Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Week Two: Sending Early Review Copies

Solomon said, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth." People believe what others say about my book more than what I say about my book. Thus, in order to "let another praise" my book, I've got to get it into the hands of potential praisers - preferably lots of them. According to book marketing guru John Kremer:

"Send out review copies. Send out lots of them. Send out more than you think you should. Hit every major newspaper and magazine which you think might be at all interested in the subject of your book. In most cases this means sending out somewhere between 300 and 500 review copies. Don't be stingy about sending out review copies."

But sending out free books costs me a lot of money. Can I really afford this? Kremer responds,

"For every hundred copies you send out, you'll get perhaps ten reviews. And those ten reviews will bring you anywhere from twenty to one hundred direct sales and many more indirect sales. Even at a conservative estimate, you'll receive 200 orders for every 100 copies you send out. That's cheap advertising.
" (1001 Ways to Market Your Books, p. 138)

Thinking economically, if Kremer's on target, then I'll pay about $4.50 plus shipping for each book sent for review. For each book sent, if I get two Amazon orders, I'll receive a check from Booksurge for $11.20. So, I receive a 100% increase on my investment. That pleasant thought takes the bite out of the initial expense.

Beyond sending lots of review copies, he recommends sending a news release, brochure, and reply card to less-than-prime reviewers. Send them copies only if they request them.

When do I send these out? Kremer recommends that most should be sent out during the first four months. That gives me time to see how the response is to the first group, and plan accordingly for the following mailouts.

Of course, although the initial sales generated by the reviews is encouraging and helps my bank account, what I'm shooting for is the sales that these early sales generate, as word of mouth takes over and people start blogging about the book and suggesting it to their employers for employee birthday and Christmas gifts. If it reaches a tipping point, where more sales bring even more sales, I've got a top seller.

So any day I'll receive my first shipment of 150 books. Here are some of my thoughts and action points:

1) Since I don't have to send them out all at once, prioritize those who require the earliest copies and those whose blurbs might carry the most weight with later reviewers.

If the MidWest Book Review calls my book "this year's best bet for a graduation gift," I can mention that review to get the attention of later reviewers.

2) Spend the time necessary to build a comprehensive list and narrow it down. At age 75, Warren Buffett was hunting for undervalued international stocks. First, he narrowed down the countries, then got a book the size of a large telephone book that listed the financial details of South Korean countries. (Additionally, he had to read up on how to understand the terms and symbols used in Korean accounting and company reports.) The result? One legal sized sheet of paper listing attractive Korean companies. (Alice Schroeder, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, pp. 813, 814) No wonder he's so successful. Who's as thorough as Buffett? In the end, his sifting of pan after pan of dirt yields gold and precious stones.

My narrowing down a list of magazines, newspapers, bloggers and radio shows is similar to Buffett's search for good companies. Books such as Ulrich's Periodicals Guide and Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media help me to find publications that want information on my book's topic. Technorati's search engine leads me to the blogs about my topic (click "Blogs" and "Blog Directory"), conveniently listed in order of "authority" (how many sites and blogs link to the blog).

So how do I choose and prioritize potential reviewers? Here are my thoughts:
  • Choose those who write about your topic. Don't just send it to "Ladies Home Journal." Send it to the columnist for LHJ who either reviews your type of book or writes about the topics covered in your book.
  • Choose those who are most highly respected. Some are popular among those who like fluff, but are scorned by virtually all the authorities in the field. If they've got a book, check out their reviews on Amazon.
  • Choose those who are widely read. If a syndicated columnist for a large newspaper frequently writes on your topic, there's your priority. Read her column; purchase and read her book. Recommend her book on your blog or site. Write her a nice e-mail applauding her book, telling how you recommend it to others, and asking if she'd be so kind as to consider your book. How do you know the circulation of a newspaper or magazine? Gale and Ulrich give you the numbers. Technorati lets you know how many people link to a site/blog, giving us an idea of how many people are paying attention to what they say.
  • Prioritize reviewers who need it now. People will be looking for graduation gifts in about six weeks. Since I think my book would make a good graduation gift, I'll prioritize those short-lead-time writers who might want something on this topic. Big-time reviewers (e.g., Mid-West Book Review) receive lots of books in April and May, due to publishers wanting reviews for their summer marketing. I'll hit them in March, or wait until June, to increase my odds.
  • Prioritize reviewers with whom I have a relationship. They may not be big-time, but if you get good reviews in local media, that can lead to reviews in bigger media. Starting local is a good way to build a platform.
  • Prioritize reviewers who share the views expressed in my book. Financial advisers promoting short-term trading and get rich quick schemes wouldn't recommend a book like mine that warns people to avoid people like them.
By the way, don't apply the stats above (two sales for every book sent for review) to every book. It's just a rule of thumb. Every book is unique, with some having more appeal to reviewers than others.

But let's say that you send out an initial batch and discover that your book's getting good reviews and sales based on those reviews. Then forget the rule of thumb to send out "300 to 500 review copies." If you find 1000 legitimate reviewers with decent followings, keep sending them out over the months. As long as you're making money and generating sales, keep at it!

Sure, it takes some time to find these publications and writers. But it sure beats having a book that nobody knows about. And it sure beats wasting time and money by blindly sending out copies to people who have no interest in your book, only to find them sold as used books on Amazon.


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  2. Thanks for the encouragement! Keep in touch!

  3. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  4. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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