So You Have Written a Book and Want a Book Review, Now What? (Part 6)

“I'm not one of those people who says, 'I never read reviews,' because I don't believe those people.” - Marvin Hamlisch

As a book club we are often contacted by authors and publishers about reviews. In the hopes of providing useful, helpful, practical and accurate information as a reference guide, we’ve decided to offer a series of Open Mic pieces where we go straight to the “horse’s mouth,” so to speak. For this sixth guide, we’ve reached out to a few reviewers and book clubs for their tips and advice to authors looking for a review for their book(s). Collectively, this group has several years of experience, penned thousands of reviews and has a wealth of knowledge.

Each reviewer/book club was simply asked one question – What advice or tips would you give to an author looking for book reviews?

Urban Reviews: Make sure that you follow the exact guidelines that the book review site has. If the reviewer wants you to submit a one chapter excerpt, don't submit a paragraph excerpt. Also, please make sure that your work is properly edited.

Urban Reviews is the premier online resource for open and honest opinions on some of today's latest and greatest releases in African-American Fiction. Urban Reviews provides elaborate reviews of recent works.

TaNisha Webb: Here are 5 tips for authors when submitting books for reviews to book clubs:

Look for the book club’s book submission process and what the book club looks for in a book so that you're aware and agreeable to how your book will be reviewed.

Check to see which genres the book club will accept. This will insure that your book will be read by someone that enjoys and is familiar with your genre.

Check to see how long it will take for the book club to read and post your review. This is especially helpful if you're trying to receive a review back in a specific timeframe.

If you receive an unfavorable or do not understand a review it's okay to ask for an explanation or clarification. Just remember that all books aren't for every reader but a valid reason should be given.

Not all 5 star reviews are good reviews if the reviewer cannot give valid reasons why your book deserves 5 stars.

TaNisha Webb is the founder of Book Club 101 University, publisher and editor in chief for Book Club 101 Magazine, and the author of The Ultimate Book Club Experience: How to Create & Maintain a Successful Book Club.

Book Referees: Become acquainted with the reviewer – Join/check out their blog – read a few of their postings – become familiar with the kinds of genres they read/review. I have had authors send me a generic form letter that stated things about my blog that wasn’t true. (For example: Dear Mrs. Simmons, I see you are a big fan of science fiction…. WRONG ANSWER!!)

When submitting a book for review – Be professional. Enclose a short bio and a few promotional post cards/bookmarks. (If the reviewer enjoyed your book… they have something to give to their friends/family/blog readers to help promote your book)

The review book needs to be in perfect condition. Believe it or not, I once received an unbound book from an author. I opened the envelope – the book was in a clear sandwich bag and all of the pages were loose.

Commenting negatively to a review – Remember that you may not always receive a favorable review. If you don’t agree with the reviewer – you should respectfully email that reviewer and ask them what/where they found fault in your writing. I understand that an author can be sensitive about their work, but you have to also remember you are catering to the public/your readers. Even though you think your book is a 5-Star book, the reviewer may or may not agree. You can always agree to disagree in a RESPECTFUL way. You have to understand word of mouth is a powerful tool. The most important thing for an author to REMEMBER – there was a reason you trusted that reviewer in the first place.

Book Referees was created to reinforce the importance of book reviews. As an online book review club we promote authors and books that we feel will have a great impact in the Literary World.

OOSA: As with anything in business and particularly this industry, authors need to do research. What one book club or reviewer does doesn’t necessarily apply to all. Not all book clubs review and not all reviewers review everything. Never assume anything. Also, because someone claims to be something does not make it so. Be careful with whom you decide to send your books to. In the case of reviews, the proof is in the reviews.

Part of doing your research or homework is to find book clubs and reviewers that fit your book. If an author writes explicit erotica, a book club or reviewer that only reads Christian fiction may not be a good fit. If an author writes strictly street lit, a book club or reviewer that only reads sci-fi or romance is probably not the right choice. Things like this can be discovered about a reviewer or book club by simply reviewing their site and/or reading through their reviews. Regarding book clubs, make sure it's a club that even offers reviews. All book clubs are not the same. Find reviewers that are interested in books similar to yours.

Look at the quality of reviews. Be leery of those that love every book or hate every book. Look for well-written reviews. Look for reviews, whether good or bad, that explain the reviewer’s opinion. Why was the book so great? Why was the book so bad?

Contact potential reviewers directly in a personal message. Don't send a blanket email or FB message that is going out to several individuals at once. Start your message by addressing/greeting the book club or reviewer by name. Second, introduce yourself. Third, state your purpose and make it clear. Be professional. Be formal. Check your spelling and grammar. Be precise and to the point. Potential reviewers are not going to read your email if it's a book in itself. If you want to be taken seriously you have to present yourself as such. First impressions are lasting impressions.

When considering the reviewer’s guidelines, follow them precisely. You'd be surprised at the number of authors that don't read and/or follow directions. It can be the difference between your request being accepted or denied. If your book is accepted for review, send it in a timely manner.

Keep tract of those that you have contacted. Nothing screams disorganization or unprofessional more than an author that contacts you repeatedly about the same book or about a book you have already reviewed.

Have a realistic timeframe. Having an unrealistic timeframe often causes misunderstandings and unnecessary issues. One week or two is not realistic, at least not for reviewers/clubs that do serious reviewing. If you send your book to a reputable book club/reviewer, keep in mind that so did many others and before you. Reviews can take weeks or months simply because of the volume of books ahead of yours. Most reviewers review for pleasure and still have a job and have other responsibilities in life. Avoid those that offer rushed reviews, charges for reviews, give you a review back in less than a week, or solicit authors for review books as often these practices compromise the integrity of reviews.

Ask questions of potential reviewers so that there is a clear understanding. Don't assume anything. And most importantly, if you just want someone to cosign you're the greatest, you just want a 5-star rating or endorsement, then don't bother seeking reviews.

Once your review is complete, whether you agree, like or love the review, thank your reviewer. You are not thanking the reviewer for the review per se; you are thanking the reviewer for their time.

To sum it all up: Authors, exercise due diligence. Do your RESEARCH. Never ASSUME. ASK questions. Behave PROFESSIONALLY.

OOSA Online Book Club is an online book club and reviewing team that focuses on African American authors and is dedicated to giving honest reviews.

*bell rings*

Class is over. See you in two weeks with the next Open Mic!

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