Want to Get on the “Best of” List?

This month’s PubNews highlighted Publishers Weekly’s Best Summer Books 2013 list, a collection of new releases that the experienced PW reviewers feel you simply must read. That’s a very high recommendation for any new book, so it’s a safe bet the books on that list will see excellent sales figures on their second- and third-quarter reports.

So the real question is, how do you get your book on one of those lists? Besides writing an awesome book, you just need to do one thing: marketing. But since that one thing isn’t self-explanatory, let’s look at some specifics. The authors on PW’s list have invested plenty of time and money into promoting their books—no matter how big their publisher is—but what marketing steps made the most impact?

Reviews

The primary reason PW reviewers could choose these books is because they knew about the books in advance. The publisher printed a galley run of books well in advance of the Publication Date and sent them out to reviewer.

Big publishers have two advantages here. First, a galley run is their standard practice. Second, their established reputation ensures reviewers will at least look at the book. When you are independently publishing, count on having galleys printed at least three months before your Pub Date, figure out the submission process for the reviewers you’re targeting, and make sure your book is a high-quality product (with an eye-catching cover!) and a solid imprint.

Awards

There are countless awards in the publishing world. Some are given only to published books, but there are pre-publication awards as well. And don’t forget about the myriad writing contests that will accept your manuscript or another piece of your writing. Do your research!

In addition to the publicity your book will receive from the awarding organization, you’ll find it much easier to get reviews when you already have some credentials. If your galley’s cover letter mentions you as the winner of such-and-such contest, you’re much more likely to get a review. If your galley’s book cover has a gold-medal sticker on it, you’re much more likely to get a great review.

Endorsements

From the moment you start writing the book, you should be looking for a few good men and women to endorse it. Your endorsements can go on your book cover, in your marketing copy, and in the book’s metadata. They will help establish your credibility and convince people to review (and later to buy) the book.

What makes a good endorsement? Well, obviously, an endorsement should say something positive about the book. (Remember that “writing an awesome book” requirement from paragraph 2? That makes this step much easier.) However, for controversial books, something negative from a prominent figure on the opposing side could be just as good. Nearly as important is that the endorsements should be from people who are qualified to say anything about the book. Family members usually need not apply. You’re looking for people your target audience will know and whose opinions they will respect. Shoot for the stars here, and you may be surprised what you get.

What do you think? What else contributes to getting good reviews and getting books listed?

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