Book Reviews – So Many Titles –
So Little Space
By Dee Power
In the last few months a number of newspapers have decreased the
amount of space devoted to book reviews, much to the dismay of the
reviewers and authors.
When we asked literary agents and acquisition editors at the major
publishing houses whether reviews were a critical factor in the
success of a book, they didn't rank it that highly. Of course a
good review in a major, like The New York Times or San Francisco
Chronicle does impact sales. Just in case you’re curious,
quality of writing was ranked very highly.
We asked bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries:
Are book reviews important to the success of a book?
"To the extent that they get the author's name in front of
the public and inform the reader about the book's subject, they're
important. But good reviews are not important. Bad publicity really
is better than no publicity. For one thing, it tells a reader
that your work is important enough to be reviewed. That's why
I try not to sweat bad reviews (with try being the operative word
Stephanie Laurens answered the question:
How do you feel when you see a review of one of your
books that has a negative tone to it? Do reviews matter much to
you or to your fan base? "I don't read reviews,
only those good ones friends send me and then only to extract
useful quotes for my website. Word of mouth is important but that's
not formed by reviewers but by readers talking directly to one
"Simply the fact that you are reviewed and thus your name
and title are stated can be useful, but the substance of reviews
is in reality, at bottom line, irrelevant in all segments of the
entertainment industry. The audience doesn't allow any reviewer
to dictate to them what they ought to like in their entertainment
- the audience decides for themselves. With genre fiction, the
vast (as in greater than 99%) majority of the audience has no
idea reviews of these books even exist, wouldn't read them if
they did, and even those who do don't allow the reviewer to tell
them what to read. So in genre fiction, reviews of a work are
useful in the sense that they call attention to the fact the book
is out there to be read, are nice and can be mutually useful if
they are good, but beyond that, they don't matter. Just as with
author promotion, in genre fiction, no review can affect enough
readers to make a difference.
"I'm going to add a catch-22 here which relates to the above
- promotion and reviews. In genre fiction, a large part of the
reason neither of these is of any great value in initially building
your audience, even when they are good, is because the distribution
of your book is already set. Accounts buy-in based on previous
sales of your books, and their orders come in from 5 months to
1 month ahead of release. So unless you are already a bestseller
and can be assured your book is going to be on the racks across
America, readily accessible to every potential reader, then any
promotion or review can only have an affect when it influences
someone who can actually find your book to buy. This greatly limits
the effectiveness of author-driven promotion and reviews."
Here’s how Susan Elizabeth Phillips answered the
Your books get terrific reviews from readers. Hardly
any of them make even a mildly negative comment. Do you pay special
attention to meeting your readers' expectations? Do your
book ideas spring initially from an interesting character, or
an interesting situation, or both? "Believe me, I've gotten
terrible reviews as well as good reviews. As far as I can see,
neither have affected the sales of my books one way or the other.
It's all word of mouth. The ideas for my books can spring from
a character who intrigues me or a situation. No rhyme or reason
Reviews in industry publications such as Publishers Weekly,
Kirk's, Booklist and Library Journal are a completely different
matter. These reviews affect the buyers in bookstores and libraries.
A negative review can have a negative impact on sales. You can check
the websites of each of these publications for their submission
requirements. Usually the publisher provides at least one advance
reading copy or galley copy, three to four months prior to the publication
date of the title. If you're an author don't bother submitting your
book if it's already been published.
Authors can approach newspaper book editors for a review. Send
a press release and a copy of the book. The best bet is to go for
off the review page coverage, more readers means more potential
And of course there are always the book review websites. And MyShelf.com
is one of the best.
Dee Power is the co-author with Brian Hill of The Making
of a Bestseller: Sucess Stories From Authors and the Editors,
Agents and Booksellers Behind Them, BusinessPlan-Basics,
Attracting Capital From Angels, Inside Secrets To Venture
Capital and the novel, Over Time .
MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved.