NOTE from CJ: This is a guest post from an enterprising author, Xavier Morrison, who is forging his path to becoming published and building a platform. Today he will share one of his strategies: Writing book reviews.
On the surface there’s nothing startling or new in what I’m proposing here, writing book reviews and posting them online as a marketing strategy. Many authors have developed and expanded their following blogging about books (Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, David Montgomery, or Jeff Ayers are all great examples in the thriller genre). But there may be a tendency for the aspiring author to discount the approach at first glance. It seems so obvious, it’s been done, yawn, easy to overlook benefits hidden within, to overlook it as a potential element of getting your work noticed and improving your craft at the same time.
Reading is regimen for any serious (read aspiring) author, so if you’ve got the book in front of you why not jot down a few hundred words explaining what you think the message was, and what you got out of it. It isn’t a book report with specific items to be covered. Reviews are loosey goosey touchy feely animals, they adhere to no rigid structure, no hard and fast rules.
Why bother with it? Writing reviews has helped me examine the author’s message more closely, expanding and crystallizing the lessons in my head. When asked weeks later what the book was about I’m able to answer with greater clarity and shorter delay. Something significant is going on in my brain, I’m sure of it… something positive.
It’s great cross training for the storyteller – fiction or nonfiction. Our minds grasp concepts more easily by constructing stories around them. We treat fiction as real life experience; the same areas of the brain are excited as if actually going through the physical activity described.
We need stories to learn. Even physics problems are best explained in allegory – Einstein’s riding on the train analogy to illustrate the relativity of time.
Book reviews are opportunity for an intimate study of story and theme, a chance to smash the atoms of composition together and poke at what’s strewn about. (Technical tidbit- Kindle offers some neat features to highlight and notate. It beats the blank out of scribbling in the margins.)
Publishing “thoughtful and honest” book reviews also establishes you as having some authority on the material. The criticism should be unbridled, all original and upbeat whenever possible, considerate and constructive, even if to say you were disappointed. It is an opportunity to define your values and nurture trust with your reader.
It’s really easy to post them (and edit them at any time – if they suck you can delete) on Amazon and Goodreads e.g., and more importantly, and to me more surprisingly, people truly read them! I’m not kidding. They make purchasing decisions based on them more frequently than you might think. I know this because my reviews generated notices from Amazon saying as much.
I published three reviews, on serious titles, and twice they helped someone make up their mind. My review among dozens and the reader appreciated it enough to take the time to acknowledge them! I thought about that, and it made me feel good. It’s a small thing, I know, but it matters, a taste of recognition to keep me plugging, as good as a rub on the shoulder to hold my joy, never feeling obscure.
Of note, I sent one of the lesser known authors a message on Facebook telling him I enjoyed his book, and had stated as much in review on Amazon and Goodreads. He sent back a “Really appreciated!”, and a link to get his first two books for free. The strategy’s paying dividends already. And My Amazon Top Reviewer Rank went from over 3.2mil, to number 896,686! I’m not certain what that means yet, but I’m moving up!
My goal is to write one review per week for a year, quality sworn over quantity. To read and, ah, report back on a cross section of contemporary and classic literature, nonfiction and fiction alike, genre optional.
The Book Review Strategy is not a standalone, but it’s more than a supplement, it’s an enrichment to your author platform.
Feed the muse, nourish her in story. Never chase her, she will hide. And don’t ignore her, she’ll lose interest, guaranteed. You are the muse, she is inside you. Welcome her home, listen to her with a smile…
Xavier Morrison – 9/3/12