Recently one of my author friends needed a couple of people to act as influencers. She asked me to give her the names of people who aren’t writers, which I think is a fine idea because readers in other professions will reach new audiences. I asked several people. None of them knew what an influencer is until I explained it. So when you are tasked to find influencers, feel free to direct them to this post.
Is an influencer the same as an endorser?
Not in the formal sense. An endorser is a recognized name, usually a popular author writing in the same topic or genre or a known authority in the field such as a doctor or pastor. That person writes praise for the book that will appear on the front or back cover or inside the book.
An influencer is a person who agrees to read a book with the hope that he or she will spread positive news about it. This person is viewed as a fan or friendly reader and doesn’t need to be a particular expert other than having read the book. Any reader can be an influencer, but librarians, book club members, and people with special interest in the era or topic are great choices.
How will being an influencer benefit me?
You will receive a hot-off-the-press book free of charge. You will be among the first in the reading public to see it!
Since there is no free lunch, what do I have to do in return?
The author and publisher ask that you talk about the book to your friends. They really appreciate when influencers post reviews on sites such as Amazon, CBD, and Goodreads. Note that some authors will say, “I will send you a book in return for an Amazon review.” If so, be sure you are willing to comply.
What if I hate the book?
You have a couple of options:
1.) With Christian charity and tact, admit your feelings to the party who sent you the book, and ask if it is okay for you to remain silent. But if you received a book out of nowhere from an author who apparently put you on a list with 1000 other people, you should be able to remain silent with no questions asked.
2.) If receiving the book was conditional and you must post a review, you can still ask to be let off the hook, again with Christian charity and tact. But if you can’t be excused, try to find a reason to give it four stars by discerning good points about it. After all, the author wrote the book, and a group of editors, publishers, and sales people thought the project worthy enough to invest a significant amount of money to bring it to the public. There must be an appealing character, a memorable quote, or something worthy to point out in a review.
3.) How about I just give up and lie about the book? Don’t do that. While influencers want to be positive, a meaningful review, even if a bit sunny, is better than doing others a disservice by giving a book the site’s highest rating. I believe most people realize a four-star review means the book could have been improved, so the star rating is a way for you to be honest without being hurtful.
4.) How about I just be brutally honest and give it one star as long as I say why? Don’t do that. If the book really deserves one star, plenty of others will be happy to point that out. Let them vent about a book, while you save your anger for a righteous cause.
I’m pretty sure I’m going to love the book and will be thrilled to post 5-star reviews everywhere and talk about it to my friends. Anything else I need to know?
Yes. You are part of the author’s marketing efforts so timeliness is helpful. You are helping with buzz!
1.) Don’t accept the responsibility of being an influencer if you can’t read the book within a couple of weeks or no longer than a month after receiving it. Don’t worry about declining because a busy author should understand you have other commitments.
2.) Be prompt with your feedback.
Most of all, enjoy the process. By getting out the word about great Christian books, you are working for God’s kingdom.
Have you ever been asked to be an influencer? What was your experience?
What was the hardest book review you ever had to post?
Do you put stock in book reviews before making a purchase?
Have negative reviews kept you from buying a book?
Have you ever posted a scathing review of a book? Why?
Amy Boucher Pye
Recently I was asked to review a book on marriage for a Christian women’s magazine in the UK. I said yes before knowing anything about the book. Turns out it holds up a different view of marriage than I do – complementarian vs egaltarian. What a tough review to write! I was already locked in by the time I read the book, and my husband had to give his views too.
I spent ages on the review and thought I was done, but the editor asked me to rewrite it, so I did. I found a couple good things to say but also said how my views differed. I tried to be nice but fair; don’t people also want a conversation when we don’t agree on certain issues?
Having said that, I’m not making an effort to broadcast my review on social networks…
Tamela Hancock Murray
Amy, I think some of the most interesting and helpful reviews address differences of opinion. I haven’t read your review, but I don’t think I’d be shy about sharing it. Seeing you handle a book with which you disagree with aplomb and courtesy may gain you many fans. Plus, you will be contributing to healthy debate on a crucial topic. Who knows? You might even garner a new book contract. As they say, stranger things have happened.
Amy Boucher Pye
Good point, Tamela. Interestingly, the magazine arrived in the mail today and having reread my review, I think you’re right that I could promote it, and promote the debate. Thanks for the encouragement.
I’ve been asked to be an influencer fairly often. I also participate in the CFBA as a reviewer, so it’s the same thing only a bit more organized. I haven’t felt compelled to post a bad review yet, though a few books probably weren’t great. It’s hard, as a writer, to post a bad review anyway. We know what it takes to write even a mediocre book. I think that makes it easier to find the good points.
Tamela, I’ve also been hearing about authors who recruit street teams to give their book more splash upon publication. Can you explain what that looks like? What’s a street team for a book (as opposed to one for a band giving a local concert)?
Thanks for the continuing education you and the authors at the agency provide!
I’m not Tamela, but I’ve been on 3 “street teams” in the last year and they all operate differently. All of them set up a private Facebook group for members to interact. One author provided free copies of the book for all members along with a list of required “tasks” in exchange (reviews on certain sites as well as other ideas for talking up the book). Another offered assignments like labeling a book a certain way on Goodreads. Another offered a q&a blog post for everyone to use. I don’t know anything about how successful these groups are for sales, but it seems like an organized way to generate interest. A core group of people excited about an author’s work and willing to tell about can generate some interest and sales, I would think. Hope that helps. Maybe Tamela can add to the response. 🙂
Tamela Hancock Murray
Lisa, you did a great job explaining. Thank you!
