So you got a book review — now what?

Ah, the coveted book review. Every author wants them, and everyone in the industry talks about how important they are.

But have you ever stopped to think about why that might be and how exactly you can use a review to benefit your book and author brand?

First thing’s first, let’s talk about ways you can secure book reviews:

  • Be sure you are ready to start soliciting reviews. ARCs are perfectly fine, but create these after the copy editing and proofread process.
  • Consider your goal of why you want reviews and how you plan to utilize them, and this will help you decide between consumer and professional reviews (a mix of reader buzz and premiere publications is best!)
  • If you’re a new publisher, start a blurb program with authors you have published. If you’re an author, reach out personally to fellow authors on similar publishing journeys who write in your genre.
  • Reach out to authors of comparable books, as well as the reviewers, influencers and media outlets that have covered them.
  • Submit the book for free and/or paid review programs with industry publications (Foreword, BookLife, BookPage, Kirkus, School Library Journal, etc.)
  • Consider other options with media if the book is not accepted for review (reading list, excerpt, guest article from the author, etc.)
  • List the book on NetGalley and Edelweiss.
  • Coordinate a Goodreads giveaway, as well as a giveaway with LibraryThing.
  • Think outside the box: Does the author have any bookseller or librarian supporters who may provide a blurb?
  • Pull reader reviews from retail listings.
  • Follow submission guidelines closely: Be mindful of deadlines, editorial calendars and specific information requested – whether for a trade publication or book blogger.

Now that you’ve built up reviews, blurbs and other accolades, what in the world do you do with them? There are plenty of ways you can maximize the impact of your reviews:

  • Add the most compelling review quotes and premiere endorsements to the book’s front and/or back cover, and use additional quotes on an inside praise page.
  • Also highlight the catchiest and most compelling quotes at the start of the book description on online retail pages, as well as others in the Editorial Reviews section on Amazon and metadata with Ingram to help populate things like the Overview section on Barnes & Noble.
  • Add reviews to the press kit and any other marketing materials.
  • Mention the earliest reviews and blurbs garnered when reaching out to secure other potential reviews.
  • Include quotes on NetGalley and Edelweiss listings.
  • Have the author add reviews and other media coverage to their author website.
  • Use them in advertising copy.

These effective book marketing tactics will help you take your book to the next level!

How the pandemic transformed publishing

The pandemic has changed everything, including the publishing industry. In our new “State of the Industry” blog series, we’ll be breaking down exactly how the pandemic has changed the game for publishers, booksellers, authors, and readers. By understanding how the publishing industry has rapidly transformed in 2020 and 2021, writers and authors will be better prepared to navigate the new state of the industry in 2022.

Let’s start with a question: How did the pandemic in 2020 change the game for publishers?

Answer: They started out rough and finished strong.
According to a December 2020 article in The New York Times, (“Surprise Ending for Publishers: In 2020, Business Was Good”) book sales dropped sharply in March and April 2020 as panic and closures disrupted daily life. But demand increased beyond pre-pandemic level in June 2020 as buying habits and stores transitioned.

2020 concluded with:
Print sales up by 8% (NPD Bookscan)
Audiobooks up 17% over the same period in 2019 (Association of American Publishers)
Ebooks up more than 16% after a several year decline (NYT)

So, how did the events of 2020 influence book-buying habits and genre trends?
The short answer is that books on race and antiracism, politics, home DIY projects, and escapist literature like YA fantasy had a VERY good year.

Sales were UP in the following categories:

Sales were DOWN in the following categories:

Perhaps one of the most surprising developments in 2020 was a surprise sales boost for backlist titles as well as frontlist titles. Publishers are notorious for investing resources in frontlist titles, but requiring nearly immediate success for the book to be considered “a hit.” But in 2020, the postponement of new releases, coupled with an increased reading demand during lockdown and quarantine, proved that both backlist and frontlist titles could be financial successes. This could very possibly mean that publishers will be more willing to invest more in backlist titles in the future (particularly those tied to culturally momentous events within any given year) than they have in the past.

Where did the publishing market stand at the end of 2020?
Publishers saw a 10% increase in sales in 2020. Despite major issues with supply chains and staff layoffs, buying trends in 2020 that supported backlist as well as frontlist titles helped publishers succeed, and gave them more leeway to delay the release of new titles.

Amazon deprioritized books amid increased demand for medical supplies and household items, giving Barnes & Noble and Bookshop.org a previously unforeseen edge.

Against all odds, 2020 was a profitable year for major publishers. The key takeaways here are:

  • Readers don’t necessarily care if a book is a new release, or a backlist title: if the subject is in-demand, they will buy it. Considering that backlist sales helped major publishing houses succeed in 2020, publishers are now more aware than ever of the financial potential of their backlist.
  • Genre trends are driven by reader demand, and what is or isn’t in-demand can change rapidly. Publishers may influence some genre trends intentionally, but at the end of the day readers drive the market, and publishers will work to fulfill reader demand. A savvy author will be paying close attention to the demands and behaviors of their target audience, so they can write to meet the needs of their demographic. A great book is a great book–but a timely book sells.

How else did the pandemic change the publishing industry? Despite major rapid innovations, independent bookstores experienced major struggles and surprising successes. Learn more in next month’s post: How the Pandemic Transformed Bookselling.