If you self-publish a book without having a proactive plan in place to secure reviews around the time of its launch, you doom it to failure.
Book reviews, especially on digital bookstores, serve two important functions in your book’s initial performance.
First, reviews act as a form of social proof that encourages people browsing a bookstore to further consider purchasing or downloading your book. Second, reviews act as a signal to platforms such as Amazon to start promoting a book more heavily.
While the power of customer reviews cannot be overlooked, you shouldn’t place all your eggs in this one review basket. It’s desirable to source reviews from varied sources. One such source to explore is trade reviews.
Read on to discover what trade reviews are, how they can help your book, and where to find them.
What are trade reviews?
Trade reviews are a potentially powerful tool in an indie author’s marketing arsenal.
If you’ve followed the narrative around customer reviews within the self-publishing world for some time, you’ll know that there has been plenty of change and controversy.
At one time, it was found that Amazon had a huge number of artificial, paid reviews that misled customers into thinking they had been offered organically by genuine readers. This led Amazon to remove large numbers of reviews and even crack down on people sourcing reviews from their social circle.
As well as Amazon’s changing attitude toward customer reviews, customers began to be more cynical. Once someone becomes aware that Amazon reviews have been widely manipulated in the past, it becomes a lot harder to trust them in the present.
Given that reviews are essential for your self-published book to succeed, what’s an indie author to do?
Seeking out reviews from sources other than Amazon customers is one approach. Editorial reviews can carry prestige and persuasive power that exceeds a customer review of unknown origin. Trade reviews are one particularly powerful alternative.
Trade reviews have been historically essential for certain types of books, such as literary fiction and children’s literature, to get past gatekeepers and in front of potential book buyers.
Let’s explore different sources of trade reviews so you can understand if they’re the right fit for part of your book launch marketing mix.
Before seeking out a trade review for your book, it’s important to weigh up various factors to evaluate if it’s the right move:
- Does your book meet the requirements of the trade review provider?
- Will the timescale of gaining the trade review fit in with your wider book marketing plan?
- Is the time and other resource expenditure needed to acquire a trade review justified by the benefit you will gain, or would your energy better be expended elsewhere?
Now that you have some guiding criteria to keep in mind when exploring trade reviews, let’s check out some of the most prominent sources.
1 – Kirkus Reviews
Kirkus Reviews has been an invaluable source of trade reviews since its launch back in 1933. In a self-publishing world fraught with vanity press scam artists and fly by night companies, it’s reassuring to find an organization with such a long legacy.
Despite its historical legacy, Kirkus is very much attuned to the needs of the modern author, with a full guide to success stories for indie authors and how the company can help a book like yours succeed.
Now that you know a bit about how a Kirkus Review can help your book, let’s look at how to acquire one.
- Kirkus Reviews take 7-9 weeks to be fulfilled, so keep this in mind if lining one up to coincide with a launch or relaunch period
- A traditional 250-word review is priced at $450 while an expanded 500-word review costs $599
- Your book will be reviewed by a carefully selected professional reviewer, such as a librarian or academic with a relevant area of interest
After you receive your Kirkus review, you have the freedom to both publish it on a major book platform like Amazon as well as Kirkus’ own platform, or to keep it private if it’s not a good fit for your promotional plan. The best-reviewed books also stand a chance to be featured in Kirkus’ newsletter that is subscribed to by over 55,000 people.
Publisher’s Weekly is one of the longest-running trade publications in the world, having been in print continuously since 1872.
At this time, self-published authors are able to get a professional trade review through PW’s BookLife service. Any review from BookLife is written by a Publisher’s Weekly reviewer so its not in any way less prestigious or valuable.
- A BookLife Review costs $399 for a standard review or $499 for an expedited review
- Standard review time is 6 weeks while the expedited time is 4 weeks
- All soon-to-be or already published books are eligible
- If you decide to make your review public, it will be featured in the print section of the next Publisher’s Weekly, and you will receive a physical copy
After receiving your BookLife Review, you can use it freely on your indie author website, Amazon Author Central profile, or anywhere else you wish to promote your book.
3 – BookPage
Although BookPage hasn’t been in the trade review world for as long as Publisher’s Weekly or Kirkus, the company is far from a new kid on the block. BookPage was established in 1988 in Nashville and has been operating ever since.
If you’ve landed a traditional deal for your book, BookPage will allow you to submit a review application, but they currently don’t extend this option to indie authors. If you happen to meet their traditional publishing criteria, you’ll need to submit your book at least four months in advance of publication.
4 – Library Journal
Library Journal originally had a trade review service open to indie authors by the name of Self-E, but that service has now evolved into Indie Author Project.
As well as the wider partnership with Indie Author Project, Library Journal has a trade review submission service.
Here are the essential facts about seeking a trade review from Library Journal:
- There is no cost to seek a Library Journal review but also no guarantee that your book will be chosen
- Reviews are only offered prior to publication for most genres, and Library Journal must be in receipt of your book six months prior to publication
Consider making Library Journal part of your trade review mix, as the company play a valuable part in supporting the indie author community and public libraries, two invaluable institutions.
As its name implies, School Library Journal is a partner of Library Journal, mentioned above, but with a focus on books that are aimed at younger readers or school students.
If your book would be a good fit for the shelves of a school library, check out the full review submission guidelines here.
Some of the important points to keep in mind include:
- Your book must be suited to a school library readership
- There is no cost to submit a book for review but also no guarantee of receiving a review
- Your book should be submitted four months prior to publication
- At this time, School Library Journal are only accepting digital copies, preferably PDF files, due to the Covid-19 pandemic
Gaining a trade review from School Library Journal could be a huge marketing boost for indie authors writing for a younger audience.
6 – Foreword Reviews
While a lot of trade review providers are legacy services that have come to embrace self-published books, Foreword Reviews has focused solely on serving independent authors since 1998. They were a trailblazer at bringing a level of prestige and attention to independent writers through their dedicated trade review service.
If you like the sound of a trade review from Foreword, you have two paths open to you – the chance to be reviewed for free by Foreword, or a guaranteed fee for review service by their partner, Clarion Reviews.
Let’s check out the essential facts about sourcing a trade review form Foreword or Clarion:
- You can submit your book for the chance at a free review in Foreword, although this is not guaranteed
- You also have the option for paying for a review from Clarion, which provides a guaranteed review
- If you want your book to be considered for a Foreword Review, it must be submitted at least four months in advance of publication
- A guaranteed, paid review from Clarion costs $499 and will be delivered in 4-6 weeks
- A Clarion Review is around 450 words in length and will be submitted to partner organizations such as Ingram and Bowker
So there you have it. You now know the potential power of a trade review to boost your book’s success.
Remember that while reviews are a key component to attracting readers to your book, they are only one piece of the puzzle. Reviews should form part of a wider marketing mix and be aligned with other tactics.
We wish you every success in launching your next book!
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