I’ve been a book reviewer for more than 25 years and I’ve reviewed countless titles across all genre categories—from apocalyptic fiction to zombie erotica. Although a sizable percentage of novels that I’ve reviewed have been flawed in some way—imperfect attempts to tell an entertaining and enlightening story—I do what I do because of the eternal hope that the next title will be extraordinary: a timeless, towering masterpiece. It’s because of these rare masterworks that I became a book reviewer in the first place. I love being in a position where I can shine a light on noteworthy titles and help authors attain some level of critical and commercial success. My reviews of those releases reflect that passion and admiration.
Oliver Kranichfeld’s Flatlander (2016) is a perfect example of a novel I gushed over. “Kranichfeld’s shelf-bending debut novel… is an extraordinarily entertaining fusion of speculative fiction, adventure fantasy, post-apocalyptic fiction, and regional folklore. A storytelling tour de force.”
But here’s the thing. So many authors do very little or nothing at all with positive reviews and don’t take advantage of the marketing opportunities that those reviews create. Conversely, I’ve seen review excerpts used in a multitude of ways by savvy authors. Most of the ideas listed below are relatively simple and common-sense approaches that will increase exposure and ideally increase sales.
1. Use review excerpts as your signature for emails.
I see this quite often. Review excerpts at the bottom of author (and publicist) emails, frequently with a thumbnail of the book cover. It’s a simple way to promote your latest release and subtly spread the word.
Back in 2016, for example, when Catherine Spader self-published Feast of the Raven, she could’ve—and should’ve—used an excerpt from the BlueInk review of the novel at the bottom of every one of her emails: “Superbly written and impeccably edited, this page-turner… is comparable to bestselling releases by iconic writers such as Sharon Kay Penman, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.”
2. Use review excerpts in the subject line of emails.
If you have a newsletter or any kind of reader list, this is a quick and effective way to hook potential book buyers. Publicists do this all the time for a reason—I literally get at least a few of these emails quoting book reviews in the subject line every day from various publicists.
A subscriber to Tanja Kobasic’s newsletter, for example, would’ve been immediately intrigued by an email from the author with the subject line: BlueInk calls Angels in Stone a “fascinating fusion of occult-powered fantasy and existential horror!” (If you don’t have a newsletter or something comparable—like a Facebook author page—you should consider creating one. It’s a great way to not only know, and grow, your audience but to also have the ability to instantly connect with them.)
3. Feature professional review excerpts on book covers.
This one is a no-brainer. Review excerpts on book covers add a layer of professionalism and instant validation.
Check out the updated cover art of Solomon Bull (2017) by Clayton Lindemuth on Amazon. An excerpt from the BlueInk review is right there on the top: “A virile tale about a tough-as-nails Blackfoot Indian… a roaming badass… a well-crafted, solid thriller.” This is a kick ass cover and the review quote makes it exponentially more appealing.
4. Add review excerpts to title pages on retail sites like Amazon and BN.com.
Again, this adds a level of professionalism and validation. The aforementioned Flatlander by Kranichfeld is a great example of how this is done. On the Amazon title page for the novel, the author has review excerpts from Kirkus Indie, Clarion Review, and BlueInk. All of the reviews are favorable and collectively they create an unarguable buzz around the novel.
If you’re a writer who regularly attends regional or national conventions—or even just participates in local book signings and readings— you know all about the appeal of promotional merchandise. Fancy business cards, t-shirts, pens, mugs, stickers, stress balls, mouse pads, fridge magnets… what better way to promote a release than putting a glowing review excerpt on any and all schwag that you’re giving away!
If I were TC Joseph, author of Parousia (2019), and I were investing in a convention spot or doing a signing, I would seriously consider printing “jaw-dropping,” “visionary,” and/or “Christian science fiction at its very best” on any schwag that I order for the event. All of these quotes came from the BlueInk review and not only accurately describe the novel but also go a long way towards creating excitement and interest around the title.
Another thing to consider. Even if a review is mixed—highlighting both weaknesses and strengths—the author can still use the parts that were positive. I see this quite often in traditional publishing. A review can all but pan a title, but I’ll see tidbits of that review used on book covers that give a different impression: “fast-paced,” “nonstop action,” “thrilling,” etc.
As an indie author, most of you don’t have the luxury of having a professional publicist working for you. The ideas mentioned above are quick and relatively easy ways to promote your title and let your readers know that your novel was critically well-received! If you do nothing with a positive review except share it with friends and family, you’re just throwing away multiple opportunities to increase exposure and sales for weeks, months, and years to come.
Paul Goat Allen has been reviewing books for more than 25 years. In addition to BlueInk Review, his work has appeared with BarnesandNoble.com, The Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and more. He also teaches in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate writing program. Readers of this blog are offered a $50 discount on a BlueInk review by using the “key code” Allen. (This in no way guarantees a review by Allen.)
Hi Nancy: We often review books that are in manuscript form, rather than published. We advise, though, that the book be fully edited, including all copyediting. This way, you can use an excerpt when you go to print.
BlueInk Review does not require cover design or a printed book for review. We do ask, however, that the book has been fully edited and copy-edited (basically ready for print).
This is a novice question, but a real one. It seems I need a book cover designed and the book printed to get a review. So do I have to have the cover re-designed (and then pay for a change) if I want to use an excerpt from a review on the cover?
Now you got me thinking. I considered putting a review excerpt in my email signature but thought it would annoy people with clutter. Your blog made me realize I’m missing an opportunity, especially because I’m an editor and freelance writer and most of my emails are publishing industry related. It’s going on there with a thumbnail! Thanks.