Reviews need to be more than one sentence long

I don’t give a lot of advice on book marketing, and what I give is not much use. Like most writers, I’m bad at and hate marketing. It’s the number one weakness for authors. They want me to provide them with Golden Secrets, and the best I have are nickel-brass confidentialities. But here’s one from solid ground:

Our industry has a device called a “puff.” All those gushy comments on the book’s back cover? Those are puffs. One hand washes the other. Do you really think the authors read each other’s books? Don’t count on it happening often. It’s just how the game is played. When you see a book covered in puffs, either a lot of people would like to do that author a solid, or the publisher is large enough to hit up lots of authors for puffs. You can’t take most of them seriously. The best dust jacket puffs are brief, baroque in their gush levels, and inspecific. Specifics are hard when one doesn’t read the book.

Puffs also appear in book reviewing. Smart authors understand that they need a good initial body of reviews to help with sales, and first-timers don’t have very many contacts, so their friends and family pitch in. Some are guileless enough to use an account with the same family name as the author. A one-sentence gushy five-star review right after publication? The review is by Edna Smith, of Taylor Smith Newby’s dystopian eco-terror tale First They Came for the Vegans…? That’s a puff review. A certain amount of these are helpful, but reviews that carry water with potential buyers are more than one sentence long.

So: all those friends, family members, and so on that you buttonhole for early reviews? Do see if you can get some of them to write a full para, and give some specifics. A one-sentence review is borderline garbage, and too high a concentration of these stands out like a neon sign. Especially when the only couple of people who wrote in any depth did not like the book as well. The one-liners aren’t fooling anyone. Did those people read the book? Doesn’t matter, because they have so little to say about it. “I loved it couldn’t put it down Jill Authorness is a great writer” actually conveys to me a negative message: illiterates evidently love the book. I’m more interested in the views of people capable of articulating thoughts. Any “review” that looks very much as if the author wrote it from a sock puppet account looks the worst.

Not suggesting you have people write five-para dissertations, just that they maybe try to stretch it to a para that says something substantive. And as soon as possible, for the love of God, get some real reviews from people who are not so obviously giving you puffs. The sooner those puffs are overshadowed, the better for you.


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