Friday, October 8, 2010

Getting Book Reviews

Okay, I thought I would do a post about getting book reviews. Before I start I have to say that I am not an expert, but I have tried to get reviews for every novel Pill Hill Press has published and I marketed the heck out of the anthologies I have edited. So this is just what I do, after much trial and error.

Getting book reviews can be a frustrating thing, and often times does not lead to any apparent sales. But getting the word out there is improtant, and there is no telling if some of the later sales come from these reviews or not, plut once you can quote one or two good reviews it is easier to get reviews in larger places that will get sales.

First of all I use Google to find book reviewers. Terms such as "sci-fi book review", "fantasy book review blog" or "horror news" will give you a bunch of sites to email. I make a list as I go and then send out emails once I am done. News sites might not do book reviews but they will post that the book is available, usually including the blurb.

There are tons of book reviewers online. The bigger review sites might not ever get to your book. We have sent out dozens of books to larger reviewers, and have only gotten a few reviews from them. Of course a large reviewer will mean sales, while a small reviewer probably won't. So far for us the best results have come from medium size review sites, with followers in the hundreds. A review on one of them will sell enough copies to pay for postage, and the cost of a book, the first day the review is posted.

This does not mean that we don't send out a couple of review copies to larger places. We just pick two or three to send books to. Maybe someday the copies we send to Locus, or Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine will garner a review. If they ever do I will post if it is worth it sales wise, I don't see how it couldn't be.

How many requests for book reviews do I send out? That depends on the book, I have sent at least fifteen requests for everyone of our novels. For Zero Gravity I have now sent out sixty emails, which is the most I have sent out for any book. I sent out about thirty the first weekend the book came out, and then I send a few more very week.

From those sixty emails, I sent out 12 PDF copies and five hard copies. I always offer the book in both formats. Emailing a PDF is free, and some book reviewers prefer them, of course some don't so be sure to check what the reviewer prefers.

In my email I always start by telling them who I am and who Pill Hill Press is. Then I tell them right off what the subject of my email is. Something like Dear (insert name) My name is Alva Roberts, I am an editor at Pill Hill Press, a small publisher of speculative fiction. We have recently published a sci-fi anthology, Zero Gravity: Adventures in Deep Space, and I was wondering if you would be interested in a review copy, in either PDF or paper formats.

Then I try to hook the reviewer in. This is a lot like hooking a reader with the beginning of a story. For Zero Gravity it was pretty simple, many of the authors published in the anthology had novels already in print. So I looked for book reviewers that liked their novels and mentioned that the author had a story in Zero Gravity. Or I looked for reviewers that liked "Adventurous Sci-fi". The point is you need to find some way to get a reviewers interest.

Book reviewers are much more likely to review a larger press publication. And through trial and error I have found reviewers prefer novels to anthologies or single author collections. The hardest thing I have found to get review for are novella collections. I am not sure why this is, but its true. So if you are trying to promote an anthology, novella collections, or single author collection the hook is much more important. On the other hand if you are not confident that you can hook them in a couple of sentences then skip it. Just a simple request and book information will get some reviews.

After the hook, I paste in the book blurb, the ISBN, and a link to where they can purchase the book, usually Amazon, I also mention where else the book is available. Pill Hill Press books are distributed through Ingram, so they are available through most online retailers. Book reviewers like to know the details of a book, and the like to know it is readily available. The Amazon link also lets them see the cover which is why two of the book reviewers said they would review Zero Gravity.

Next I will put in a snippet of other reviews if I have them. Here is one I used for Zero Gravity:

If you love stories about lone-wolf pilots, sentient spaceships, interplanetary power politics, rogue computers, lost colonies, and Terrors From Beyond, Zero Gravity, a new anthology of science fiction adventures from Pill Hill Press, will light your boosters and shove you deep into your acceleration couch- Fred Warren- Residential Aliens.

This is a great quote, I absolutely love it. Many thanks to Fred Warren and Residential Aliens for it. Read The Whole Review Here

I always end the email formally, and thank the reviewers for their time. Time is one of the most precious commodities that people have, and them taking the time just to read my email is, at the very least, worth a heartfelt thank you.

I also reply with a thank you to everyone who emails me back. Of those sixty emails about ten of them never got answered. So a polite I am too busy right now, gets another thank you.

I send out review copies immediately, if it is a hard copy I send a press release and a letter with the book. The letter reminds them who I am and thanks them once again. Reviewers are very busy people, who get tons of books. Being polite never hurts anything, and reminding them who I am might remind them why they wanted to read the book.

Finally don't get discouraged if you don't get any reviews at first. The first volume of Shadows & Light came out in September and we immediately sent a copy to Midwest book review. The review didn't come out until April. A copy of Twisted Legends that we sent to Bitten By Books got reviewed almost a year after we sent it, and resulted in new interest in the book.

Like I said before book reviewers are busy people, authors really need to understand that, and not hassle them.

A final note, some book reviews have resulted in noticeable sales, others have not. But each one gets the word out there and that is a good thing even if you can't see the results.

As far as book promotions go it is a pretty inexpensive thing that seems to work. The only other thing that has worked better so far, at least for Pill Hill, is when an author arranges a book signing or gets a local book store to carry their novel, author interviews have also worked but that totally depends on the venue, but those are topics for other blogs.

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