Home > Editor's Corner Podcast > Editor’s Corner Podcast: Book Reviews 101

In this episode of the Editor’s Corner Podcast Stephanie and Angela walk you through the who, how, and why of book reviews, including how to use them to get the word out about your self-published book.


Stephanie: Angela and I have been editing collectively for 31 years. In this podcast, we try to take some of the confusion out of writing a book. In today’s podcast, we’re actually not going to be looking at writing a book but at reviews of your book and how they can help you in marketing.

Angela: Exactly, and the first place we wanted to start is with something you might have heard of already. It is called Kirkus reviews, which has been around for a very long time.

Stephanie: Kirkus is very highly esteemed in the publishing world and lots of people, was it 1.5 million per month go to their website alone to review thoughts of books. This is a really good reviewer to use. If you are confident in your book and because you do pay for this review, but then you do have the option if you don’t like what they’ve written that you do not have to have it published. If you do like what they’ve written once you’ve paid for their services, you can use any of the texts they’ve written in any of your marketing materials which is pretty awesome.

Angela: Exactly. You as a self-published author send your review to Kirkus ND, which is their service specifically for self-published books. There’s a fee. Right now it’s $425 for their standard service. Obviously, by the time you hear that or this podcast, that might change, but it is only going to guarantee that your book gets reviewed. It does not guarantee the review is going to be favorable because obviously, paying for a good review would be unethical and makes your readers really mad when they read the book and find out it’s not as good as all their reviews said it’s going to be.

Stephanie: Oh, yes. $425, it can seem a bit excessive, I suppose. It really does … Again, Kirkus is very highly esteemed.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: It can really make a big difference in sales especially as you’ve pointed out, publishers, agents, librarians in addition to readers. They go to Kirkus and use those opinions for whether to look further into this author or to stocking this book even.

Angela: Exactly. There’s actually a magazine like hand-held, real paper magazine portion of Kirkus. They actually publish 70 INDI book reviews per month. I’m not sure what their process is. I think the editors actually choose the books that are going to be featured. Again, you’re not going to be able to pay for that to happen but imagine if your review is actually chosen to be put into the magazine feature. It’s a huge honor but it increased the possibility of readership exponentially.

Stephanie: Oh, yes. I used to work for a smaller publishing house and this was absolutely the case. This magazine was delivered and you better believe it was reviewed.

Angela: Exactly.

Stephanie: It’s almost like a who’s who if you’re getting that magazine. Yeah, if you get in there, that is really, really tremendous for you.

Angela: Well, think of it as kind of legitimizing too especially for self-published authors, which-

Stephanie: Absolutely.

Angela: They’ve kind of been maligned in the past. It’s like it’s not real publishing area, but it’s not the case anymore. It’s changing a lot and a lot of people that go the self-publishing route are able to make inroads in traditional publishing after they’ve kind of proven themselves in this one place.

Stephanie: Absolutely. I know some indie authors actually do go with indie Publishing with that intent to go through the self-publishing process and then get an agent and/or go to a larger publishing house. That’s something to keep in mind if that is your goals.

Angela: Well, and-

Stephanie: Aside-

Angela: Yeah, go ahead.

Stephanie: Go ahead.

Angela: I was going to say that I think especially if I am an agent or publisher looking for new blood and I’m seeing this book even though it’s from a self-published author, people are talking about it. There are reviews all over the place and it does not have to be all five-star reviews. There are people who are going to love it and people who are going to hate it. If they’re talking about it and it’s making waves, it’s going to get noticed.

Stephanie: Absolutely.

Angela: Having that exposure, it can help a ton.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Aside from Kirkus, there are other paid review services, of course.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: Do you want to kind of cover a couple of those?

Angela: Yeah, sure. Publishers Weekly, which obviously, even I’ve heard of them and I didn’t even know that a lot of these other places exist but I’ve heard of Publishers Weekly so our listeners probably have too. They very recently started a service specifically for published or self-published authors. It’s called BookLife. We’re not sure we would have to research exactly how the submission and payment process works but we know that you submit your books to them and then they review it from there. You’ll have to do research with them.

Also, Blue Inc review, IndieReader, which is all one word, and Self-Publishing Review. They all offer paid review services specifically for self-published authors. Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking that’s great. Where the heck is the money going to come from? The good news is is that there are places where you don’t have to pay in order to get reviewed.

A big one and one of my favorites, I’ve been on it a long time is Goodreads. Goodreads is kind of like … Well, it’s not kind of like, it is a … I read a book, I go on there, I tell people what I think of the book. It’s that simple. The cool thing about them is that they actually offer author services too. If you sign up for an author account which is free, you get to reach out to your potential readers. You can publicize your events. You can join discussion groups. You can post videos. The best part is that you can offer giveaways for your book where-

Stephanie: That’s pretty awesome.

Angela: Yeah, you send your book to readers review requested, they give you a review for it. Unbiased review, right?

Stephanie: Right, I have belonged to another organization in the past, not Goodreads, but they did … the group itself did giveaways and from a wide variety of publishers and wide variety of authors. You have people clamoring for these few copies because if you have voracious readers, what is better than a free book.

Angela: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well, and it’s … I think their genre is too that really lends itself to that especially like romance genre, I know it’s really … you will have a huge amount of people clamoring for your book.

