By Linda Carlson/ Many people like to read books their friends or people they identify with have recommended. That’s why book publishers try to get favorable comments from book reviewers, both professional and amateur. This praise can be used on the back covers, on the first page inside the book, in ads, online, the pitch letters sent to wholesalers and distributors, and in catalogs and sell sheets. Besides finding people to comment on your book, there are two other significant challenges that I’ll discuss in this guest post:
How to Use Book Reviews to Effectively Promote Your Book
– Getting specifics
– Getting variety in the specifics
“Oh, it’s wonderful,” someone will say, while someone else adds, “Love it! You’ve gotta read it.” What you really need instead, however, are details about what appealed to each reader and why others should read the book, comments such as, “Excellent character development—I felt as if I’d known these people all my life,” or, “Well-organized, practical, full of information I can put to use immediately.”
Here are 9 ways you can get better endorsements of your work:
1. Use your ARC Reviews
Everything intended for publication should be read by people who are examples of your target audience—except more picky. These prepublication (called peer or academic in some genres) reviewers are the people who will spot your typos and highlight facts that need to be doublechecked. If you send out manuscripts to people you don’t know well, be sure to include a questionnaire with such open-ended questions as, “In your opinion, what are two or three ways this is better than similar books you’ve seen?” and “What does this manuscript cover that you haven’t seen in other recent books?” Especially if you write how-to books or texts, ask a question such as, “How will the layout/design of this book make it easier to use?”
2. Include a Questionaire
Better yet, make the very last page, the left one facing the inside back cover, a mini questionnaire. Encourage responses by offering something: a 60-second resume review if you’re selling a career-search book, fo r example.
3. Use Fan Mail
If your book, or a portion of it, has already been published and you’ve received endorsements, use at least a portion of these. The advantage of fan mail is that readers often write more naturally, and sometimes with far greater enthusiasm, than when they’re filling out questionnaires.
4. Follow up & Probe
Some reviewers will make exactly the comments you want. Others will focus on a topic that’s important to them, but not to your larger market. Reach out to those reviewers, through your publicist, or yourself, and ask for clarification. For example, “I really appreciated your praise for my explanation of QR codes. What did you find helpful or new about the rest of the chapter on copywriting?” Or, “I’m glad to hear you liked the references to the World War I-era businesses. What was most interesting about how the characters who both ran and patronized those businesses?”
5. Fill in the Gaps
Once you have additional specific comments, look at what they address and who they were written by. Then identify the gaps—both in what’s been praised, and in who has made recommendations. Besides seeking additional recommendations about what you believe are the most important parts of the book, try to get endorsements from librarians, booksellers, readers, and in the case of nonfiction, people in the discipline you’re writing about.
6. Attributing Quotes
Some readers are unknowns, and there’s no reason to attribute quotes to them by name, but if you can, link to their review online. Others have name recognition, at least in their field, and can be identified. There will also be reviewers whose employers do not permit them to endorse books; this is typical of libraries and government agencies. These people can be identified by function or industry: “Acquisitions librarian,” “Long-time industry observer,” or “School social worker.”
8. Revising the quotes
If you are identifying the people who praised your book, it’s important that they consider the comments accurate. When you’re ready to publish quotes, in the book, in promotional material or on your website, use postal mail or email to contact the sources of the endorsements with a confirmation of what you’d like to say. “I appreciate your comments on my manuscript, and I would like to quote you as follows…” Finish your message by asking the recipient to confirm that this quote is acceptable. This also gives you the opportunity to correct any errors in grammar that the reviewer made, and add missing words.
9. Stay legal
What comments you can attribute to someone in your advertising is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. Its guidelines, on web pages such as “Truth in Advertising and Marketing,” say that no one who hasn’t used a product (or, your case, read your book) can recommend it. This is a particular issue if you’re writing about diets, medicine, or the law, or if your manuscript recommends products.
10. Use praise everywhere
You’ll publish the most important reviews on the back of your book and possibly across the bottom or top of the front cover. You may even add a page or two of endorsements to the front matter, those pages that precede the start of the book. Use them on your website, blog, catalog, Facebook page, in direct mail and in your social media posts. Also consider imposing a few across the banner image of your Facebook page. And ask reviewers if they are willing to add the praise to your LinkedIn page, and after the book is published, to such websites as Goodreads and Amazon.
Linda Carlson is the Seattle author of Advertising with Small Budgets for Big Results: How to Buy Print, Broadcast, Outdoor, Online, Direct Response & Offbeat Media (Barrett Street Productions, 2014, lindacarlson.com) and other books on marketing and publishing. She writes each month for the Independent Book Publishers Association. You can also follow her on Pinterest and on