Showing posts with label Midwest Book Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Midwest Book Review. Show all posts

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

Are Interviews What They Are Cracked Up to Be?


Are You Writing Interviews for Bloggers?

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Writing free content related somehow to your genre or title can be a fun way to add to value to your marketing campaign. I recommend bartering your writing skills for free content, especially for new writers. They get to do what they love; they get to write.

They also get bios, bylines, links to their books and even mini pitches for their books. That ups the backlinks to their websites and other online pages and, in turn, that ups their online presence. Not bad for doing what we love.

But caution. In my The Frugal Book Promoter I tell authors: “For a promotion to be successful, you have to promote the promotion.” I’m talking primarily social networking in this case, of course, but if you want more on how to do that, check out the book. That is not what this article is about.  This article is about the readability of interviews.

Today I read an amazing interview in Jim Cox’s newsletter. You probably know that he is Editor-in-Chief of the Midwest Book Review. In an interview from poet Carol Smallwood, he tells the story of how he started this project that helped propel the acceptance of self-publishing in the oh-so-staid publishing world, most of which thought nothing of practicing the most horrendous #bookbogotry possible. It is storytelling and it was fascinating. Suffice it to say, it broke all the interviewing rules from those we see in the AARP Magazine to Time Magazine to most blogs on any topic you might find on Wordpress or Blogger.  And certainly different from the “how-to-write-great-interview articles” you see in how-to magazines.

Everything we read about interviews tell us they should be short. They should be pithy. They do better if they are funny. People are in a hurry. People are used to reading “short and pithy.” It’s the Internet age, after all.

So, when are they successful?  Review the keywords in the first sentence, “related somehow to your genre or title.”  Now add “frequent.” You, the interviewer (or prospective interviewer) should be prepared to write a lot of them Then we mentioned promoting the promotion. If you don’t help drive traffic to the interview you write, they will garner very little attention. That’s true even if you access to some star-studded names. Relatively speaking, without a great presence on search engine, your work of art will be seen by few. 

I am in the mood to burst some bubbles here. I love to be interviewed. But I don’t write them for my blogs. And I rarely accept them as guestposts for my blogs! If you’ve read so far, you can see why. My favorite series of interview are in Time Magazine and, I admit, that I like them best when they are snarky but I don’t pay deep attention to them even then. They are good examples for learning more about interviews, though. You’ll find them on the back page of the magazine. What percentage of them would you say are controversial? Current?

Luckily, we--as the interviewers--are also the editors or at least one of the editors. That means we get to edit (shorten) rambling answers.  Interviews that are laid out in visuals that show the question and answers are going to be more easily read. We as the interviewers can make sure that happens, or at least encourage it to happen by submitting to our publisher (blogger, magazine editor, etc.)  in a form that cries out to be left as it is.

As the interviewer, you can ask your publisher for a hands-off policy  if you wish but they may still want to edit your piece to fit their style book. Associated Press, as an example, has a Style Book that tells them exactly what choices must be made and so they won't be eager to give over the editing or formatting job to you!

Note: If you are using interviews written by others—freelance or barter--tactfully let the interviewee know you might need to edit it for purposes of style or length. That way, they aren't surprised when they see copy (the questions or the answers)  that aren't exactly what they submitted. (-: 

Another thing. This comes straight from my  journalism experience. When we're wearing a journalism hat, we aren't required to let an interviewee (or informant) review, check, or otherwise monitor what we have written. We have a free press in the USA. So, unless you want help clarifying or editing or whatever, you aren't obligated to run what you have written by your interviewee.  Having said that, one of the biggest benefits of writing interviews--or reviews--is the opportunity it affords for building relationships. I think that networking is the best reason for writing interviews or giving interviews. Asking for input on your reviews can help you build relationships that can turn into bigger and better exposure for you, maybe in the form of being interviewed.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, is the author of how to books for writers including the award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; now in its third edition. Don’t miss the multi award-winning second edition of The Frugal Editor; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers. The booklet, The Great First Impression Book Proposal is now in its second edition.  How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically helps you take full advantage of magical book reviews to keep your writing career move faster than you have imagined. Carolyn also offers free review services at Explore the opportunities for your book in the tabs at the top of the home page. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor

New Mystery Reviewed by Midwest Book Review

Title: Lucifer in the Celestial Gardens
Author: A.J. Harris
Fiction: Mystery
ISBN:978-0-9993570-0-2 paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9993570-2-6 hardback
Also available on kindle
Library of Congress Control Number: 2017913190

Reviewed by D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer at Midwest Book Review

Lucifer in Celestial Gardens tells of Lou Siffer ("Lucifer"), the son of a small-town Illinois undertaker who is used to seeing corpses in the basement of their house, part of his father's profession and the family routine. He becomes embroiled in death in a different way when scandal strikes the town and Lou becomes peripherally involved in adult matters that include a father's conviction that suicide was not the cause of a death, a corruption case that changes this perspective, and a series of circumstances that lead an already-distant son to feel even more alienated from his father: "My father, my stalwart beacon of integrity had fallen to—what I didn’t know exactly, but from that time forward, I regarded him differently."'

