May 18 – 24: “How do you obtain advance reviews?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week we’re joined by ITW members R. G. Belsky, Paul Levine, Elena Taylor, Tim Tigner, Michael Ledwidge, Kaye Schmitz, Kate White, Nick Thacker and Martin Roy Hill, and we’re asking them, as an author, how do you obtain advance reviews for new releases? Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along. You won’t want to miss it!

 

Kaye Schmitz, author of the award-winning novel, THE CONSORT CONSPIRACY, releases her second novel, ON DEADLY GROUNDS, on May 8, 2020. Active in the writing community, she is a member of the Florida Writers’ Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is an active speaker and teaches a writer’s workshop, “We All Have a Story to Tell.” Ms. Schmitz makes her home in St. Augustine, FL, where she lives with her husband, Michael.

 

Kate White, the former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, is the New York Times bestselling author of six stand-alone psychological thrillers, including Have You Seen Me? (April ’20)) and eight Bailey Weggins mysteries, including Such a Perfect Wife, which was just nominated for an International Thriller Writers Book Award. She is also the editor of The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook.

 

R. G. Belsky is an author of crime fiction and a journalist in New York City. His newest mystery, THE LAST SCOOP, will be published in May 2020 by Oceanview. It is the third in a series featuring Clare Carlson, the news director for a New York City TV station. The first Clare Carlson book, YESTERDAY’S NEWS, came out in 2018. It won the David Award at Deadly Ink for Best Mystery of 2018. The second Clare Carlson book, BELOW THE FOLD, was in 2019. He also is the author of two thrillers written under the pen name of Dana Perry – THE SILENT VICTIM 2019) and THE GOLDEN GIRL (June, 2020).

 

Paul Levine worked as a newspaper reporter, a law professor and a trial lawyer before becoming a full-time novelist. Obviously, he cannot hold a job. Paul claims that writing fiction comes naturally: he told whoppers for many years in his legal briefs. His books have been translated into 23 languages, none of which he can read. In Germany, his first novel, “TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD,” has recently been published as “In Vertretung Der Toten.”

 

Elena Taylor wrote the humorous Eddie Shoes Mystery Series under the name Elena Hartwell. Now she returns to her dramatic roots—she spent over 20 years in the theater—with this darker, more psychological tale. When she’s not writing, she’s either working with writers one-on-one as a developmental editor with Allegory Editing, or spending time with her two horses at the stables or her two cats, one dog, and one husband at their home in beautiful Snoqualmie Valley, Washington.

 

Nick Thacker is the USA Today bestselling author of action-adventure thrillers and mysteries, including the Harvey Bennett Thrillers series. Often mentioned as a cross between Clive Cussler and James Rollins, his stories are written in a fast-paced, punchy style. He lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, two kids, two dogs, and a tortoise.

 

A Special Forces veteran and former biotech CEO, Tim Tigner lived and worked all over the world before turning to writing full-time. He now has a dozen bestsellers to his name, including the Watch What You Wish For series, which begins with The Price of Time, an Amazon Top-100 Bestseller of 2019. His latest novel, Boundless Ambition, is the fifth in the popular Kyle Achilles series. Google “Tigner” to learn more.

 

Michael Ledwidge is the author of seventeen novels, the last dozen being New York Times bestsellers co-written with James Patterson. With twenty million copies in print, their Michael Bennett series is the highest selling New York City detective series of all time. One of their novels, Zoo, became a three-season CBS television series. He lives in Connecticut.

 

Martin Roy Hill is the author of the Linus Schag, NCIS, thrillers, the Peter Brandt thrillers, and the award-winning short story collection DUTY, and EDEN: A Sci-Fi Novella. Martin’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, ALT HIST: The Journal of Historical Fiction and Alternative History, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Crimson Streets, Nebula Rift, Devolution Z, and others. His latest Linus Schag thriller, The Butcher’s Bill, was named 2017 Best Suspense Thriller by the Best Indie Books Awards, the 2017 Clue Award for Mystery and Suspense from the Chanticleer International Book Awards, 2018 First Place for Adult Fiction from the California Author Project, and the 2018 Silver Medal for Thrillers from the Readers Favorite Book Awards.

 

11 Comments
  1. Reviews can make or break your book and having advanced reviews can help sell more books as pre-orders before your book’s official release. But many authors, especially independents, expect reviews simply to materialize on their Amazon sell page. It doesn’t work that way. You must go hunting for them.

    The number of large traditional publishing houses is dwindling. Smaller publishers often don’t provide the kind of marketing and publicity efforts the Big 5 used to do. As a result, even traditionally published authors are often forced to do their own marketing, and getting advanced reviews is part of marketing.

