Ask The Experts – Book Reviews

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Topics Discussed Below Include:
ARC Stamp for Pre-Publication Reviews
Value of Getting Listed as a “Small Press” for Reviews
ARC Help for Small Publishers
Galleys Being Sent to Reviewers Before Public Release
Timing of Getting Editorial Reviews
Kirkus Book Review Fee

Question:

I’ve heard that it good is stamp ARC on the book cover and exclude the bar code on the back, so reviewers know that the book is prepublication. It is also advised to have an obvious ARC electronic stamp along with no bar code on the cover of eBooks that are going to Netgalley for review?

Answer (10/2013):

For print copies, it’s good practice to include some text on the cover and/or spine that says “Advance Review Copy,” “Uncorrected Proof – Not for Sale” or something along those lines letting the reader know that this is not the final version and it should not be sold. Also, most publishers do omit the bar code from review copies since they shouldn’t have a POS for retailers. Instead they will use the backcover for the book description, author info, and the marketing information for the book. If you are using NetGalley for the title, you can include a line that the title is also available on NetGalley and include a QR code or URL that goes directly to the title’s page in NetGalley in case the person who received the print copy would like to read it electronically or has peers (other bookstore or library staff, reviewers, etc.) who would also like to read the title but may be unable to because there is just 1 print copy available. If you’re interested in doing this you can always get in touch and we’ll help you with exact language and the QR code or link.

For digital copies it isn’t as important to have any review text on the cover image but in the front matter, after the copyright information, it would be beneficial to have a disclaimer explaining that this digital version is an advanced review copy and not the final version, so changes may still be made to the digital and print versions before on sale. You can also include any special instructions for reviewers on NetGalley, such as when you prefer reviews to be posted or printed (example – no more than 30 days before the publication date), if you have a presence on social media you can ask reviewers to tag your author or company (include the @yourname, etc.), and any other special instructions or notes you want to share with reviewers before publication.

And if you want to include a personal note from the author, editor, publisher this is a nice opportunity to do so.

I suggest looking at a few print and digital ARCs to get a general idea of how large and small publishers approach this and then decide on your own language and preferences.

~ Tarah Theoret is the Reader Concierge at NetGalley, where she works with their ever-expanding community of professional readers (reviewers, bloggers, librarians, booksellers, media professionals, and educators). This involves handling daily support issues, connecting readers to titles of interest, and interacting with readers on social media platforms


Question:

I am wondering as a small publisher generally producing 2-4 books per year and not looking for new writers, is it of any value to me to get listed as a “Small Press” in the LMP of Literary Marketplace? I had heard some reviewers won’t review, unless you are listed. But is a small press listing really worth the effort? Thanks for your help!

Answer (09/2013):

Gee, I remember LMP from years ago, haven’t used it in quite a while. It was mostly of interest to authors who wanted to submit, or nonfiction authors looking for a suitable house for their projects. If there are reviewers using it as a “gateway” I think that’s sad, but old prejudices die hard. I would not advise a self-publisher to pay for a listing there because there are so many opportunities for reviews already, better to explore them first. The exception would be a specific reviewer in a specific field who was uniquely valuable to the publisher, but who insists on seeing a listing in LMP. Then I might do it if I had a good expectation the reviewer was serious about reviewing my book.

~ Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) is an award-winning book designer, a blogger, and the author of A Self-Publisher’s Companion: Expert Advice for Authors Who Want to Publish. Joel is the proprietor of Marin Bookworks in San Rafael, California, a publishing services company where he’s helped launch many self-publishers since 1994. He also writes a popular blog on book design, book marketing and the future of the book at www.theBookDesigner.com and is the creator of the new online training course, The Self-Publishing Roadmap.


Question:

As a small publisher it is really hard for us to get a book to the point that we could do ARCs or galleys and then wait the required 90 days or more to actually print and sell the books. By the time ARCs would be ready, it is only another two weeks or less before we are ready to go to press. Is it possible to create a version of the book to send to the big reviewers that includes four to six representative chapters that are complete instead of the whole book? For children’s picture books could the main text be sent with three to four spreads on which the art is complete? How do others deal with this? Thank you.

Answer (06/2013):

I understand the publisher’s frustration! The way small presses do it is this:

They create the ARC and release the ARCs to the reviewers even though the books are ready for print, the publishers then WAIT 3.5 months to release the book. There is truly no hurry unless there is an anniversary they are trying to match.

