Where and Why Self-Publishers Should Send Review Copies of Their Books
If you’ve decided to self-publish your book, you must accept that you’ve also taken on the task of self-marketing it. Sending free review copies of your book is part of the marketing process. Without publicity, your book is unlikely to be seen by a larger audience, which translates into fewer sales. Even if you don’t expect to make a fortune from your book, establishing your reputation as a professional author is critical to your long-term success.
Set aside time for making a list of who should receive review copies of your book. Consider the market for it carefully; depending on the genre and subject matter, you may want to submit it to reviewers in smaller, more specialized markets instead of to those at larger publications, where your book could get lost in the crowd. If you’ll be visiting particular areas for readings and book signings, locate reviewers in those markets so you’ll have advance publicity. If a newspaper or magazine refuses to review your book but you really need to market in that publication, ask if they will print a press release. Always keep the publisher’s deadline in mind; if you miss it, the timing of the review may not benefit you as much even if your book still gets reviewed.
It should go without saying that during this time, you will network with other self-published authors to find out where and when they sent review copies of their books. Which publications actually reviewed their book, and which ones just gave it to a secretary, who took the free copy home and gave it to a neighbour? Though the answer to this question shouldn’t be your sole determination of whether or not to send a book to that reviewer, it can help you narrow the choices.
You’ll also need to consider the cost of review copies of your book in your publishing budget. Finalize the list of recipients before you order any copies. If you make money, you can always order more. Knowing that you will be sending copies of the book to reviewers may also affect the manner in which you decide to publish the book; for example, you may decide to charge more for the book to cover the cost of sending the review copies. Since sending review copies is an additional investment in your work, you may also want to invest in professional design and proofreading. Include the cost of packaging and mailing the books. Unless you are lucky enough to have an unlimited budget, you’ll have to plan carefully so you can meet your expenses.
Keep track of potential recipients of review copies of your book on a calendar, Excel spreadsheet, or both; a calendar will help you track deadlines, while a spreadsheet will help you track expenses. For budgeting purposes, you may want to assign each reviewer a value: a one means you absolutely must send a review copy, a three means you’ll only send one if you have extra copies, and a two is somewhere in the middle. This will help you prioritize your list and concentrate on getting reviews from the publications that are the most important.
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