How to Find Reviewers for Your Nonfiction Book
This guest post was written by Desiree Villena. Desiree is a writer, and in her spare time, enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.
It’s one of the great paradoxes of publishing: you need reviews to attract readers and boost your sales, yet in order to get those reviews, you’ll first need to convince people your book is worth reading. Though this may seem like a catch-22 situation, there’s a fairly simple way out— enlisting other writers to review your book.
Not only does this lead to more endorsements overall, it’s also an excellent way to branch out from Amazon reviews (which, while crucial in terms of tipping the scales for potential buyers, don’t exactly diversify your readership). Indeed, having publications and blogs review your nonfiction book can exponentially increase its exposure. But where can you find the most relevant writers for this, and how should you go about contacting them?
That’s exactly what we’ll be covering today. Here’s how to find people to review your nonfiction book in four steps.
1. Seek out publications in your niche
Start by looking at publications in your niche. A review of your book in a magazine that already serves your target audience is highly valuable, especially if it’s esteemed and widely circulated. But even if it isn’t, having your book reviewed in any sort of official capacity gives it a certain cachet. What’s more, these publications almost always have websites where they post selected articles, so you’ll have the opportunity to promote your book both in print and online.
When trying to identify the right platforms, don’t overthink it. Which publications in your niche do you read, or at least have on your radar? If you’ve written a lifestyle or well-being book, you might add Real Simple or In the Moment to your list. These examples are quite high-level to provide recognizable reference points, but realistically, for every household name you reach out to, you should contact 3–4 lesser-known publications to make the most of your chances.
If you’re short on prospects, don’t hesitate to ask around. Having written a whole book on such-and-such a topic, you must have friends and connections in the field. Ask what they like to read and whether they’ve written for any relevant publications. Make sure that the magazines you target actually publish book reviews, or excerpts at minimum. An excerpt may be more appealing to an editor-in-chief who likes the sound of your book, but whose staff is stretched too thin to review it.
Magazines that feature author profiles and author-written pieces are also good to keep in mind, though they won’t market your book as directly as reviews will. If you’re launching your book with the help of a publicist, they can help you find more of these platforms.
But if even your publicist comes up short on suitable publications—which may be the case if you’ve written a book in a small (or, as I like to think of it, still-emerging) niche—you still have plenty of options when it comes to gaining book reviews.
2. Sift through nonfiction book blogs
Let’s wade into a wider and more accessible, if less prestigious, pool of review opportunities: book review blogs. Many of these cater to nonfiction books, and if you go through this directory, you can even narrow it down to blogs that specialize in your subgenre.
The best way to decide whether to submit to a blog is to look at their guidelines and recent posts. For guidelines, there are a few things to confirm right away: whether they’re currently accepting submissions, how interested they are in your type of nonfiction, and their preferred method of contact. And when exploring their content, take note of:
- How frequently they publish reviews. You don’t want to waste your time on inactive bloggers, but you also don’t want your book swept away by a constant tide of reviews. The happy medium here is those who post book reviews roughly once a week.
- Which books they’ve been reviewing lately. Again, review blogs that focus on your subgenre are ideal, but steer clear of bloggers who have recently reviewed multiple titles that are very similar to yours.
- The quality of their reviews. Lastly, and most importantly, consider the quality of each blogger’s reviews—both how critical they are and the caliber of the writing. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a blogger who posts all glowing reviews is automatically the best person to review your book! A thoughtful three- or four-star review (or indeed, a review that eschews stars in favor of pure commentary) is more valuable to you than a sloppily written five-star review.
I’ve outlined more specifics here because you can afford to be more selective with blogs than with publications. After all, you shouldn’t have much trouble tracking them down, whether you go through the directory linked above, ask friends for recommendations, or discover useful review blogs linked on other authors’ websites.
However, if you do have trouble finding them, there’s still hope. This next tip will help you track down reviewers no matter how few there are in your niche.