By waiting, they get reviews and find all sorts of errors and changes that they want to make the feed back from the ARCs and the early reader responses help them make the finished book even better in the 3.5 months between the ARC and the published book. This is not a period “waiting” it is a period of development and marketing and polishing.

You are welcome to send sample chapters and F&Gs (fold and gathers) to reviewers, but almost all of them require full books.

The other option is to pull together the manuscript into bound galley’s much earlier in the process (before the lay out). That way you can get the reviews out way in advance. Bound galley’s have just a plain text cover and a word layout.

But I recommend full ARCs and waiting to get the responses and reviews so that you publish the best book possible.

~ Amy Collins started her career in the book industry as the book buyer for Village Green Books. She then “hopped the desk” and enjoyed 5 years as a National Account Rep. In 2001, Amy was named Director of Sales at Adams Media and eventually Special Sales Director for parent company, F+W Media. Amy founded The Cadence Group and New Shelves Distribution in 2006 to offer services to new and small presses.


Question:

Is it necessary when you are self publishing your book to print galleys to send to reviewers before I make book available to the public? This is my first book for girls and young women (non-fiction inspirational).

Answer (05/2013):

While it may not be required, it’s a good idea to seek out reviews for your book. Typically, you’ll be contacting reviewers 2 to 4 months before your publication date and before the book goes on sale. This allows publications to assign reviewers and schedule reviews to appear around your publication date. Advance review copies (ARCs) or “bound galleys” are used for these reviewers, although today, when you query reviewers, you might want to offer ARCs as ebooks, PDFs, or print books, at the reviewer’s discretion.

~ Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) is an award-winning book designer, a blogger, and the author of A Self-Publisher’s Companion: Expert Advice for Authors Who Want to Publish. Joel is the proprietor of Marin Bookworks in San Rafael, California, a publishing services company where he’s helped launch many self-publishers since 1994. He also writes a popular blog on book design, book marketing and the future of the book at www.theBookDesigner.com and is the creator of the new online training course, The Self-Publishing Roadmap.


Question:

We are about to launch our second book. The question we have is about the timing of seeking editorial reviews. We are of course already seeking reviews from well-known people that we know for use within the book, marketing, etc.

However, when it comes to seeking reviews from review sites, editorial publications, bloggers, etc. we are not sure of the timing. We know there are some places that will only review a book BEFORE it is published, but we are unclear as to how far in advance of the publication date to seek reviews and are looking for specifics of whom to approach when.

Answer (03/2013):

The timing of editorial review submissions is a question as old as publishing. There’s just one easy, hard-and-fast rule: Give each review outlet exactly what they want. Read their submission guidelines and conform!

Timing is also contingent on your overall release plans. How big is your press run (presuming it’s not short-run digital/POD, or e-only)? What kind of distribution do you have? Will you have advance commitments from booksellers? Is there an author tour? Those plans not only help determine timing, but which reviewers will consider your title.

You may need to have a big publicity blast when the title first hits the street, because there are huge quantities of books in stores waiting to be either sold or returned. But if your release plans are more modest (as most are), reviews that trickle out across a longer time frame can help keep buzz alive and growing. It may be that you focus initially on a relatively short list of key influencers (for those impressive quotes for Amazon), and work on the rest of the reviewers over a longer time frame. There is no one “right” approach to this.

Of course, all this talk of optimal timing assumes you can have all those ducks in a row. For a young publisher, nearly every outlet refuses to review until they know the book is on the “shelf.” If folks read the review and can’t instantly obtain the book, the reviewers feel you’ve wasted their time and valuable editorial space.

Pre-publication reviews are very hard to get, but can be very powerful, as booksellers and librarians make real-money decisions based upon them. There’s good reason they’re so desired. Do some homework, though – their submission guidelines are especially demanding, and there are many categories for which a pre-pub review is almost impossible to obtain. Your efforts may best be spent elsewhere.

Look into IBPA’s new NetGalley Book Review Express program. This is a situation where you can get the manuscript out pre-pub, it’ll remain available for an extended period, and the reviewers determine their own timing.

