We hear it all the time: "the window for reviews is shrinking." And yet we still see reviews appearing everywhere. So how can you capture a share of this market? It's true that often reviews from big-name bloggers go to equally big-name authors. Well, can you blame the blogger? If someone had a choice between reviewing Shades of Grey and one of my recent books, I'm sure Shades would win and I totally get that, but it's hard when you're starting out. You often get reviews when you get reviews, so the old adage of "media draws media" is very true. Then where do you start?
Year ago, when I was first in the industry, it was pretty simple. You could find a reviewer, send him or her a copy and that was that. Now, it's a lot different. Bloggers get hundreds of books mailed to them by publishers on a monthly basis, while book review departments in newspapers have either shrunk or been removed entirely. It's a whole new world. The good news is that there are still great opportunities to get reviewed, but you need to understand the new rules of exposure.
Blogger reviews: Blogger reviews are still great (even though bloggers are busier than ever) but in order to get your fair share, I recommend networking with the bloggers. How do you do that? By following their blogs and posting authentic and helpful comments on their posts -- or by retweeting a review of a book that you particularly loved. Get to know the bloggers you'll be pitching to. They will also appreciate that you took the time to read their blog, instead of just pitching them. It's true with any kind of networking. You tend to go to the front of the line when you know someone, right? So get to know the bloggers.
If you have a series of bloggers you are following who are influential but don't necessarily review books, you could ask them if they might let you guest blog or perhaps run an excerpt of your book on their website or you might coordinate a book giveaway with them. As a blogger myself, I love it when someone writes me for an interview and has actually read our blog. How do I know they've done this? Often they'll weave that into their pitch. For example, "Dear Penny, I saw that you wrote about mobile marketing in January and interviewed Gillian Muessig in May, I think my topic would be a nice addition to your blog because..." See? Now that's much better than: "Dear Penny, I have an idea for your blog I think you might like..." there's a chance I will love it, but a far greater chance I won't because the person pitching just spotted our website and thought: "They might like this." It takes a bit more work to do it the other way, but your returns will be greater and you're also building relationships as you go, making the tradeoff worth it.
Review other books: In order to get reviews, you might need to become a reviewer. I know this might sound crazy. Who has time to review books? Well, that's how we got here in the first place, remember? Reviewing other people's books (who write about similar topics to you) is not only a great thing to do for your industry but a great way to network. I review every book that's appropriate to my market (on Amazon). People love peer reviews, trust me. Imagine if the person you're reviewing reviewed you? See how that works? Make sure to send them the review when you're done. It's a boatload of great karma that could help you get some reviews, too.
Media connections: With newspapers eliminating review departments, how on earth can you get some traction for your book? How about articles and write ups? And even when newspapers do reviews, it can still be a hard road to get them. Especially if your book is self-published, POD or eBook. With 1,500 books published each day, it's tough to weave through the maze of authors out there trying to get attention for their book, too. Here's what I recommend. Get to know the media in your market. Pick a series of newspapers in your immediate area or state. You can find a pretty good listing here: www.newslink.org. You can also select other areas, depending on your book, the reach of your topic or your business. Often smaller regions of the US will still have active review departments so be sure to check all appropriate papers for both reporters who write about your topic, and review department criteria (where they want you to send the book, etc.). By getting to know the reporters who write about your topic, you can network with them early (pre-release) by commenting on articles they've written, or offering them ideas or statistics for future pieces. Remember the networking piece for bloggers? That works here, too and it's a great way to gain attention for your book and get a mention or review in a local or national paper.
Media Leads: I wrote an article on media leads, how to get them and how to respond to them. You can see it here and suffice it to say that the sooner you start with this (yes long before the book is out), the better. It's another great way to network with a reporter.
Amazon Reviews: We've all heard of the big, top ten Amazon reviewers, but like any big-name reviewers they get inundated, too. Amazon is a great portal to expand upon and you should do whatever you can to populate your page with reviews because rarely do readers buy books "naked" (this refers to the book page, not the state of dress). I highly encourage you to review the Amazon list of top reviewers (folks who do post reviews on Amazon) and then pitch the ones that are right for your market. The lure of the top reviewers is that they possess a certain clout, but because of that, the other folks who are solid, faithful reviewers tend to get overlooked. Consider your options with Amazon, and definitely do your research and find some reviewers.
Social sites: Websites like Library Thing and Goodreads offer another great opportunity. First, these communities have millions of very active members and a great place to garner reader reviews. Both sites have a great Reader Giveaway program that we love and use often; in exchange for handing over a free copy members (winners) are encouraged to post a review of the book. Very win-win if you're looking to get the word out there about your book.
While the world has changed a lot in regards to reviews, there are still a lot of opportunities out there for getting to the right people and getting those people to talk about your book. Not only that, but building a strong community of media and blogger contacts will help you not just for your current book, but for future titles as well.
Every Friday, HuffPost's Culture Shift newsletter helps you figure out which books you should read, art you should check out, movies you should watch and music should listen to. Learn more