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How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

  REVIEWERS LIKE TO HEAR SWEET THINGS

REVIEWERS LIKE TO HEAR SWEET THINGS

In HOW TO GET GREAT BOOK REVIEWS, Carolyn Howard-Johnson offers a huge assortment of suggestions on how to go about finding reviewers, asking for reviews, and how to use reviews in promotions.  

There is a lot of material in this book, so plan on spending a fair amount of time reviewing the author's suggestions. Keep in mind that this is not a book about theory--it is a book about practical techniques, based on the author's experience marketing her own books. Being on the "receiving end" of review requests, I can vouch that the author's suggestions are valid.

Each chapter offers bite-size chunks of advice, covering a specific aspect of the review or marketing process. I found it easiest to start at the Table of Contents, and skip around to chapters of particular interest. The chapter pointers are often shown in "bullet" format, which makes it easier for the reader.   You don't need to read the chapters in order (At least, I didn't.)

So how does one get started finding a reviewer? In "Control the Quality of Your Reviews," the author explains how to find honest, objective reviewers.  For one thing, see if the reviewer is "prone to slash-and-burn tactics."  Ah--good advice!  This might seem like an absurd precaution, but it isn't--there are indeed unfair reviewers.  In fact, I have seen many overly critical reviews, which make me cringe when I read them.  In fact, one friend of mine once admitted she "NEVER gives a 5-Star review," because she wants to give the writer "encouragement to do better."  Really?  What an unfair assessment!

Reviews by close friends and family can be problematic. These reviews often contain unrealistic superlatives (e.g., "Couldn't put it down"), packaged in a short, 5-Star review.  These types of reviews are not very helpful; for one thing, they tell the world that the review was by mom, or your best friend.  I would also add that asking a close friend or family member to write a review really puts that person in an impossible situation.  (Is your mom really free to write a critical review?)

 I Don't Believe in Giving 5-Star Reviews

I Don't Believe in Giving 5-Star Reviews

Besides not asking mom to review your new book, here are some of my favorite tips:

+ If you have a book for sale on Amazon, do not forget to update your "Author Profile" page.  For one thing, Amazon allows an author to display their blog entries dynamically, using "the magic of Real Simple Syndication (RSS)."
+ Give the reviewer the courtesy of a "Thank You note."  I realize this advice seems totally obvious, but you would be surprised how often I never hear anything from an author.
+ I found the author's discussion on Amazon's "Vine" program insightful. (Probably because the author herself is part of Vine!)
 I'll Give You a Good Review

I'll Give You a Good Review

One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 10, where the author explains the nitty-gritty of getting and managing reviews. Be courteous to the reviewer, and "with very few exceptions, you want to keep in touch with your reviewer."

Here is one brilliant idea, which I have never seen before:

"Send a letter to the reviewer's editor praising her review-writing. . . That editor is probably the reviewer's boss."  

This is truly an inspired idea. This must be what the author meant when she said, "Reviewers Like To Hear Sweet Things."  (Note to author:  Since I don't have an editor, please forward my incoming praise to my wife.)

Besides getting reviews, the author suggests writing reviews yourself.  She gives lots of good reasons to do so.  For one thing, you will start to build a network of fellow writers, reviewers, and book-lovers. If you have a blog, you will likely get more connections.

As I read this book, I kept on finding new, creative ideas.  The author encourages the new writer to "Rekindle your marketing campaign with something you haven't tried before."  She then suggests using QR codes in your promotional material.

When you scan the QR code, your browser will go to a writer's resource page. Wow!  Honestly, that is one fantastic idea.

Finally, everyone, pay attention!  Here is the author's best tip by far: After you receive a review,  send the reviewer a "small, thoughtful gift. This must be done after the review appears so it cannot be interpreted as a bribe."   (I would have left off the "small" part, but I appreciate the sentiment.)   

See, I knew there was something really smart about this author.

 How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Seriously, the author gets it right: Don't ever consider pressuring or bribing a reviewer, and don't be so crass as to flat out ask for "A 5-Star review."  (I have received such a request countless times.)  Do your homework as an author, find responsible reviewers, learn from their critiques.

A few suggestions, or perhaps subjects I would have covered differently:  

+ I think the sections on Amazon Prime and "Kindle Unlimited" might be dated.  I believe the terms are different than when this book was written.
+ There are occasional links in my eBook that were no longer valid. (E.g., to the book, "The Art of Assessment.") To be fair, keeping links updated is a constant problem with any document linking to outside sites.
+ I would have emphasized more the Kindle (.mobi) format over .pdf or especially "protected .pdf" formats.  Here's why: For the reviewer, the Kindle format makes it much easier to extract quotes, for instance, or to export a "notebook" of markup.  In fact, I often skip reviewing books that are not offered in Kindle.  

So all in all, if you are an author trying to promote your book, HOW TO GET GREAT BOOK REVIEWS is an excellent choice.  Based on the wisdom of the suggestions offered, I can see that the author is a very wise person, who also understands marketing and the review process. My criticisms above are really pretty nit-picky and quite minor.

In sum, HOW TO GET GREAT BOOK REVIEWS is the BEST material I have seen on this subject--by far.

Review copy courtesy of the author. Photos courtesy of Pexels.

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