Reviews are dead. Long live reviews!

marketing publicity

There is no area of book publicity that has changed more over the last few years than the ‘book review’. Traditional reviews – the ones written by professional critics – used to dominate the publishing industry. In years gone by, they were so important that book publication dates were always Thursdays, so that review copies could be delivered to reviewers in time to get into in the Sunday papers.

But space and budgets for considered reviews of books in newspapers and elsewhere are dwindling. These reviews are still important – particularly because they are difficult to achieve and have the weight of authority behind them – but they are no longer the only kind of review that matters, for we are all reviewers now.

As technology has opened up publishing to almost anyone it has also done the same for reviews. Reviews are everywhere. And not just for books. If you go to a restaurant, you might review your Beef Bourguignon online when you get home. If you get a tooth capped you might critique the dentist. And if you read a book, you let everyone know what you thought about it.

Reviewing is now part of everyone’s everyday experience and, while our opinions may not be held in the same esteem (or as well considered) as those of the Literary Editors, there are a heck of a lot more of us. Star ratings on Amazon, Goodreads and other websites are an average of many reviews and you are not just getting one person’s opinion but a crowdsourced composite. Furthermore, online reviews reach consumers directly; they are on the site where you can just click a button to buy the book – to turn that review into a sale.

So how do you get more ‘real people’ reviews on Amazon and other online book sites? Setting aside the dodgy ‘pay for good reviews’ websites that have sprung up (and do set them aside, they are not worth it and can land you in hot water), my favourite options are and giveaway competitions.

If you don’t know it, is a website that allows subscribers to upload an ebook that can then be made available for free to reviewers through the site. Reviewers are mainly bloggers and enthusiastic readers and reviews are honest. It can be fairly expensive to subscribe to NetGalley but if you only have one, or a small number of books, it can be more affordable through a third party (such as Cameron Publicity and Marketing).

Giveaways are a great way to get printed books into the hands of people who may review your book. Goodreads has a very popular giveaway service for authors who join their author programme. Also, really good, established bloggers who specialise in a particular subject area or genre can have a huge audience that are exactly the kind of people that you want to reach. Offer them copies for a competition and even those who do not win may decide to buy your book anyway. When you send out books to giveaway winners, be sure to include a note asking them to review the book if they like it.

The role of the book review has changed and the way that authors and publishers think about reviews must change as well. For better or worse, a book is now judged by a collective star rating more than a single considered opinion.


publicity Ben Cameron is the Founder and Managing Director of Cameron Publicity and Marketing, dedicated promoters of authors and books. You can contact Ben by email, or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.


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  1. I’ve never been influenced by the reviews in newspapers or from the “professional” reviewers. I like to think I’m an educated person – certainly more educated than many – but the “professional” reviewers seem to have gone out of their way to imply that someone is not worthy to read a book if they don’t have a PhD, or something. This *may* have changed in recent years, I will admit, but I’ve not read a professional review in maybe 30 years.

    Where I find out about books is from other people. Human beings who read and write reviews because they love books, are willing to review them, and only rarely get paid for the review (unlike the Newspaper bods). People who will say “I didn’t like this book because of it’s portrayal of minorities, or because a dog died in the middle, or there was this weird scene with fish, or this thing I dont like happened at the end”. Or “I was drawn to it initially because I like the cover, and was further drawn in because of the blurb, and then *well*”. In other words “I am a human being, here are my prejudices, this is my reaction, it’s up to you now!”

    I also get a decent amount of books from Netgalley, LibraryThing (i’ve given up on Goodreads), publishers, authors etc., Yes I am a book reviewer. I write reviews primarily for me – if people decide whether or not to read a book because of what I’ve written, so be it. I hope it’s been a considered call (have they read other reviews?)

  2. Hello 🙂 – Interesting comment … reviews are now easy to give and easy to receive. This ability to give them so easily might imply that they have more weight than the traditional type of ‘critic’ review… but actually, consumers like to know what their peers think. Peer insight is more weighty than ‘expert’ insight..

  3. Hi Nordie. I bet if you think about it you have been influenced by professional reviewers. Their reviews are the ones that are quoted on the covers of all of the books that you see stacked up on tables at your local bookshop. You may not have read a full review but you have seen a few choice words picked out from the review by the publisher.

    But that said, I agree with you. Reviews have become democratised and crucially more review opportunities are now available for genre and popular novels that most professional critics overlook.

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