We’ve always had a problem with “fake.” Whether it was a fake Kate Spade handbag or a knockoff clothing line, fake has always been a part of our culture. Most of us can spot fake. Fake, however, is not limited to fashion anymore. Fake and counterfeit have begun to permeate the publishing industry. We’ve seen knockoff titles like 35 Shades of Grey, but now there’s a new wrinkle: fake reviews. Studies have shown that most people used to believe consumer reviews. Not so much anymore, especially when reviews can be bought, or in some cases, simply faked. The message seems to be: if you want to get noticed, you’d better be prepared to “fake it.”
So what’s an author to do? I’m sure it will be tempting to buy into the fakery, but what happens when we do? Here are a different set of ideas about getting exposure and (if you’re lucky) getting reviews.
1. Stay engaged. I see a lot of folks who aren’t engaged in the process or their readers. I’m talking about staying engaged with your readers, as individuals, not just running through a list of marketing activities. Talk to them via your blog or social media site. Yes, you want reviews, but in the absence of reviews, guess what? Your outreach to your readers will have a far greater impact on your sales.
2. Know the rules. Part of what’s so discouraging to bloggers is that authors don’t often take the time to know who to pitch. That’s what makes paid reviews so tempting (among other things); you can send in a check and then you get reviews. Real reviews take time, but when “consumer” reviews don’t have the credibility they once did, where do you think authors will start to go? To the longtime, credible reviewers. Get to know them now.
3. Review other books. Reviewing other people’s books works great on a number of levels. First and foremost, it’s important to support other authors in your market. You want reviews? So do they. Reviewing their books builds relationships. When your book comes out, let them know you’re published and offer to send them a copy. Keep in mind that they may not respond; you aren’t trading reviews, you’re paying it forward.
4. Please and thank you. When was the last time you thanked someone for a review? If you haven’t, you should. You’ll write more books and may want to pitch them again, and even if you don’t, saying “thank you” takes no work at all. Show them your appreciation. Maybe even send them stamps to help offset the cost of mailing tear sheets to authors. It’s a small thing, with a huge impact. Help out those who help so many others. Spread the word about the review, thank them, be gracious.
5. Network. Networking doesn’t have to be exclusive to live events. You can network on a variety of sites. On Linked-In, for example, you can join groups in your area of expertise and contribute once a week or so, connect with media and bloggers in your market, and then comment on their updates. And when was the last time you reached out to your social media contacts? Part of your monthly networking outreach could be to send a quick note to four contacts on each social media site. It’s likely you are connected to a blogger or reviewer. You never know who is part of your network unless you take time to explore them.
6. Reviews aren’t the end game. Reviews may not be the only way to greater sales. Consider this: have you ever pitched yourself as a contributor to newsletters or blogs? Have you considered excerpting your book online somewhere? Brainstorm with other authors who are facing the same circumstances.
While we love easy, easy isn’t always best. If you want to build your credibility you’ll need to work harder. By looking outside of the norm and really maximizing what you already have access to, you can rise above the noise.
Penny Sansevieri is CEO of Author Marketing Experts, which specializes in online promotion, and teaches publishing at NYU.