Focused on getting professional reviews for authors, BlueInk Review is a valuable resource for those looking to publish a book. BookHive was able to get an interview with co-founder Patty Moosbrugger.
KB: What is your background in the publishing and writing world?
PM: BlueInk Review is run by two women with strong backgrounds in the publishing world. Patti Thorn was the books page editor at the Rocky Mountain News for over a decade. She chose all the books for the review page, hired and managed the reviewers of those books, interviewed authors and wrote a weekly column about industry concerns.
Patty Moosbrugger worked in the New York publishing world for well over a decade as well. She was rights director for major publishing houses and literary agencies before becoming a literary agent. She has represented several bestselling authors, including Louise Penny and Benjamin Saenz.
KB: Tell us about BlueInk Review and how it got started?
PM: About six years ago, we decided to start a business in the self-publishing world, which was beginning to explode. We realized that what authors really needed was a way to get honest, credible reviews that readers and books professionals could trust. We decided to start BlueInk Review to address this. We worked for a year designing our website to be user-friendly for readers and industry professionals, such as librarians, booksellers, publishing house editors and
literary agents. We wanted to attract these people so that they would use our site to find great books and help promote them, making the service more valuable to the authors that use us. We designed our search so that visitors could look for the genres they are interested in, as well as search for authors in different regions (which is of interest to librarians and booksellers, in particular), sales information on the book and any special honors or awards it has won — all information industry professionals appreciate. We have been going strong ever since. To date, we’ve reviewed more than 6,000 self-published titles.
KB: Who are your critics and how do you vet them?
PM: As noted earlier, Patti Thorn was books page editor at the Rocky Mountain News for many years, so some of the reviewers she worked with there came onboard. We also contacted the National Book Critics Circle, which sent out a notice to their membership that we were seeking reviewers. Many of our reviewers came to us after seeing that notice.
In terms of vetting, we use professional critics whose work has appeared in major newspapers, magazines and online publications. We also use authors and senior-level book editors from major New York publishing houses. In addition, we call on experts in their fields to review technical books. We require writing samples of published works before deciding if they would be appropriate and carefully select the proper reviewer for each book that comes in. For example, we have specialists in romance, science fiction, business, self-help and so on. Finally, every review is carefully edited to ensure that it offers a fair and balanced assessment of each book.
KB: A professional review for an independently published book, can you talk about the value of obtaining one?
PM: A professional book review, if positive, can act as a seal of approval for your book. It tells people that an objective, third party has read the book and found it worthy of a reader’s time. Readers feel assured that the critique is trustworthy, versus customer reviews that appear on sites like Amazon, which are often written by an author’s friends and family members. Readers have come to learn that customer reviews aren’t always what they appear to be.
A professional review is a powerful tool to use on press releases, social media, the author’s website and even the book jacket. Just like professionally published books, endorsements on the book jacket can compel readers to buy the book. A professional review can also be posted in the “Editorial Reviews” spot on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, which designates it as a professional review vs. crowdsourced. A BlueInk review is a trusted source that can be used just like major publishers use reviews from the New York Times or Publishers Weekly. It’s one more piece of information to get readers to pick up the book.
KB: A lot of authors who are self-publishing are trying to make choices within their possibly limited marketing budget, why should they choose BlueInk over other review services?
PM: BlueInk Review is trusted by librarians, booksellers and readers to offer honest reviews that give an accurate reflection of each book. (Many services devoted to self-publishers offer mostly positive reviews; we believe deeply in being candid so that the reviews are meaningful.) We are also one of the few review services dedicated exclusively to self-published books. This means, unlike others whose first allegiance and main business is to reviewing professionally published books and have tacked on services for self-published books, our first and only priority is independently published titles.
To that end, we have made it our mission to find the best self-published books out there and promote them widely. We have a column in Booklist Magazine, the premier review magazine for 60,000 librarians nationwide, who use the publication to make book-buying decisions. Every month, they publish a two-page spread of BlueInk reviews of notable books. Authors featured have told us that their books are being picked up by libraries across the country based on the column.
We also syndicate the reviews to Ingram, the major book distributor in the United States to bookstores and libraries. We list our books on IDreamBooks.com (a book review aggregator along the lines of Rotten Tomatoes). Reviews of notable ebooks are featured on the website No Shelf Required, which is popular with librarians globally. And we have forged a partnership with TotalBoox, a cutting edge source of ebooks for libraries, which distributes self-published titles based on our recommendations. As noted previously, our reviews are recognized as professional by Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which allow authors to list the reviews under the “Editorial Reviews” sections on their book pages.
These are just some of the ways we are helping to get the word out about self-published titles. Also, like other companies, we send out monthly newsletters featuring recommended titles to a mailing list of readers and industry professionals. Unlike other companies, however, these are not email blasts to hundreds of people taken from a group list, but go only to those who have expressly signed up, saying they are interested in self-published titles. This makes our lists much more meaningful than others. We are a small company that takes a personal interest in the books we review, unlike large houses. All told, we offer great value to our customers – value that we feel exceeds what other companies offer.
KB: What is the price point for your service and the turn around time?
PM: We have two prices. Our standard service is $395 for an 8-9 week turnaround time. We also have an express service for authors who want the review faster. That costs $495 with a 4-5 week turnaround time.
KB: Besides getting a review through BlueInk, from your experience, once a book gets a good review, are there other avenues you suggest an author take to promote their book specifically?
PM:There are many. Once an author gets a review, he or she should use it to the fullest advantage possible. We have a link on our website to an article about how authors can use their review. It gives instructions on how to list their review on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. We also provide a page that lists great websites where they can promote their book and ways to use their review to get more reviews.
Additionally, we have written many, many blogs with tips about how authors can effectively market their books, including interviews with publicity and marketing directors at New York publishing houses. Obviously social media is a key component to getting word about your book, and we’ve written very popular blogs that list specific groups on social media dedicated to various genres, and offer tips on how to best approach them. Authors who are interested can go to our site and click on “blog.” They can then click on the link “Marketing Your Self-Published Book,” where they’ll find a wealth of information.
BookHive would like to thank Patty for her thoughtful and insightful answers. There is a lot of usual information and tips in there! Be sure to check out BlueInk Review at https://www.blueinkreview.com
BookHive Corp. does beta reader editorial research for authors with Fiction (all kinds), YA/Middle Grade & Memoir manuscripts.
$699 for 8-10 beta readers, $1,099 for 16-18 beta readers.
The results are a 35+ page report full of quantitative and qualitative feedback.
Kim Batchelor is a recent graduate of University of Michigan and avid consumer of media. She is the Buzz Intern at BookHive and is working on creating her own blog.