Sure, every author WANTS to receive glowing book reviews. But do book reviews help sales? That's the million dollar question.
As an Indie author, I've had my mind blown. In the old days, when I was published by Bantam and Avon, I had no trouble getting reviews -- GREAT reviews -- from trade publications. In fact, senior reviewers used to call me on the phone (no joke!) to gush about my stories. So why do these same tenured staff, who loved me at Bantam and Avon, now ignore my new releases?
The problem can't be my writing. If anything, my writing has improved over the years.
The problem can't be my genre: I'm writing for a niche market, and that market still wants to read about Cowboys.
Golly. Do you think the problem might lie in reviewers' bias toward Indie authors?
Yes, my Indie friends, you're not being paranoid. Trade reviewers really ARE ignoring you on purpose.
Sadly, the trade reviewers who aren't blatantly ignoring you are playing games with your mind. They're offering to review your work -- but not necessarily with respect -- for a $400 fee. We might as well take advantage of the suckers, right? They're so desperate to be reviewed.
So let's play a little game of our own. We'll call it, "the bottom line."
Does a review from some vaunted trade publication pay for itself? Does it put money in your pocket?
According to the dozens and dozens of Indie AND Legacy authors, who've piped up on my writer networks, the answer is, "No."
In fact, one New York Times bestseller tried an experiment. She put her manuscript up on Net Galley -- you know, that Internet clearinghouse that's supposedly mobbed everyday by screenwriters, newspaper reporters, podcasters, and bloggers, all of whom are eager to find fresh new literary voices to share with the world?
According to my NYT bestselling friend, her novel didn't get a single download. That's right. Zilch. Nada. She basically flushed her $400 down the toilet.
So let's pose a different question. Do you need reviews to sell your book?
The answer is yes. Reviews give you credibility. They prove to skeptics (eg, consumers) that you're not the only voice in the wilderness who thinks you have writing talent. Or at least, an interesting story to tell.
However, there's a dirty little secret that no trade publication, who takes your "review money," wants you to know: EXPOSURE does not equal SALES.
Advertisers have known this truth for years. Which brings me to my next point.
If you want to shell out $400 to promote your novel, you're better off putting it in the hands of an advertiser than a reviewer. Why? Because an advertiser (by law!) must live up to his promises. He must guarantee that your ad -- the content YOU WANT to promote -- actually makes an appearance in his publication. A reviewer doesn't have to guarantee you squat.
There's only one type of review that will impact your bottom line. But how do you get it -- and use it -- to make money?
According to my publisher, who's super savvy about growing ebook sales, there's only one type of review that will ever impact your bottom line: the reviews you get from customers. Customer reviewers are the Internet equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising. But how do you get them?
As a professional publicist (with 30 years in the trenches,) and as a bestselling novelist, I've learned a few tricks over the years. Because so many authors ask me for help, I decided to write a helpful how-to article. Then I realized that a single blog post couldn't effectively cover all the parameters of this topic. So my post grew into a guidebook that shows authors how to solicit reviews and how to use those reviews in an effective book- marketing campaign.
In the meantime, I continue to advocate for Indie authors. There are lots of other ways to establish your credibility, my friend. Don't break your bank to buy a review.