By Scott Lorenz
As a book publicist I’ve read a few thousand book reviews and have written a few dozen myself. I have a pretty good idea about how to write a book review that is helpful to potential readers and buyers of a book. Authors have a difficult time getting people to write a review because their fan base of readers don’t have time or most likely don’t know how to write a review. So, here it is. Hand this to anybody who says, ‘I just don’t know how to write a review.’
Before you pick up a pen, ask yourself these questions:
- How did the story affect you?
- Did it make you laugh, cry?
- Did it affect the way you think about family, spouse, or life in general?
- Would you recommend it to others?
- Would you by it as a gift for events such as graduations, birthdays, etc?
Here’s What Makes A Good Book Review
- In general, you are trying to help someone determine if they should buy the book. “It needs to give a clear reason for someone to want to read or avoid the book in question. Narrowing the potential audience is also helpful,” says Ross Rojek, editor and publisher of the San Francisco Book Review.
- Talk about your impression of the book. “For fiction reviews, brief plot summaries. You don’t need details about every character and every event. For non-fiction, say what the book’s premise is and whether it fulfills that,” says Debra Englander, former acquisitions editor for Wiley Books.
- Include qualifications or relevant background about the author. “Include information about author – reputation, qualifications, etc, — anything relevant to the book and the author’s authority,” says Bill Asenjo, award-winning freelance writer. For example, a lawyer should be able to write a good courtroom thriller, but not a book on sewing.
- Provide a short example from the book. “One good phrase or sentence that encapsulates the book is easy to promote,” Rojek explains. “Be mindful not to give away the ending!”
- Who should buy this book? “Do compare similar products,” Amazon’s tips on writing reviews states. For example, “If you liked Harry Potter you’ll love this book” or, “If you are into current news events, this book is for you! It’s perfect for middle school children and older.”
- Talk about what kind of reader this book is for. “Summarize some of your thoughts on the book by suggesting the type of reader you’d recommend the book to,” children’s author Luisa Plaja told BookTrust. If this is a great gift book for the recent college graduate or pregnant Moms then say so!
- Did the book live up to expectations? Does it deliver on the title? If the book title is “How to Build a House?” Does it in fact tell you how to do it? “Describe what the book does well and what it does poorly (and why), but it should also explain who would value the book,” said Dr. Eric Russell, book reviewer and English Language and Literature professor.
- Be sure to create a snappy title for your review. Perhaps one with a key word that would help someone find your review about the book. Using the house theme again: “If You Want to Build A House, THIS Book with Tell You How!”
- Add the stars on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being great. “A five-star review should be for a book that has everything: good writing, good-editing, and a story that makes you want to read it again and tell your friends about,” Neal Wooten, author and managing editor of Mirror Publishing, advises in his article on HuffPost.
What Not To Do:
- “Be honest, but not overly critical,” Englander warns, “If a reviewer is especially nasty, readers wonder if he/she had a personal agenda.”
- Don’t lose focus on what you’re reviewing. “Review the book you read – not the book you wish the author had written,” Asenjo cautions.
- “Don’t describe your seller or shipping experience,” Amazon urges. Don’t comment on the fact it arrived late or the book was damaged. The author has no control over that and nobody cares.
- “Don’t review books by your friends or enemies,” suggests Rebecca Skloot, a previous vice president of National Book Critics Circle. Doing this doesn’t provide you any real practice on writing a review and doesn’t help anyone. Keep your intentions as a reviewer in check.
- “Don’t use a book review as an excuse to show off your writerly voice,” recommends Ann Finkbeiner of The Open Notebook, board of directors and regular reviewer for The New York Times Book Review and The Wall Street Journal. A review’s purpose is to evaluate a piece of text and create discussion with other readers. If you want to showcase your writing ability, start a blog.
Bottom line: Authors, want reviews? Ask your readers to write one! Readers, don’t know how to review? Follow the guidelines above to ensure the creation of a helpful review for future readers!
About Book Publicist Scott Lorenz
Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers. His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few.
Learn more about Westwind Communications’ book marketing approach at http://www.book-marketing-expert.com or contact Lorenz at email@example.com or by phone at 734-667-2090. Follow Lorenz on Twitter @aBookPublicist
Authors, How About an App for Your Book?
Books are turned into movies all the time. But what about other money making avenues for repurposing content and expanding the reach of the book?
How about creating an iPhone or Android app for your book?
The bestselling book What to Expect When You Are Expecting has an app that is a great example of how a book can expand its reach by creating a useful companion app.
