Being a Critic

I was recently asked to review a nonfiction, “shelf help” book by one of the hundreds of book blogs that sponsor promotional campaigns costing an author anywhere from $120 a month to over $1,000 a month to generate buzz on Amazon, its allied company Goodreads, other book bloggers and media outlets including streaming radio stations, etc.

The phenomenon of book blogs is generated by a number of factors:  self-published books and books that are released by hybrid publishers which means that it’s much more difficult today to get eyeballs on your book; the shrinking of mainstream publishers (there are now only five legacy presses); the reduction of book campaign money not only at boutique publishers (i.e. small presses that are well regarded) but also at legacy presses,  and the reduction in the number of book reviewers both in print and in media. 


So what we have is a tsunami of books out there competing with one another and fewer and fewer dollars and outlets to promote books.

Which is why many authors today – other than the recognizable household names – have resigned themselves to doing a lot of the heavy lifting as well as hiring book publicity firms to augment what their publisher might be doing on their behalf.

The big takeaway is that writing your book, getting an agent in some cases, finding a publisher, and holding your book in your hand is the beginning of your journey.  Now you have to figure out what are the most effective strategies for selling your book.

Finding an audience

First and foremost hire a book publicist – someone with a proven track record who comes highly recommended and whose book list includes books that are similar in genre to yours.  Usually book publicists recommend one month of prep, and then a three-month engagement.  The cost can range anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 a month.  Price does not always equate to quality.

Go and visit your local bookstore where you can launch your book.

Identify organizations whose mission might in some way resonate with the subject of your book whether fiction or nonfiction.  For example, one of our team members, Cynthia Lim, wrote a book Wherever You Are about caring for her brain injured husband.  She was hosted by a Caregivers Association and sold several cartons of books to her appreciative audience.  And these attendees will talk up her book, influencing other readers to buy her memoir.

Or in my case, I am writing a novel set in World War II Japan and the tags for the book will be “Japanese history,” “suicide,” and “adoption.”  So I’ll be contacting organizations as well as museums where there is some connection with my book, such as the Japanese-American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles, as well as Japanese Consuls General in various cities where there are a critical mass of readers (interpret that as any big city) with a diaspora population as well as organizations that focus on adoption and suicide prevention.

Reaching out 

As an author, you should reach out to literary societies, some of whom may be willing to give a chance to an author that isn’t a household name.  For example, LA Live has a program for first time writers.  A shout out to their organizer.

Find panels and forums where you can promote yourself as a speaker or panelist.   Look in Poets and Writers and Writers Digest for a listing of conferences around the country.  Do your homework and see if there will be a panel on a topic relevant to your upcoming book.

And now back to book blogs.  This is risky in that you have no control over what the reviewer will say about your book.  Of course, the same is true should you be reviewed by the New York Times.  The reviewers who are put together by your book blog company that you have chosen are self-selected, meaning readers opt in or opt out to review your book.  Typically, someone who wants to review your book, writes in your genre, or has an interest in the type of book that you have written.  Here is a review that I just wrote.  I gave it 3 stars.  Hopefully my comments will be helpful to the author.  It will appear on Amazon and will be shown along with lots of other reviews, many of which might come through the book blog who contacted me, or be a relative of the author, a member of their writing group, or their writing teacher.

Remember that you have lots of time to promote your book.  It is not a “one day” wonder especially if the subject is not time sensitive.

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