The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

When is the best time to run a book review?

A couple bloggers emailed this weekend letting me know about reviews for a book on which I’m working.  Great news — except the book isn’t on sale for a month.  Grrr.  Then again, in book publicity (or any publicity, really) we’re always seeking to generate early buzz.  And isn’t this early buzz?  Hmmm.

If you enjoy overanalyzing book publishing issues — as you well know I do — here are a few to consider.  Once upon a time, before the Internet, publishers always wanted book reviews to run on or after the publication dates of books, since early reviews only frustrated eager readers unable to find books in stores.  That’s changed a little since most readers are now well-versed in the practice of preordering books from online booksellers.  Nevertheless, many of us still tend to prefer reviews run on or around the publication dates of books since it seems that many consumers prefer items to be shipped on or around the time they click “Buy.”  Or do they?

Publishing trade publications are one obvious exception to this pub-date rule, primarily because readers are not ordinary consumers but bookstore buyers, journalists covering the book industry and others who must plan their purchases / coverage weeks or months ahead of time.  Quarterly or bi-annual publications are another exception for obvious reasons.

Another issue for journalists and bloggers to consider when publishing reviews is that publishers receive finished books about six weeks before they go on sale, so just because you’re looking at a book (and not a galley / ARC) doesn’t mean books are available for sale.  Check the press material (or online) for the publication date so if you do run the review early, you can at least make readers aware of that fact.

A third publication date-related issue that can get confusing is when books go on sale in different countries on different dates (a somewhat common occurrence).  The safest tactic is to request a book from the publishing house in the country where most of the blog’s readers live and use that book’s pub date — if a blog is popular in the UK, for example, request a book from the UK publisher and use the British book’s publication date.

***

So I’m wondering: as a reader, do you preorder books about which you’ve read a week — or a month — ahead of time regardless of the on-sale date?  Or given a choice between a book that’s available now and one available at some point in the future, would you buy the book currently on sale (assuming both appear to be equally enticing)?

June 29, 2009 - Posted by | Reviews

28 Comments »

  1. Speaking as a *reader*, reading a full review on a blog, then finding the book isn’t out for quite a while, doesn’t make me think the blogger is “in the know.”

    On the contrary, especially if it’s a blog I don’t already follow, it honestly diminishes the credibility of that review for me, making me think the blogger just isn’t used to getting galleys and planning book coverage in advance.

    Unless there’s some special reason, noted in the piece, for why it’s running so early, the lag time would generally prompt me to wait for more “mainstream” reviews before making the purchase.

    Comment by Erik Johnson | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  2. Erik — thanks for the feedback.

    And maybe a further distinction should be made between random mentions of a book / author early on vs. a full-fledged review or author interview …

    Comment by Yen | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  3. As a reader, I usually don’t like pre-ordering books online. I like to know that when I hit that buy button, what I’m purchasing is going to ship within a day or two. I’ll sometimes put the book in my shopping cart, where books have languished for years.

    It’s similar the time I read a great review of a new lipstick in a woman’s magazine. It was a drug store brnad, so I ripped the page out of the magazine and stuck it in my purse. Next time I was at the drug store, I couldn’t find it. I went to the other drug store across the street, and couldn’t find it there either. Knowing what I know about magazines, I wondered if the product was launching at a particular date, so it was reviewed in that month’s issue, but it wasn’t in stores yet because monthly women’s September magazines are in stores in August.

    So, the magazine page stayed in my purse, and was eventually thrown out when I cleaned it out. And I never bought that lipstick.

    Comment by Kama | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  4. I’m sure, again, I’m the mutant here. I rarely read reviews. I don’t see the point of them. There are usually sample chapters available and I can make up my own mind. The only value I see is to get a title in my face that I might not have heard of (and there are many!).

    The one instance I’ve read reviews is for Gladwell’s “Outliers.” I’d seen on Twitter people mentioning bad reviews and, after reading it myself and before doing my own post (still not written), I wanted to see what the objections were.

    Am I the only person who doesn’t care what others think of something and prefer to see for myself?

    Comment by Mike Cane | June 29, 2009 | Reply

    • I’m not often influenced by reviews — I like to see for myself too — although reviews and mentions (whether in print or online) serve to inform me of a book’s publication.

      Comment by Yen | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  5. I don’t mind reading reviews a little early to see if the book will be good. I have a wishlist and I read SO MANY review sources I am likely to hear about it again. I do recognize that’s not the case for everyone though.

    As a blogger, my reading schedule is so incredibly tight, it means that I may not get to read a book I want to the moment it’s in hand. That’s my fault, though, for overcommitting myself.

    I try to post review on or after the release date.

    Comment by Amy @ My Friend Amy | June 29, 2009 | Reply

    • Amy,
      My first novel (a green tech thriller)is almost finished. Though previously published with my PR work, this is my first novel, so I’m picking everyone’s brains for insight. One question your comment raises is when reviews expect to see the book (ie. before publication) and how do publishers/authors share the book with you (ie hard copy or electronically). Any insights? thx
      Please respond to jpilmer@pilmerpr.com

      Comment by John | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  6. I’m one to start looking for a book as soon as I read a review. So I appreciate it when a reviewer states “this is an ARC sent to me… blah blah”. Not just for the “credibility”, side but also to clue me in on when the book may be out.

