Carolyn Howard-Johnson Shares How to Make Reviews into Marketing Workhorses


July 5, 2022, #1
How to Make Reviews into Marketing Workhorses
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
This is the first of a series of guest posts for #WritersontheMove 
that help writers understand the power of reviews with excerpts from her 
How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: 
The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing caree

Follow them on the fifth of each month through October 5, 2022.
“Very simply put, reviews are the gift that keeps giving.” ~ CHJ
So you have a review now. Maybe it’s your first. Maybe it’s your umpteenth. You may be able to determine that sales resulted from it. You may not. If not, you may be disappointed. Don’t be. The work a review can do for you has just begun. Here are a few ways you can extend its usefulness.

Permission To Reprint the Review
The sooner we ask for permission to reprint any review we get, the better. That gives us the freedom to use it as needs arise. As our file of reviews-with-permission grows, we come to understand that it is an unmatched cache of promotion jewels.
The best way to get permission to reprint from amateur and reader reviewers is to ask the reviewer personally. If your review is in a journal, you may not know who the reviewer is, but you can ask the editor or publisher for permission. Tell either contact you would like to reprint. Ask them how they would like to be credited and what link and other contact information they would like you to use. Just these two questions should suggest to your reviewer that they could benefit from giving you that permission. Add those details to your file so you it will nudge you to the right thing long into the future when you may decide to use it again.

Keep in mind that copyright law gives you the right to quote excerpts from a review without asking. So if all your grant-permission-rights efforts fail, you can choose, quote, and credit a positive sentence or phrase from the review when you can get permission—and when you can’t--as long as you credit the reviewer. The guidelines for quoting from a review are called fair use and they differ from genre to genre and situation to situation. But for novels and full books of nonfiction, Amazon uses twenty-five words as a guideline and I trust they have great copyright attorneys advising them.

Caveat: Getting unnecessary permission can be cumbersome and counterproductive. Or it can be a great advantage. When you’re working with reviews, asking permission can slow you down, but it can also earn you friends as you work with those who reviewed your book. They are influencers in communities of readers. So balance your decision-making process each time you get a review. Ask yourself, Is the reviewer and/or publisher prestigious, credible, approachable? Is the long-term advantage of networking worth the time and effort in your schedule as it exists in this moment. I hope you use networking approach most often. A great contact (read that friend!) is almost always worth the time it takes to make one.

Here is how to use both the reviews and blurbs excerpted from my 300-page-plus How To Get Great Reviews. It will help WritersontheMove subscribers and visitors extract ethical blurbs (endorsements) from their reviews and credit them appropriately.

Excerpting Blurbs and Endorsements from Reviews

Most of us weren’t taught this excerpting business in school, probably because excerpting seems such a nonissue. Many have no idea how to do it and don’t realize they need to figure it out. They can go miserably astray.

Blurbs may be neglected because there is confusion about what they are. I have heard them called endorsements, testimonials, praise, quotes, blurbs, and even bullets because they are frequently printed on the back cover of books set off by little BB-sized dots.

When my husband solicited blurbs from VIPs in the Asian community for his first book What Foreigners Need to Know about America from A to Z (, he came up with a few other . . . ahem! . . . choice words for getting them. He had been told it is a difficult process. Difficult, but not impossible. He ended up with endorsements from the ambassador to China from the U.S. and the ambassador from China to the U.S. This illustrates why authors shouldn’t listen to naysayers who think approaching influencers is futile. You can do it and you can do it effectively. His step-by-step method takes a full section in How To Get Great Book Reviews and it may be something you need for your process. But for now, the excerpting process is easy and a lot of fun. Let’s say you have a review that includes some praise or even a word that made you happy. Perhaps the rest of it wasn’t all you’d like it to be. Perhaps (yikes!) it doesn’t include your name or title! Here’s how to proceed:

