How to Get Your Book Reviewed

Categories
Featured Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers

Authors, especially ones who self publish or publish with indie/small presses, understand the importance of getting their books reviewed. Promotion and consumer feedback are the lifeblood of a new release, and having readers write reviews* is a vital component to this. Not only will seeing reviews splashed across social media motivate onlookers to purchase, but they play a major role in how a book ranks and gets exposure on sites like Amazon and Goodreads.

(*by the way, if you’re a reader and you’re not regularly writing reviews, please consider starting now – Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, blogs, social media, anywhere. Seriously, it doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t even have to be glowing. Every single one helps)

row of scary old books

Before Your Book is Reviewed

Before you even begin reaching out to people for reviews, there are a few items you should have in order first:

  • Reassess your editing and formatting. You could have the most original story idea ever, but if your manuscript is riddled with typos of bizarre formatting issues you could lose someone right out of the gate. Many reviewers have a hard time overlooking such errors, so it’s certainly in your best interest to make sure your book has been edited and formatted correctly (ideally by professionals in those specifics areas)
  • Set up author accounts on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. These are the three main sites you’re going to want people to submit reviews to, so you will need to make sure your book is actually available to be purchased from and reviewed on these particular platforms. Ideally you will have set these accounts up far in advance of your book’s release date so readers/reviewers can explore them as soon as you begin reaching out.
  • Put together a media/release kit. If you’re releasing the book through a publisher, odds are some of this will be done by their marketing team. However, if you’re self-publishing, or if the press doesn’t do much outreach, there are a few items you should prepare before seeking out reviewers. These items include: copy of the book (either digital or physical, depending on your means), short press release (think of it as an advertisement for your book), plot synopsis, brief author bio, and finally author and book cover photos. Not every reviewer will want all of this, but the more you have ready the better prepared you are just in case.
  • Set up social media accounts. Having an established presence online is often critical to the success of your book. Not only is engaging on social media a great way to attract reviewers, but it’s an important part of marketing/promoting your work as well as yourself as an author. The main platforms being used are Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We recommend setting up accounts and engaging with the book community for at least a few months prior to asking for reviews. This gives people a better chance of knowing your name ahead of time, and possibly means they would be more receptive to your request.

Getting Your Book Reviewed: Thoughts from Actual Reviewers

So authors, wondering about best practices for getting your horror book reviewed? I have my own personal opinions on the subject, but I also decided to reach out to the review community for their input. Lo and behold, it basically matches what I said. If multiple reviewers are all saying the same thing, it’s probably worth taking note. Below are some of the most popular suggestions (including the reviewer’s name and Instagram handle):

“I always appreciate when an author takes the time to get to engage with me and get to know my interests better before reaching out. The initial review request should mention why I’m a good fit, what the book is about, what format you’ll send, and if you’re looking for a specific time frame (if you are I probably will say no because I can’t guarantee anything right now). Personally I’m fine with a DM, but I know some reviewers take emails more seriously. A good way to lose my interest immediately is to send communications that are brusque, incoherent, or impersonal.”


Ben Long (@reading.vicariously)

“I’m willing to review books for people who think I would be a good voice for their books, so they’ve taken me and my personality into consideration. They’ve interacted with me enough & approached me in a friendly manner. I am not willing to review books from people who have not followed me, have not interacted with me, don’t offer any kind of free copy, and don’t take into consideration stuff I like to read. I prefer physical copies for pictures, but I can make things work with an electronic copy. If you can offer physical copies though, definitely do.”


Melissa (@melissanowark)

“Flattery helps. I’ve had people approach me and say they liked my other reviews or they liked my aesthetic and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing theirs. Or they said they’ve seen what I’ve reviewed and think their book might be something I’d be interested in and asked if I’d be willing to give it a try…approach is everything. But an organic approach is best. I want to feel like you’ve taken time to see if I’d even be into your book. I’m also not interested in buying your book just to do you a favor because you “cold called me.” I’m far more likely to review if you offer me a copy and even more likely if you offer me a physical copy. I prefer them for photographing.”


Sarah (@thebookish_daydreamer)

“Find reviewers that specialize in your genre or have an interest in your genre. Accept a negative review as valuable feedback. Personalize your review pitch rather than copy and pasting generic ones. Once the review is written, return the favor by sharing the review with your audience. And finally, don’t chase a reviewer down and ask if they have read your book. It is ok to ask a reviewer for a time frame. If they give you one and its elapsed, it is then ok to follow up.”


Tali (escapereality4now)

“I appreciate it when someone tells me if they would like it read by a certain date or specifically the release date so I don’t have to ask. I’ve gotten excited about reading review copies and then when I ask they have wanted it done by the release date in a couple weeks or so and had to decline.”


