Radius News

The Secret Sauce of Getting Book Reviews and Selling Books


One out of four million. That’s your book alongside all the other new books published each year. Talk about getting lost in a crowd. Imagine all the books published this past year being golf balls. Those golf balls would cover a soccer field (1.8 acres). Think how hard it would be to find a golf ball with your title inscribed on it among the white golf balls covering the turf. That’s the challenge your book faces to get noticed. And that doesn’t count the millions of backlist books on bookstore shelves and websites.

Of all the things you and your marketing and publicity team can do to make your book stand out from the crowd, which one is absolutely crucial? At the top of the list should be book reviews.

Who Cares about Book Reviews?

Book reviews matter to all sorts of people, including you, the author. Authors should care about book reviews because they provide direct feedback from a real audience of readers. What they liked and disliked, what stays in their mind when they finish it, how the book compares to others in the category, potential future additions and changes to the book, or ideas for sequels or followup titles from you the author.

Obviously, people considering purchasing your book care about reviews where they can find a summary and analysis of the book beyond what the cover copy supplies. If a personal recommendation from a friend, family member, colleague, teacher, or even a stranger, has the greatest likelihood of convincing someone to purchase a book, then a review runs a close second. The review is the next best response to answer the question, “Is this a book I want to read?” before customers pay good money to find out.

An important subset of potential purchasers is librarians who serve as arbiters of what’s worth reading for whole communities of people. They care a great deal about reviews. Patrons of local town or community libraries, K–12 school libraries, undergraduate and graduate libraries, business and professional libraries, all rely on librarians to make the decision whether or not to add a given book to their collection. With four million new books coming at them every year, librarians look for shortcuts to finding and vetting new titles. Reviews (and the absence of them) are indispensable decision-makers for them.

Book reviews come in different varieties, weighed differently by parties with diverse interests. It is important to survey the types of book reviews and their import for all those with a vested interest in the book.

Trade and Professional Reviews

Traditionally, at the pinnacle of the book-review mountain are trade and professional reviews. These represent perhaps the most prized reviews because they are earned and written by peers. Trade reviews appear in major media channels, such as newspapers and respected magazines. Book lovers have their preferences for newspaper book reviews in the New York Times, L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and other large and small news outlets.

Similarly, book review magazines have their adherents:

These publications tend to recruit well-known authors and/or experts to review books. They are the literati that shape cultural opinions and preferences. Because of their social stature, what they say in a review can have an enormous impact on sales as well as the reputation of the author and publisher.

A source of reviews that is more narrow in scope is magazines and journals of nonprofessional organizations. The major lifestyle / consumer-oriented magazines rarely publish full reviews. They do, however, tend to include mentions about recently published books in spotlight or round-up sections. Best to investigate the magazine before submitting your book for review.

It is hit-and-miss for book reviews in special interest magazines. Research whether they contain book review sections and editors, then target appropriate publications. Otherwise, religious organizations (church denominations, local parishes or congregations, synagogues, mosques, temples) that publish their own magazines sometimes include book reviews; see for instance The Jewish Press, National Catholic Reporter. Authors have to make a grassroots effort to discover which publications are a good fit.

Beyond these consumer-facing book reviews are publishing industry-facing reviews. Best known in the US is Publishers Weekly. Then industry insiders can find reviews from various book distributors targeted at booksellers. Organizations, such as the American Library Association, target their members (i.e., librarians) with various review journals.

Professional reviews offer analysis of discipline-specific books for members of various industries, professions, and academic disciplines. Virtually every such organization publishes one or more journals where (usually) members publish reviews of books for those interested in their profession. Science magazine, Chronicle of Higher Education, Journal of the American Academy of Religion are just a few.

Whether for leisure, business, or professional development, trade and professional reviews are invaluable to the publications’ target audiences.

Earned Reader Reviews

A bona fide organic reader review is as good as it gets for an author. When someone purchases a book, reads it, and takes the time to write and post a review—for instance, on a review website like Goodreads, Library Thing, or Book Riot, or a retailer’s customer review section—it reflects a level of engagement authors and publishers can only fantasize about pre-publication. The reviewer receives no payment for their effort. Therefore they are independent, not being coerced, and their review can be weighed as unbiased by others considering purchasing the book. A consumer book review, positive or negative, demonstrates the reader took seriously what you wrote. It opens a conversation that can benefit both author and reader. And it allows the author to build a community of readers and draw more people into the discussion. That group of engaged readers is the author’s springboard for a subsequent book, both as a sounding board for ideas and a measure of the next book’s potential market.