    So I’m all for less early-buzz and more here-it-is buzz.

    Comment by trav | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  7. I only pre-order books by writers I like and buy on a regular basis. What I do for writers whose books sound interesting is check my library online and reserve a copy (which I just did for “Huge” after reading about it on Ron Hogan’s Beatrice site).

    Comment by Bill Peschel | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  8. As a reader, if I read a review that is really complelling and enticing, then I want to buy the book immediately. If I don’t buy the book immediately, then chances are I will lose interest or forget about the book entirely. I am completely a compulsive shopper and I don’t think I’m alone.

    However, I will pre-order a book if it is part of a series that I’ve been reading and I’m just dying for the next book or if there is an author that I love, love and I follow on a regular basis.

    Comment by Tracie | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  9. As a blogger, I place not yet published books in my side bar of recently acquired books with cover image but do not publish review until it is widely available everywhere. Teaser. Have seen too many reader complaints that the book is not yet available, and that either frustrates or they don’t remember the book when it is eventually published. I know I forget and then scramble around to see where that mention is, the title, etc. If I am on Amazon and a title I want is on pre-order, I buy something else I can read immediately.

    Appreciate the difficulties in different countries and different publishing schedules. Case in point – the new A.S. Byatt book is available in the UK and Canada but no the US until the fall. So I bought it from the Book Depository in the UK. If I want it and can get it somewhere besides the US, I do. Even at greater cost with shipping fees.

    Comment by Frances | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  10. As a reader I prefer to get the book immediately if I read a review and decide I want to try the book. Seldom do I pre-order a book…very seldom. And I certainly appreciate reviews that tell me up front the book will not be available for a while. For my organization I solely look at books currently available as the program sites are ordering in the “here and now.”

    Comment by Rasco from RIF | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  11. This post and discussion has been enlightening. I have two questions:

    1. For Yen: I run the website FantasyLiterature.net. Some publishers send us books well in advance (sometimes months) of the publication date and seem thrilled when we review them that early. They’ve linked to the review and, in some cases, used a quote in promotional material. I assumed (until reading this post) that they prefer for us to get the review out as soon as possible, even if it’s months in advance. Do you think this is unusual (I’m referring to large publishing houses, by the way)?

    2. For Readers: FantasyLiterature.net is not a blog (though we have a blog also) and all of our reviews are “on the same level” rather than tucked away in archives when they get old. On our homepage, we have a list of what we’ve just reviewed (some new stuff, some old stuff), but we also have a list of books that are just out, including an indication of our rating (and link to review, which may have been published months ago) and an indication of which we are currently reviewing. I was hoping that this would make reviews current and useful again, even if they were published a while back. Your feedback would be appreciated. I am willing to change our review schedule if our technique doesn’t work well for readers.

    Comment by Kat at Fantasy Literature | June 29, 2009 | Reply

    • Most book publicists tend to prefer when reviews run around the time of a book’s publication. However, genre fiction often works differently — as you point out, some publishers like to quote from your reviews in promotional material — in part, I think, because fantasy / scifi / mystery / romance authors often are repeat authors. If you’re eagerly awaiting the next installment from your favorite fantasy writer, you’re probably going to read it whether or not the review runs a month before the book comes out or just after the publciation date. (As Tracie notes in an earlier comment, she will preorder books from an author she loves.)

      Comment by Yen | June 30, 2009 | Reply

      • Ah, this makes sense. The books I was referring to ARE from popular authors who write long series.
        Thanks — your blog is really helpful!

        Comment by Kat at Fantasy Literature | June 30, 2009

  12. It takes quite a bit of early buzz to get me to pre-order a book from an author I’ve never read before, but it has happened. I do pre-order my favorites as soon as I see the listing online, because my life moves quickly and I know if I don’t do it right away, I might miss it. Early reviews are a little dangerous, for that reason. I’m less likely to pre-order that early reviewed book than I am to pick it up wandering through a bookstore if it happens to catch my eye and I make the connection with the review I just read.

    Comment by Louisa Edwards | June 30, 2009 | Reply

  13. From a former independent bookstore person, I used to hate when a review ran pre-publication because it drove the customer to ordering online. We would have people walk in ready to buy but when we said it wasn’t yet available they’d leave and pre-order it from Amazon.

    Very frustrating.

    The problem could be avoided by the publication/ media outlet stated clearly that the book is coming soon.

    Comment by Jean | June 30, 2009 | Reply

    • Good point — and one I didn’t think of!

      Comment by Yen | June 30, 2009 | Reply

  14. There are two sides to this issue, I think —

    On the one hand, reading a great review only to find out that the book isn’t yet available is frustrating and can lead to people forgetting about the book by the time it’s published.