    Put on your marketing bonnet and reread your review thinking “soundbites” or the phrases that remind you of the praise you see in ads for movies. Many of them are excerpts or little clips from advance reviews of that film.
    Choose the little gems that make you glad you wrote the book. Some will be very short. Even one word. Shorties are used for everything from restaurants to movies because they emphasize the raves that are . . . mmmm, over the top—even forbidden when publishers and authors use them about their own work. Words like awesome and fantastic.
    Select some of the praise that points out the benefit a reader might get if he or she reads your book.
    When you must leave something out of the sentence you choose, let ellipses (three little dots…) take the place of those missing words.
    Sometimes you need to substitute for purposes of clarity or brevity. If the blurb says, “If there is any justice in the world, this book is destined to be a classic,” and you would rather have the title of your book in that excerpt rather than this book, you can do that. Remove this book and replace those words with the name of the book: “Two Natures by Jendi Reiter.” You need to put the squarish brackets around the part you insert yourself. So it would read “… if there is any justice in the world, [Two Natures by Jendi Reiter] is destined to be a classic.”

Note: You can see that your job is to make the excerpt as true to the original meaning as possible without sacrificing its value.

    Stow your excerpts in a file you can refer to later. Be sure to include the accreditation for each blurb. That avoids confusion later and makes using one of them a quick copy-and-paste process. The best accreditation included the name and of the reviewer and the entity the review was published in or the position or book the reviewer is most known for.
    Though we should also take care when we quote others, it is legal to quote for certain purposes and in certain amounts without getting permission especially if you write commentary, satire, criticism, academic material, or news reports. Reviews are considered criticism. If you are using your reviews efficiently, you will probably already have permission to reprint according to guidelines we’ve already mentioned. (Use How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically’s Index to look up all the references to copyright in that book.)
    The number of words you can use without permission depends upon the size of the copyrighted work as a whole. Guidelines differ from genre to genre. Find specific guidelines at the Library of Congress web site ( or let a research librarian help you. The online bookstore division of Amazon protects itself by allowing quotations and blurbs of up to twenty-five words directly from reviews.

Note: Those who want to learn more about copyright law as it applies to authors will find help in Literary Law Guide for Authors: Copyrights, Trademarks and Contracts in Plain Language ( by Tonya Marie Evans and Susan Borden Evans with a foreword by my deceased friend and book marketing guru Dan Poynter.

Once you have asked for reprint rights or a review journal like Midwest Book Review notifies you when your review has been posted and the notification includes permission to reuse it—a very nice service that benefits both Midwest and you—record each permission you are given in a folder reserved for great blurbs and reviews. Use  a subfolder for each of your book titles. At that point, you are ready to go to work.

Watch for my next guest blog on WritersontheMove on August 5, 2022. We’ll cover ways you never imagined you could use your reviews and the excerpts (blurbs or endorsements) you have gleaned from them. Trust me, there are probably several free and frugal ways to use your blurbs and endorsements you have never thought of. If you can’t wait, try my How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically at available as an ebook or paperback.

More on Guest Blogger and Regular WritersontheMove Contributor 

Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and founder and owner of a retail chain to the advice she gives in her multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter, now in its third edition from Modern History Press. Her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. The third full book in the HowToDoItFrugally series for writers is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts.

The author loves to travel. She has visited ninety-one countries before her travels were so rudely interrupted by Covid and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is


Linda Wilson said...

As always, your advice and ideas are extremely helpful, Carolyn. Reading this post has given me renewed enthusiasm to find new ways to find reviewers. Thanks!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Linda, you have so much to work with. Adorable children's books and they can often be "made" into classics!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Reviews: I call them forever reviews. Once they're up on Amazon or blogs, they tend to stay. And there are so many ways to make sure that most of them do. Or at least part of them. The whole reviews and excerpts pulled from them (perfectly legal!).
Hugs to all Karen's WritersontheMove subscribers and visitors!

Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, thanks for these tips on how to get permission to reprint book reviews and how to use excerpts and blurbs from those reviews effectively. Every author needs to know this stuff!

deborah lyn said...

Excellent informative and helpful series, Carolyn! Wonderful start! Thank you.

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