Review Advice from Bookbag

The BookbagAt, we have been reviewing books for the best part of a decade. Our site contains almost 9,000 reviews and we still get a little frisson of anticipation every time we begin reading something new. And we still read reviews by others with great enthusiasm, looking for something new and interesting. Readers are like that.

Promotion on a budget

If you’re self publishing, promoting can be hard, hard work. Your budget is often more of a shoestring, mainstream media doesn’t have room for you, you lack contacts, and you fear that you will struggle to get your book the exposure it needs to do well. Don’t despair. Stay calm and make a plan. With some effort, you can get your book out there.

Quite aside from the work itself, you’ll need an interesting cover to package it in. You need a great synopsis of your book. And you need to get it seen by potential readers. You can help achieve this by using social networking wisely. There’s a lot of advice about these things across the web, but we always listen to the Crabbit Old Bat, aka Nicola Morgan.

And, perhaps most importantly, you will need reviews. Reviews are crucial. Readers in this new, digital world rely increasingly on recommendations from their peers. It may sound counter-intuitive, but mainstream media reviews are arguably becoming less influential. Readers want to see what people like themselves thought of a book and they pay a great deal of attention to blogs, community review websites and Amazon and Waterstones user reviews.

The crucial thing to remember is this: not all reviews need to be 100% positive. A criticism or two – or even three – won’t leave your book dead in the water. Nothing is perfect and everyone has different tastes. In fact, sophisticated readers are inclined to distrust reviews full of fulsome compliments and hyperbole. Never complain about or attempt to censor a critical review. It won’t help your cause. Take it on the chin and move on. Don’t be tempted into persuading friends and relatives to write reviews for you. Look up the definition of sock puppet and understand that a reputation for using them will do you harm.

A good book review is detailed but it doesn’t give spoilers. And it is balanced. At, we try to be generous in our praise and stinting in our criticism, but we always strive to be accurate and honest. Sometimes, what we think is a drawback others will find an advantage. For this reason, the best reviews contain not only a flavour of the book but also a flavour of the reviewer. As they say, one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

It’s a scary prospect, putting your baby out there. But that’s why you wrote it, isn’t it? Don’t be afraid of reviews. The more you have out there, the more notice people will take of your book. Notice is a good thing. And enjoy the compliments when they come!

You can find out about our promotion packages for self published authors here.

This article was written by Jill Murphy at Bookbag.

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