What Role Do Influencers Play?


One of the services a traditional publisher provides is working with authors in regard to getting publicity about books through word of mouth. This piece of the publicity puzzle is more important for trade books than for mass market books because they fit into an established line and are less author-focused than trade books. Trade books rely more on author identity and brand recognition to be successful. This is why traditional publishers ask writers to provide lists of influencers for their books.

Who Might Be Influencers?

Often after you are contracted, the publisher will ask the author for a list of influencers. In return for spreading the word about your book, many publishers will provide a copy to the influencer free of charge. Already your agent has insisted that you include a list of potential endorsers in your proposal. Chances are good that not all of your potential endorsers were asked for formal endorsements, so begin with the remaining friends who already know you, like your writing, and support you in your career. When asked for a larger list, choose wisely. Most likely you’re a member of a writers’ organization such as The American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Authors Network, Romance Writers of America, or other organizations that offer you a network of potential readers. Choose people who will be willing to post reviews on Amazon, ChristianBook.com, Barnes and Noble, and other sites to get visitors excited about your book. Also consider popular bloggers and book reviewers who have demonstrated an interest in and love for the type of book you write and include them as well.

What If I Am Asked to Be An Influencer?

If an author asks you to be an influencer, don’t accept unless you have a proclivity to like the type of story the author writes and you can really get behind the author’s work. One author I know asked people not to post a review of her work unless they could give it five stars. Sometimes this is not an option and you are asked to review the book regardless. If you must review a book you thought you would love, but turned out to be disappointing, be sure not to trash the book, the editor, the publisher, or the author. Even if you never intend to write books yourself or ask a return of favor, trashing anyone’s work is simply bad form. Every book is published because a group of people found the work meritorious. Do your best to find something positive to say about the book. But don’t lie!

In our publishing industry, we are all striving to serve the Lord with our best. By agreeing to be inflluencers for the work of others, and by taking the responsibility seriously and with kindness, God’s kingdom will be glorified. Happy reading!

Your Turn:

Did a negative review ever keep you from buying a book? Have you ever been an influencer?

21 Responses to What Role Do Influencers Play?

  1. Timothy Fish December 15, 2011 at 4:20 am #

    It is really funny reading reviews written by well known authors, sometimes. Some of them are well practiced at writing reviews without actually saying anything at all.

  2. Sharon A Lavy December 15, 2011 at 5:22 am #

    I do not review all the books I read. Reading is subjective and if I cannot honestly give a 4 or 5 star review, or as in one case, the ending was terrible, I won’t post a review. As a reviewer I have a responsibility to the readers of my reviews, as well as the author.

    If I find value in a book, that is when I post a review.

    • TC Avey December 15, 2011 at 6:24 am #

      Sharon, I tend to do something similar. When I review for BookSneeze I post an honest review on all books, but I try to always to it in a positive light.
      However, when I read a book on my own, if I really like it or think it has a good message I will post a review. I won’t post a negative review on a book I read on my own. No matter what, I think one can be creative in posting reviews and need not be mean in order to be honest.

    • Iola December 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

      Yes, reading is subjective, but if you read a book that really is terrible, why shouldn’t you post a review? If you don’t like it, other people will also not like it, and they will appreciate the tip-off. Otherwise, they may well buy this book, loathe it, and vow never to read another book by that author again. I would have thought that losing a reader forever was worse than losing one sale.

      Many negative reviews on Amazon (especially for the free books) are along the lines of ‘this was ok until it started talking about God in every sentence’. I can happily ignore those reviews and buy/read the book regardless, because if there is enough mention of God to annoy that person, I will probably like it. Equally, I appreciate the reviews (positive or negative) that mention plot points I don’t want to read about (like cheating).

  3. Lindsay Harrel December 15, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    I don’t usually read reviews, but rather, read a book based on word of mouth; if a friend of mine likes the book and tells me to read it, I usually do.

    I haven’t been an influencer yet, but have volunteered for the job when a blogging buddy’s first book comes out this May. I’m excited to get behind her work and help get others to read it.

    • TC Avey December 15, 2011 at 6:25 am #

      It’s exciting when friends get published! I can’t wait to support some of my friends in the future and hope to have them support me!

  4. Rick Barry December 15, 2011 at 7:06 am #

    I was somewhat surprised one time when an author I didn’t personally know requested I read her upcoming novel to give it an endorsement. Problem was, her story was basically a romance. Since I only occasionally read romances (usually Nicholas Sparks type books) and don’t write them, I declined. I considered myself unqualified to give what she wanted. I hope that author found more appropriate readers to endorse her project.

  5. Tamela Hancock Murray December 15, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    I think all of you are doing a great job in handling what can be sensitive situations. Kudos!

