September 15, 2011

An Audience with the Queen: The Value of Online Book Reviews

by Dan King

I was going about my business like I usually do when it happened. I looked at the feed of Twitter updates in my TweetDeck app, and I noticed that a blogger buddy was sharing a link to a recent post of his. While it was the title of the post that sounded relevant to me, I was pleased to find an excellent review for an e-book on a topic that was very timely for me.

After reading his thoughts on the book, I realized how much I needed to read that book as well.

So I headed over to, ordered the Kindle version of the book, and started reading. As it turns out, it was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down. So what was my response? Yep, you guessed it! I wrote my own review for the book on my website. And my Amazon Associates reports show a few more people bought copies of the book after clicking on the links from my review.

The crazy thing is mere minutes before purchasing a book I would eventually try to help sell, I wasn’t even thinking at all about purchasing the book. In fact, I didn’t even know the book existed!

In social media circles, that’s what we call the viral effect. It’s the ability that the web and social media sites have to spread ideas like the swine flu. If you’re lucky (or good), then this whole thing can take on a life of its own.

Here’s how to get more than luck on your side:

1.    Start with who you know. Tap your existing networks to offer your work for free if people are willing to do reviews on it. This is obviously easier if you can offer an e-book option. But the idea is to get it in front of people who already follow you who are willing to talk about the book on their blogs and/or in their social networks. This one has two sub-groups of activity:

     The high-value blogger - The reality is that some of the bloggers you may know already have large followings and a high level of influence. Identifying this group of people may be helpful, and open doors for higher-impact posts. Be open to doing more than offering a free copy in exchange for doing a review. Consider being available for interviews and/or sharing more copies as giveaways with these people.

     All other bloggers - You may not have the bandwidth to do a whole lot with every other blogger who wants a free copy of the book, but don’t underestimate the value of getting lots of people talking about your book. This is particularly effective if you have a website dedicated to the book that these bloggers can (and should) link to. All of these links make a big difference in the search engine results, pushing your book higher for associated keywords.

2.    Leverage popular book review sites. There are lots of sites out there that are dedicated to doing book reviews. A couple that I know of are Englewood Review of Books and Crazy for Books. Both of these sites take very different approaches to how they connect with book reviewers, but you’ll find some value in them both. Englewood Review of Books is specifically focused on the faith niche, but a Google search for sites like this in your niche should turn up some decent results, and great opportunities to connect with review sites and other book review bloggers.

3.    Join networks in your niche. As a faith-based blogger/writer, I also find a great deal of benefit to being a part of a network of like-minded writers at The site doesn’t post a large number of reviews, but allows for a great number of people to connect with who can be potential reviewers. This is more of a long-term strategy, because not many people are big fans of the guy that shows up to the party leading off with, “Hey, I’m Dan! Wanna help me sell my book?” Take your time, build relationships, and the opportunities to leverage the network will come.

I wish I could share more, but I’ve got to get back to a couple projects that I have going right now. One of them is a five-part review for a book I liked so much that one review wasn’t enough. The other is working through the editing of my upcoming e-book, and lining up bloggers to share something related to the book when I send them their free copy.
Just don’t forget that content is still king. If you write ideas that are worth sharing, then people will be more likely to share them. But if content is king, then the online book review is the queen... and we all know who the one person is that can tell the king what to do!

About Dan King: Christ-follower. husband. father. corporate training development guru. school of ministry and missions instructor. social media editor for blogger at co-founder and media director for the movement. social media director for help end local poverty.

Catch up with Dan online at his blog, Facebook or Twitter.

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