It was my teenage son that found it: the worst possible person to be in possession of these particular two words.
This was, it is hard to admit, a review for a book I helped write. Now, since I am a ghostwriter and this is my livelihood, let me get my defence in quickly. The book in question was what can only be described as a Marmite one. A real sex ‘n shopping, chick lit humdinger. You either love that genre, or you don’t. I absolutely adored working on it and the reason the family was glued to Amazon (hence spotting the offending review) was readers loved it too and we were checking on its ranking. It reached the number one slot in romantic fiction and stayed there for some weeks. It also garnered several hundred glowing reviews.
There were, however, a handful of readers that did not enjoy this particular book and they expressed their feelings quite, er, succinctly. My teenager helpfully printed out the offending one and pasted it on my office wall. Cheers son, thanks for the boost.
Reviews are, of course, a crucial part of the book marketing process. This is why mainstream publishers actively seek them. They know the powerful part they play in online booksellers’ algorithms. A long list of reviews will get an author exposure on other book review sites and in front of bloggers and book clubs too. The Holy Grail for a debut novel is to get on a ‘if you liked this (insert name of established author) you might like that’ list.
Tough though can sometimes seem (because none of us like criticism), authors need to take an active role in this process, put themselves out there and work on getting as many as they can. Yet, since the aim of the game is to get good reviews, I would not recommend adopting a scattergun, review-at-all-costs, strategy. The right reviewers are required.
Family, friends and colleagues are a great starting point, but be selective. Authors should only ask those people who might already read the type of book they’ve written. If people tell you they feel minded to write a review, ask them to be a bit more expansive than simply writing: ‘it’s fantastic’. It sounds fake and like they’re a mate doing the writer a favour. Perhaps they could pick out a character, or plot line that resonated.
Casting the net wider, it’s good to focus on online forums and communities that might be interested in the genre too. If it is an escapist bit of chick lit, websites that target young mums might work. A business ‘how to’ guide might sit well in one of the start-up or entrepreneurial platforms. It is a bad idea to go in cold with a book that’s hot-off-the-press and say: who wants to review my novel? What stranger would take to that sort of approach? Instead, build up a presence in the group over the months it takes to complete the book. Become an active and interesting member of the community. Offer to submit an article on a related subject. Then you can ask visitors to take a look at your book.
Work at getting like-minded readers to write a review. A good clutch of genuine reviews will lead to sales. Plus you’ll have something inspirational to put on the wall of your office.