June 6 – 12: “Are you satisfied with the number of reviews your books receive?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week we ask ITW Members J. Todd Scott, Don Helin, Stephen Martino, Mary Burton and John Farrow: As a writer, are you satisfied with the number of reviews your books receive?




far emptyJ. Todd Scott has been a federal agent with the DEA for more than twenty years, working cases investigating international maritime smuggling, domestic meth labs, and Mexican cartels. He has a law degree from George Mason University and is a father of three. A Kentucky native, he now resides in the Southwest, which provided the backdrop for THE FAR EMPTY, his first novel.



The Hidden RealityStephen Martino’s debut novel was the The New Reality.  The publication of this book led to numerous radio interviews throughout the country.  By trade Martino is a board-certified neurologist, practicing in New Jersey. He is also a dedicated researcher. With projects devoted to concussion, dementia, and stroke, he hopes to help expand our understanding of these topics and find potential treatments for them in the future. He is an avid educator, instructing both medical students and residents along with high school students, EMS squads, and physicians throughout New Jersey. His dedication to the field of medicine has been recognized both nationally and locally.  When not working, he spends time with his wife and five children.


Mary Burton THE SHARK cover image from PW articleNew York Times and USA Today bestselling suspense author Mary Burton’s writing has been compared to the works of James Patterson, Lisa Gardner, Lisa Jackson and Steig Larson. Her new novel, THE SHARK, the first of her Forgotten File novels, debuts May 24th, following the success of her recent books Vulnerable, I’ll Never Let You Go, Cover Your Eyes and Be Afraid. Mary is the author of twenty-nine published novels and five novellas. In addition to her “Morgan Family” books, Mary’s other “connected” stories include The Seventh Victim, No Escape and You’re Not Safe, featuring investigators from the Texas Rangers and Senseless, Merciless and Before She Dies, all set in Alexandria, Virginia. A Richmond native with family roots as deep as the nation’s, Mary has made her home there for most of her life. She is also writes contemporary women’s fiction as Mary Ellen Taylor.


angels revengeUsing his experience from the military, including eight years in the Pentagon, Don Helin published his first thriller, Thy Kingdom Come, in 2009. His second, Devil’s Den, was selected as a finalist in the 2013 Indie Book Awards. His latest thriller, Secret Assault was selected as the best Suspense/Thriller at the 2015 Indie Book Awards. Don is an active member of International Thriller Writers, Military Writers Society of America, Pennwriters, a state-wide writers group in Pennsylvania, and a mentor with the Mystery Writers of America. He makes his home in central Pennsylvania where he is hard at work on his next thriller, Long Walk Home.


SEVEN DAYS DEADJohn Farrow is the Canadian author of five thrillers; and another seven novels and four plays under his real name, Trevor Ferguson. Seven Days Dead, the second in The Storm Murders Trilogy, has received a starred review in Booklist, while a great review in the New York Times (Marilyn Stasio) is forthcoming on June 12th. The Detective Émile Cinq-Mars series has been called the best of our time by Booklist, the best of all time by Die Zeit in Germany.



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  1. I’m delighted to be involved with this important Roundtable discussion. Reviews are a critical component of building a community for your work. I have found that a writer must think ahead and develop a marketing plan at least six months in advance of the release of their novel.
    My first step is to submit my thriller for a review on The Big Thrill. This is a tremendous opportunity and not one to be missed. The reason it’s important to finalize a marketing plan at least six months in advance is that is how long it takes to get yourself in the queue for reviews. For example, Book Pages requires that you get your manuscript into their reviewers at least three month before the release of a novel. The same with Shelf Awareness. Planning ahead is critical
    Another important step is to develop a nonfiction hook for your novel. Radio and TV reporters often are hesitant to interview fiction authors. But if you can show them a theme to your novel that their audience will be interested in, that helps. For example, my latest thriller, Angel’s Revenge, addresses the issue of sex abuse against females in the military. This is a hot button issue and one readers will want to hear discussed. More on this important issue during the week.
    So, I’m never content with the number of reviews my thrillers receive and am always looking for more. A thoughtful marketing plan, developed well in advance of publication, will help you obtain reviews and interviews to develop that all important community of readers who will be looking for your next novel.
    I look forward to the discussion.

      1. Hi Jennifer: Mary makes a great point when she recognizes the changes in the media over the past few years. But while not many of us are Literary superstars who have the New York Times panting to do a review, a thoughtful marketing plan done six to eight months out can help plug that gap. You have to sort out which reviewers to go after. Not many thriller writers are going to have a review in a YA journal. But there are many options. The Big Thrill is terrific, Mystery Scene magazine, Suspense Magazine just to name a few.
        Don’t forget interviews on radio, TV, in the press, and on blogs. You can use a nonfiction hook to capture their attention. For Angel’s Revenge, my nonfiction hook is the problem of sexual abuse against females in the military. People are interested in this issue and I’m available to tell them about it.
        You need to plan this out in advance, and it sounds like you are. Congratulations and good luck to you.

  2. As a debut novelist, I actually have no idea what’s considered a good number, or if the “location” of the review (blog, newspaper, trade magazine) carries greater weight. Because I’m so new to this aspect of writing, I’m still at a point where I’m generally thrilled with -any- review or attention my book might draw. I think a review serves many purposes: clearly, there’s the simple marketing or word of mouth aspect of it, which is vitally important from a business standpoint to generate sales, but there’s also the legitimate criticism or critique part, as well. I’m genuinely interested in what people think about my book; what readers respond to, what they thought worked, and what didn’t. I’m not sure it’s worthwhile to actually try and hit the moving target of pleasing every potential reader (at the end of the day, you have to write the book you want to), but I do welcome the feedback and interest, and I don’t think one can ever have too much of that.