    As an indie author myself, I am more than a writer; I am a publisher (I have a business license as M. R. Hill Publishing), marketer, and press agent. After publishing nine books in eight years, I have developed my own technique for getting both advance editorial reviews (i.e., those from newspapers, magazines, etc.) and reader reviews, though I think the former is more important at the time of publication.
    Once one of my books has gone through the entire editing and production process, I set my release date at four to six months out—the longer the better. Reviewers need time to read and review a book, so I give it to them.

    I create a marketing package for each book with a sell sheet, author bio, a sample author interview, and cover images. I also create an Excel file with spreadsheets for media reviewers (newspapers, magazines, and websites), reader reviewers (which also includes other authors I know), book promotion sites like Goodreads, and advertising sites—everything I need for marketing my book. The spreadsheets for media and reader reviewers includes the name and email of each publication or person, plus a column for the day I offered them a review copy, the day they responded (if they do), whether they agreed to the review, the day I sent them an ARC, and the day the review was published and the URL where the review appeared.

    I’m not shy about asking for reviews. I shotgun it. I send dozens of requests out to even the largest reviewers using a mail merge app that personalizes each email. I send out so many because I know at best only ten percent will agree to do a review. Of those, I expect only ten percent will actually do so.

    I use the electronic and print draft copies I get from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing as my Advanced Reading Copies, or ARCs. Since many reviewers will only accept e-books in epub or pdf format, I use a program called Calibre to convert the Kindle mobi files.

    Some reviewers have online submission forms to request reviews. With independent publishing becoming more accepted in the industry, many of the premier review sites and publications are providing access to indies. Publisher’s Weekly, for instance, now offer indies an opportunity to showcase their books on its Book Life website, where PW reviewers can choose books to review. Submitting my latest Peter Brandt thriller, The Fourth Rising, to Book Life resulted in the novel receiving a very positive review in Publisher’s Weekly.

    I also offer review copies to readers who have reviewed my previous books, and will offer free ARCs to thriller and mystery lovers on sites such as Goodreads. I avoid pay-for-review sites and, unfortunately, I find NetGallery is too expensive. In the past I have used web services that distribute free ARCs to readers, but the results were not impressive.

  2. Wow, I wish I knew the answer to that question! Seriously, it’s a problem many authors – including myself – have struggled with. It’s different for different authors too, depending on your situation. But for me, who has always worked with a publishing house that puts out my thrillers, here’s what I’ve found:

    The main source of advance reviews is the Big 4 of trade publications: Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist and Library Journal. You really have no control over this aspect of your advance reviews. Copies are usually sent by your publisher to all four – then they decide whether or not to review. And whether or not to give you a good or bad review. And yes, it’s always a stressful time for an author with a new book coming out.

    The next thing you want to do is make sure your book gets on NetGalley. I get lots of advance reviews from people who have checked out a book of mine there before publication – and then posted a review. Many of these people will post on GoodReads in the weeks before your publication date, which can help build up a good buzz for the book.

    Find fellow authors and others who you think might like your book. Then ask them if they’d like to read an advance copy – and hopefully provide an advance blurb. Then you – as well as them, if they’re willing – can post their advance review of the book on social media to spread the word. Yes, it can be awkward asking people to do this at times. But the more aggressive you are about it, the more advance reviews you’ll wind up with.

    Join a blog tour service. There are many fine ones (I use Partners in Crime) – who will give coverage to your book, including advance reviews, in the days just before – and after – the book comes out.

    Once the book is out, you should start worrying about Amazon reviews or even newspaper/magazine reviews. But Amazon, as well as most publications, won’t review the book until after the publication date.

  3. One of the reasons I signed up for this roundtable was because I’m always looking for ways to assure advance reviews of my books because it’s so important. I figured that it would be great to not only offer what I’ve learned but to also pick up some tips. And I already learned as few from R.G. and Martin
    Here are a few additional thoughts from my end.
    –The first advance reviews that I focus on are those from trade magazines like Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal. I always assumed that because I sold a certain number of books a year, it would be automatic that I would be reviewed in those publications. But one year I ended up without reviews in a couple of them. After some investigation, I found out that the assistant to the publicist had failed to send my books in. Now I’m religious about staying on top of this process.
    –Advanced reviews on Goodreads seem to carry a lot of clout these days. I work with my publisher to do giveaways and really get the ARC out there.
    –A while back, many authors seemed to advocate working with a so-called “street team” to create early buzz about a new book. You send each street team member an ARC in exchange for giving an honest review. I’m not sure how valuable it is, but it does guarantee some reviews right out the gate.
    –It really seems to help to get on lists of “most anticipated books” from places like Buzzfeed and BookBub. Offer your publicist your first born child if she/he can help get you on one of these lists.
    –Like many authors, I have what’s called a Big Mouth list. Mine consists of other authors I know, as well as former colleagues and also people in the industry—editors at other houses, for instance. I send them ARCs or finished books with a handwritten note. An agent friend of mine told me that ARCS of The Silent Patient were sent to her agency even though they didn’t represent the author. It was just a great way to create early buzz. In some cases you just want the receiver to read and talk about the book, though you hope, of course that your author pals will promote your books on social, which is a review of sorts. I saw a study recently that confirmed that readers are much more apt to influenced by a quote from another thriller author then by a media outlet.
    –And like Martin says, don’t be shy about asking for reviews. When readers tell me they like a book on my Facebook page, I often encourage them to write a review.

