Having just come back from the annual Bouchercon World Mystery Conference in New Orleans, I’m struck—yet again—by what an incredible community of people I’m a part of. A long weekend in New Orleans with crime fiction writers, fans, and others in the industry? I wouldn’t miss it.
I’m particularly glad I didn’t miss this year’s conference, as I had the pleasure of sitting in on a panel that featured book reviewers talking about books, reviewing, and recommendations. One thing that struck me was just how passionate and effusive the reviewers were about books they loved. I watched as members of the audience furiously scribbled down the names of books and authors these reviewers recommended, no doubt headed to the book room, or to their favorite bookstore to buy copies.
I walked away from the panel reminded that as wonderful as it is to have fans and get great reviews, having what I call “book evangelists” may be even better. And here’s why…
Evangelists are those reviewers and readers who are so taken with your book that they’re going to make it their mission to let people know about it. Evangelists will tweet about you book, sing its praises on Facebook, blog about it, and recommend it far and wide. They will tell their friends, coworkers, relatives, even complete strangers that they simply must run out and buy your book.
Finding these evangelists is ultimately about your book, but here are some tips that can help you turn your readers and reviewers into evangelists for your book:
1. Say thank you.
Remember that how you react after a review runs is crucial. Always say thank you after a review runs—even, or maybe especially, if it’s a less-than-stellar review. A written note is a very nice touch, but an email will suffice. If you thought the review was insightful, say so. If you thought the review was thoughtful, say so. Don’t go overboard by being too effusive, but give some thought to your thank you. And while we’re on the subject of reviews, resist the temptation to retaliate after a bad review. If possible, learn from it. Did a reviewer offer criticism that can make you a better writer? Tell them so.
As aside note, if you find yourself incensed or angered by a comment or review, allow yourself the luxury of writing a knee-jerk reaction response—but do not send the response. Revisit your response 24-48 hours later. You may find that just putting in words how you felt may diminish (or even extinguish) your desire to respond at all.
2. Ask permission—not forgiveness.
Always ask, in writing, for a reviewer’s permission to quote from a review. Ask if there is a word count they’ll allow you to quote, and ask how they would like the attribution to read. Some reviewers and outlets provide specifics on quoting from reviews. However, unless the outlet or reviewer provides you with detailed specifics on what you may use in a quote, do not quote from a review without asking permission
3. Stay in touch.
Keep an eye on what other books bloggers and reviewers are covering. If a blogger or reviewer writes a review or feature you particularly enjoyed—or if you share his or her sentiments about a book, say so. Reviewers, like writers, want to know they’re being read.
4. Be on the lookout.
Be vigilant about keeping an eye out for reviews. There is no one catch-all service or source for finding everything that runs, but a Google alert can help. Set up Google alert on your name and book title (or set up a separate google alerts just by book title or name) but by all means, visit those places regularly that you think might be running a review. Writers LOVE it when they’ve just submitted or posted a review and get immediate feedback. Again, writers want to be read.
5. Be social!
Use social media—but use it wisely. Think of social media as a cocktail party. The person at the cocktail party who engages you in conversation is (if you’re lucky) the one you’ll be most interested in talking to.
With regards to your social media outreach, consider these suggestions:
- Be active—and not hyperactive
- Be engaging
- Don’t implore people to buy your book
- Think before you type
- Be mindful of any content that could be offensive, polarizing or just plain weird
- Make social media a priority — ½ an hour in the morning, ½ an hour in the afternoon/evening at least
- Engage your followers when they comment
- Remember that sarcasm and humor can easily get lost in translation, so choose your words carefully
7. See and be seen!
Get out there. Join groups. Make personal appearances at bookstores, libraries and events. Attend author signings. Become a part of a critique group and book club or clubs. Go to conferences. Meet, mingle, and make friends.
In time, you will likely start to hear of people who have recommended your book to others. Be certain to let those people know how much you appreciate their spreading the word.
MARYGLENN McCOMBS is an independent book publicist who works primarily with mystery, thriller, and suspense titles. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Maryglenn lives in Nashville with her husband Tim Warnock and their Old English Sheepdog, Majordomo Billy Bojangles. Contact Maryglenn at: email@example.com or by phone: (615) 297-9875.