How to get your book reviewed
Workarounds + tips to breach the fortress of traditional media regardless of who you published with
Hello and Happy New Year, to those who celebrate!
A few weeks back, I wrote a post on self-publishing and featured a self-published memoir, “How I Made a Huge Mess of My Life: or Couples Therapy with a Dead Man” that I enjoyed. Its author, Billie Best, wrote in with an important question that I’d like to focus on, today.
First things first: it is nearly impossible to get book reviews in traditional media for a self-published title. Almost the only time this will happen is in a kind of gossip item (“eccentric dairy heiress has self-published her memoir “SPOILED MILK,” and is also working on carpeting her seven bathrooms1”) and they’ll read more like mentions than actual reviews. I’ve also seen trends pieces (“With publishing growing more and more unstable, some independently wealthy and already famous people are taking to vanity presses to control distribution and keep 100% of the profits.”)
Like so many industries, publishing is a clubby one with entrenched, old fashioned thinking and a business model that is highly resistant to change. Publishing motors on a mix of talent, relationships, and goodwill. When a media outlet publishes a positive book review, the outlet racks up points with the book’s editor, publisher, agent and the author. A circle of trust is established between numerous people, and a cycle of back scratching starts. But this circle doesn’t merry go round as easily when the writer is self published, because there’s not a circle any longer, there’s a dot. The writer is the publisher. The writer is the editor. The writer is the sales associate and (usually) the publicist. The ecosystem in self-publishing is small and homogeneous. Rarely do traditional media outlets see the benefit in venturing into the self-publishing savannah.
Here is the thing though—and the point of this post. It’s becoming equally hard for traditionally published books to get review coverage in traditional media outlets. Accordingly, my tips on how to get your book reviewed are multipurpose, regardless of how or where you published. Spoiler alert: some of my advice revolves around building buzz for your book, which is its own kind of coverage. Short of bribery and nepotism, nobody can actually force a book to be reviewed. But there are things you can do to keep your title in regional and national conversations, which ups its chances for review coverage. Here they are.