Travels with Myself

A Journal of Discovery and Transition
Doug Jordan, Author

19. Writing for Reviews

If there is one crucial element to marketing your books, reviews are it.

Human beings are notoriously timid and generally avoid making decisions entirely on their own. And I’m not just talking about buying books. Buying anything, making any decisions. They prefer recommendations, or someone else’s advice, even if they don’t take it. <’Did you hear about that new restaurant that just opened. Great review in The Citizen. Too bad about covid.’> <‘I heard that new film running at the Cineplex is great; too bad about covid.’> <‘Do you think I should subscribe to Netflix?’> <‘Hey, what did you think of that boy we met at the bar last night?’ she asked her girlfriend.> (Men tend not to ask their male friends their opinion on a new prospect; maybe they should.)

Anyway, reviews are crucial to getting your book noticed. And not just word of mouth reviews. Reviews on various websites are crucial, and not just because a potential buyer wants to know what others thought of the book, the damned Amazon and google algorithms rank your book higher in the listings depending on the number and recency of the reviews. I say damned algorithms but of course I praise them when/if my books get noticed. That’s why authors shamelessly beg for reviews from already devoted followers, and sometimes from perfect strangers. 

Goodreads is a social media site of sorts devoted to readers willing to tell the world about the books they are reading, have read, or want to read. It started as a ‘social cataloging’ (whatever that is) site in 2006 but was acquired by Amazon in 2013. Ah, there’s the rub. Members can review any book they’ve read, even if it’s a classic and long out of print (though Amazon seems less interested in those). I’m sure there must be a limit on how long the review can be on Goodreads but I’ve seen some that go on for hundreds, maybe thousands of words. This is a long way from the sort of essence I talked about in my last blog post <https://afspublishing.ca/18-writing-for-essence/> I have myself written many reviews of books I’ve read in the last 18 months or so but I’ve tried to keep them short and pithy, and perhaps clever. After all, my slogan for my personal brand is, To entertain, possibly to educate. I’ve had many perfect strangers ‘like’ my reviews but I’m not sure that translates into them finding my author page and investigating my own books; but, in marketing, all possible avenues to exposure are to be investigated, and exploited if relevant, and free (or at least cheap).

Like Facebook, there are many ‘Groups’ of like-minded people on Goodreads. Authors are readers too of course and can join groups on Goodreads but some of these groups are devoted to soliciting reviews for their books. These requests are offered for the mere cost of a copy of your book, or even a pdf copy of your manuscript. Submitting a copy of your manuscript raises some risk – some unscrupulous person may try to rob you of your creative endeavour – which is why even a manuscript must be copyrighted and registered with an International Standard Book Number. There are also dozens of ‘organizations’, I suppose we can call them, who, for a fee, will promote your book on various social media (mainly twitter) and via email lists with short cliché blurbs. These spammy services seem pretty sketchy to me, and since I have some experience of spending a few hundred dollars on these services a few years ago with no discernable return, not very efficacious.

So, to help emerging authors along, dear reader, please take a few minutes and post a review of a book you have read on any of the relevant sites you like: Amazon, Goodreads, google e-books, even lulu. (There’s not much point in posting on Indigo books: even though it sells on-line it’s mostly a chain of bricks and mortar bookstore and relies on reviews of the old fashioned kind – blurbs on the covers of the books.)

Which brings me back to the discussion of essence in my last post, particularly blurbs. Not only should the cover have a clever and pithy summary of the book which entices browsers to pick it up and browse through it, it should also have a couple of short and sweet blurbs from noteworthy reviewers recommending the book to hesitant readers. And let’s not make too fine a point of it, anybody who makes the cover of a book with a recommending blurb must be noteworthy to the otherwise ignorant browser. 

I am very appreciative of the willing reviewers of my past books. Their wonderful words made this author’s heart swell with gratitude. No pecuniary promises were made in return for the reviewers’ remarks, except perhaps one but that promissory note did not pass to his estate, and no animals nor arms were harmed in the production of these blurbs.

As of this writing I am now at the point of submitting the manuscript of my latest opus, The Treasure of Stella Bay, to reviewers for feedback and commentary. Two eminent fellows have agreed. I have requests out to others, though none are O of C recipients nor celebrities. But time is of the essence. I am on track to publish this wonderful little novel in April and I need those pithy poignant blurbs for the cover. Please let me know if you want in.

Doug Jordan, reporting to you from Kanata Ontario

© Douglas Jordan & AFS Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of these blogs and newsletters may be reproduced without the express permission of the author and/or the publisher, except upon payment of a small royalty, 5¢. 

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