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The Self-Publisher's FAQ

Getting Reviews and Publicity

To my knowledge, pre-publication reviewers do not yet cover ebooks, except by famous people, and only then on their daily blogs.

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Where Do I Send My Books for Review Before Publication?

There are still some hold-out reviewers who expect to have a galley, ARC or f&g four (that's 4) months before publication of the finished book (otherwise known as the "street date"). Unfortunately, they are all the most important reviews a publisher can get. Note that most of these sources rarely review a self-published book.

Although you may produce galleys at the same time you have your finished books done, you cannot offer your books for sale to the trade (to booksellers, librarians and on Amazon) and expect to get one of these important reviews. They check for that sort of thing—and they are looking for reasons to disqualify your book (they get 1500 books a day. They don't need much of a reason to throw yours in the trash). If you intend to sell your books to sources outside the book trade for the intervening four months (at speeches (called Back of the Room sales (BOTR)), at local book shows or at craft shows) you would not irritate the pre-publishing reviewers.

Always send these galleys USPS Priority Mail (with tracking) or FedEx / UPS ground. You can use overnight if you want, but it's expensive. Never send your galley USPS Media Mail. These reviewers reportedly routinely toss such packages on sight.

  • Publisher's Weekly
  • Kirkus Reviews
  • Library Journal
  • School Library Journal for children's and Young Adult (YA) titles
  • ForeWord
  • Booklist

Why Are These Reviewers Important?

Library Journal or School Library Journal, Kirkus and Booklist all go to libraries. One good review in any of these four publications (and to some extent, Publisher's Weekly) can sell around 1000 books.

If you don't care about trade sales (bookstores and libraries), don't do this step.

How Do I Get a Review After the Book Is Published?

Post-publication magazines, newsletters and websites will be happy to review the finished book, which you should send as soon as you get the books from the printer, or have the ebooks in Kindle or ePub format. These reviewers will be satisfied with paper books that come to them USPS Media Mail. But always use Delivery Confirmation.

It's likely that you already know what magazines would cover a book like yours. However, it's best to go to large bookstores or places that carry a lot of magazines and browse (and of course, search the web). You may find a magazine you've never heard of.

Why Aren't Paid Reviews Recommended?

The theory goes that if you pay for it, the reviewer will have to give you a positive review—thus it's biased. The rule of thumb is, if someone asks for money to review your book, it's time to leave that conversation.

On the other hand, there are some cases when it is worthwhile to pay for a review. For instance, academic and esoteric books. For this type of book, two of the best review sources are Kirkus Discoveries or ForeWordreviews.com (not to be confused with the regular, unpaid magazine reviews for Kirkus and ForeWord) .

There are some genre magazines (Romance, mystery and science fiction) which will review a self-published or small press book with the order of a small ad (ad size varies). These can be a bit pricey, but put you in front of your readers. Go to your local newsstand and look for the type of magazine that fits your genre and contact the editor on-line. Then consult your Marketing Plan.

What Do I Do With Reviews?

While having a good review in an important site can sell hundreds of books, what you do with it can sell lots more. Post excerpts of good reviews on your website. Put it on your Media Release (if it's important enough, make a special release touting the review). Put it on the back cover when you re/print. Reviews are an important part of your Marketing Plan. They're an impartial pronouncement on how good (or bad) your book is.

How Do I Edit a Review?

When you receive a review, you may use parts of it, as long as you include attribution (give the name of the review source. For instance: —ForeWord Magazine. Or —Curled Up With a Good Book). One or two lines is usual.

Most reviews are at least a paragraph long. You are free to use what you like of this, as long as you do not change the words or intent.

I Sent Out a Book to Be Reviewed, But It Wasn't. Shouldn't They Send the Book Back?

No. When you send the book out, you should consider that a marketing expense (see the chapter on accounting). You will not see that book again, and asking for its return is the mark of a rank amateur. Don't be surprised if you discover the book being sold on Amazon's Marketplace or eBay. Once you send it, it's out of your control. Don't worry about it.

I Got a Terrible (One Star) Review! Can I Make the Website Where It's Posted Take It Down?

Reviews, unless they are factually in error or are obviously malicious, are an area I advise clients to leave alone once they are out. Your reader/buyer is not an idiot. They can see a hit piece for what it is. Nothing useful comes of arguing with jerks, or people who hated the book for whatever reason. However, if it is libelous or contains hate speech, don't hesitate to ask a website to remove it.

Are Blogs Worth Sending Books To?

Yes! Especially those that specialize in your topic (even if they don't usually review books). Part of your job as a marketing person for your book is to discover Book bloggers who cover your genre.