Stephanie: Oh, yeah. That’s always going to … In my experience, people are always happy to write a review, especially if it’s … obviously, especially if it’s a good book. In that case, I think if you are just getting started too in the industry, I think probably a lot of people are willing to help you out as well.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: Yeah, and this kind of goes along with Amazon too where whether you use the service or not in which you can provide your books for free reviews, you can also give them to family, friends, and your beta readers, people who’ve helped you all along this process, give them free copies. I know it may make you cringe. Give them free copies and ask if they will write a review because sometimes people are happy to do a review just to have a free copy of a book.

Angela: That’s true. I do want to take a second just to kind of differentiate between reviews and feedback. We talk about beta readers a lot. Prior to publication, you’re sending out that kind of … I say a rough copy. I mean, it may even be what you think is your final copy but until it’s published, I don’t consider it final. You’re sending out the unpublished copy for beta readers to kind of give you feedback so you can change things that you need to change before it’s published.

With reviews, it works a little differently. Reviews, you may want to look at them, you may not. You may decide it’s better to just set the book out there, let people say what they need to say about it and you move on. One of the good things about review that you and I have talked about is that even the negative reviews can help you become a better writer, right?

Stephanie: Absolutely, absolutely. In this case, they are like feedback. Then, if you seal yourself and you’re ready to look at those reviews, you can see what people don’t like. Sometimes it’s just going to be a creative difference. They’re going to say, “Oh, I hated this ending. I couldn’t stand it.” Maybe your ending is just brilliant for you and it’s perfect for you. Otherwise, if people say your story telling is clunky, or the plot is just too slow, those are things you can think about, and consider, and go study. I mean, there are book aplenty out there about writing, and classes. Obviously, we have the editor’s corner to help as well.

Angela: That’s true, that’s true. Well, that the … when you’re reading those reviews, that’s something to keep in mind. You’re always going to see people who are just … they’re not happy about anything. Life is just like a drudge, and they don’t want to be happy so they’re just going to make everybody else miserable too. You’ll see reviews like that, like this book was awful and I hated it. You’re like okay, but why did you hate it?

Stephanie: But why, yes.

Angela: Yeah, and they can’t give you anything concrete. It was just a bad day, and the dog was barking too much, and their car broke down so they just hate everybody and they’re going to leave a review about it.

When you’re reading reviews and you start seeing patterns, like everybody is talking about maybe the character development was a little bit … yeah, it didn’t really make sense or there were editing errors and that was distracting. You’re going to start seeing patterns that kind of give you a clue to okay, this really is an issue. This is really something that’s not nitpicky and that everybody is seeing I need to maybe work on this for the next book.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s a great way to make sure that you are improving your craft as well.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: A lot of authors now also have blogs and that’s a …

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: When you see stuff like that, you can even start putting a lot of the little stuff in place even when you’re writing your smaller pieces I think as a good way to practice for the big game.

Angela: Exactly.

Stephanie: Well, because writing a book, I mean, it is a marathon. It can take years to get through. Having those little practice sessions and ways to kind of still get your voice out there and things, it can help you in the long run tremendously.

Angela: Now, we’ve talked about before, we don’t talk a lot about marketing in the editor’s corner. Dog Ear does have the publisher’s corner in which they do talk a lot about marketing. You can go there to find more, which is still just dogearpublishing and you can just search for publishers corner and find lots of tips there about marketing. It is helpful to remember that. Your paid review, again, you can use these quite often in your marketing materials if you so choose. Again, those Kirkus reviews can really help. Typically, you can’t do that for Amazon and Goodreads, is that correct?

Stephanie: Do what specifically?

Angela: The reviews that you get, it’s only the paid services, the reviews that you get that you can really use the marketing materials.

Stephanie: That’s true, actually. That’s kind of the cool thing about them is that you do get to choose. If you like what the reviewer said, go ahead. You can use it and you can use it in a lot of different ways. Your website, back cover on your book like for a blurb. I think even in like print advertising. You would have to check with each review company to make sure but I’m pretty sure that’s okay. If you don’t like it then just don’t use it.

Angela: Right. The key to remember here is that there are different types of reviews, your paid services and your unpaid services, and they are serving slightly different purposes here. Your paid services you can use directly in your marketing and the unpaid services, those unpaid reviews, those are how you want to get the word out. You’re depending on other people’s word of mouth, essentially.

That is one very important distinction to keep in mind and I don’t think a lot of people have a problem with it but they do serve slightly different purposes there. I really don’t think I have anything else to say on this matter. I mean, reviews are pretty cut and dry. Do you have anything else to add?

Stephanie: No, and I think it’s funny. This is one of our more simple topics. I mean, we can tell you what we know about reviews and how they work and where to look, but at the end of the day, the author has to make the decision, do I want to spend the money, is it worth my time, or do I want to try something different?

It’s really up to you. There’s no right or wrong answer. What you’re comfortable with today you may be completely against tomorrow. Do something that makes you feel good about doing it, something that helps you grow as a writer and just keep going and keep trying. You will get there. We believe in you.

Angela: Absolutely. Remember, you are and indie author. Part of the reason you chose this path is probably because you get to have more say in the process.

Stephanie: That’s right.

Angela: That includes your reviews.

Stephanie: That’s exactly right.

Angela: Okay, we are done for this week. Tune in next time and, which we will be talking about how … I’m sorry, what you can expect from a Dog Ear editor and until then, keep writing.

Stephanie: Thank you for listening to this episode of editors corner brought to you by Dog Ear Publishing where we explore all things about writing and editing in a self-publishing industry.