Okay, every author would love to say they were on Oprah, Today Show, and reviewed in The New York Times. Well, maybe an author from 2005. Oprah’s show is gone, Today Show has slipped in the ratings, and The New York Times, well, is still the most respected newspaper in the world. So how do you get your book reviewed by the globe’s most prestigious publication?
Your first thought might be: My book’s great – of course they should review it. Now humble yourself. They receive tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of books for review each year. Of the zillion titles published each year, ego-filled authors and desperate publishers with limited budgets know enough to at least send a book to The Grey Lady. Competition is fierce.
So what will make a difference in getting your book reviewed? Follow these 14 steps and you’ll have greatly enhanced your chances – but still only give you a tiny percentage of a chance:
1. Write an extraordinarily great book. No screwing around here. Your book literally has to be better than many others. I counted 35 books were reviewed in the June 7 Book Review – and that included several books that got a paragraph each in a long round-up column. Let’s say they review, on average, 50 books a week. That’s 2,600 for the year. If they receive 250,000 books – or 1 in every 3 to 4 that’s published – you’re looking at a one percent success rate.
2. The cover and title need to draw them in. They won’t look beyond this if neither piques their curiosity.
3. Be famous or highly credentialed. They judge harshly. If you are a celebrity it increases the chances of a review, but no guarantees. If you are highly qualified and uniquely positioned to write your book, that’s a must to get a review.
4. Read the label. They tend to go with bigger publishers and reputable university presses. Their presumption is that vetting took place and the book has perceived value over an indie press and certainly over self-published.
5. Send it to them in a timely manner. You must – without exception – send them an advance review copy at least three and a half months prior to publication. Sending them a copy even a month prior to launch date is too late.
6. Send them two copies – not one.
7. Send them to the right reviewer, the one that covers your genre.
8. It helps if your book breaks news, is controversial, sheds light on a mystery or matter of history, or provides a new paradigm that could potentially revolutionize how we live.
9. For fiction, it can’t be just as good as great writers’ books – it must be better.
10. Have a great backstory of how the book came to be and of who you are. The Times oozes intellect, insight, depth, and a certain probing way that it has to feel it's uncovering and revealing something new and unusual or debuting someone that is so fascinating.
11. In theory there’s a wall that separates editorial and advertising, like church and state, but it doesn’t hurt to advertise with them. Certainly they know which publishers routinely spend money with them – and the ad people, wanting to project goodwill – certainly whisper into the ears of the book editors. All things being equal on merit, tie-breakers go to those who support them. There were 20 ads for books in this week’s issue. I wonder how many will get reviewed.
12. Politics play a role as well. The Times favors books that promote a liberal agenda. They will review books that reflect other views – just fewer of them. Even though it’s a national newspaper it is a New York publication and skews heavily to East Coast attitudes and mores.
13. If your book aligns with the views, experiences, needs or desires of the reviewer, you are sure to get more attention. It’s only natural that what resonates with the media gets more coverage.
14. Luck. Sometimes your book gets into the right hands at the right time.
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015
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