Karen Jones Gowen

Post image for Utilizing the Book Blog Reviewer by Karen Jones Gowen, WiDo Publishing

Note: WiDo author, Charity Bradford, did a Guest Post last month on Organizing a Blog Tour. She had some great tips. This month Karen Gowen, author and Managing Editor at Wido Publishing, follows up with more tips on how to find Book Blog Reviewers and establish a relationship with them.

Reviews are key to getting sales for your book, and a valuable resource is book blogs. On my sidebar (click the link to see Karen’s sidebar) is an extensive list, from the super busy who may not have time for you, to the ones just starting out who will be happy to get your request.

My Top Ten Tips on Getting Book Blog Reviews:

1. Start early researching reviewers. Don’t wait until your launch. Look for reviewers in your genre. They will have an About Us page and/or a Guidelines for Requesting Reviews page. Read it carefully to see if they’ll be a good fit for you and your book.

2. Develop a relationship with the ones you pick. Follow their blogs and show up regularly. Comment on their posts. Thank them for their reviews. You yourself will need a blog to effectively implement this important step.

3. Pay attention to how they review a book. Some will copy and paste a Goodreads summary, and then give just a word or two about the book. Sorry, but this is not a review. You are looking for valid book reviewers, not just those willing to make an announcement about your new release. Watch for those who are intelligent, fair, and thorough in their reviews.

Helpful reviews will give highlights of the story, discuss themes, plot and characters, share how the story made them feel, talk about what they liked about it as well as what bothered them. “I don’t like the cover,” is not a review and is not helpful. You don’t want a reviewer who gushes over everything, or one who is too critical– you’re looking for a nice balance

4. Check out the title of their blog. It should be something that will display well with a quote or blurb on your website or your book page on Amazon. Again, check out my sidebar and see how cool some of these blog names are. They legitimize the review, add interest to the blurb.

5. After you have chosen your favorite reviewers and visited their blog so they know who you are and it’s finally time to email your review request to them, be sure to explain why you picked them.  Copy and paste requests are too easily ignored and refused. Make it personal.

6. Be patient but clear. Reviewers get a lot of requests and the good ones are busy. The good ones also read the book all the way through and take their time in writing a thoughtful response. Tell them your release date, give them a deadline if they ask, but let them know you’d still value their review regardless of when they get to it.

7. Don’t get upset if it’s not the 5 star review you had hoped for. Positive blurbs can be gleaned from just about any response. I once asked one of my English professors for a blurb. Her response after reading my ms of Uncut Diamonds, was critical and in the end said she couldn’t recommend it. But she did say that she really loved the dialogue. Cool. We went with that because “I really love the dialogue…” makes a fine blurb.

8. Thank them privately, even if the review was less than you had hoped for. No need to add a thank you comment on your Amazon or Goodreads site. You want to be invisible and not seem like you’re checking out all your reviews and commenting on them. That inhibits potential reviewers. But a private email showing appreciation is appropriate and should be sufficient.

9. Don’t pay for anything. There was a time when paid review sites were popping up everywhere. After the negative press that led to Amazon removing reviews, I wouldn’t think paying for reviews is even considered anymore. I never have done it or recommended it. Why should we pay? There are thousands upon thousands of book review blogs out there, with more popping up every day. They are book-lovers happy to get an ARC in exchange for a review. Do NOT pay for reviews. It’s completely unnecessary and even frowned on in the current climate.

10. Don’t stop now. After the excitement of your launch and those first initial reviews you may think, okay time to write the next book. Which it is, of course. But still continue following book reviewers, add to your repertoire, keep building those valuable relationships. New blurbs and reviews will add to the saleability of your book, even if it’s been out for awhile.

 

About Karen Jones Gowen: Born and raised in central Illinois, the daughter of a Methodist minister from Indiana and a school teacher from Nebraska, Karen Jones Gowen has down-to-earth Midwestern roots. Karen and her husband Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing near Salt Lake City. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Gowen’s writing. She is the managing editor for WiDo Publishing and the author of four books, all of which fit loosely into the category of LDS Fiction. Karen’s website: karenjonesgowen.com. WiDo Publishing website: widopublishing.com

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Post image for Guidelines for Writing LDS Fiction by Karen Jones Gowen, WiDo Publishing

The LDS fiction genre encompasses everything from inspirational novels where characters accept the gospel and get baptized, to historical fiction about elements of Church history, and a whole lot in between.

The LDS fiction label can be a fairly clean novel written by an LDS author, with no Mormon characters or references, somewhat like the label “Christian fiction” might be given to one just like it. It can also be ascribed to a novel with some swearing or sexual scenes (not graphic however), but that contains Mormon characters and themes.

Surely there are books listed on Amazon under LDS Fiction that a reader might be offended by, and others that are so squeaky clean and spiritually uplifting as to be dull for those seeking the kind of conflict, tension and turmoil that a novel requires.

By now you may be thinking: But isn’t this a post on guidelines for writing LDS fiction? Then why is she essentially telling us there are no guidelines?

The fact is that ebooks have changed the guidelines. It used to be that LDS Fiction was what you found when you browsed an LDS bookstore.  The stores set the limits, sometimes restricting them so severely that shoppers got frustrated by the same formulaic genre.  Stores decide what they will or won’t carry. If it doesn’t suit them, they don’t order it.

For this reason, WiDo Publishing stopped accepting manuscripts that fit the strictest definition of LDS Fiction—Mormon characters and themes and squeaky clean. Reason being, there weren’t enough LDS bookstores around to sell them to, if you took Deseret Bookstores out of the picture. And other bookstores didn’t want “Mormon books.”

Hooray for the Kindle! We wish we could call up all those talented authors who submitted their LDS Fiction to us, because we can now sell it. In fact, it sells very well through the Kindle, which is how we distribute our ebooks.

Through the maze of inappropriateness that gluts their selections, LDS Kindle owners are desperately seeking clean fiction for themselves and their families. Even if it’s not “squeaky clean” or not strictly fiction, WiDo will label a book LDS Fiction if it fits three or more of the following criteria:

  1. It’s written by an LDS author.
  2. It contains Mormon characters.
  3. It deals with themes that are based on true principles.
  4. There’s restraint used in language and scenes, although we can’t always promise squeaky clean.
  5. We think LDS readers will enjoy it for all of the above reasons, and because they are seeking out the best books.

By these guidelines, Jewish author Mirka M.G. Breen would no doubt be surprised to see that her middle-grade novel, The Voice of Thunder, about two ten-year-old girls in Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, is categorized by WiDo as, among other things, LDS Fiction.

And those of you who sent us manuscripts we turned down back when “we can’t sell LDS Fiction,” please submit to us again. Because now we can.

 

About Karen Jones Gowen: Born and raised in central Illinois, the daughter of a Methodist minister from Indiana and a school teacher from Nebraska, Karen Jones Gowen has down-to-earth Midwestern roots. Karen and her husband Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing near Salt Lake City. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Gowen’s writing. She is the managing editor for WiDo Publishing and the author of four books, all of which fit loosely into the category of LDS Fiction.

Karen’s website: karenjonesgowen.com

WiDo Publishing website: widopublishing.com

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