So your book is published. Yippee! You might think that rejection is now behind you. But don’t forget that now your work is being judged by a new group of critiquers; the reviewers. A bad review can hurt just as much as any rejection, with the added bonus that a review is in the public domain where everyone can see it. There's no wallowing in private misery. On the other hand, a great review makes you feel like Sally Field accepting her Oscar: "You like me! You really like me!"
Many review sites exist online, reviewing both print and epublished novels. Two sites that I’m familiar with are Got Romance, (or their free reads blog page) and Long and Short Reviews (including the LASR blogspot page) I asked the owners of both sites some questions about how the review process works.
How do you receive books that you review?
Valerie Mann, Got Romance Reviews: We receive notices from several publishers on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Sometimes they send us the actual pdf file, other times just a blurb/excerpt, which I post on our review group. When someone asks for a particular book, I request it from the review coordinator for that publisher. Sometimes we receive review requests directly from the author.
Marianne, Long and Short Romance Reviews: We get the majority of our books from the publishers, many of the remaining directly from authors or their publicists, and a smaller number we purchase for our reviewers or our reviewers get on their own.
How do you select books to review? Do your reviewers pick the books they'd like to review or do you assign them?
Valerie: We don't typically select books for review. A couple of publishers let our reviewers go to the website and find books they want to review and then the reviewer will ask me to request it. Reviewers often will see a book blurb that I've posted on the group and request. Then again, I get emails asking for me to simply pick a book for them to read. They may request a specific author or genre or word count. It varies, obviously.
Marianne: We offer everything that meets our guidelines to our reviewers and allow them to choose what they want to read for review. We firmly feel that assigning reviews won't allow for a proper review. If we assign a spicy paranormal story to someone who hates them, she's not going to give it a good review. We want the reviewers matched appropriately -- though, admittedly, many of our reviewers are open to reading and reviewing stories from any genre.
What advice do you have for authors receiving a review, whether good or bad?
Valerie: I am a stickler for manners when it comes to my reviewers. Always try to find something nice to say, even if they don't care for the book. I feel the same should go for the authors. Find the time to thank the reviewer. They took time out of their busy lives to read and write a review for your book. I've been on both ends of this - as a reviewer and as an author who has had her book(s) reviewed. I always acknowledge the review (even if it wasn't the greatest rating).
Marianne: Our reviewers always like to hear from the authors, so definitely say thanks. But the biggest thing an author should remember is this: remain professional and polite, even if you didn't get a glowing review. Getting snarky, throwing accusations about, telling the reviews site they're stupid, wrong, idiotic, that their reviewer obviously didn't read the book, understand the book, etc., is not only unkind and unprofessional but it gets around. The writing world is small...
Thankfully this type of behavior has only happened a few times in the past three years, so I can't complain. For the most part, we've been continually impressed by how thoughtful, generous, kind and professional the author community is.
What can authors do to increase their chances of having a reviewer review their next book?
Valerie: Promote it like crazy, including joining author groups, blogs etc and asking for reviews. Contact review group owners and ask to put your book on their list of books to be reviewed. Make friends with reviewers. Most especially, if a reviewer reviews one of your books, ask her if she'll be willing to review your next book. Chances are she'll say yes.
Marianne: Write a good first book! I have reviewers who have become rabid fans of certain authors and clamor for the stories the moment they're available. Also, when we offer books for review, we post the blurb in our reviews group -- that's what our reviewers have to go on, so make sure it's well-written. That's what will sell your story the best -- both to my reviewers and to the world in general.
Do you think reviews influence sales?
Valerie: I like to think so. There is some debate about this. One marketing director for a major romance e-publisher says reviews really don't. However, she is always right on time sending the new releases to Got Romance reviews every week, so I tend to think she also doesn't feel reviews hurt sales either! I've had reviews of my own books where the comments left by readers of the review will tell me they want to buy my book because of the review. So there you go.
Marianne: Yes and no. I think reviews help -- especially well-written, comprehensive ones. I know I've bought more than one book based on my reviewers reviews (and no, I don't help myself to the reviews PDFs since I don't typically write reviews -- I'm a firm anti-piracy person, so guard the PDFs we're given like they're my children... my reviewers only get the books they review. No exceptions.). I think reviews can also simply get the word out about a book -- there's no such thing as bad publicity, right?
But do I think that reviews will make or break a story? No. Take a look at a best-selling author's books on Amazon and you'll see every type of review possible, from glowing to snarky.
I do believe, though, that when a reader finds a site (or even a particular reviewer) they trust, they're going to give credence to the recommendation, and that will lead to sales.
If a writer or avid reader wanted to review books for you, what should they do?
Valerie: We like to accept new reviewers but we also only want serious, committed reviewers. I think every review site owner will tell you that many people sign up for reviewing but only a handful actually do end up reviewing faithfully. But, if someone wants to review for Got Romance Reviews, they can contact Kate or I at email@example.com OR ask to join our Yahoo group, Got Romance Reviews.
Marianne: Since we have, on average, 800 - 1000 books and stories in need of review on a regular basis, we always need reviewers. We offer not only free books, but an incentive program that allows reviewers to earn gift certificate, free books that they don't have to review and free advertising on our site (and promo through our sister site, http://www.goddessfish.com/). For more information, they can look here: http://www.longandshortreviews.com/reviewerapp.htm
Reviews can be good or bad. Just remember that a review is one person’s opinion. Sadly, not everybody is going to like your book or your style of writing. Author Joyce Henderson (http://www.joycehendersonauthor.com/) says “My advice, which I rarely take myself ☺, don't read reviews. Unless they come directly to you in your inbox from a fan, a review is some jerk's (if it's a bad review) or it's some divine goddess's (if it's a good review) single opinion. You've already impressed the person that matters--the editor who bought your book!
As a writer, what are your best and worst experiences with reviews? As a reader, do you make decisions on buying books by reading reviews? Have you ever reviewed a book?