  6. Lance Albury December 15, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    Negative reviews definitely have an impact with me. I read the good and the bad reviews to see if I can identify pure objectivity.

    It’s easy to spot author-friends and influencers in the 4 and 5-star reviews–those are fairly worthless. Conversely, it’s easy to spot undue criticism in the negative reviews. It all depends on if a reviewer can articulate their reasons with substance and convince me to feel the same.

  7. Sharon A Lavy December 15, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    What has meaning for me in reading books is relationships. So I will zero in on this when I post a review, even if the book is a romance.

    How was a parent-child relationship healed? Or a sibling relationship? Or what is the take home value?

  8. Christina Suzann Nelson December 15, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    I received Where Wildflower Bloom, by Ann Shorey, in the mail the other day. I’m thrilled to be an influencer for this book. I’ve loved Ann’s last series and so far, I love this book too.

    • Ann Shorey December 15, 2011 at 9:28 am #

      Thank you for the mention, Christina! Can’t wait for the day when I can be an influencer for you!

  9. Patrick Craig December 15, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    Very timely article. As a first-time about to be published author, I was going to ask my agent 🙂 the very questions addressed in this post. Thanks Tamela!

  10. Cecelia Dowdy December 15, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    I can’t say that a negative review has ever kept me from reading or buying a book. I know that what some may dislike, I might find enjoyable. I’ve influenced many books because I enjoy Christian fiction so much. It’s a joy to help other authors get the word out about their books, hopefully helping them to garner more sales.

  11. Ann Shorey December 15, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    I appreciate the suggestions you made to potential influencers, Tamela. “Don’t trash the book” is great advice. The only 1-star review I ever received was from a so-called influencer. 🙁 Needless to say, I was stunned. Not that I believed my book was the greatest, but that someone who offered to be an influencer would be so unkind.

    Love the Laube Agency blog. I read it every day–just don’t comment much.

  12. Rachel Wilder December 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Reviews don’t factor at all into what I buy or don’t buy. I ignore them. But I also recognize I’m in the minority and that other people find them very helpful.

    I do influence from time to time. Usually for a book I’m really excited about and have watched come together from the very first seeds of the idea.

  13. Hilarey December 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    Reviews do influence me. I buy books based on specific reasons though. Just “a great book” doesn’t get my attention. And if the reviewer gives everything five stars–then I disregard their review completely.

    I recently purchased a book solely because of a negative comment/review. Therefore I try write reviews as honest as possible so the reader can see what I didn’t like about it.

    When reviewing for for someone as a favor, I only post it if I liked it.

  14. Peter DeHaan December 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    I can’t recall a negative review ever keeping me from buying a book that I was interested in.

    Unfortunately (for me) I have been influenced to buy books — which I ended up not liking — by overly positive reviews.

    As a result, am shying away from reading book reviews. (Though I still do write them!)

  15. Iola December 15, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    I don’t agree with your comment “Every book is published because a group of people found the work meritorious.”. While that is true of trade-published books, it is most certainly not true of many self-published books (or those printed by paid-for publishers like Publish America). Some of these seem to appear on Amazon without having been read by anyone other than the author, and I have difficulty seeing the merit in a book riddled with factual errors and spelling mistakes.

  16. Tamela Hancock Murray December 16, 2011 at 4:33 am #

    Iola, you have a good point, though I am not familiar enough with self-publishing to discuss that process. My understanding is that self-published authors must do their own marketing or hire someone to do it for them. I am not sure how many of these authors pursue influencers.

  17. Laurie Alice Eakes December 16, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    I’m often asked to be an influencer. I do it when I can, and if I don’t like the book, I just don’t post a review. I won’t lie, and I won’t trash another author. To me, that is the height of bad taste.

    Readers who trash books are one thing. Other authors who do come off sounding a bit sour grapish, esp. if they aren’t much published.

    One thing that is annoying, though, is the readers who post nasty reviews that have nothing to do with the story. Example: Hero and heroine did X all the way through the book… When hero and heroine never do x all the way through. That is a reader with an agenda, usually those who pick up freebie books not realizing their Christian, and object to the message and think one exclamation to God for help is constant praying–or whatever.

    Where is the graciousness? Why do readers and especially other authors, have to trash something for which they didn’t pay a penny?

    Opinions are, of course, like brains: we all have one; some just choose not to use theirs wisely.

    On another note, I think what Tamela meant by the meritoriousness of any book that’s published only includes those that have gone through an editorial review process, not those where the editor, reviewer, and purchaser of the novel is the author himself. That’s a whole other animal and one an agent would probably be considered a bit biased to discuss. 🙂

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