Even in an age where every reader can post amateur ratings and reviews books on sites like Amazon, GoodReads and Barnes and Noble, writers and publishers still scramble to get professional book reviews from credible sources.
So what drives demand? Book marketing, of course. No matter how many five-star reviews your book has an Amazon, discerning readers still look for independent sources to make their books stand out from the rest. In an increasingly crowded marketplace, it’s these books that have a leg up on the competition.
Unfortunately, professional book reviewers are an endangered species. Once upon a time, every small, mid and major market newspaper, most magazines, and virtually every weekly publication had salaried book reviewers. That all changed with one-two punch of the digitization of media and the Great Recession. With the exception of a chosen few publications such as the New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, most professional book review positions have now been downsized or eliminated.
This dire situation has left independent authors vying for the attention of a precious few book reviewers – the same few that are already working with major publishers. And to be completely realistic, if you’re a genre writer – romance, mystery, horror, thrillers and the like – your odds of
getting reviewed by the majors aren’t much better than winning the lottery. For the most part, reviewers prefer to take on either non-fiction or “literature” that doesn’t fit neatly into any genre.
So what’s a writer who’s either independent or with a smaller publisher to do?
- Rule #1 – Don’t send your books to the major reviewers and delay publication for weeks or months, hoping to get lucky. This tactic rarely favors writers without connections.
- Rule #2 – Realize that even many well-known writers, at some point in their career, have paid for professional book reviews in one way or another. You’d be surprised at how many brand-name authors have been reviewed by Kirkus.
- Rule #3 – Factor a review service into your book marketing budget.
- Rule #4 – Realize that even paid reviews may not always be positive, so it’s wise to use more than one service.
With that out of the way, here’s a list of several outlets that review books by independent authors and small publishers [disclosure: we review thriller books].
Midwestern Book Reviews – Publishing since 1976, the MBR reviews books “free of charge.” The service begins with a 14-16 week “window of opportunity,” during which a review could be assigned to a reviewer (it’s not guaranteed). Next comes a $50 “reading fee” if your book really does find a reviewer. Adding to your cost, you’ll have to send two hard copies (not eBooks) to the MBR’s Wisconsin headquarters. Needless to say, this service likely won’t be the best one for anyone looking for a guaranteed review, or those on a deadline.
Foreward Reviews – A rare free service that actually accepts eBooks by email! However, do note that Foreward is also closely associated with a paid service, Clarion Reviews, which is listed below. For that reason, some prefer to simply cut to the chase and pay up.
Clarion Reviews– The paid review arm of Foreward Reviews. The service is clear and straightforward. Reviews cost $499 per book with an express delivery option of 4-6 weeks.
Book Reporter – Although your chances of getting reviewed in this free book service are far from guaranteed, they’re bound to be better than most of the major publishers. The Book Reporter explicitly invites genre writing, including “contemporary fiction, historical fiction, debut authors, mysteries, thrillers, some fantasy/science fiction and some romance.” Aside from a long timetable, the only drawback here is that they do not accept eBooks – you’ll have to send a hard copy to their headquarters in New York City.
ReaderViews.com – You’ll pay between $119-$499 for a variety of review exposure packages, which include, among other things, posting to audience-specific websites.
BestThrillers.com – Shameless plug for our own review services, which are geared toward high quality thriller and mystery books. Most of our reviews are written free of charge and do not discriminate whatsoever between independent authors or those at large publishers and everyone in between. For unsolicited books, however, we offer a paid review service of $99 per book that is typically turned around within two weeks. Reviews are posted on BestThrillers.com, Facebook, Twitter and in some cases, to our email list.
Kirkus Reviews – Reviews take 4-9 weeks, and prices range from $425 to $575.