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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

The Giving and Receiving of Book Reviews

I suspect by now you have my message that the best gift you can give your favorite novelist or a writer whose book has helped you in your life or career is to write a career. But did you know that when you do that, you can also benefit your own book or business? In other words, you can make a good deed—in this case writing reviews for others’ books—work to benefit your own life in both the sense of Karma and in the real, down-to-earth sense of benefiting in little ways like building your Google footprint or furthering your career.

Do not worry. It’s all ethical. It’s all part of traditional publishing industry standards. You include bylines and tag lines or credit lines as part of the copy you submit. You know what a byline is. Your name appears under the headline of an article, book title, or whatever, and suddenly those solitary hours sitting in front of a computer make sense. Tag lines or credit lines are the caboose on almost everything you publish.

These identifiers are as important as a lunchbox filled with a hearty sandwich is to a railway engineer. Without one he or she would have a tough time maintaining the energy to keep the train moving. These credits are your assurance that if someone wants to communicate with you or offer you an opportunity, they can do it easily. By including them as part of your submissions, they help you control what you would like your audience to know about you and even direct them to the best place to learn more about your book. They also help the author whose book you are reviewing. Because your name is known by many (or soon will be), they add credibility to any review you write.

You know which media use credits and what styles they prefer because you read their submission guidelines and pay attention to the styles of the magazines, newspapers, and Web sites you read. No matter what you write—including reviews—you save your editor the trouble of writing the tagline by submitting your copy the way you’d most like to see it. In doing so, you make her job easier and maintain better control of your own branding.

Your credit line should include your name, the URL or address of your Web site, the name of your book, and a little about you. It’s a nice extra to include an e-mail address your readers can use to give you feedback. Many authors maintain a separate e-mail account to accommodate and identify responses generated from their credit lines.

Hint: Rarely seen in taglines is some kind of a hook to encourage the reader to visit your Web site. It might be an offer for a free e-book, a contest, or an intriguing bit of information that will pique the reader’s curiosity enough to take action.

Sometimes these credit lines can be expanded to a mini biography. You will have one in your media kit, and to save time you can copy-and-paste it at the end of the reviews where word count is not as important or style guidelines aren’t as restrictive. Many bloggers, as an example, love to publish a full paragraph with your review rather than keeping the credit line to twenty-five or fifty words. See examples of taglines in Chapter Twelve.

Here are two examples, the first a mini bio, the second a shorter tagline. The longer one might be a credit used with an article on a Web site where length is not as important. Notice that information may be mixed and matched to fit with style guidelines for different media and to suit the different titles (genres) an author may write in.

Example of a Long Tagline or a mini biography:

“Leora Krygier is the author of First the Raven, When She Sleeps, and Keep Her. She was a finalist in the Ernest Hemingway First Novel Competition the James Fellowship, and the William Faulkner Writing Competition. Lauded for her “linguistic spell” and “poetic prose,” Leora is also the author of Juvenile Court: A Guide for Young Offenders and Their Parents. She is a referee with the Superior Court of Los Angeles, and has been profiled in the LA Times for her innovative use of essay writing in juvenile dispositions. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and is looking for the perfect poodle to become a member of her family.”

Example of a Short Tagline, the kind that newspapers and some others use:

Leora Krygier is a juvenile court referee and frequent contributor to magazines for young adults and parents. Reach her at

Humor and a personal touch can work very well in your credits or biographies.

Caveat: Editors may edit your tagline or may not use it at all. If they publish content you have offered at no charge, they should include a tagline or mini bio as a courtesy and probably will if you’ve included it as part of the copy you submit. If not, politely request that they use one. If they refuse, offer your material elsewhere next time.

Amazon is an exception to the rule for using credit lines with your reviews. Do not include either a byline or credit line. However, when you have an Amazon Author Profile Page, your reviews on the site will link to that page. It’s a very nice tradeoff indeed. Check Chapter Nine of this book much of this column was excerpted from (How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career) will give you information on babying your Amazon Profile Page and Chapter Five will tell inexperienced reviewers a little help writing reviews they can be proud of.

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

Suggestion for Holiday Gifts for Friends and Writers

Gift for Writers and Readers!: :Everyone is a reviewer these days. It’s about time. I have always loved to share our love of books. My new How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career is newly available as a paperback book. It is a big, fat 340 page book that covers the getting and writing of reviews so thoroughly that it will be helpful to both readers who want to share their books and writers who need to use them to share the books they have written.

I recently reviewed Herodotus’ Histories (published by Penguin) here on If you’ve tried to read it and put it aside, now is the time to try again. If you’ve always wanted to read it and haven’t, now is the time to do it. The translation and foreword are truly remarkable and the paperback is a special edition worthy of placing on a coffee table to impress fellow readers.


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