The Death of the Book Review?

Industry experts offer varying opinions on the issue of book reviews, but as anyone in the publicity business knows, securing ‘traditional’ book reviews is more difficult than in years past. Large galley mailings are becoming less common. Instead, as my agency has done, the more efficient and economical practice is targeted advance review copy mailings, to very carefully chosen outlets.

So what do I mean by ‘traditional’ book reviews? The printed review; in newspapers or magazines, is not nearly what it once was. The newspaper industry continues to be hurt by reduced circulation and ever-increasing challenges from online media. Additionally, with thousands of new books coming out every month, the competition for print space is limited, and the ‘big houses’ dominate in terms of book reviews. Many print outlets simply await catalogue mailings from major publishers, choose books they deem worthy of review, and most self-published authors are left out in the cold. It’s really that simple.

But, all hope is not lost. Aside from very targeted mailings – what we call ‘high priority’ outlets with high probability of interest in a specific book – online reviewers are flourishing. Don’t discount the value of online reviewers. Every time your book is mentioned on the Internet, it is picked up by search engine spiders, and the more and more your book appears online, the more word spreads about the book.

Online reviews aren’t as limited by space or type of publishing. Many welcome self-published books; some only review self-published books.

Here’s something that might surprise you: I don’t think ‘traditional’ book reviews sell books. I’d much rather see our clients get a feature story, print interview, author profile, etc. These kind of placements can move books much more than a traditional review. Plus, a feature story, for example, is seldom negative, whereas a book review can certainly be.

Years ago we would routinely send hundreds of galleys out at the start of a campaign. We don’t do this anymore. Our advance review copy lists usually number around 20 to 50, and, we’re really pitching for stories over reviews, although we of course do secure some reviews.

The Internet is fast becoming the best friend of authors. Traditional publicity, the old-school type of pitching for interviews, stories, etc., is still crucial to a campaign, but more and more the viral nature of the Internet should not be ignored. From online reviews to blogs to online book listings and podcast interviews, the Internet has changed the face of book promotion.

My suggestion: Do not rely upon the Internet only for your campaign; I still believe a comprehensive campaign attacking newspapers, magazines, radio and TV is crucial. But, get on the Internet, as many places as you can. Get your name and book on as many sites as possible.

Is the book review dead? Nope. It simply has changed with the times.

Dan Smith is the Founder and CEO of Smith Publicity Inc. Beginning in 1997, Smith Publicity is one of the world’s leading promotional firms, specializing in book publicity. Fueled by a passion for making good things happen for clients, the company has worked with over 900 individuals and companies–from authors and entrepreneurs to publicly-held companies and businesses representing a wide range of industries. The Smith Publicity reach is international with offices in New Jersey, New York City, Los Angeles, and London. For more information about Smith Publicity, Inc., please visit


  1. says

    I really enjoyed the insights in this article. I think that book reviews are great at spreading the word abnout new titles and appreciate the time the reviewers spend reading our work. The internet has been a blessing for reviewers, readers and authors alike.