"I just browsed your The New Book Review to see where your other contributors got reviewed and found two more resources for my books! Thanks, Carolyn. You provide a great service!"
~Jendi Reiter, author of the Sunshot Prize story collection, An Incomplete List of My Wishes."

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Rare Note on Reviews from the Blogger

I am your The New Book Review blogger and thought I'd weigh in on the state of reviews these days. I hope it will benefit both authors and readers. 
Recently someone on one of the forums I frequent expressed the idea that readers are impressed by any review--good or bad. I responded to the audience of writers, but it behooves readers to understand the review process better, too. Just like advertising, reviews can be manipulated to put them in the best light. A note here to readers: If you decide to write a review of a book, be fair. Try to temper a critical review with constructive criticism and a rave review with, yes, constructive criticism. 
Anyway, here's what I told authors about the state of review in this Internetted world:

I've seen some authors weigh in on positive reviews with negative comments because they're sure the reviewer has an agenda (And that's a really stupid approach to marketing, if I do say so). I've also seen them dispute negative reviews and that isn't a much better tactic in terms of public relations.
 I’ve also seen them pay for reviews, apparently unaware that librarians and bookstore buyers don't give either paid-for review or Amazon reviews much—if any--weight. They may also be unaware that there are other ways to get reviews. Namely by asking their readers for them. Or asking bloggers for them. Or using alternative online review sites like this one where you’ll find guidelines for submission in the left column).

That said, we all need good reviews and we can even make the bad ones work for us. We should keep the gems in any review to use in media kits, on our Web sites, etc. Yes, even negative reviews can sometimes be excerpted to find little jewel soundbites.

And as long as we're on the subject, I've heard that a good review on Amazon can up sales by 10%. I don't remember the source. I  suspect that reviews also help with Amazon's logarithms and whatever formula Amazon uses takes hold, they start sending out your book in their mass e-mails for suggested reading--obviously a very targeted advertising campaign we should all aim to be part of.

I also encourage authors to post reviews of others’ books on Amazon. It’s a lovely gift for a fellow writer in 2014.

Here’s a real upside to reviews. Since they have (mostly) moved from the pages of literary journals into the hands of amateur reviewers (meaning—sadly—readers!), we authors have more power over getting reviews for our books. We also can more easily determine how effectively good reviews can be used. There is always a risk factor with reviews, but even ones we might consider bad can be learning tools.
One technique I like is picking up little positive soundbites from a review. Say even a bad reviewer says the characters are dazzling. The author can then quote that one little tidbit in their media kit, their newsletter, their Website. It would look like this:
 "...dazzling..." ~ Kirkus Review
The ads for movies do this all the time. You can, too. 

So have at making the most of reviews. Just don’t pay for them.
From your New Book Review blogger. Learn more about the review process in the Writers Resource section of my HowToDoItFrugally Web site, http://howtodoitfrugally.com/reviews_and_review_journals.htm.


Mark Fine said...

Carolyn - Thank you for you insights regarding the review process. My book "The Zebra Affaire" is not quite as yet ready for this stage, but I'm truly looking forward to it. I've been my own echo chamber for so long I'd love to learn what others may think about my work (if positive it's an affirmation, if negative there is something to be learned).

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to frankly evaluate our work / creation.


Karen Cioffi-Ventrice said...

Carolyn, these are great tips. The internet has certainly opened up reviews for authors. But, as you mentioned, it can be a two-edged sword.

I love how you let authors know how to use bad reviews to their benefit.

cleemckenzie said...

Putting a positive spin on the negative by selecting those "soundbites gems" is perfect. Now I can feel like a real marketing maven. Thanks.