Keely Fuse (@keelyfuse85)

“For me personally, an author has a higher chance of me reviewing their book if they have engaged with me in an organic way prior to asking. ALWAYS ask if you may send the book. Do not send a link in the initial contact. It shows you are not concerned with connecting with me as much as getting your book out. Authors should also survey my feed, read my other reviews, and check out my blog and socials to make sure your book is really a good fit for me. Physical copies are expensive so electronic copies are fine, but if you are going to send electronic for the love of everything good and pure do not send a PDF. Also, Do NOT expect a review to be completed by a certain time. Reviewers are human and this isn’t their job, its a hobby. Finally, continue engaging after I receive your book. Stay in the reviewers line of sight WITHOUT being pushy.”


Roxie Voorhees (@the.book.slayer)

“Don’t DM reviewers you don’t know asking for reviews. Go to their blog or look for an email address. Include promotional links and a summary. Don’t tell me you’ve written the best book ever written.”


Matt (@teamredmon)

“It’s important to be personal and real. Don’t send messages requesting a review for your book that appear to be copied and pasted and impersonal. Also, if you’d like your book reviewed in a certain time frame, be up front about that with your potential reviewers. I personally always consider a paperback copy to review over a digital copy due to eye strain from screen reading, but also because I find a physical copy to be easier to photograph and promote. I know all readers are different though, so having digital or physical copies available for reviewers is great, but I also know that is not always possible. When seeking engagement surrounding your book, build up hype, ask engaging questions related to the book topics, host giveaways, and interact with anyone who shows an interest in your writing or the genres you write in.”


Amanda (@spooky.octopus.reads)

“Bullying or unbecoming behavior will not be tolerated and I will sever ties completely if needed. My interest has already been piqued by the time I’ve chosen a book and that spine has been cracked open (or the Kindle powered on). I am your target audience, as such I don’t necessarily need to be won over but I am your reader to lose.”


Zakk Madness (@zakkmadness)

“Be cool, be not creepy, be nice.”


Ashley (@spookishmommy)

To reiterate, here are the reviewers’ top “Dos” and “Don’ts” summed up:

DO

  • Engage authentically with potential reviewers
  • Have organic interactions with potential reviewers (likes, comments, shares, tags, etc)
  • Express understanding of a reviewer’s interests and genres they prefer
  • Consider the manner and medium with which you make first contact
  • Offer physical copies if possible, but if not then check to see if digital is fine (typically MOBI or EPUB)
  • Scan your messages for typos

DON’T

  • Communicate aggressively (audacious tone, repeated messages, commands to buy your book, etc)
  • Pressure the reviewer
  • Demand specific deadlines (requesting a time frame may be fine, as long as the reviewer is on board and the understanding is that the deadline may not be met)
  • Assume everyone wants to read your book
  • Harass people who leave negative reviewers
  • Act in a trolling, bullying, or otherwise unpleasant manner online (you never know who could be a potential reviewer that you’ve turned off with inappropriate/negative behavior)

After Your Horror Book is Reviewed

So you’ve gotten a review (or twenty)? Hooray! While you should bask in the glow of knowing people are reading and writing about your book, don’t stop there. To really get the most out of each and every review, consider doing the following:

  • Keep engaging! It’s important that your engagement has been authentic, and a reviewer’s positive experience means they will be much more likely to review future books down the line.
  • Write a thank you! Reviewers like knowing you appreciate their feedback. Even if the review was less than stellar it shows you’re willing to listen and engage as an author.
  • Use those reviews! Share quotes from positive reviews on social media, marketing/press materials, your website, and even on the book cover (if you got them in before print or if you end up reprinting) – anywhere you can share the good things people are saying about your work.

The Bottom Line

Obviously there’s a lot more that goes into the success of a book release (including social media marketing, promotional giveaways, blog tours, and even the right cover to name a few things). But when it comes to successfully pitching your work to reviewers and bloggers in your niche, following these tips will go a long way in helping get your horror book reviewed!

Advertisements

Join Us

Ice Cream Man, Volume 1

Categories
Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books Reviews

Your average storybook monster is, to be sure, frightening. Your vampires, zombies, bogeymen, ghosts and ghouls are often horrifying and quite deadly. But beyond these classic creeps, I believe there’s a particularly unsettling perversion when one takes something playful or innocent and twists it to evil. When comical clowns become stalking killers. When staring dolls begin haunting households. At this point it’s an overused trope to be sure, but still one that I find truly chilling. And Ice Cream Man Volume 1 is chilling!

Puzzle Box may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Ice Cream Man vol 1 horror comic cover
Ice Cream Man, Vol 1 horror comic cover

Yet even more disturbing and dangerous are the horrors that lurk in plain sight, hiding behind false smiles or inside the people we trust. In the real world the metaphor of “monster” drops away and the true ugliness of humanity is revealed. Murderers, rapists, pedophiles, psychopaths – even the scariest of creations don’t hold a candle to these that are both frightening and frightfully real. Give me Bigfoot over Bateman and Bates, Dracula over Dahmer and Bundy, Wendigo over Weinstein…you get the idea. 