Subject bloggers who might review your book (or allow you to do a guest post)
Larger websites where you can interact in the comments and become recognized as an expert by other frequent visitors

What Are Blog Tours?

Blog tours occur at the launch of a book, when you get several blogs to agree to feature your book in the course of a week or month. You may send the blog owner a pre-done Question and Answer file, or a pre-written article. Or they may decide they want to do their own interview. You and the blog owner may offer your book for a special discount, or simply try to drive sales via Amazon (see the section chapter on Amazon for more details). These tours take about two months to line up, so make sure you know when your book will be in-stock before you plan these.

What is a Press Kit?

These are one- to four pages of information containing your book's information, praise and summary, plus information on the author that you can put in a portfolio and send to reviewers and news organizations when they request a copy of your book. Send this off with a cover letter written to the person expecting it (don't use "To Whom It May Concern").
You will also want to have this available as a PDF on your website in your "Media Room" (see the section on websites).

What Is in a Press Kit?

We usually insert the following:

  • Cover Letter
  • Press/Media Release
  • Summary of the Book
  • Author Bio / Picture
  • Reviews or Endorsements

Do I have to have a Press Kit?

No. If you'd rather save on paper and shipping, you might consider creating a onesheet with an image of the book, short summary, endorsements, reviews, short author bio and picture, and all the book data. You can use both sides of a sheet of paper. I advise using color.

What is a Press/Media Release?

A Press or Media Release (the term press release is sort of old fashioned and is trending toward "media release" to reflect the importance of blogs and websites in today's information realm) alerts the media to your book and/or your expertise. In many cases, media can simply use your release and print it in the magazine or newspaper. Other media people will request a copy of your book and/or an interview to write a story, or complete a story they are working on.

Can I Just Write a Media Release Announcing My Book?

One of the biggest mistakes new publishers make is assuming the world cannot wait to hear that you have published a book. Their press releases only talk about the release of the book. They are, sadly, ignored. You must create a story, a "hook" for the media to use. Remember that people are really only interested in how something makes their lives happier/easier/helps them do something. If your book is a novel, try to tie it in with something in current events.

Read Paul Krupin's excellent—and free—"Trash-Proof Media Releases"

How Do I Get My Press Release to the Media?

A lot of new publishers send press releases to every magazine and newspaper they can find. Most of these go into the trash or deleted as spam. You need to target your audience, the same as you do when you make up your marketing plan. Study each website carefully, they'll usually tell you how they want submissions. You can also pay for a press release to be distributed. The biggest organization that does this (and lets newbies play) is Vocus.

What Is a Publicist?

A Publicist is a person who represents your book to the media and the Internet. This can be very helpful to small publishers. Having a professional publicist makes the media take you more seriously than if you were representing yourself. Most publicists insist on a six month commitment for a set fee. Mailings, long distance and many other charges are billed separately. There are some publicists who charge a per-hour fee. They are hard to find.

Publicists send out press releases, press kits and sometimes books for reviews. They also work to get you and your book media coverage.

Can I Be My Own Publicist?

There is no reason why you can't do all your own publicity. It's not a hard skill to learn, but it does take time and it does take a certain amount of knowledge and access. There are several good books on the subject.

Should I Use My Own Name When I Am Publicizing My Book?

It's not easy being small. When you are the author, publisher and publicist it is hardest to get attention. Self-publishers still bear a certain stigma. To combat that problem, many self-publicists simply change the name on the publicist information to something different (a nom de business, if you will). Other people feel this is lying and don't like to even consider it. This is entirely up to you. As long as it is only to make your company look slightly larger and not for the purpose of defrauding someone, I don't see how it hurts.

Are There Any Awards to Which I Can Submit My Book?

There are, in fact, loads of awards. Some are more important than others—which is not to denigrate the smaller ones. When choosing an award to send to, consider, is it ridiculously expensive to submit my book? Does my book have a chance? And will this brand my book as self-published, making booksellers suspicious of carrying it?

Here are the big ones for self-publishers and small press folk:

  • IBPA Ben Franklin Awards
  • ForeWord Book of the Year (BOTYA)
  • Independent Publisher's Book of the Year (IPPY)
  • Writer's Digest Self-publishing Award
  • Audio Book of the Year (Audies)
  • Global Ebook Awards

But this doesn't cover all of them. Consider your book, then go search for other book awards. Look for "niche" awards that can help your book be recognized.

Are Book Awards Worth Anything (Will Anyone Care)?

Yes! If your book wins awards—particularly from the above list—you can add a whole new dimension to your promotions. Your book has been judged by professionals as being exceptional. That means more press releases and more work on your Marketing Plan!

   
   

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