Who says it's impossible to get editorial reviews for your self-published book? Granted, it may not seem easy, and as indie authors we may not have the established relationships with endorsers that traditional publishers have. But as Boni Wagner-Stafford explains, that's no reason not to try.
Let's clarify what we're talking about when we say “editorial reviews.” Editorial reviews, also called endorsements, are those glowing comments you find on front covers, back covers, inside in the front matter, and on your book's page with the distributor/retailer (e.g. Amazon). These endorsements are often from people working for big media outlets (New York Times, Guardian), famous, notable, or those with lots of credibility with your target reader. Given they confer credibility, social proof, and confidence in the reader experience promised by the book, why wouldn't you try to get editorial reviews for your self-published book?
How to Go About Getting Editorial Reviews for Your Self-Published Book
In this case I don't believe it matters what genre you are writing in — the process is the same.
1. Decide Who You Want on Your Cover
It's dream time! In your wildest dreams, who would you want to feature with editorial reviews for your self-published book? Think about that space on the front cover of your book telling the world it's a great read. This is the most important step. We might feel like we shouldn't ask the Margaret Atwoods or Jeff Bezos or whomever is the most famous guru relative to your reader audience, because, well, who are we, anyway?
Toss that thinking! Reach high! Go hard or go home, I used to always say before I got too tired to go too hard for too long :-).
When I was in my twenties, working for the telephone company, I was tasked with organizing a celebration for the end of our sales competition. I suggested we ask our professional football team (Canadian/American football, not soccer) to send representatives and bring giveaways we could use as prizes. Everyone said I was crazy and would be wasting my time. “Why would they come to us?” they all asked. Guess what? We had half a dozen team members from the football team in our offices for three hours one morning, and they brought autographed balls, shirts, they let us take a gazillion pictures with them and everything. It was a big hit. And it all happened because I wasn't afraid to ask.
What's the worst that can happen? Maybe they won't respond to your request. Maybe they'll say no. So what? Maybe they will! An author I'm working with even has actor Tom Hanks on her editorial request list. And not just because she's a huge Tom Hanks fan: she actually knows he is deeply interested in her subject matter related to World War II.
So with a big-blue-sky attitude, pinpoint your perfect endorser and then think in expanding concentric circles about similar people whose names you'd love to see next to an editorial review for your self-published book.
2. Find Those Who've Endorsed Similar Books
Now do a category search for books that are similar to yours. Continuing from the theme above, don't limit yourself to books you deem to be of the same profile as yours. If your thriller will compete with Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, check his books for the editorial reviews. Make notes of who has reviewed them, whether they are affiliated with a particular organization, and in many cases you'll have to follow that with a bit of research about who each person is if it isn't already obvious.
3. Identify Influencers Related to Your Genre, Book, Industry, or Subject
If you're a nonfiction author, this could be a leader doing good work in the same or similar field, someone whose work you have quoted or cited, perhaps someone who has published a competing book (asking competitors is not verboten!). If you're a fiction author, this could be leaders of the community or region in which your novel is set, for example. In many of these cases, remember that with your aggressive marketing tactics there's an exposure benefit to them. It's in their best interest.
4. Get All Information Into a Spreadsheet
You had to know it was going to come down to a spreadsheet, right? Sigh. You could use a project management tool like Asana or Hubspot (free version) or Slack or… good ol' Excel. This part isn't magic, but I find it pays to be organized. You'll want columns for name, company, email address, social media handles, mailing address, which book(s) they've reviewed, and a column or space to add notes about your communication. Like, when they tell you they'll be happy to provide editorial reviews for your self-published book, and they'll get back to you in two weeks. 🙂
4. Write Your Template Email
The structure of a good endorsement review email (or letter or social media message if you are reaching out via a method other than email) goes like this:
- subject line
- intro tailored paragraph (Hi Mr. Tom Hanks, I know you have a keen interest in World War II history and I think you'll be interested in a book I've just written titled [title]. I'm hoping you'll agree to provide an endorsement review.)
- what the book is about – this can be a modification of your blurb
- links where they can access their ARC (advance review copy). Consider using a service like Prolific Works or BookFunnel and consider providing two options: an excerpt with a few sample chapters and the full manuscript. If you also have a website or webpage provide that link as well.
- your requested deadline – this should be at least four weeks, and six to eight is probably better
- a line explaining that endorsements received before the deadline will be considered for front or back cover treatment, and, acknowledging they are busy and that you'll gladly accept their review even if they are unable to meet your deadline
You might wish to find a way to show them a sample cover with a spot for where their endorsement might go. Upload a version of your ebook cover to the free download page that contains the spot with “your endorsement here.” Here's an example from author Gwyn Teatro to show you what I mean. The point is to show them how professional you are, your book is, and where their review might end up if it's good enough and it shows up on time. They'll have no reason to fear providing editorial reviews for self-published books.
5. Send Away!
Use your template, carefully crafting the custom bits at the top and send your messages out. Resist the temptation to follow up with them, except perhaps once if you haven't heard within two to three weeks. Be polite, don't badger, never make them feel like you assume they have an obligation to do anything. A simple outreach to tell them you're just checking to be sure they received your original message, and that's it.
While you're waiting for these endorsements to come in, you'll be lining up your advance readers for your reader reviews and getting ready to hit publish.
What If They Say No?
You are not going to get 100 % yeses. You are unlikely to get 100% nos. But when you purposefully go out and ask for editorial reviews for self-published books, good things happen. You might get an invitation to write a guest blog on a high-traffic blog site, or to be a guest on a podcast, or something else you already had on your book marketing to-do list anyway. It's a win-win.In your wildest dreams, whose endorsement would you want to feature on the front cover of your #self-published book? @ingeniumbooks #editorialreviews #iartg Click To Tweet
Don't miss my #selfpubcon2019 presentation, Finding New Ways to Market Your Book! And if you like what you've read here, you'll find more marketing strategy advice in my book, One Million Readers: the Definitive Guide to a Nonfiction Book Marketing Strategy that Saves Time, Money, and Sells More Books.
OVER TO YOU
How have you secured editorial reviews for self-published books? What's worked? What hasn't? Let's see your comments below.