firm publication date. Once we have our hands on your book, our managing editor will carefully critique whether it meets our editorial standards. We receive hundreds of worthy titles every month. Due to space limitations, we’re only able to review 150 books per issue of the quarterly magazine. If your book did not make the cut, we also offer objective, 450-word reviews (including a star rating) by Clarion Reviews, Foreword‘s fee-for-review service.”
These folks produce a beautiful magazine, and their reviewers are great. Unlike Kirkus Review (more on that in a minute) Foreword Reviews does not charge for its reviews. I’m very proud that my short story collection, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, is a finalist for their IndieFab awards and that they featured the book in their January issue. The magazine spotlights many books published by university and small presses.
New Pages is a great site for small and independent presses, but not so great for self-published authors and presses that use a POD printer. New Pages doesn’t charge for their reviews, and they are also inundated with new books.
“If you want your book to be considered for a review, please send two copies. We need to keep one in the office to check against any review that might be submitted. Advanced Reading Copies are acceptable.”
Their address is New Pages, PO Box 1580, Bay City, MI 48706. If your book is self-published or published by a POD publisher (such as CreateSpace), they will not review your book, but they will list it on their “Books Received” page. If, in their initial screening, they think your book looks promising, they will offer it to their reviewers, but it is up to the reviewers to choose.
Even if you can’t get a review from these folks, the site is still worth visiting. Don’t overlook their New Pages Guide to Review Sources.
BookLife is a new venture for Publishers Weekly, the big gorilla in the publishing zoo. (If your book’s publisher produces works by multiple authors, then the publisher must submit the book through the Publishers Weekly’s GalleyTracker portal.)
Prior to launching BookLife, an author could only get a book review on PW if the author’s publisher submitted the book and if PW accepted the book for review. With BookLife you’ll have a chance at getting your book reviewed, but only if the book meets their standards.
Amazingly, the review is free. You’ll also find that they’re offering a host of other services, including helpful info about ISBN numbers, social media, and publicity. That is undoubtedly where they intend to make money.
Kirkus Indie Reviews is one of the sites acquisition librarians consult, and Kirkus reviews carry weight with readers. Kirkus Indie needs a lot of lead time–7 to 9 weeks ($425) for a standard submission and 4 to 6 weeks ($575) for a rush job.
If you’re publishing with a small or independent press, and they did not submit your book prior to publication, you can still get it reviewed under Kirkus’s Indie program.
“In the interest of introducing consumers and industry influencers to self-published books they might otherwise never discover, Kirkus Indie does not put any restrictions on publication dates for submissions. You may order a review for a book that’s been on the market for 10 years or for a book that doesn’t even have a publication date yet.”
Kirkus Indie reviews are eligible for Kirkus stars.
I’ve had two books reviewed by Kirkus Reviews. Click the link at left, and see if you can tell the difference between the one I paid for and the one I didn’t. (Hint: The publisher of BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD submitted an ARC to Kirkus prior to publication.)
Kirkus Review clearly states that they do not review POD (print-on-demand) books except in their Indie program, but both my books were produced using POD technology, and they reviewed them.
Review Sites That Want You To Show Them The Money
Some of my favorite reviews have come from review sites that require a modest payment. Often these sites employ volunteer reviewers, but sometimes, they pay their reviewers for taking the time to write a coherent review.
The US Review of Books is a site that has given both my books great reviews. They state that they “do not sell editing or manuscript review services on the side. This practice creates a clear conflict of interest with the integrity of a fair and honest review.” (Kirkus Review does sell editing services.) A basic review with US Review of Books costs $75, but if you’re close to your pub date, you can get an express review for $129. If you’re on Twitter and you include the hashtag #USReview in your Tweet, they will retweet to their list.
An added feature of the US Review of Books site is that it supports the Eric Hoffer Award. This is an award for new books, and it also honors books that have been around for awhile. I’m thrilled that the cover of BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD is a finalist for the da Vinci Eye award.
The Readers’ Favorite Book Review and Award Contest is one of the review sites that every indie author needs to know about. I know there are a lot of sites out there that have a gajillion categories and steep entry fees. They bilk new authors with the promise of recognition. However, Readers’ Favorite Book Review is different. The people who run the site have high integrity.
The site will do one free review of your book, and the reviews are done by real readers. You can rank your reader, just as your reader ranks you. But, there’s more! For $129 you get three reviews, and for $199 you can order five. In addition to putting the reviews on their site, they will post the reviews to Goodreads and Barnes & Noble (but not to Amazon because Amazon doesn’t accept paid reviews. Oddly, Amazon doesn’t accept reviews from Midwest Book Review, even though that site has been around a long time and has a solid reputation for objectivity.)
If you enter the Readers’ Favorite Award Contest and are one of their finalists, you become eligible to join their Forum. Contest winners share strategies they’ve used to market their books, and I can’t think of another site that’s as genial and helpful as this one.
Last year I won a Gold Medal for Drama for MONTPELIER TOMORROW, and I was invited to attend their award ceremony in Miami, held in conjunction with the Miami Book Fair. It was a first-class event. These folks truly are dedicated to indie authors, and the writers you meet, either in person or online, soon become your friends.
Pacific Book Review is a site that provides reviews and extra features, such as author interviews. The PBR Basic Review Package costs $300, and they post the review to Oasis (a library site), Barnes & Noble, Google Books, the Apple iStore, Authorsden.com, Bookblog.com, and Writers Digest Book Blog. They use professional reviewers who know how to think about–and write about–books.
If you’re in need of another review, they have a second review site called Hollywood Book Reviews. For another $200 you can order a professionally written review/press release and see it posted on all major sites.
Reader Views is another good site for indie authors, as well as small and university presses. Their basic package for one review costs $119, but they have a disclaimer saying that the cost isn’t actually paying for a review, merely for their processing. If you need reader reviews for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads, on top of a book review, ask about their book giveaways. What’s good is that you get the reviewers’ email addresses so that you can send them a “thank you” note.
That’s a start! What sites have you found? I’d love to hear about your successes.
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.