Even in an age where every reader can post amateur ratings and reviews books on sites like Amazon, GoodReads and Barnes and Noble, it isn’t enough. 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, books with critical acclaim have a leg up on the competition.
In our latest annual publishing industry research, in which where we polled hundreds of publishers, publicists and writers, 91.2% reporting that professional book reviews are important or very important. This is no surprise, as countless studies of consumers all industries consistently show that in terms of influencing sales, reviews are as statistically powerful as recommendations from friends and families.
This is not limited to the book world. It pertains to movie marketing as well. Look no further than Rotten Tomatoes, that wellspring of cinematic knowledge, employs both critic scores and audience scores to cast a discerning eye upon the reception of movies and TV shows. The critic scores, determined by seasoned reviewers from established publications, provide an authoritative measure of the film’s merit. These individuals are oftentimes esteemed practitioners of the craft, experts in the field who have dedicated their lives to the study of cinema.
In contrast, the audience scores are reflections of the opinions of the common viewer. These scores, garnered from individuals who have invested their time in viewing the film, offer a glimpse into how the movie has resonated with the public. Through the combination of both scores, Rotten Tomatoes paints a complete picture of the film’s overall reception. The result is a powerful tool for those seeking to make informed decisions about what they watch, as well as to uncover those films and TV shows that are held in high regard by critics and audiences alike.
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 and Entertainment Weekly, most professional book reviewers have 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 mainstream publications aren’t much better than winning the lottery. For the most part, reviewers at mainstream publications 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 mainstream 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 BestThrillers.com or Kirkus.
- Rule #3 – Factor a review service into your book marketing budget.
- Rule #4 – Realize that even paid book reviews may not always be positive, so it’s wise to use more than one service.
- Rule #5 – Make sure the professional book review service also includes distribution. If nobody sees your paid book review, its impact on sales may not be significant.
To help, here’s a list of several paid book review services that work with independent authors and small publishers [full disclosure: we also review mystery and thriller books].
Publishing since 2010, BestThrillers.com is solely focused on the mystery and thriller genres. We do not discriminate between independent authors or books from large publishers and everyone in between. Fees range from $199-$499, with turnaround times ranging from two weeks to nine weeks. Reviews are posted on BestThrillers.com, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and distributed to our list of email subscribers.
2) Midwestern Book Reviews
Publishing since 1976, the MBR reviews books “free of charge.” The service begins with a 4-6 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 does find a reviewer. Here is the MBR’s policy on format as of this writing: “We review audiobooks, CDs, and DVDs, but we can only accept physical review copies in CD, MP3-CD, or DVD format. We cannot accept download links, digital media, or digital media that has been “burned” to a CD.”
3) Clarion Reviews
The paid book review arm of Foreward Reviews. The service is clear and straightforward. As of the time of this writing, reviews cost $499 per book with an express delivery option of 4-6 weeks.
4) Kirkus Reviews
As of the time of this publication, indie book reviews take 74-9 weeks, and prices range from $450 to $750.