3. Unearth prospects with relevant keywords
There will always be book reviewers who prefer to keep a low profile—and therefore won’t be listed in any directory. The good news is that you don’t need any tools more complex than Google and social media to hunt down these prospects.
“Big G” is a great starting point for this because the keyword possibilities are virtually endless. You might begin by searching for a few of these basic combinations:
- [your subgenre] + “book review”
- [comp title/author] + “book review”
- [key topics or themes] + “book review”
For example, if you’d written a book about how to write a book (#bookception), you might search for other reviews in the subgenres of “how-to books” or “writing references,” along with similar titles and authors to you, followed by individual keywords pertaining to the material in your book: “writing craft,” “writing tools,” “character creation,” “plot devices,” and so on.
Depending on those results, you might extend your search to even more niche-specific keywords. Whatever you’re plugging in, don’t forget to put “book review” and other keywords that will produce the right leads (“book blog,” “reader blog,” etc.) in quotation marks, so Google shows pages that contain that exact keyword.
Once you’ve exhausted Google, it’s time to turn to social media. Based on my own experience, Twitter and Instagram will probably be most fruitful here. Pinterest may also be helpful for those writing in lifestyle niches like diet and nutrition, health and wellness, relationships, and so on.
The best keywords to search on social media will be topic-based. Just as you looked at the tags in blog posts before, now look in social media tags, especially on Instagram. Savvy users will have long lists of tags on each post that you can borrow from—and the more keywords the better, because while Google will likely yield pretty promising results, most social media figures in your niche won’t want to review your book.
But it’s still worth the effort for those who are willing to help you out, if only by featuring your book in a social story. What’s more, all that social media research is still useful even if you don’t find a single reviewer on Twitter or Instagram. You can always return to Google to test newly found keywords there, or adjust your keywords on Amazon for better discoverability.
And to learn more about Google prospecting in general, check out this post from Roy Povarchik—he mainly focuses on how to find guest post opportunities, but it’s a good primer if you’ve never tried this strategy before.
4. Personalize your outreach and track your progress
All the research in the world makes no difference if you don’t conduct effective outreach afterward. First things first, you’ll want to narrow down your prospects (if you haven’t already). For every “long shot” prospect you include, throw in a few more realistic ones. Collect these in a spreadsheet with each person’s contact info, along with columns for reply status and other notes.
As you forge ahead, remember to always check the guidelines for each outlet, especially those high-level publications. Each publication will have a specific person you’ll need to contact for book reviews, or to write an article in relation to your book—and if you are pitching something other than a review, you’ll need to be fairly detailed about what it will contain. Again, a publicist can help you with this, but it’s entirely possible to land publication slots on your own; just know you’ll have to put in a bit more thought and effort toward tailoring your pitches and requests.
For blogs and social media outreach, the main thing is to personalize each message you send. Don’t just mention something they’ve posted recently and say “I loved it!” (this is a standard outreach greeting that content creators can see through like glass). Instead, say what you loved about it and connect it to your own experience. For example:
“Your recent post about trying to live more sustainably in 2021 was so relatable—I’ve also found myself questioning my life choices when the compost splits open all over the floor. Not to mention the eternal struggle to resist fast fashion when online shopping was basically our only option last year.”
Follow up a genuine comment like this with a request to review your book, or at least to read an excerpt. If it’s a review blog, check their guidelines for their preferred file format. If not, you may want to avoid sending your entire book right away, as this can be overwhelming.
Finally, make sure to update your spreadsheet as people reply, noting what works to get you those coveted reviews, and following up after a couple of weeks with those who don’t respond. (Needless to say, you should kickstart this whole process well in advance of your book launch.)
From there, continue to look out for new prospects and refine your outreach according to your findings, until you’ve hit your review goal. Remember that persistence is key, and keep your eyes on the prize: skyrocketing book sales from all those hard-earned reviews.
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