Do reviews matter?

Published: September 21, 2016

The short answer is yes. People often buy a book based on word-of-mouth—what people say about your book—and reviews can influence what people say. Reviews can also help you if you are writing a book to get your idea out in the world via the media, or if you are selling yourself as a speaker or a consultant.

So how do you get reviews, especially at a time when the book review sections in most newspapers have shrunk or even disappeared?

There are different ways to get third-party endorsements for your book.


Ask prominent people to write an endorsement on your cover. You send the near-final manuscript to someone your target market values and recognizes. If they like the book, they will offer to write a short endorsement for the cover. We call it a blurb.

For Dr. Karen Pape’s book, The Boy Who Could Run But Not Walk, we scored an important blurb from a very famous author, Dr. Norman Doidge, who sold over a million copies of his bestselling book The Brain That Changes Itself.

We used the first words of his remarkable blurb on the cover: “Compelling, engaging and essential.”

The rest of the Doidge blurb went inside, with other endorsements from prominent doctors and therapists who work with children with early brain injury: “This book is chock-full of cases of children with cerebral palsy who vastly exceed their physicians’ expectations, as well as practical advice for parents and caregivers on how this can be done. Karen Pape, MD, is a pioneer, rightly demanding that colleagues integrate the new science of brain plasticity as it applies to these children, and this is her cri de coeur, recording not only the new breakthroughs, but effectively explaining why, tragically, so many families are still denied these important interventions.”

When we get blurbs like this, we share them with our sales representatives who sell books to stores and libraries across Canada and the U.S. We also put this blurb, and several others, on the book description at amazon.

Reviews in publishing trade journals

Publisher’s Weekly is the big player, and you can pitch them for a review. Check their site for instructions on how and when to submit your book. It’s tough to get a review, but with Pape’s book, we scored an important one: “Using personal observations, case studies and published research, Pape makes a convincing case for a more optimistic prognosis for children with CP.” The review goes on to say: “The whole book will be interesting to parents and caregivers of children with Cerebral Palsy.”

Other important reviewers are Library Journal, Kirkus and Booklist. You have to pitch each one, and if you get a good review, it can help with sales to libraries.

Amazon reviews

These help in a big way to convince readers to buy your book from this important Internet retailer. Some say they are more influential than newspaper reviews. Get as many as you can. Here’s one of the early reviews for Dr. Pape’s book:

As an adult with cerebral palsy, I kept yelling, “YES! YES!” as I read “The Boy Who Could Run But Not Walk.” Finally, a book written by a doctor who “gets it” when it comes to cerebral palsy treatment.

John W. Quinn—Author of Someone Like Me—An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph Over Cerebral Palsy.

Paid reviews

Some people pay for reviews. At Barlow Books, we don’t play that game. Instead, spend your money and time creating a great book that’s worth reading for your target audience.

Blog post imageOn a Mission
Blog post imageHow Great PR Gets Books on Shelves of Stores