Further, a cottage industry of book reviews by bloggers, podcasters, and social media influencers expands the category of earned reviews. One could argue these reviews spill over into the realm of paid reviews (see the following section), since the reviewer often receives a free copy of the book. Reviews written by these people or organizations are sometimes on par with reviews written by consumers that purchased the book and wrote a review of their own volition. That is, a blogger’s review can be as unbiased and authentic as one by a consumer. Reviews written by individuals operating in these spaces, however, can be shaped by factors and agendas that have nothing to do with the book. If their organization is large enough, they may hire a third party to actually read and write the review on behalf of the blogger, podcaster, or social media influencer. When that happens, it is a bit disingenuous to present the review as their own. Reader beware.

Paid Reviews

Why would anyone rely on a review that the author paid for? The past reputation of self-published books being vanity publishing can taint traditional reviewers not to accept them for review. Not surprisingly, self-published authors have the most incentive to consider paying for book reviews.

Fortunately, paid reviews are not anathema in the marketplace. They fill a void in the publishing ecosystem, a void between highly placed literati and hoi polloi writing reviews. Some venues are well-known and the reviews sought after (e.g., Kirkus Indie Review). When an author pays a review service to write and publish a book review, the value of that review depends on how it is received by readers. Some readers (i.e., librarians) may discount anything other than a Kirkus Review, while others may read all reviews without prioritizing their value.

For a list of paid and free review options, see further below.

The Value of Reviews

Book reviews are like gold to authors and publishers. They inform readers, promote books, and can be a springboard for commercial success. Publicists can use quotes from book reviews to promote the book and author. The marketing team can splash quotes in ad copy, email blasts, newsletters, social media platforms, and on websites. In Amazon marketing campaigns, posting thirty reviews or more in the first two weeks after the publication date can catapult a title up the Amazon bestseller list categories. The more reviews, the more views, the more time on the book page, thereby increasing the number of clicks and leading to a sale. At least that improves the odds of a sale.

Beyond sales, which for some publishers is all that matters, is the credibility a glowing review can lend an author. Especially when the book is an extension of the author’s brand and meant to build her or his business, gaining credibility from reviews can be an end far more valuable in the scheme of things than the sale of one copy of the book. That review can open the door to a C-suite decision-maker’s office and business opportunities much more lucrative than sales of hundreds of copies of the book. If the book is your message to the world, then a positive review is an irresistible teaser to open and read your book, hear your message, and pave the way for you to be in the conversations and career opportunities relating to your topic.

Before you publish your book, even as you are writing the first draft, think of how a reviewer might evaluate what you are writing. Anticipate questions, objections, and “I wish the author would have…” reactions. Then, when the reviews come in, you will be less surprised and more encouraged by what they say. It all starts with writing the book.

Where to Pursue Paid and Free Reviews

The following list is just a handful of free and paid review options (in alphabetical order in the table below). You can see the array of choices you have.

BlueInk Review


BlueInk Reviews are syndicated in the Ingram Content Group database, giving access to tens of thousands of book retailers and librarians. Children’s and YA reviews are syndicated to the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database. A limited number of positive reviews also make it into a number of other websites, newsletters, and are recommended on social media.


BookLife (Publishers Weekly)


Publishers Weekly is another renowned trade publication offering nontrade reviews to self-publishers through BookLife. BookLife operates through free general submission, but a review is not guaranteed. Reviews from BookLife are listed in the Publishers Weekly magazine and on their website.




BookSirens is a vital tool for any author or publisher looking to launch their books with deeper book reviews. Over three thousand authors and publishers have promoted their books on BookSirens, including bestselling authors on the Amazon Top #100, NYTimes, and USA Today lists. Their audience of twenty thousand readers has written over a hundred thousand voluntary reviews on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub.




Booksprout is a community of authors and readers focused on reviewing books. Their goal is to create products that speed up or automate the nonwriting tasks that every self-published author must do in order to be successful.