So now we come to Ice Cream Man, Volume 1. The setting is suburban, idyllic, a 1950s American Dreamland (but with more racial tolerance). Up drives the titular treat seller, playing the tune we all have engraved in our ears from when we were kids. He’s full of pleasantries and colloquialisms as he hands out all the favorite flavors. Yet something is off. There is rot beneath the sugar sweet veneer. A shadow passes over his face. The eyes turn menacing, the grin sinister. And suddenly this harmless character from our youth transforms into something much more nightmarish.

ice cream man art from Ice Cream Man horror comic
“Lickety Split”

I really enjoyed my reading of this first volume in the Ice Cream Man series. Writer W. Maxwell Prince has structured it as a collection of short stories, varying in their plots yet tethered together by themes and the enigmatic Ice Cream Man. “Raspberry Surprise” is about a boy whose venomous spider has killed his parents, but he doesn’t tell anyone. “Rainbow Sprinkles” is about a pair of doped up lovers, one dying and the other distraught yet still hankering for her next fix. In “Good Ol’ Fashioned Vanilla” we see the washed up one-hit wonder Bud Hickey journey to a fantasy world full of rock legends who need his help. And finally, the last story “Every Good Boy Does Fine” is about a man giving the eulogy at his best friend’s funeral while his friend is trapped in an ever-changing hellscape. 

I love how different the stories are, and yet how connected they all feel. Each story has a self-contained arc, but pervasive in all the characters is a sense of immense suffering, whether from emotional pain, boredom, regret, or loneliness. And of course there’s the otherworldly Ice Cream Man who, whether he is a main character or mostly in the background, plays some important part in each tale. He is certainly not one to be overlooked, and he doesn’t let you forget that. It’s also difficult to pin down exactly who or what he is, as he seems to shift from friend to foe and from god to demon. Regardless, what is clear is that he enjoys playing a cosmic, and often deadly, role in the lives of these suburbanites. 

The art is a little different from most horror comics I’ve read, but it seems to fit the vintage-meets-surreal style the series is going for. The characters in particular are drawn in an interesting manner, with faces and features that are slightly Mike Judge meets Junji Ito

sweet place art from Ice Cream Man horror comic
Stuck in the Sweet Place

I will say that Martin Morazzo’s sharp-lined illustrations and Chris O’Halloran’s bold colors work well together in bringing these twisted tales to life. I also particularly like the design of the pages, which usually include a full image background broken up by smaller panels of action and dialogue. It’s a fluid and integrative composition that helps give a sense of immediacy and intimacy to the story.

Ok, I’ll admit it: I’m hooked. I’ve heard the off-kilter jingle and tasted the sickly-sweet treats, and I want more. Ice Cream Man, Volume 1 is a fun and frightening collection of intertwined short stories, full of lifelike characters experiencing bizarre and unnerving turns of events. If the rest of the series is this good then we have a new pop culture icon in the making, and I need to get my hands on the next volume. Lickety Split.


Ice Cream Man, Volume 1 is available now from Image Comics.

Advertisements

Join Us

Jennifer Strange – Demon Hunting and Ghost Curses

Categories
Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books Reviews

Young Adult (YA) and horror are two genres that I have a lot of affection for, and so it stands to reason that a book combining both of those should be one I would truly enjoy. Of course you have your celebrated series such as Goosebumps and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, but it’s been years since I’ve read those and I’ve been looking for something new. Enter the recent YA horror Jennifer Strange by Cat Scully.

Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange is the Sparrow, cursed with the ability to give ghosts and demonic spirits a body-a flesh and blood anchor in the mortal world-with the touch of her hand. When a ghost attacks her high school and awakens her powers, her father dumps her unceremoniously in the care of her estranged older sister Liz, leaving only his journal as an explanation. Drawn to the power of the Sparrow, the supernatural creatures preying on Savannah, Georgia will do anything to receive Jennifer’s powerful gift. The sisters must learn to trust each other again and uncover the truth about their family history by deciphering their father’s journal…because if they can’t, Jennifer’s uncontrolled power will rip apart the veil that separates the living from the dead.

Wow, I had SO much fun with this book! There’s an element of mystery to it right from the beginning, but then it also turns fairly gruesome and horrifying very early on. It reads like a typical YA book, so I was actually caught off guard (in the best way) by the brutality and pulse-pounding scares of our protagonist’s first major paranormal encounter. It’s violent, it’s instantly memorable, it lasts for three glorious chapters, and it instantly hooked me into the book. From that point on reading this was pure bliss.