The “…specifics of whom to approach when,” is a very valuable commodity, since it’s based on the hard work of identifying the review outlets, cataloging their requirements, and keeping the list up-to-date. I don’t maintain a list (I’m in the wrong genre to make it worth my while), so I have nothing to share with you. Publicists justify a fair chunk of their fee on knowing exactly how and when to reach each opinion-maker. There are also organizations who sell/rent lists of varying quality, you can participate in the IBPA Books for Review mailing, you might get a relatively short list free at a small-publisher-focused web site, you might take a seminar where a list is shared… But in the end, the best list is the one that reaches the reviewers most likely to review your titles. If you know your genre(s), you should know who those people are and/or where they can be found. If you don’t know your genre(s)? You have bigger problems than how to time your review submissions.

~ Dave Marx is the Publisher at PassPorter Travel Press, and co-author of several of the company’s guidebooks. PassPorter guidebooks have received over a dozen awards, including IBPA’s Bill Fisher Award. He’s spent 35 years in the media—print, broadcast, music, and online. Dave also served on the IBPA Board of Directors.


Question:

Kirkus Book Reviews charges $425 (or so) for a book review. When I have been reading both Peter Bowerman’s book and Dan Poynter’s books they both recommend sending to Kirkus for a review but neither said anything about a fee. Is this fee something new? Do you still recommend Kirkus regardless of this fee?

Answer #1 (09/2011):

Many independent publishers are frustrated by the lack of attention given to them by the well-known review sources such as Kirkus Reviews, ForeWord, Publishers Weekly and others. In order to get a review, many of these publishers consider whether to use a pay-for-review medium, particularly one of those that carry the brand name of the larger review source, ie. Kirkus Indies, ForeWord Clarion, etc.

From the vantage point of the smaller publisher, it may be that any review is better than no review. At the same time, that publisher needs to consider the cost of the review and the fact that there’s no guarantee the review will be favorable. While these review sources have no hesitation about charging a fee for their service, they seem to have some compunction about maintaining objectivity about the review itself ­ an interesting paradox in itself.

As an independent publisher, you need to consider how you’ll use a favorable review and whether it’s worth $425 +. From the standpoint of promotion, one way to consider whether to pay the fee or not is to evaluate the question from the standpoint of how many books you’d need to sell to cover that cost. If your book sells for a $20.00 retail price, and the benchmark for marketing expense is 10% of the net income from that book, then your net income with a 50% discount is $10.00, and therefore you could incur $1.00 in marketing expense for the sale of that one copy. Thus, you’d have to sell 425 copies to recover the $425 you’ve spent on getting that review (obviously this doesn’t include any net profit from the sale of that book). Alternatively, if the review helps you sell sub-rights of some kind that generates revenue you should consider that as well. If you think you can either sell enough books or generate over $425 as the publisher’s share of a rights deal, then paying for the review may be worthwhile, if not, then probably not.

If we look at it from profit standpoint and we figure profit at 15% of the total net income, on a $20.00 book at retail again we’d have $10.00 of net revenue received, and $1.50 of profit on that book. If we divide the $425 cost of the review by $1.50, we’d have to sell 284 copies to cover the cost of the ad with the profits from that book.

So what to do? If you think you can sell between 284 ­ 425 copies of your book through the use of the review then it may be worthwhile, if not, then probably not.

~ Tom Woll is President of Cross River Publishing Consultants, Katonah, NY Woll has over 35 years of senior-level publishing management experience including: VP & General Manager, John Wiley & Sons; VP & Publisher, Rodale Press. Woll is an Adjunct Professor of Publishing in the Master ofPublishing Program at Simon Fraser University. He is the author of Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom Line Management for Book Publishers (Chicago Review Press, 4rd edition 2010).

Answer #2 (09/2011):

Paying for product reviews, including book reviews is not a traditional practice in the book industry. That being said, paying for a Kirkus review could be considered a worthwhile investment if you are looking for a truly independent view of your work. Agents however are influenced more by actual book sales and what the author can do to support the publisher’s marketing efforts–as opposed to just book reviews.

Other resources to consider for book reviews and/or getting attention for your book:

When you do get book reviews and testimonials, make sure to utilize them in places including your own Web site, Amazon’s product page, flyers, book marks, etc.

~ Kathleen Welton is Publisher of aka associates. She has served as Director of Book Publishing for the American Bar Association and Vice President & Publisher for IDG Books and Dearborn Trade. She works with authors and organizations to create best-selling and award-winning books, series, and Web sites.


We hope you will find this program useful, but as with any advice, we recommend that you make sure it fits your specific business needs. IBPA does not specifically endorse or support any particular group or service.


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