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FAQ: Reviews, Publicity, and Big-Box Stores

FAQ Index
Getting Noticed in the Wide World:
Reviews, Book Clubs and Big Box Stores

Thank you to Creative Minds Press for providing the content for this FAQ


How do I get reviews?

•  Pre-publication reviews
•  Why they're important
•  Post-publication reviews
• Why aren't paid reviews recommended?
What do I do with reviews?
•  How do I edit a review?

How do I get access to libraries and schools?
How Can I Get Booksellers' Attention?

What is a Publicist?

How do I get into book clubs?

Can I get into any book awards?
•  Are book awards worth anything?

How do I get into the Big Box Stores like Barnes and Noble, Border’s Books and Music?
•  How do I get into B&N?
•  How do I get into Borders?


How do I get, and where do I send my books, for review?

Pre-publication reviews

There are still some hold-out reviewers who expect to have a galley 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 4 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 / DHL / 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

Other reviewers

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Why are these important?

Kirkus, Library Journal or School Library Journal, and Booklist all go to libraries. One good review in any of these 4 publications (and to some extent, Publisher's Weekly) can sell around 1000 books.

If you don't care about trade sales, don't do this step.

Post-publication reviewers

These 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. These reviewers will be satisfied with books that come to them USPS Media Mail. But always use Delivery Confirmation.

Midwest Book Reviews  Note: this publication is the most pro-self-publishing review source in existence. They post all reviews on Amazon.
Heartland Reviews

The best idea after these few generalists is to find the folks who review your sorts of books and target them. Other reviewers

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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 (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.

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What do I do with reviews?

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

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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. This is something of an art.

Happy Sails
is an excellent guide to taking a sea cruise in the most enjoyable manner possible. It covers: what to take and why, the etiquette of a cruise ship experience; what lines are know for specializing in what types of trips, dealing with children or not, how to get the most out of a trip, how to pack intelligently, how to avoid Montezuma’s revenge, how to eat, how to party safely, and much more. It even covers how and who to tip. This is a must reference book for all who are hoping to go on a cruise some day. It could help you avoid making mistakes that might degrade your experience. We rated this delightfully helpful book a high four hearts.—Heartland Reviews

When edited, it reads:
Happy Sails
is... [a] delightfully helpful... guide to taking a sea cruise in the most enjoyable manner possible.—Heartland Reviews

How do I get access to Libraries and Schools?

The best way to get noticed by acquisition librarians (the people who buy for one or many branch libraries) is to get reviewed in one of the pre-publication review magazines like Library Journal.

Failing that, there are some programs that, for a fee, will send a flyer about your book (which you design and pay for) to various libraries, reviewers or schools.

Florida Academic Press has a very carefully targeted program. Ask Sam Decalo for advice in placing your flyer in any particular mailing.

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How Can I Get Booksellers' Attention?

You can submit to the BookSense Advanced Access Program.

If you are a member of SPAN , the fee is only $50. You can get independent booksellers interested in your book.

Prepare to send 50 galleys out. Keep the e-mail addresses and follow up a month later to get feedback from these bookstores. If the book sellers really like the book, they might nominate your book for the BookSense 76. This is a nationally advertised book list, put out quarterly. Several small presses have succeeded with BookSense recommendations.

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What is a Publicist?

A Publicist is a person who represents your book to the media. 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 6 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.

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How can I get into Book Clubs?

It’s fairly difficult to get into book clubs if you are new to publishing and don’t have a recognized name. This is not to say it’s impossible. Submissions to book clubs should occur 4-6 months before your "street date." Go to this site, select the club that best matches your book.

If they do select your title, congratulations. Now be prepared to look at the contract closely. The first thing you’ll notice is that they want a BIG discount. Contact your lawyer or look over intellectual property lawyer Ivan Hoffman’s website or Lloyd Rich's site to get an idea of what’s involved in a contract.

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>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:

Ben Franklin Awards
ForeWord Book of the Year 
Independent Publisher's Book of the Year (IPPY)
Writer's Digest Self-publishing Award

But this doesn’t cover all of them. Consider your book, then go on Google or Yahoo! To 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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The Big Box Stores: Barnes and Noble, Border’s Books and Music

I want to get my book into the big-box bookstores!

Big chain stores like Barnes and Noble and Borders aren't all that excited about small press offerings. While B&N has some access (see explanation), few are chosen. The best way to guarantee that your book is carried by the chains is to create demand. See the section on Marketing Plans. If customers want your book, B&N, et al will come looking for your book. 

Bookstores are not your end consumer.

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How do I get my book into Barnes and Noble?

Barnes and Noble has a Small Press division dedicated to considering self-published and small press offerings.

Contact: Marcella Smith, B&N Small Press Director, 122 5th Avenue, NY, NY 10011, 212.633.3300. Ms. Smith is usually not available. You'll most likely deal with her assistant Diane Simowski, 212.633.3549

Send a copy of your book, all reviews, an explanation of how the book competes in its category and the details of your marketing plan. NOTE: few books are selected.

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How do I get in to Borders Books & Music?

Borders is not really amenable to small press contacts. Border's Voicemail submission procedures 734.477.1333 or write Borders Group, New Vendor Acquisitions, 100 Phoenix Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48108

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Thank you to Creative Minds Press for providing the content for this FAQ.


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