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Getting Reviews

Getting Reviews

A Session with Steven Manchester

 

The process of getting reviews begins long before your book is ever released.

For years, I’ve been coaching aspiring writers to “place the cart before the horse” and go after pre-publication book reviews (or endorsements)—once their completed manuscript has been professionally edited. By recruiting online magazine editors, authors, and other industry professionals—people with recognizable titles—to review your book in galley or manuscript form, you’re automatically starting to build equity for your project. And even if you only land a couple of solid endorsements, it is well worth your time and effort.

After collecting your reviewers’ advanced praise—excerpting two or three of the catchiest sentences per endorsement into a blurb—you can use these brief critiques as a major part of your sales pitch to increase your chances of attracting the attention you want. From my experience, placing the cart before the horse can pay some pretty nice dividends. You will have a list of critiques from legitimate book reviewers that will not only impress the agent or editor you’re hoping to work with, but actually put them ahead of the game in selling or publishing your work. In reality, you’ll be helping to mitigate the risk that all prospective agents or publishers must consider when faced with signing on an unknown writer—while increasing your chances of receiving that coveted contract.

Historically, I’ve preferred to request pre-publication book reviews via email, on the telephone, or in person. This is a rare approach for our industry, but you’re not asking someone to publish your work; you’re asking that they read your book and offer an honest critique. Time permitting, you’d be surprised at how many will say “yes!” That being said, I always begin by drafting a formal letter of request, one that I can paraphrase from when delivering my pitch.

Success, of course, is found in taking the right approach.

 

PRE-PUBLICATION BOOK REVIEWS APPROACH:

Below, I’ve provided several pitches that I used when soliciting pre-publication book reviews. These are illustrations of what has actually worked for me. The first was sent to an author who was unfamiliar with me and my work (but still agreed to review my manuscript):

Dear Ms. ___,

I’ve recently completed a new novel entitled Goodnight Brian, and I was hoping you might consider reviewing it for the purpose of providing a possible dust jacket blurb.

Brief Synopsis:

A healthy baby is poisoned with toxic soy formula, causing permanent brain damage. When the doctors say that he’ll never develop normally, his grandmother sets out to prove them wrong—and does. Faith and unconditional love are what make the difference. What she doesn’t expect, however, is that her grandson will return the favor.

Author Bio:

The father of four, Steven Manchester is the published author of The Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy and Jacob Evans, as well as several books under the pseudonym Steven Herberts. His work has been showcased in such national literary journals as Taproot Literary Review, American Poetry Review and Fresh! Literary Magazine. When not spending time with his children, writing, or promoting his published books, this Massachusetts author speaks publicly to troubled children through the “Straight Ahead” Program.

I am only looking for a brief critique (3-4 sentences) and would greatly appreciate your time and effort.

Sincere thanks for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Respectfully,

Steven Manchester

www.StevenManchester.com

Upon her request, I sent this author a pdf file of the novel for her review. Once she reviewed the book, I added her endorsement to my pitch. With her and several other shining endorsements in hand, I used excerpts of these to recruit more—making each endorsement easier to obtain. Trust me; names and titles will coax others—whether they be reviewers, agents, or publishers—to read your MS.

Before long, I had a solid list that would serve me well throughout the life of the book. Before Goodnight Brian ever made it to print, I had gathered nearly three dozen reviews that were later posted to Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Then there’s