Book reviews have been around for centuries. In its 1851 inaugural issue, The New York Times announced it would “take note of the books of the day—unravel their narrative into a newspaper column and give the public, whom we have taken in hand to serve, a running synopsis of their story.” It contends this was the start of the stand-alone book review.
While the publishing industry has undergone several transformations since then, what hasn’t changed is the influence reviews can have on a book’s success. Positive book reviews drive sales. Books with no reviews are often skipped over. Even if your title doesn’t appear in The New York Times, every online mention, and specifically those on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, can help boost your book in search results.
Book reviews that are secured before a book is published are called advance praise. These reviews are typically used in marketing materials and/or featured as quotes on the front or back cover or inside the book. Including advance praise on/in your book is optional, and not required for publishing.
There are four different types of book reviews: literary endorsements, editorial reviews, trade publication reviews and general reviews. Each is connected with a different audience, and some types are better than others if you are seeking advance praise. But all serve the same basic purpose—to raise awareness for your book.
Literary endorsements are positive praise from credible literary and/or professional connections, often in the author’s network. You may seek literary endorsements at any point during your publishing journey, but if you are seeking advance praise, literary endorsements are usually best.
Make a list of people you know in the literary world—writers, writing teachers, published authors, fellow members of literary organizations. If your book is related to your business, include professional and industry contacts. Focus on requesting literary endorsements from individuals who are most likely to provide a thoughtful review and share it with their networks—your potential book champions.
Also consider people you may not know but would be beneficial to connect with, such as authors whose books are in the same genre or whose titles are comparable to yours. Researching and reaching these individuals will likely take time. You may need to connect via a contact form on their website or direct message on social media.
Editorial reviews are typically free reviews from reputable media outlets, as well as from book bloggers, podcasters and influencers who share them on their platforms. You may seek editorial reviews at any point during your publishing journey. Editorial reviews can be used for advance praise, though positive reviews are not guaranteed, and timing may not sync with your publishing schedule.
Make a list of book reviewers at local and national media outlets, as well as book bloggers, podcasters, and influencers on platforms like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. One way to find these reviewers is by following authors of titles comparable to yours on social media and/or searching for keywords. Again, researching and reaching these individuals will take time. Look for a contact form on their website or try connecting via direct message on social media.
For Publish Her authors, Publish Her sends a news release announcing your book to more than 100 general media contacts. While it is not an explicit request for a review, it is intended to spark media interest in your book and may result in editorial reviews.
There are a number of editorial reviewers that offer paid reviews. In general, Publish Her does not recommend these. If you decide to go this route, do your homework. Take a close look at the reviewer’s online presence. They may have thousands of followers, but followers can be purchased—audience engagement is more important. Websites often reveal a paid reviewer’s credibility. If the website appears rudimentary or isn’t formatted to be viewed on a variety of devices, cross it off your list.
Trade Publication Reviews
Trade publication reviews are paid reviews from print and online publications targeted at booksellers, libraries, literary agents, media outlets and more. Authors pay a fee in exchange for a book review from these publications. You can seek trade publication reviews at any point during your publishing journey; however, Publish Her recommends waiting until immediately after your book launches. Literary publications tend to be more critical, and we’ve found authors are best served by sending a final book copy for review.
Two respected trade publications in the publishing industry are Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. Others include American Book Review, Booklist, Galley Cat (from AdWeek), Library Journal, Publisher’s Lunch (from Publisher’s Marketplace), School Library Journal and Shelf Awareness.
General Reader Reviews
General reader reviews are those posted by individual readers on bookseller and book review sites. They’re key to the ongoing success of your book, as every review helps elevate your book title in online search results. While we don’t recommend using them for advance praise, you may seek general reviews at any point during your publishing journey.
Family and friends are a great place to start. Reach out to everyone who pre-ordered your book and/or anyone who tells you they picked up a copy at a bookstore or online.
There are also several book discovery websites where titles are listed so general readers can find them and share reviews. Setting up and creating your free author profile on these sites will also boost your book in search engines.
Amazon Author Central is a book discovery website often overlooked by authors, but it is the most important. It allows you to share information about yourself and your book(s) with millions of readers. Setting up an author page is quick and easy—it requires simply uploading an image and a short bio. Once your book is available for purchase, set up your profile here.
Other book discovery sites we recommend are Goodreads, BookBub and LibraryThing. All are connected to your ISBN and allow you to engage with a community of readers. You can promote your book on Goodreads and BookBub. LibraryThing encourages authors to engage with other members of its community but does not allow advertising.
General reviewers can review your book on Amazon and Goodreads regardless of where they purchased it. Make it easy for them by providing a link directly to your book’s page on various websites.
Final Thoughts on Reviews
Some authors work with a publicist to help generate reviews. As the primary marketer of your book, you’ll need to get comfortable asking for reviews. Be strategic as you reach out to reviewers. Connect with people in your network first. Be clear with the reviewer about how you plan to use it. Ask if it is possible to receive the review from them by a specific date. Be prepared to follow up. Learn more about pitching your book to reviewers here.
Lastly, while the goal of this process is garnering favorable book reviews, it’s wise to prepare yourself for negative ones as well. Like art, books are subjective, and every book is not for every reader. Don’t get caught up in a negative review. Simply shake it off, focus on the positive and move on. Remember, all reviews boost your book in search results.
About Publish Her
Publish Her is a female-founded publisher dedicated to elevating the words, writing and stories of women. We are passionate about amplifying the voices of women of color, women with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. We aim to make publishing an attainable, exciting and collaborative process for all. Publish Her specializes in print-on-demand books, workbooks, journals, magazines and more.