More >>>>> http://bit.ly/1YDNe8A
By Scott Lorenz
With hard work, perseverance and a little luck, your book could be “Cruisin” with Smokey Robinson to the bestseller list and you will be “Dancin’ in the Streets” with Martha and the Vandellas.
Who doesn’t love the music of Motown? Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, The Temptations, Lionel Richie and The Four Tops – their classic songs have entertained people from all walks of life for over 50 years.
I recently noticed that the titles of some of the biggest Motown hits also suggest some important themes that can help guide authors to improve their careers. Let’s have a look:
“What’s Goin’ On” (Marvin Gaye) advises you to educate yourself on what is going on in the publishing industry. It’s a moving target; what worked last year might not work today. It’s imperative that authors keep abreast of the changing publishing industry by reading books and magazine articles, going to book fairs and festivals and attending writer’s conferences.
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Marvin Gaye) tells you to use today’s version of the grapevine, social media such as Twitter and Facebook, to promote your literary work. Authors should be sure to stay up to date about what others are saying about them, their work, and what their competitors are publishing as well. Be sure to keep your page updated and have frequent interaction with your followers to retain their interest.
“Respect” (Aretha Franklin) reminds you to treat others the way you want to be treated. Share resources and knowledge with fellow authors. Respond to comments and questions on social media. Take on a mentee. Be kind. Network. Respect the time and effort you’ve put into your craft and help others to do the same.
“Shop Around” (The Miracles) advises you to “shop” for the best book publisher, publicist, and others who can help make your book a success. This is not similar to shopping for commodities at the mall or grocery store; you should go with the person who provides the best quality for your needs, rather than the one with the lowest price. An investment in good editing, good book cover design and good marketing will help create a solid foundation in the long run.
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” (Stevie Wonder) When signing a publishing deal make sure to look over the fine print, and ask questions about the contract. You, as the author, do not want to be obligated to terms that you were not aware of. Remember, “Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing” (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell) so make sure you ask a lawyer to look over the contract before you sign.
“It Takes Two” (Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston), and “Rescue Me” (Aretha Franklin). Don’t be afraid to ask for help because publishing and marketing a book can be a nerve-wracking and overwhelming task for a first-time author. Do not wait until you need a rescue before calling in the professionals. As a book marketing expert, I’ve seen many authors make costly decisions that have to be rectified, which include bad titles, bad covers, bad editing, or lack thereof. “Stop in the Name of Love” (The Supremes) for your book.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell) inspires you to be steadfast and resilient in order to be successful. For example, 100+ publishers rejected Mark Victor Hanson, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, but he had the tenacity to keep searching for someone who would publish him.
The Bottom Line: “You Can’t Hurry Love,” (The Supremes). Success will not happen overnight and it’s not always easy as “ABC” (Jackson 5). But it doesn’t have to be a “Ball of Confusion” (Temptations.) With hard work, perseverance and a little luck, your book could be “Cruisin” with Smokey Robinson to the bestseller list and you will be “Dancin’ in the Streets” with Martha and the Vandellas. J
About Book Publicist Scott Lorenz
Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm based in a Motown suburb that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers. His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few.
Says Lorenz, “If you need help, just reach out, “I’ll Be There!” (The Four Tops). Learn more about Westwind Communications’ book marketing approach at http://www.Book-Marketing-Expert.com or contact Lorenz at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 734-667-2090. Follow Lorenz on Twitter @aBookPublicist
British author E.L. James’s erotic romance trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed is the hottest topic in publishing right now. The trilogy has been featured on mommy blogs, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Saturday Night Live, book clubs, and Amazon.com.
The book’s main characters are Seattle billionaire 27-year-old control freak Christian Grey and innocent 21-year-old Anastasia Steele. Grey, a self-made entrepreneur, not only controls his wildly successful businesses, but takes the reins in the bedroom as well.
With a tortured childhood fueling his dominant personality, the trilogy unravels the tumultuous relationship between Grey and Ana. So, what is it that makes this series so special that it’s flying off shelves with more than 20 million copies sold in the United States alone?
James has been wildly successful and has gained massive publicity for her work through word of mouth and media outlets alike. Fifty Shades of Grey was first published in 2011 by a small Australian publisher. It generated buzz by word of mouth after it was available as an ebook. Once the book topped the American best-seller lists in early 2012, Vintage Books bought the rights to publish both the ebook and paperback for seven figures.
