With ten years' experience as a book reviewer and 41 books to her name, children's author Diana Kimpton has strong views on the best – and worst – ways to solicit reviews for self-published books.
In 1999, I started a children’s book review site at www.wordpool.co.uk. Although the site’s still there, I stopped adding new reviews three years ago because I wanted to spend more time on other projects, including my own writing. But during those 10 years, I learned a lot about how publishers relate to reviewers and which approaches worked best with me.
The Publisher's Approach to Book Reviews
Some publishers seemed more enthusiastic about getting reviews than others. Some sent boxes packed with books, many of which were unsuitable. Others gave me their catalogue and then sent any copies I requested. The best looked at my site and suggested titles they thought might fit well on it.
The one that worried me most was a large publisher who sent a bundle of advance information sheets and a form for me to complete that allowed me to request no more than three or four books for review. This seemed very hard on lesser known authors who were unfortunate enough to have a book published at the same time as several top name authors and were less likely to be reviewed as a result.
Occasionally a publisher sent a gift or gimmick with the review copy. This never made me select a book I might otherwise have ignored and sometimes had the opposite effect. I imagine the person who put lots of silver stars in the envelope with their book hadn’t considered how cross the reviewer might feel when she had to pick them all up.
Best Tactics for Indie Authors
I often had submissions from self-published authors, either directly or via a marketing/PR company they had employed. On the whole, the submissions from the so-called professionals were no better than the ones direct from the author and sometimes worse as they were less likely to be personally targeted. So don't assume that paying for PR will automatically increase your chances of reviews.
The most effective submissions I received were from people who had bothered to look at my website, noted the very specific types of books I reviewed and then submitted their book with a personal letter suggesting where their book would fit on the site. I always looked carefully at books sent that way, and many of them ended up being reviewed.
Eight Top Tips
Based on my experiences, here are my tips for approaching reviewers.
- Don’t send at random to a list someone else has created. Check out each reviewer yourself and only send your book if it’s the type they review.
- Find reviewers who specialise in your genre, read their submission guidelines and mention their website, blog or other reviews when you write to them.
- If you’re approaching them by post, send a copy of the print edition (if you have one) plus an information sheet and a personal letter.
- If you’re approaching by email, include the information about the book in the body of the email and don’t send attachments unless you know they are welcome. Unless their submission guidelines say differently, it’s best to ask if they would be interested in seeing your book and tell them which formats you can provide so they can choose.
- Don’t oversell yourself. Reviewers are not impressed by hype. They have already heard of too many authors who are supposed to be the next JK Rowling and too many books that claim to be bestsellers when they’re not.
- Don’t undersell yourself either. If your book is shortlisted for an award, say so and, if it’s had a good review from a reputable source, include a quote.
- Don’t include bribes, gifts or gimmicks with your book, not even chocolate. It melts in the post and sticks the pages together.
- Last, but by no means least, never ever chase a reviewer to ask if they’ve read your book. It’s very bad manners and will not help at all.