  3. I am grateful and delighted with the number of reviews I’ve received from online and traditional media and all the “influencers” out there sharing news of books and authors on blogs and social media. Am I satisfied? Hmmmm.
    Honestly, I still mourn the loss of the familiar coverage print media was previously able to contribute. The huge changes in print and magazine coverage on and off line due to financial pressures facing those publications has meant less coverage for books from general, established, broad based outlets. I miss the cyclical specialty columns (mystery & suspense, science fiction, cookbooks, etc.) by in ongoing book sections that would appear monthly or quarterly in mainstream media. In many cases all non-news/non-event book coverage has been eliminated, especially at small and medium size publications. In many cases outlets can’t afford to carve out space in their current smaller formats or to maintain the staff to do so. In some cases coverage has been reduced, not eliminated, but now means targets books and authors from a local angle. Even bestselling writers and titles at the top of publishers’ list are fighting for the limited, influential, “legacy” space.
    But, halleluiah, look what’s happening on line. An entire frontier has opened up and matured with casual book news and review bloggers shaping their content and growing their audience in such a way that many have joined the ranks of professional media, opening many new and highly visible review opportunities. And the more casual bloggers are not only reviewers, they’re today’s all important “influencers,” heralded by marketers for providing the much coveted, more-trusted-than-advertising peer-to-peer reviews that are driving “product” sales these days. And the real upside there is that the blogs are labors of love by people who love reading, read extensively and bring tremendous enthusiasm to sharing their passion for books, genre and otherwise. Often, the reader interaction with the blogger and with the authors continues in the comments section.
    What’s also really nice to see are the newspapers and magazines that build upon limited print space and provide book coverage via blogs. Some are obvious and extremely well known, such as USA Today’s Happy Ever After. Others are best known on the regional or local levels such as Albany’s Times Union’s “Books Blog” and West Virginia’s Parkersburg News & Sentinel’s “Book Nook.”
    The question, as you know, is “am I satisfied” not “what is the state of review media” so, cutting to the chase, my answer is no. On two levels. I’ll always want to see more and new coverage of suspense and romance, the two genres I embrace, as among the very best ways to introduce new authors and books (hopefully mine included) to readers. When it comes to just my own work, I’m very pleased with the reception my books have been received. However, as I continue to grow and change as a writer, I would still absolutely like to see my novels receive more coverage, get more feedback, reach more readers and be an even larger part of the romance and suspense conversations online and via social media. It’s part of my evil plan to keep writing and publishing for many years to come.

  4. It’s a struggle, that’s for sure. Especially with the quick turnaround time for e-books, we don’t normally have the lead time to meet the criteria. Once the book has gone through editing, and ready for publication, the authors would rather publish it, then let it sit for 3-6 months in hopes a reviewer picks it up. So, getting a review on your release date is difficult. Although there are some good review sites that may grab it once it’s published, and get a review out within a month or two. At least, that’s what I’ve found.

    1. You make a good point Cheryl. Sometimes you just don’t have the luxury to do it the organized way, but need to get your book out. Ebooks move in a pretty fast market.
      Here is where Blogs can help if you know authors who blog in your genre.
      Also, don’t forget to try and get reviews on Amazon and Good Reads. These can provide more immediate feedback.
      Radio and TV interviews can help also.
      Good luck and keep on writing.

    2. Cheryl,

      Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads can be a very powerful tool for the e-book author. I’ve seen authors pull quotes from reader reviews or cite the number of five star reviews. And as Don mentioned, if you have non-fiction angle about you or your novel touches, that can help when you reach out to the media after the pub date.

  5. I doubt that many writers answer yes to this question. Partly because we’re a curmudgeonly lot. Largely because there are fewer print reviews available than in previous decades. Under stress, newspapers have curtailed their attention to the arts in general. And many papers grant short shrift to fiction that arrives under the rubric of thrillers and mysteries.
    In Canada, where I live, we have a new problem, in that a single review may appear in half-a-dozen or more dailies. Used to be, the book would receive that many different reviews. After cooperate takeovers, it can be just the one within a chain. A great review has legs, but a bad one can cut you off at the knees. Overall, not a healthy situation, and much less dynamic than it used to be.
    This question comes to me, however, at a time when I’m in my happy place. Pardon this personal flogging of a new book, but I’ve read a wonderful review of my latest, Seven Days Dead, that will appear this coming Sunday in the New York Times, under Marilyn Stasio’s byline. Receiving that good news emphasises how vital they are. It’s still the best way to reach the public. A lifeline.
    A lot of books get reviewed in the trade papers, and I’ve had the stars and the no-stars, but the word gets out. I received a great library readership courtesy of these reviews, and hopefully that might translate into trade sales down the road. (In Canada, authors are compensated annually for library holdings, so a strong library showing has that extra benefit.) And let’s not neglect the bloggers, who share their love of crime fiction far and wide. After that, there’s social media. A changing world, and as the traditional print review becomes less common, other modes must be utilized.
    Still, nothing beats a great notice in the Times, hey?

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