Fifty Shades of Grey gained massive popularity on the web via “mommy blogs.” The Suburban Jungle raved about the book in her blog and explains, “…so many of us can’t put the series down. We have an inherent connection to the characters and may not even know it.” BabyCenter Blog’s Lindsay Weiss wrote a cheeky post titled “I have a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Hangover” in which she explains her dedication to the series. “Are they tremendously meaningful literature? No they are not. Are they even exceptionally well-written? Nope. But have they kept me up until 2am for two nights straight? Yes, they have. I can’t put them down. I can’t sleep. I’d rather read than eat. And I’m cursing the time it’s taking me to write this post because it’s taking me away from the twisted plot of the book.” Weiss’ blog post received 57 responses of women raving about the books.
In an article in The Guardian, Vanessa Thrope wrote, “Mainstream publishing houses are colonising fresh territory in the next stage of an ebook revolution that is changing not only how we read, but what we read, forever. Following the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, which started out as an ebook series posted on a fan site by author EL James and has become the world’s fastest-selling book, publishers are starting to move in on the profits generated by the thriving online platforms that serve unpublished writers. In July of 2012 Pearson, the owner of Penguin Books, bought one of the largest grassroots publishers, Author Solutions, based in Indiana, in the US, for £74m. (135 Million US Dollars)The idea is that Pearson will no longer have to rely on spotting ebook hits early; instead, they will own a new author’s work from the first moment it appears on screen. This acquisition comes in the wake of Pearson’s launch last year of Book Country, a website on which fiction authors could publish their work.”
From Mommy Blogs to daytime television, Fifty Shades of Grey took the media by storm. Ellen DeGeneres featured the book on her show and Saturday Night Live did a parody of the book’s effect on women.
It’s no secret that sex sells. However, James is not selling sex. In fact, she’s selling romance, which is the best-selling category in publishing. The romantic plotlines appeal much more to women, the book’s primary fan base, than sex alone.
While various readers’ sexual fantasies and tastes may differ, most can agree that receiving lavish gifts would be wonderful. Grey showers Ana with foreign cars, the latest technology, an expansive closet filled with designer duds with price tags to match. James speaks to readers’ inner desires to experience a life in the lap of luxury.
In a USA Today article, author Deirdre Donohue explains that James gives women what they want: Christian Grey. “The 27-year-old self-made entrepreneur dropped out of Harvard (hello, Mark Zuckerberg). He is a smoking-hot Adonis (hello, Channing Tatum). He has his own security force to keep his family safe (hello, Michael Corleone). He’s also an innovative philanthropist (hello, Bill Gates).”
Presently, James’s first novel in the trilogy, commonly referred to as “mommy porn,” has received over 6,187 5-star reviews. However, just over 4,624 readers have given the book 1 star. I have authors contact me practically in tears that someone ‘trashed’ their book with a 1 star review. Now I just mention “Fifty Shades of Grey” collection of a few thousand one star stabs!
James is praised for her honesty and bluntness regarding socially taboo sexual desires. However, other readers feel her writing style is repetitive and lacks a certain polish.
Women have blogged about how Fifty Shades of Grey has helped them in their marriage. The books aren’t a dirty little secret hidden in bed-side tables. Instead, women are opening up and explaining how the books’ themes of love, desire, and passion have helped their sex lives and relationships.
Universal Films/Focus Features has purchased the film rights. There has been loose talk of James writing a fourth book as well. Visit E.L. James’ official website for updates on all things Grey.
The Bottom Line: Women love Fifty Shades of Grey and E.L. James for her romantic, erotic, and boisterous characters and themes. Perhaps you can take a page out of her book!
Amanda Hocking, as I’m sure you know, is a best-selling e-author on Amazon.com. Since uploading her first e-book in the spring of 2010, she has grossed about $2 million. She’s got 10 novels under her belt, all of which fall into the paranormal-romance category. The prominent entertainment company, Media Rights Capital, optioned her four-book vampire series “Trylle”.
Clearly, she’s had great success self-publishing her e-books. So, it was a surprise when Hocking decided to sign with St. Martin’s Press, which is a very established publishing house.
Hocking has openly explained that she suffered from depression for the vast majority of her life and turned to writing as a sort of escape. She finished her first novel at 17, titled “Dreams I Can’t Remember” and was turned down by each of the 50 agents to whom she’d sent her work. Not long thereafter, she caught a clip on YouTube of the band Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus encouraging American youth to make their dreams come true. Hocking admits having a sort of “aha” moment and realized that she could not wait for her dreams to come true. She had to put forth the effort and make them come true.
In 2009, Hocking began to treat writing as a job rather than something she did for entertainment. She wrote a few more novels, sent them off to agents, and still received only rejections. In April 2010, Hocking uploaded her novel “My Blood Approves” to Amazon, then later to Smashwords, then directly on Barnes & Noble’s site. Hocking started selling books, first a few a day, then as she uploaded more of her work, she managed to sell 26 books in one day in May. These days, the author is selling 9,000 books a day.