I’ve seen this book compared to the Supernatural and Evil Dead franchises, and those are the two that really resonate with me (sorry, I never watched/read any Buffy). Much like the Winchester brothers, Jennifer and her older sister Liz were born into a demon-hunting family of sorts and are forced into taking on the family business as they search for their missing father. And much like the demons called forth from the Necronomicon, the spirits here are vicious, relentless, and feature a fair amount of gore and bodily fluids. I also liked that a paranormal attack (be it regular ghost, Wraith, Banshee, or something else) could literally come out of nowhere at any moment. Fortunately Scully balances this well with slower scenes and moments of character building, and the pacing works really well.

Puzzle Box Horror may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Jennifer Strange horror book cover

Speaking of characters, I really like Jennifer as a main character (and I even grew to like her sister Liz). She’s caught in a new world of surprises and is having to deal with some heavy discoveries while fighting for her life. Not only is she sympathetic and realistically detailed, but her struggle with her newfound power and its damning implications is incredibly compelling. I also liked the character Marcus, and I’m glad he was written with care and complexity. Unfortunately those three are the most fleshed out characters. We learn enough about the others, their personalities and motivations, to get their relation to the plot, but I wish they were given opportunities to be as dynamic as Jennifer, Liz, and Marcus. 

The other thing that I didn’t like as much is the ambiguity that floats in and out of the pages. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the climax hinges around a series of events that, while epic and interesting in their telling, are overall a little confusing at times. And there are certainly pieces to the puzzle missing, though as this is the first in a trilogy I must presume they will begin to fall into place in later books. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I loved that it is set in Savannah, GA (the perfect place for a ghost story), I loved some of the twists and turns, I loved the variety of ghouls, and I loved the pacing, structure, and characters. Yep, lots to love here! I also thought it was really neat how the book splices in pages from their father’s journal, including his diary entries and illustrations from their mother. Made for a cool dynamic to chunk the story and break things up. Jennifer Strange fits very well into the YA horror genre, and I think it’s a story that both teens and adults will find worth reading!

Advertisements

Join Us

Rise of the Goatman – Your Typical Night in the Woods

Categories
Best Of Best of Comics Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books Reviews

Rise of the Goatman (2020) feels like a teaser for a compelling slasher series that explores the Maryland-based legend of Goatman. This book has a plot as bare bones as they come, providing just enough intrigue and dread to make you salivate. It’s all guts and no filler. There is no exploration of character or why Goatman is hellbent on splitting-up and splitting apart couples. It’s no different from finding yourself at Camp Crystal Lake on Friday the 13th: You’re simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Art from Rise of the Goatman featuring a man and a woman dricing a car

For those who are new to the urban legend of this ax-wielding man-beast, Goatman was a creature that preyed upon the local lover’s lane in Fletchertown Road, Maryland or at least that was the tale that the teenagers spun. His origin can also be traced to a sinister experiment conducted on goats that took place in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Supposedly, this terrible act transformed one of these poor creatures into a vengeful, predatory beast that terrorized the wilds in the surrounding area.

This account builds off of the legend and follows a family that decided to spend their vacation in a seedy cabin in the woods. When they arrive at the cabin they are greeted with a plethora of signs signaling that maybe they should pack up and return home, but vacations only come every once and awhile so why waste it? Unfortunately, their decision has grisly consequences as they discover the Goatman, who’s sure to ruin their plans.

This simple story is perfectly paired with minimalistic art that is full of dark spaces and cinematic imagery. The illustrations reminded me a lot of the cel animation from A Scanner Darkly (2006) executing a fine balance between realism and minimalism. With the identity of a slasher, it doesn’t actually rely on gratuitous violence and instead employs a Hitchcockian approach by leaving a lot of the kills up to the reader’s imagination. While it works for the most part, there is a brutality to Goatman that goes missing in its simplicity. 

For a short comic in a single setting, we are treated to an extensive cast of characters that only serve as mincemeat for the sinister satyr. However, once the bodies start dropping and the titular villain takes the stage, the ride becomes all too brief as it speeds through kill after kill. 

Rise of the Goatman horror comic art featuring a man wit ha gun by a cabin

Goatman charges in full of sound and fury, but it’s curtains before you notice he was ever there. If the goal was to wet your appetite for more of this sinister Billy, then this one definitely hits the nail. You can’t call it in an origin story since this book adds little to no lore about this horned villain, but it serves as more of an introduction of the havoc that is to come. He’s been unleashed and I can’t imagine that this is the last we have seen of him. This book is very much a catalyst to a larger series that can potentially give this horror legend the spotlight it deserves as it leaves a messy trail of lads and lassies who should have just canceled their vacation plans.

Rise of Goatman is available now digitally from Afterlight Comics.

Advertisements

Join Us

Signup to our newsletter