Laying the foundation for a strong launch.
The manuscript of my historical novel Go Away Home was edited and ready to publish in February. With today’s technology, I could have had the book on sale in a matter of days. But I didn’t. Instead, I set the launch for July – five months out. The reason? I wanted to secure advance reviews.
Traditional publishers build lead time into publishing schedules in part to allow time to line up the glowing reviews used on the book cover, in “Praise for …” comments inside the book, and for other marketing. Third-party endorsement for a book helps springboard the launch.
I don’t have evidence that says having a certain number of reviews makes a difference in book sales, but reviews do add credibility. Reviews matter to me personally when I check out a book. Reviews appear to matter to Amazon in terms of marketing they do for a book. Reviews also come into play with many book promotion sites.
As an indie publisher, this is yet another of the decisions I get to make. So, I’m giving the strategy of sending out ARCs – Advance Review Copies – my best shot. I don’t have a magic target number; my goal is as many reviews as I can get. I found a really useful article on the topic at Your Writer Platform that set me on the path.
Time will tell whether my efforts are successful; I’ll let you know. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve done and how I think about it.
Give yourself time – Reviewers get hundreds of review requests, and you may find yourself in a very long queue. Most reviewers ask for 10-12 weeks. One blogger I contacted wasn’t promising a review before January 2016.
To pay or not to pay – You’ll find many sites will review for a price. Sometimes a hefty price. I make no judgement about whether paying for a review is a good idea. I lean toward not paying because I’m giving reviewers time. I also hope the concept of my novel will be strong enough to attract on its own merit. Plus, not paying fits my budget.
Target reviewers in your genre – I’ve sought out people and organizations that specialize in, or have an affinity for, historical fiction. The Indie View has a list of bloggers willing to review. It’s a long list and you have to search for reviewers in your genre. Morgen Bailey offers reviewers by genre on her writing blog.
It takes a lot of time to identify the right bloggers and to tailor pitches according to each blogger’s specifications. I created a table to keep track of my contacts, format requested, ARC distribution, and follow up. I’ve been meticulous in giving reviewers what they want. No form letters. I’ve made all e-formats available, plus paperback.
Utilize the social network – I put the word out to my social media contacts to see if any were willing to read and review, preferably in time for my launch. Questions have been raised about the value of reviews by author friends, so I’m judicious in asking. I also make it clear to each volunteer that I expect an honest review. That the bonds of friendship don’t apply for this task. I mean it.
Playing the numbers game – Again following the lead of publishers, I’ve created ARC giveaways on Goodreads and LibraryThing. These giveaways run through the month of April. I state specifically that the objective is to give out copies to garner reader reviews. Of course there are no guarantees. I understand from other authors that if 10-20% of the people who win a copy actually post reviews, that is a high return.
Keep breathing – Seeking reviews is a marathon, not a sprint. Finding the right contacts, sending the right information, waiting, waiting, waiting. Then there’s the anxiety regarding whether any reviewer will actually like my baby. When I began sending out review copies, I realized I spent a lot of time holding my breath.
And now for some good news: I heard from two reviewers this week. “Well written. Compelling. Engaging,” said Kara Logsden of the Iowa City Public Library in a review posted in her blog. She took my book to a radio interview and posted the picture on Facebook. I was in heaven. To read more of Kara’s review, click. A second, equally positive review, won’t be live until July when the book is for sale and Amazon lets readers post reviews.
The review process can seem arduous. But now I have early confirmation of my effort. Now I can breathe again.
What do you think? Authors: What was your decision regarding seeking reviews? What worked best? Readers: How much do reviews matter to you?