Lou resolved at an early age to never become an undertaker, but death has him on the radar - and so a case that happened twelve years ago continues to haunt him as he grows up to face a real-life dilemma that still holds too many unanswered questions and special interests.

Lest readers think that Lucifer in Celestial Gardens is a murder mystery alone, it should be advised that A. J. Harris weaves fine coming-of-age experiences into events that follows Lou through romance, relationships with parents and peers, and a puzzle that plagues him throughout his life.

From an exciting but controversial project planned for the small town's elderly to events at a town hall meeting, an Odd Fellows Lodge, and more, the scandal that erupts leads to three friends finding their lives challenged and changed.

This book doesn't follow the conventions of formula mystery writing - and this may stymie genre readers who expect a succession of clues, whodunit subplots, and a clear murder scene, perp, and detectives. The strange culture and interactions in Winonka are as much a focus as the corruption and murder in a story that follows a funeral home scandal to its aftermath and lasting impact upon a boy who grows up, interacts with others, and forms relationships against its backdrop.

From retirement home profits and phony insurance policies to a mounting number of deaths, Lucifer in Celestial Gardens is unpredictable, engrossing, and follows murder cases that have no statute of limitations or age restrictions. It's unusual to have the story begin with a young boy who evolves into adulthood against the backdrop of loss and sadness that affects everything around him.

The evolutionary process of disgrace, death, and special interests contribute to a powerfully multifaceted story that moves through time, space, and intrigue to present a solidly complex murder story that's hard to put down.

You can buy this book at AMAZON.

Submitted by:
Mark E. Anderson
Graphic Designer, Owner
Book Shepherd for A.J. Harris, Murder Mystery Press
AquaZebra Book Cover Designs

Get Your Book Reviewed

By W. Terry Whalin

Often I see books launch into the market with zero reviews or only a few reviews. With over 4500 new books entering the marketplace every day, it is a challenge for any author to find readers—and to find readers who will write a few sentences of honest review and post it on Amazon and Goodreads and other sites.

In this article, I want to encourage authors to take an active role at getting book reviews and give you some resources and insights.

First, take your own responsibility for getting book reviews. Whether your book is brand new or has been out for a while, continually work at getting reviews. When you get a review—especially a positive one—promote or tout that review on your social media connections (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc). Go to this article from Tim Grahl about Amazon reviews, scroll down to the bottom and get his free download because of the tools you will get to help you gather reviews.
Second, study this article from Jim Cox, editor-in-chief at Midwest Book Review. Notice the article is 16 pages of information and I encourage you to print it and study it. I am on Jim's email list and found this interview with Shelby Londyn-Heath was filled with insights. Jim has been in his position for 40 years and provides an amazing free service to help people discover books. I want to make several points from this article:

* They receive an average of 2,000 titles a month to review and select 600 to 700 a month to actually review.

* Books are rejected for possible review for several reasons including not following their submission guidelines, poor covers and serious production problems.

*Midwest Book Review emphasizes self-published books and books from small presses. Cox explains his reasons in this article. He also encourages authors to produce excellent books—edited and designed well. These foundational elements are missing in many books and some of the reasons for books not to be reviewed (rejected in this process).

Third, learn about how to get book reviews. I interviewed Dana Lynn Smith on this topic and have a free teleseminar teaching authors about how to get book reviews.

With the sheer volume of books entering the marketplace every day, it is a challenge for authors to get book reviews. Write a great book. Produce a great book (design and production is important) then finally take action to get your book reviewed. I've seen a number of books that have well-done production, great endorsements and zero or few reviews. The details are important and I encourage you to take an active role on this process of getting book reviews.

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing and the author of more than 60 books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams and Book Proposals That Sell. He has over 200,000 followers on Twitter and lives in Colorado.


Without the author's effort, it is often a challenge to get book reviews. Use these insights and resources.  (ClickToTweet)
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