    1. Same thing happened to me a number of years ago with PW, Kate White.
      My first hardcover came out from a big publishing house – so I figured the big reviews would be automatic. But nothing ever appeared in Publishers Weekly. Like you, I later found out someone had forgotten to submit it. But by then, of course, it was too late.

  4. Luckily, my publisher was willing to send digital ARC copies to up to 25 people prior to my book release, so I checked with my most ardent fans and they all agreed! I communicated with them at various points after their agreement and then sent them the file with some fanfare when the time came.

    They were not all able to respond with feedback, but the ones who did were phenomenal! They helped me correct inconsistencies (I think there was only one of those), punctuation errors (unbelievably, three of those) and other such things. One of my scenes had people dying in a textile mill accident in 1900. Little did I know that one of my early readers had run a textile mill. After he read the book, he called me and said, “Yeah, there’s no way that would have happened that way.” I tried to argue, because I had, after all done my research and the mill he ran existed 90 years after the one I described. But he offered an alternative scenario, which pleased both of us.

    I have also used review services—I haven’t paid for one yet, but really prefer asking my fans for my reviews.

  5. I don’t obtain Advance Reviews. In part that’s because it’s difficult with self-published books, put primarily simply I don’t believe the juice is worth the squeeze.

    Times have changed. Editorial Reviews (and Author Blurbs) have become much less powerful than The Wisdom of Crowds. People have learned that editorial reviews and blurbs are more a reflection of a relationship than a sign of quality. Look and you’ll see lots of books with great ERs and Blurbs that have few Amazon or Goodreads Reader Reviews, the latter being a strong indicator of sales. On the other hand, a hundred (or better a thousand) reasonably harmonious reader reviews is a reliable sign of quality.

    To get early Reader Reviews, I request them from my Beta Readers, as they received the self-publishing equivalent of an ARC.

  6. Everyone has provided such great information here, I thought I would add a slightly different aspect of the question. As R.G. mentioned, asking other writers for blurbs can be very useful to get pre-sale buzz. They also look good on your cover and you can use them on social media.

    So what I would like to add is – never feel bad about asking for a blurb. Most writers will say yes unless they are up against their own deadline or feel your genre is too far outside their wheelhouse.

    It can be hard to ask other writers for help, but we have all been there. We have all had other writers help us and we want to give back. So my advice is make that list of writers you would love to see blurb your book and ask them!

    The worst that thing that could happen is you get a “no”, but that writer will also realize how much their work means to you, that’s never a bad thing. It’s a compliment to ask someone for a blurb, so don’t let anxiety keep you from making the request. And don’t take a no personally if it does happen, it’s not personal, it’s probably just timing. We are all in this together.

    1. You also get to read some good books when you provide blurbs/advance reviews for other authors. That’s what happened with me a few months ago when I read Elena Taylor’s All We Buried! Like Elena, most authors are pretty generous with helping out with an advance review if you ask. And if they say no, which has happened to me, they generally are pretty nice about it. Definitely go this route….

  7. Elena, I agree. You have to suck it up and ask for blurbs. Those, as I mentioned earlier, seem to carry more clout than traditional media blurbs. Also, and this is minor but important, when someone tells you they love your book and want to post a review on Amazon or Goodreads, ask them if they need any guidance on how to do it. Some people just don’t know how. I have instructions spelled out to send people.

  8. I’ve been published traditionally (Random House), hybrid (Thomas & Mercer), and with my own loan-out corporation. The third way would seem to be the most difficult, but it isn’t if you hire own free-lance publicist. In fact, I’ve done this even with the first two methods. In those cases, the publisher pitches the “Four Horsemen”- Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal – and my guy hits the newer Internet sites. If you can get a review on-line with a BUY link to Amazon or wherever, that’s a two-bagger.

    I also use my own publicist (Wiley Saichek) to prepare an “Info Sheet” and “Talking Points” and to pitch Internet outlets to do feature stories or let me write posts. With my new book, “Cheater’s Game,” this resulted in stories in Crime Reads, Criminal Element, The Big Thrill, and Mystery Scene, among several others.

    In this era, when traditional publishers have cut back publicity staffs, I strongly believe in spending the dough for one of my own.

  9. Agree Tim. Those reader reviews are so powerful. A verified purchase matters so in addition to sending out ARCs to beta readers or a “street team,” it’s good to ask readers who’ve actually bought the book and sent you a message about it to also review it.

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