    On the other hand, reviews are sometimes the only marketing a book gets, and a lot of a book’s sales are expected to come in the first few weeks of release. It’s nearly impossible to get a good amount of word-of-mouth buzz built between the release date and the time the book is gone from the “new releases” tables in bookstores. The general marketing theory is that it takes multiple exposures to something before it sticks in the brain. The ideal situation may be a wave of reviews — the early reviews make people more likely to notice the reviews that come out around the publication date (since familiar things are more likely to jump out at you), and then those make the books more noticeable on the shelves. That’s the way movies are marketed — you start seeing trailers months before the film comes out, and I don’t think anyone gets too freaked out when they can’t go see that movie that day. Since the publishing world doesn’t do that much advertising, reviews and feature coverage have to suffice, and it makes sense that you’d want some teasing to build anticipation, as long as there are still reviews timed for release week.

    Comment by Shanna Swendson | June 30, 2009 | Reply

    • That makes a lot of sense.

      Comment by Kat at Fantasy Literature | June 30, 2009 | Reply

    • Shanna I tend to agree with you. While I see the point of the other comments on this blog post the truth is, with all the books being released these days and with all the competition for review space (both online and off) I believe we’re now in the long runway of book promotion.

      Comment by Penny C Sansevieri | July 1, 2009 | Reply

    • One of the challenges I’ve had for some books I’ve done publicity for was that because of the nature of the subject, review coverage was going to be limited. Unfortunately, not every book can expect multiple reviews. So, when I’ve handled a book that I expected limited review coverage for, and a review is published – by the main stream media or online – before it’s available for purchase, while I’m appreciative of the coverage, I’ve also wished it had run when the book was available to consumers.

      Comment by Kama | July 1, 2009 | Reply

  15. Pros and cons to early reviews – as a bookseller and blog book reviewer, I see both sides. Early reviews help with online sales but customers (and there are still many) who want to shop in brick and mortar stores just get flustered and move on to the next book. Can’t tell you how many people come in to store looking for a title that they heard reviewed or author interviewed on NPR or in newspaper and not available yet. So timing is very important. As a blogger, I get ARC’s and usually the publisher/publicist wants a review the week they are released. I try to comply, but it is a challenge. I certainly have never reviewed early. When I see reviews way in advance of release, I am miffed. This does not help readers/buyers and is disrespectful to other reviewers trying to work within the publishers requests. It is showboating and only about the reviewer being first. They want the publisher to use a quote from the review in their publicity material. This might help the book sell the reviewer has an established reputation, but will not if you do not. I am for spread out reviews after the release date. Seems to benefit everyone.

    Comment by Laurel Ann | June 30, 2009 | Reply

  16. Interesting! I am a YA author and my house was really good at getting a lot of ARCs out there to YA review bloggers.

    I liked that a few posted early (some even 3-4 months before release) but that most held off. It was enough to give me some pull quotes and create a little buzz and some preorders, but not so much that the pool had dried up in terms of reviews/buzz when a person could be it right that instant.

    Comment by Mandy Hubbard | June 30, 2009 | Reply

  17. I very rarely, if ever, post a review on its review date. It may be the week of, or the month of, but definitely not the day of. Like Laurel Ann stated, I get upset when I see reviews of books posted months before the book is released, and even more irritated when they mention spoilers. Yes, I have a copy of Catching Fire. When do I intend on posting my review? Certainly not until after September 1!

    Comment by Jennsbookshelf | June 30, 2009 | Reply

  18. I don’t read reviews. I hate to know anything about a book ahead of time. But I still hear about books here and there on blogs, or author interviews or whatever. Because I don’t have a book buying budget (sorry, must sell more books first!), I get most of my reads from the library. If the mention/interview/review is too early, the library will not have it and I’ll totally forget about it later.

    My good friend is a sales rep for Penguin Canada and provides me with a lot of ARCs. I write about the ones I love on my Need To Read blog, sending the review to the authors if I can find them online, but holding the actual post until the pub month. You have to be careful though because one I just read and loved had May 09 on the spine, but when I went to the author’s website, it had been delayed until Feb 10.

    Comment by Joelle | June 30, 2009 | Reply

  19. Most often I pre-order books from authors I love and the next in a series I love. In those cases, I pre-order and ask for next day shipping. Then I know I’ll have the book right away.

    In most cases, if I see a review from someone I trust or who seems to write in a manner that indicate some thought and intelligence went into the review, then I’ll try to get the book right away. I’m starting to prefer the Kindle app for the iPhone because I can have the book within seconds. If the book isn’t available yet, that’s kind of irritating, but I’m likely to add it to my wish list, as opposed to pre-ordering.

    Comment by Carolyn Jewel | July 2, 2009 | Reply

  20. As usual I’m late to the game but wanted to add that this is a very interesting and important discussion. I’m a book blogger and although I’ve received books for review for a few years, I’ve only recently begun to get more ARCs. I used to get mostly already published books so it didn’t matter when I posted the review. My first few ARCs I posted the review when I read the book but then heard around that it’s better to wait till they are available to buy so that what I plan on doing. This usually isn’t a problem as I have so much to read by the time I get to the book it’s been published for weeks.

    Comment by Callista | July 8, 2009 | Reply


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