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 in paperback 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 Romance novels for a niche audience, and that audience 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. They think, "We might as well take advantage of the suckers, right? They're so desperate to be reviewed."
So let's play a 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 dozens and dozens of authors, both Indie and Legacy, who responded to my poll, the answer is, "No."
In fact, one New York Times bestseller tried an experiment. She posted her manuscript on Net Galley. (You've never heard of Net Galley? Well, according to their advertising, they are an Internet clearinghouse, and every day, they're supposedly mobbed by screenwriters, news reporters, podcasters, and bloggers -- in other words, the people who are eager to find fresh new literary voices.)
According to my NYT bestselling friend, while her novel was posted on Net Galley, it 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 anything.
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 and knows how to make a living writing ebooks, 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 those reviews?
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 use those reviews in an effective book-marketing campaign.
The takeaway here? There are lots of ways to establish your credibility. Don't break your bank to buy a review.