Thursday, December 03, 2009

Book Reviews

One thing that all writers have in common is the desire to get good reviews from reviewers who have influence on readers. There are tons of review lists out there, some well-known, some not. One of the most coveted is the School Library Journal list of best books.

Recently, the SLJ posted an article on how the books are chosen to be reviewed. It also answers the question of how they whittle down the selection, which, to me, was most interesting.
In 2009 we received more than 13,000 titles, of which 7,000 were logged into our system for possible review. We published 5,700 reviews, a record number.
Clearly, having a good review in the School Library Journal can make a difference in whether you get into library collections. Any of you ever been reviewed in the SLJ? Have you gotten a review somewhere else that you thought made a difference in your sales?
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  1. I haven't tried getting an SLJ review because my book, due to the subject matter, wouldn't be appropriate for school libraries. I was, however, very happy to receive a 5-star review from Midwest Book Review.

  2. Ok, Jane, NOW I want to read your book! haha!!

    But back to the point - I would be happy to turn mine in to the SLJ for a review someday.

    I have another question to pose...How important are reviews now? Obviously the SLJ serves a different purpose: specifically to get books into the library. But with the rapid disappearance of newspapers across the country/world, are reviews so important? I certainly don't look to them for what to read. (But a bad review I happen upon sticks with me!)


  3. I'm still hoping for a review in the SLJ!

    Pre-pub reviews are good for industry exposure. They are also vital if you want blurbs and reviews on the back of your books.

  4. Hi Folks,

    Interesting topic and interesting comments. I too have skipped SLJ because my book is not quite suitable, sort of, for under 18 ;-)

    But I wonder about (and echo) the comment re: importance of reviews in the chronic-care industry of newspapers.

    Also, I wonder about the effectiveness of reviews vis a vis online sources (Good Reads, Amazon, etc etc etc)

    Anyone can post to these - how well qualified are they to comment? Furthermore, how "authentic" are these? Does the author get his-her friends to all post glowing reviews on book retailers sites?

    Tough topic - we all want to be reviewed and hope the reviews are good, but I wonder if many sales are actually generated by them

    Cheers, Jill
    "Blood and Groom" book trailer:

  5. I don't think mine have been reviewed by SLJ. But that's not their market, so I'm thinking the publishers didn't submit to them.

    I do check SLJ reviews when getting books for my son--I'm interested in hearing what they have to say.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  6. I'm not yet published, so can't really answer to this. But I agree with Jill about the Amazon type reviews that anyone can put out there. It's tough to give them much credibility. So I'd imagine it's a great feather in the cap for an author to obtain a review from the School Journal Library, or a major newspaper with much authority.

  7. If you have the kind of book SJL reviews, it's a major plus to get a good review from them. Librarians really pay attention to those reviews, as do some parents like Elizabeth.

    Some of the major newspapers like NYT still have clout with their readers. I'm not a NYT subscriber and don't read the kind of books they usually review, so it matters not to me.

    I think you have to trust the blogger to trust their reviews. So you might want to get to know the blogger to decide whether you agree with them. Even professional reviewers can have an agenda. I'm not a professional, but I have an agenda - I don't review books I don't like. I don't want to hurt an author with some scathing review, plus I feel that my not liking it doesn't mean it's a bad book. Others may love it.

  8. Great topic, Helen. I have mixed feelings. As a reader, I don't pay attention to reviews. As an author, I feel like I need them for blurbs on book covers. But what makes me buy a book is the excerpt, not a review.

  9. I shall tuck this info away :) I do write for the under/around 18 age group. This will come in handy. Thanks!

    Happy Thursday,

  10. It's a good thing we now have computers. Everyday I'm coming across things I need to tuck away for future reference. Saving those to appropriate folders on my computer is so much easier than printing it out and putting in a notebook!

  11. Like Jane's experience, the review I got from Midwest Book Reviews did help with my library sales for One Small Victory, which was published by a house that focuses on library sales. One of my nonfiction books was selected by the NYC library as a Best Book For Teens, and that helped a lot with sales.

    Like Karen said, I am more influenced by an excerpt to buy a book, but often a review will prompt me to check out the book and read the excerpt. So I guess I am influenced by reviews. :-)

  12. Maryann, did you send your book to those places or did your publisher? Man, there is so much to do. Writers think once you publish, it's easy. Not!

  13. Interesting question. I'd never really thought about how books are chosen. Thanks for this conversation.

  14. Thanks for referring us to this article, Helen. It's interesting as well as informative. Something to shoot for.

  15. Sometimes getting reviewed seems almost like a crapshoot. What does the term "crapshoot" mean anyway? Is that just a Texas term? I typed it, then thought, what is a crapshoot?

  16. Wow, that's tough competition. I had no idea that libraries used a primary review source for acquiring books.

  17. That's a lot of books - and a lot of books rejected for review!

    Crapshoot - I THINK it's like when you shoot the dice at craps - some kind of gambling game on a big table. Odds based on dice. My extremely limited and potentially incorrect info comes from watching Ocean's 11 :)

  18. I have nothing for any one to review yet, but I was interested to read what a difference reviews can make. I never thought about them as impacting sales, but I am sure they do, especially if enough people read the review.

  19. Jemi, you made me laugh!

    I have a suspicion that some of the "luck" depends on who you're published with - a major house or small press known for quality work or self-pubbed, for example. I'm not judging the self-pubbed against a major house, but with that many to consider, I wouldn't be surprised to find that that was a consideration to narrow down the list.

  20. School Library Journal? I learn more about stuff from you Helen. I hadn't even thought about the aspect of getting into get into library collections.

    Reading the comments were good for a chuckle and I also learned more.

    Now I have to investigate this a bit further.

    Thought provoking post.

  21. My books are not suitable for school libraries. But good reviews do promote sales, I think.

    Bargain with the Devil

  22. umm, yes, much to my surprise one of my 4-book series for K-2 was reviewed by SLJ. I had no idea until I saw the review on Amazon. It may have made a difference in sales, I understand the series was one of the few that ran a 2nd printing. Nice feather. But only a feather. The series was written on contract with no royalty or 2nd edition provisions. Just a feather and the vanity boost of having my name on the cover of a book!.

  23. First of all, I cannot believe that this blog post ran in December. It seemed like only yesterday, I made a mental note to make sure and get over to Helen's site and comment on her Book Review post.

    This is for Bonita, who was the last person to comment in English about this topic. To find out what an SLJ review may have done for your title, logon to Worldcat and see how many libraries have added it to their collection.


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