Thanks, Lisa. This gives me something to think about. Maybe I can add some creativity to this form of influencing. 🙂
I try to tell authors when I review a book on my blog that I may not get many comments, but I have quite a few people who tell me verbally what they thought of my post.
It seems like my non-writing friends are hesitant to comment on a blog but have no fear of texting me.
I usually read reviews of books when I shop on Amazon and find them to be helpful. If I can’t find something nice to say about a book, I don’t give a review.
I’m so glad you shared these tips with us today. Thanks.
Great article, Tamela. I appreciate your suggestions for when we have to give a less than stellar review. I’ve only been an influencer for two books so far, and it’s been a great experience. This is going to sound like a silly question, but if I post reviews on more than one site, do I need to write a unique review for each site or can I use the same for each site?
Tamela Hancock Murray
Jeanne, I believe each site considers reviews proprietary even though they are authored by the public rather than their employees. So yes, as far as I know, you need to express your opinion in different words on each site.
Oops! I didn’t know that, but now that I do I will comply (if reluctantly).
Oh! I’m so glad you mentioned that. I’ll definitely make sure I’m writing unique reviews. 🙂
I’d love writing a review or being an influencer–seems that’s what most of us humans are on this planet anyway, in one form or another! It would be quite a challenge if one were opposed to what the author was promoting. Perhaps that could be checked out “before” one was to write the review? But there’s always something to write about, express a view, and influence “someone somewhere”!
Tamela Hancock Murray
Patti, that is so true. Even if an author is new, a quick trip to the publisher’s web site can answer a lot of questions.
I was surprised to be asked to be an influencer the first time. I had only just learned how to post a review on Amazon. But now I’ve been an influencer for several CBA as well as ABA authors. Like you mentioned, I enjoy getting a hot off the press book and I love helping my fellow writers. I usually request an ebook, because my library is jam-packed.
The hardest review I ever had to post was for a popular CBA writer. I didn’t find the book compelling, but I pushed through it. At the end I gave my review a lot of thought, and Steve, I did pretty much what you suggested. I reminded myself of the thousands of readers who loved this author, the major publisher who bought the book, focused on the strong points and emphasized them. I’m pretty sure I gave it 4 stars. I think that author’s audience would agree with my review, and I didn’t say anything I didn’t mean.
Woops, sorry Tamela! I saw this post shared on Facebook, and it said Steve had written the blog! Mea culpa. 🙂
Tamela Hancock Murray
No problem, Dana. What a great compliment that you thought Steve wrote the post. 🙂
I enjoy helping promote new releases, so I’ve agreed to be an influencer many times. It’s easy to jump in when I’m familiar with the author’s work and already anticipate liking it. If I’m new to the author and discover that I don’t “love” the book, I can always find something positive to focus on when writing my review.
It’s different when I’m just writing as a “reviewer.” Then, along with positive comments, I may also slip in one or two things that I don’t like about the book or feel could have been done better. I would never write a scathing review. I couldn’t do that to a fellow writer.
Tamela, thanks for the suggestions about being an influencer. It’s good to have these to campare to what I already do as an influencer. I’m right in sync with what you said. I read the books in a timely fashion, post my reviews and spread them across my social media sites. Another thing I do is remind people a few weeks later about the author and their book. The authors I’ve influenced for have appreciated my efforts, and I’m grateful to them for considering me for the honor of being an early reader.
I’ve been an influencer and I’m on some “street teams” for authors whose work I would talk about anyway. What frustrates me is the star rating system is not consistent between sites. On Goodreads, a 3-star is “I like it” which I still consider a good book. On Amazon a 3-star is “It’s OK” while a 4-star is “I like it.” So, I sometimes end up rating a book with two different star ratings.
Your comment about giving a book a 4-star rating as an influencer interested me. Is a 3-star an insult? I rarely rate lower than a 3, although I have for some books I bought and/or received for free because they were just not good at all. I try to be fair, but sometimes a 3 star rating is fair. Just curious what that looks like to an author, publisher or agent.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Lisa, I haven’t read your reviews but I’m sure you explained your rating so that readers and authors felt you were fair.
I feel that a three-star means that the reviewer didn’t connect with the book in a meaningful way. The book was just OK. But some reviews are written in a way that the reviewer leaves readers with the feeling that a three-star is still a solid read.
Do consider that not everyone will read every word of every review, though. As you’ve seen since you are a reviewer, even one entry with a low number of stars can have a negative effect on a book’s overall rating. But when a book deserves a fairly low rating, then you really have other no choice than to be honest.
The fact you asked shows you are a sensitive reviewer and no doubt an asset to the publishing community.
I always read the reviews on a book before buying it. I confess, I read the one star reviews first, then work my way up two, three, four . . . I like to save the best for last so to speak.
I love writing reviews for books I like both to share a great book with friends and to help the author.
Like Leslie, I always read the reviews before purchasing a book. I know books receive those fours and fives from influencers (just as we’re talking about), so I want to know the good and the bad. I read the ones and twos then the fours and fives. I also read the first few pages to get an idea of the author’s style. Then I purchase.
I appreciate the input here as it does help me when I do reviews myself.