Just how did she do it? Well, the stories she writes are an obvious piece of her success. Her novels combine action and romance with a dash of quirk and topped off by Hocking’s creative style of writing. Additionally, by selling e-books, Hocking was able to sell the books for far less money compared to a traditional bookstore book. Therefore, people were more inclined to spend the 99 cents or $3.00 to read her work instead of dropping upwards of $15.00 for a book off the shelf of a trendy bookstore. Hocking has a very blasé attitude in regard to her success and rapid writing. When asked just how she manages to complete her work so quickly, Hocking responds on her blog, “I don’t know. I just write a lot and drink a lot of Red Bull.”
Hocking also suggests that writing paired with reading more than she writes, was instrumental in her success. She made sure to edit her novels a great deal in order to get them just right. Learning to take criticism was useful to Hocking’s success because she was able to understand that although her books weren’t for everyone, they did have an audience.
Taking a look at her blog, Hocking describes herself as an, “Obsessive tweeter. John Hughes mourner. Batman devotee. Muppet activist. Unicorn enthusiast. Fraggin Aardvarks guitarist. Author of the USA Today Bestselling Trylle Trilogy & the upcoming Watersong series.” She actively updates her blog, so her fans always have something new to read. This past October was Hocking’s second annual “Zombiepalooza!” on her blog, which ran for the entire month of October. Hocking explains that while she especially enjoys zombies, Zombiepalooza is really a celebration of all things horror and Halloween. Throughout the month, there were guest posts, giveaways, and other fun goodies, such as the “ultimate Halloween Playlist.”
John Kremer recently mentioned Amanda Hocking in a seminar about blog tours. Amanda Hocking inspired him to name a particular type of blog tour a Blogpalooza. John got the name from Hocking, after her first Zombiepalooza in October 2010. In his seminar, John also explained a few of Amanda’s stats, which were affected dramatically by Zombiepalooza. Before Zombiepalooza, Amanda had been selling about 3,000-5,000 copies of Kindle eBooks each month. She sold about 20,000 total before October 2010. In December 2010, after Zombiepalooza, she sold 100,000 copies in the month of December alone. In January, she sold 450,000 copies of her Kindle eBook novels.
In February of 2011, she made the USA Today best-seller list. By the end of February, she had sold 900,000 copies of self-published Kindle eBooks. In March 2011, her book sales totaled over 1 million copies, and she subsequently sold the rights to four of her books to St. Martin’s Press for $2 million. Some were surprised by her decision to sell her book rights, but Hocking has explained that in order to be a billion-dollar author, she needs people to buy her books at Wal-Mart. In order to get her books onto shelves, she had to partner with St. Martin’s Press.
Says Hocking, “I’m a writer. I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full time corporation. I am spending so much time on things that are not writing.”
“I like writing. I even like marketing, especially when it comes to interacting with readers. And I don’t mind editing. I just don’t want to run my corporation, because that takes away from writing and everything else that I actually enjoy doing,” concludes Hocking.
After gaining so much success, Amanda has been able to seize unique opportunities. For example, she was a featured speaker at Comic Con in San Diego. Additionally, she was able to buy a life-size Han Solo figure from Star Wars, which was encased in carbonite. The life-size figure is rare and was something Hocking had her eye on for quite some time. The unique purchase was due in great part to the success of her Zombiepalooza.
The way Hocking executed Zombiepalooza is what earned her such success. She invited people to guest-post on her website, offer free copies of their books, and contribute stories to her blog. Simply put, she asked people to come to her blog and blog. Those guest bloggers, in turn, brought their fan clubs to Amanda’s website, earning Amanda’s work more exposure and causing her to gain even more fans. Zombiepalooza was an event blog tour that really got people talking and excited about the event, making it extremely effective.
In addition to her own blog, Hocking has separate blogs for her book Virtue, My Blood Approves, The Hollows series, as well as a blog dedicated to soundtracks for her various books. Hocking follows dozens of blogs herself. Having been blogging since April 2009, Hocking has had nearly 2 million page views. Check out Amanda’s blog to learn more about her, her work, and to see release dates of her upcoming books at AmandaHocking.blogspot.com or her facebook fan page.
The bottom line: Amanda Hocking is an incredibly talented author. She has achieved great success in her career, largely due to marketing her novels so effectively. Amanda began writing e-books and now has a multimillion dollar book deal. Her talent for both writing and knowing how to market her books has enabled her to become a wildly successful author. Amanda Hocking has helped pave the way for authors to follow in her footsteps without the traditional ‘gatekeepers’ of publishing being involved.