Chanticleer Book Reviews


Chanticleer offers book reviews and an array of publishing services.


City Book Review


Since 2008, City Book Review has reviewed more than forty thousand books. They have a Sponsored Review program for authors and publicists who want guaranteed book reviews by a certain date.


Clarion Reviews (part of Foreword Reviews)


Clarion Reviews is Foreword’s paid review option for books that have already been published or were not chosen for Foreword. Each review will be posted on their high-traffic website and licensed to book wholesalers, partners such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Cengage, Bowker, and EBSCO to reach librarians and booksellers.


Feathered Quill


Feathered Quill provides reviews with the belief of quality over quantity. Their reviews are used by self-publishers as well as NYTimes bestselling authors.


Independent Book Review


Independent Book Review brings small presses and self-published authors into the spotlight. They consider book covers, book descriptions, blurbs, price, and more when deciding to review a book.




IndieReader offers a range of review options, each of which are posted with Ingram, and on the IndieReader site. A monthly “best of” list includes 4- and 5-star reviews.


Kirkus Reviews


Kirkus Indie Reviews represents the nontrade option from one of the most popular trade-review publications. Authors have several review options to choose from. They can choose to have their review published on the Kirkus site, and to have the review considered for Kirkus Reviews magazine and email newsletter, which is read by over fifty thousand consumers and industry insiders.


Literary Titan


Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that review fiction and nonfiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with their Literary Book Awards.


Lone Star Literary Life


Lone Star Literary Life helps readers find stories, authors and publishers find their ideal audiences, booksellers discern the titles they can sell, and libraries the titles their patrons will want. They help writers by steering them toward resources and introducing them to other authors.


Midwest Book Review


Midwest Book Review is one of few nontrade reviewers that offer general submission. Other than a $50 fee for ebooks, submission is free for books in various formats. The downside, of course, is that not all books submitted will receive reviews. If your book does receive a review, it will be posted on a range of thematically relevant websites and discussion groups, and will be archived on the MBR site for five years. MBR also has a contract with Gale Cengage Learning, which helps reviews reach libraries nationwide.




NetGalley helps publishers and authors promote digital review copies to book advocates and industry professionals. Publishers make digital review copies and audiobooks available for the NetGalley community to discover, request, read, and review.


Online Book Club


OnlineBookClub.org has been around since 2006, growing a community from all over the world. Some of their most popular features include: book reviews, their free web app Bookshelves (where you can store, track, and share lists of books you have read and want to read), their Book & Reading Forums, and their Book of the Day tool that notifies you when well-rated books go on temporary free promotions.


Pacific Book Review


Pacific Book Review is a paid book review service. The recipient of the “Honoring Excellence” and “Best Websites for Authors” awards by the Association of Independent Authors, they also are members of the National Book Critics Circle and the National Education Association.


Readers’ Favorite


Readers’ Favorite offer free reviews, and note that 65% of submissions receive reviews within three months. Authors may pay for a guaranteed express review in just two weeks. Reviews are published on their website, as well as Barnes & Noble, Google Books, social media, and can be posted in Amazon’s Editorial Reviews section.


Self-Publishing Review


Self-Publishing Review publishes a newsletter that goes to roughly five thousand publishing professionals, authors, libraries, and readers four times a year. Reviews are also posted on social media, including Google and Tumblr, as well as Barnes and Noble, on request.


The Children’s Book Review


The Children’s Book Review is a resource devoted to children’s literature and literacy. They publish reviews and book lists of the best books for kids of all ages. They also produce author and illustrator interviews and share literacy based articles that help parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers, and librarians to grow readers.


The Independent Review of Books


The Independent Review of Books was founded in 2019. IRB aims to share good writing and opinions on writing from both trade and independent markets, as well as articles on the writing process, across the spectrum of literary criticism.


US Review of Books


US Review of Books offers paid reviews. Reviews are posted on their blog and on social media. . Their own monthly publication reaches at least twenty thousand subscribers.


Washington Independent Review of Books


The Washington Independent Review of Books is a nonprofit website dedicated to book reviews and writing about the world of books. The Independent was launched in 2011 by dozens of writers and editors (mostly in the Washington, DC, area) who were frustrated by the disappearance of high-quality book reviews and book-review sections in major newspapers.