As an author, the best thing that can happen for your book is that titillating four-letter word we all love and fear at the same time: BUZZ. Getting people to read and talk up your book is what it’s all about.
Buzz is the reason for those late nights hunched over your keyboard with an empty cup of something at your elbow, while a long-suffering significant beckons from the next room to come back to bed. An audience for your greatest ideas is the reason to lie awake, staring at the ceiling, piecing together the right words to express your ideas. Buzz is the reason to take the contents of your head, convert them to verbiage and digits and publish them in an ISBN-backed, endorsement-bedecked, jewel-tone-covered volume called My Great Work.
Clearly, buzz is what you want. The goal is to generate a flurry of well-deserved hype over the 3-month time frame surrounding your book launch and thereby tell the world your story. But how does a lone author working from a spare room get buzz, and how much is enough?
Let’s start this question of buzz by addressing the topic of book reviews, or what professional marketers like to refer as social proof. There are 2 types of reviews which authors seek – professional reviews (trade reviews, media outlets, etc.) and consumer reviews. Let’s take a deeper look at getting consumer reviews.
Separating the Papyrus from the Chaff
From legacy publishing digests to rogue Indie publishing specialists, information abounds online about how to successfully launch your book and get reviews. After all, consumer book reviews are the bread and butter of many a book launch campaign with good reason. One thing has been proven…consumers make buying decisions based on social proof.
Last week I took a fantastic scuba diving adventure with my daughter, exploring reefs and shipwrecks off the coast of Florida. After seeing the tropical fish in the delightfully warm 86 degree water, Alex, the store manager of the scuba shop, asked us to log into TripAdvisor to write a review. Alex knows how important reviews are to his business – both in terms of positive reviews and the quantity of reviews.
The same principles of getting reviews for a scuba diving shop can be applied to books.
Plenty of quality reviews on Amazon.com alone signals the difference between the roar of the crowd and the figurative chirping of crickets. With authors I advise on book marketing, I require at least 30 reviews on Amazon before we can take your Marketing Plan to the next level. The reason is that several highly effective book marketing tactics require that you have this number before you can launch a substantial campaign.
So, what are the steps you can add to your marketing checklist to kick-off your book launch with lots of reviews?
The 5 Most Effective Steps You Can Take to Get More Book Reviews
1. Develop an overall Marketing Plan. Think about how you can market your book as you’re writing it – not as an afterthought. If you wait until your manuscript is finished, you will either delay the launch or suffer from low book sales. Include book reviews as part of this plan, and draft a clear, specific strategy for getting them.
2. Write a great book. The book you write should stand up to thoughtful analysis, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. Have it professionally edited, commission an excellent cover, and let your book stand on its own merits.
3. Keep a list of reviewers. Develop and organize a list of people to tap for reviews as you’re writing your book. Ask yourself “Who has a vested interest in expressing their opinion about my work?” Begin this task early on, and maintain steady activity. Here are a few ideas to get start building your list:
- Friends and Family: reach-out to your inner circle of people closest to you and ask for a favor to write a review once your book is published. Some authors can achieve the requisite 30 reviews from this source alone.
- Fans & Supporters: keep a list of people who know, like and trust you. These folks will have the greatest emotional investment in the success of your book. Many authors will organize a “book launch tribe” who perform various tasks throughout the book launch. Using social media networks is an excellent forum for organizing tribe members.
- Colleagues: list the people who are in your industry who would be interested in supporting your work. You can trade promotion with them and perhaps even launch a joint venture promotion.
- Reviewers: these are people who have an established reputation in the field of literary criticism. This category includes book bloggers, media personnel and celebrities. Notable reviewers can be your most effective allies in getting attention for your book.
- Podcasters: remember podcasting? Well, it’s back, and it’s on the rise. Currently Americans listen to 20 million hours of podcast material every… single… day. (No lie.) Team up with podcasters to review your book and help you spread the word. Better yet, recommend that they tie their review to a 3-part series that includes an interview with you and a retrospective on your topic. The more you prepare material for them, the greater the chances of success for both of you.
- Online Retail Communities: request book reviews on from top reviewers on Amazon.com, GoodReads.com, iTunes, BarnesandNoble.com and other similar e-tailers. Be polite, be informative, and follow up. Finding these reviewers is easier than you think…keep reading.
4. Get engaged. Cultivate relationships with the people you want to review your work. Be willing to trade your engagement with them for their thoughtful comments about your book. Be ready to get involved in their conversations on their blogs and social media. Participate. In this area, the more attention you give, the more attention you will receive.
5. Get social. Use social media to generate excitement about your work in progress. Don’t just release your book – launch it. As your big day approaches, make it clear that advance copies of your book are available in exchange for credible reviews. The number of copies you give away will have a marked impact on the number of reviews you receive. However, scarcity sells. Position the review copies as a scarce commodity, even when you’re giving away a thousand of them. In fact, expert review campaigns in advance of your book launch can lead to best-seller status for your book. I’ve seen it happen time and again. Promoting review copies on social media is a great way to jump start your campaign.
Getting quality book reviews isn’t rocket science, and it doesn’t have to keep you up at night. After all, those long hours spent staring at the ceiling are best kept for crafting your magnum opus. Using these 5 steps will make your book promotion that much easier and help you get the kind of buzz you’re looking for. The right reviews at the right time can be just the nudge you need.
Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success Publishing. Bryan works with bestselling authors in the role of publisher and marketer, including the late Zig Ziglar, Chris Widener and John C. Maxwell. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book that condenses knowledge on website conversion from 7-years running an online ad agency. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes running high impact marketing campaigns for Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.