The Almighty Book Review: How to Get Reviews and Where to Get Them

If you are sending your book—a galley or ARC (Advance Reader Copy), if you’ve planned well—off to be reviewed, you are saying to yourself and the world of book critics that you’re ready for attention. You package up your book, your press release, a list of endorsements, and a cover letter, and you hope for the best. But how can you get reviews when you’re a self or indie publisher and you’re competing against authors with a whole PR team behind them?

First, plan ahead. Get your book in top form and create strongly written and designed materials to accompany it (for a reviewer’s checklist, see the sidebar). Second, target your reviewer market. Look for publications or websites that focus on your subject matter, whether it’s paranormal YA romance or the history of a third world country. You’ll be much more successful if you don’t waste time or money trying to get reviews from people who won’t be interested. 

For each review copy that you send out, learn the review policy and decide whether your chance of being reviewed is great enough to warrant sending in a copy of your book, a press release, and a cover letter. If yes, follow the review policy to the letter. If not, move on.

In the indie and self-publishing industries, it’s always important to start small in your endeavors. Begin by contacting local media in your area. Does your newspaper print a book review or recommendation? Do you happen to know any bloggers who would want to review your book? Reach out (gently) to your list of acquaintances and contacts first before finding bigger fish to fry. If you can prove to larger publications that reviewers like your book, they might take the time to check out your work.

A great way to get reviews is to work with bloggers. Many blog reviewers have thousands of readers, and getting a blogger to read your book is much easier than trying to entice the reviewers at the New York Times. That’s not to say it will be a walk in the park—you’ll need to choose the right bloggers for your genre and have content that compels them to write a favorable review. For more information on the process, check out Emlyn Chand’s article, “How to Get Bloggers to Review Your Book.”

There is always some genre of book that is in fashion at any particular time, and if that’s the genre in which you’re writing and publishing, your chances of having your book reviewed in trade and consumer publications are good. If that’s not the case, you’re going to have to get creative and maybe even be satisfied with print inches in niche journals and regional publications. Print review space is shrinking, just as the number of books being published every year is skyrocketing.

But the good news is, no matter who is publishing your book, there are now tons new of channels for book reviews. You can use NetGalley, a site that hosts ARCs and early reads for bloggers, librarians, and other reviewers. You can also do galley giveaways on sites like Goodreads, or even through your Facebook, Twitter, or blog. These may not be traditional paths to reviews, but they are great options for indie publishers, and can help give your book some momentum.

Once you’ve sent your book out for review, sit back and wait. If your book is timely, well produced, and clearly written and if you’re really working smart and hard, you’re going to get reviewed. And if you get a less-than-perfect review, as tempting as it may be, don’t despair. Reviews bring attention to a book, even if they’re critical or not as glowing as you’d like. Being ignored is far worse than a bad review.

Finally, if you’re striking out on the review front, don’t be afraid to get creative. If you’ve put together a nonfiction book, try to get feedback from your colleagues—their praise can be used as blurb material too! If you wrote a book about parenting, give away a few copies to other parents and see what their reactions are. Even if they aren’t “reviewers,” they can help you find the hook for your book. You can use their feedback to hone your review pitch and materials.

Below are some basic submission guidelines, but be sure to visit the website of the reviewer or make a phone call to be sure you’re covering all your bases.

  • Include a short and sweet cover letter. Introduce yourself, briefly discuss why you think your book should be considered for review, and shoot a little praise toward the reviewer and the publication for good measure.
  • Submit a copy of a bound galley, finished book, e-book, or Most review magazines do not accept unbound galleys or periodicals.
  • Send your book prior to publication date or less than ninety days after the pub date.
  • Include a cover sheet with the following information: title, author, publisher, address, phone number, website, page count, cover style, price, ISBN number, and publication month and year.
  • Send a follow-up e-mail to the reviewer to confirm receipt of your title, thanking him or her for considering your book.
  • If you’re entering your book online, be sure to include a cover scan and book synopsis (150–250 words) to make it easier to complete your listing.
  • Don’t overdo it on the press kit. Reviewers are likely to throw out (or at least not read) giant packets of author info or unusable merchandise such as posters or obnoxious figurines.
  • Do send nicely done and related materials if the additional items look professional and add to your book. For example, some children’s books come with a stuffed animal. Some publishers and authors send their catalog with a submission.

Here are some places that might be interested in reviewing your book. We cannot stress enough the importance of following each publication’s guidelines down to the most trivial point. When publishing professional Mardi Link was an editor at an independent review journal, she estimated that 60 percent or more of the books not selected for review were weeded out because they did not follow the magazine’s review submission guidelines. The moral: Do your research!

BookReview.com

ForeWord’s Clarion Reviews

Kirkus

Midwest Book Review

National Book Critics Circle

The New York Review of Books

PW Select

San Francisco Book Review

The Washington Independent Review of Books

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