As part of a small publishing house that is constantly releasing books, I'll be seeing my own first standalone short story come out next month from there, actually, but one of the things I constantly see posted in my house's super-secret Facebook group is that they're having trouble getting their books reviewed in major outlets.
Having worked both sides of the fence as a reviewer of indie books and an indie artist in literature and music, I thought I'd offer up a few suggestions on how to maximize the attention you'll get from the media.
10. Make Sure It Is Finished and Scheduled for Publication There is no point in sending a reporter an unedited manuscript full of formatting errors and typos. He or she will at best ignore it and at worst nuke it with criticism. Likewise, you have to be able to say when and where and how it will be available. There must be a definitive date, otherwise there's no point in doing a review because no matter how awesome your work may be and how lovingly a critic may describe it, the audience has to find out when and where they can get it.
9. Make Sure YOU Are Finished By that I mean you need to have all your promotional gear ready to go. You need your book in ePub or PDF form and possibly a few review copies if the outlets you're talking to are old school. You need a high-resolution copy of your cover and a nice author's shot of you. You need a 100-word biography telling them who you are and what you do, and you should be able to describe your book in another 100 words as well, 200 max. Write a template email to use when contacting people, and make sure it contains all the required links, contact info or anything else that a critic might need. Your press kit needs to be well organized and fully stocked.
8. Identify Your Local Media The power of a local author is that simply being one is news in and of itself. "Local Author Redefines Vampire Genre" is a great headline, and you'd be surprised in this day and age how much news is still local and how well such stories actually can do. Be liberal with your definition of local, as well. As far as I'm concerned, Texas is local, and that gives me at least half a dozen major metropolitan centers full of newspapers and blogs. Most cities have a helpful list on Wikipedia like this one. However...
7. Don't Just Send a Copy to the Paper I've reviewed stuff that was simply sent to the Houston Press and ended up in the "What's all this?" pile. It does happen, but it's generally a waste of time and money. Any decent-size paper gets tons of stuff and yours is probably going to get lost. Instead...
6. Look for the Writers Who Care About Local Authors Now that you've got an outlet, what do you do? Well, the best thing is to hit their search bar and type in things like "novel" and "author" and "book." If they have a tag for books or book reviews, even better. Go through the results and make a note of which writers are interested in local books and have written reviews. If they've done one before, they'll probably do them again. Feel free to email them through whatever contact format they have on site, and if there isn't one, simply email the editor and tell him or her you're trying to reach so-and-so about a possible review. I get plenty of forwards from the editor that way. You'll get much better results by targeting writers rather than editors because the editors are usually much busier,
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5. Keep That Tab Open and Look at the Authors As long as you're searching for reviews of books to get names of reviewers, take a look at the authors they're reviewing. These can be a treasure trove of help. Contact them and ask them some of the places they've managed to spread the word and for any advice they might have for you to do so. There may even be local artist Facebook groups or something you could join. If nothing else, lots of authors review other writers' works on their own blogs sometimes. Especially if they can get a reciprocated one from you later. Speaking of book blogs...
4. Finding Book Blogs When you see a local or indie author who got a review, type his or her name into Google and start looking where reviews show up. Follow the links and if you're lucky, you'll get page after page of book blogs that have open submission policies. By the way...
3. Whatever Rules Are Given, Follow Them Every place you submit your book, try to find what they accept and what they don't. Don't send a piece of erotica to a place that doesn't take that sort of thing, or vice versa. There are two things that drive every reviewer and editor in the world crazy: someone who wastes their time with things way outside what they cover for their audience and misspelling their names. Take your time making sure you're doing neither of those things.
2. It Is Okay to Pester So now you've got some outlets that accepted your request to send them a review copy. There's no call to ask them daily or hourly if they've gotten to it, but there's also nothing wrong with dropping a line a week or two or both before the release date and asking them if they have everything they need. Critics are people, too, and things slip through the cracks. Even if review day passes and there's no word, you can ask if there was a problem or whether you should keep an eye out. Remember, though...
1. Always Be Nice This is hard to hear, but you may not have written a great book. Or maybe you wrote a great book about something the critic hates. Regardless, you may get a bad review, or maybe the critic will be like me and prefer simply to not review it in order to not crush your spirit. Regardless, it's always a good idea to thank a critic for his or her time and feedback, even if you think the person is a wrongity wrong head.
Believe it or not, even if a critic hated your first book, he may not hate your second, or he may reread it and have a change of heart. The reviewer is way more likely to do it if you can take criticism on the chin and try to learn from it. By no means should you engage in a ridiculous comment war with a reviewer, because then your book might go viral for the wrong reasons. The downside of writing something is that someone has to read it, but if you're going to fight hard to get your book reviewed, be prepared to hear what the world thinks of it.
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