All writers need reviews and publicity for their books. For well-known traditionally published authors, it's not necessarily difficult. Your publishing house publicity office will send out advanced reading copies (ARC) to well-known reviewers who will publish their reviews in well-known book review publications. Piece of cake.
For the rest of us, however, not so simple.
You could, of course, do as many not-so-well-known authors do and ask your family and friends to read your book and leave a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and elsewhere. Or you could do what some authors have been accused of doing, namely buying up copies of their own book to jack up its sales rating, then leave five star reviews under false names.
I have never done either. Okay, I admit to being tempted to doing the latter, but I have never done it. No, really, I haven't.
When I published my first book, Duty, I really just stumbled through the process of getting it reviewed. I was a little more experienced in the effort when The Killing Depths, my second book, launched, but it was still a haphazard process.
By the time Empty Places, my third novel came out, I had it down to a science. I'd developed a system for not only getting reviews for my new releases, but publicity as well. And it's really quite simple.
Long before I release any new book, I create an Excel file for it. Within that Excel file I have separate spreadsheets, or tabs, for Reviewers, Interviewers, Reader Sites, Paid Advertising Sites, Press Releases, and so forth. Then I start my research.
While each Excel file will have the same tabs, the information in those tabs is often different for different books. For instance, Empty Places is a mystery thriller while my latest book, Eden, is a sci-fi novella. In the first instance, I had to find reviewers who read mystery thrillers; in the second, reviewers who read science fiction. Don't just ping the same people repeatedly. Start fresh with each book.
So how do you find reviewers? First start with Goodreads (GR). GR has several forums with reviewers looking for books to review. There's also a forum on GR where authors swap reviews. Goggle book bloggers and reviewers, find those that review your book's genre, and log their name and email in the Reviewers tab. Check out Amazon's top reviewers list and garner some names and contact information from that.
Once you get enough names, email each reviewer a personalized offer to send them an ARC. Include a well-written cover blurb. In your Reviewers tab, label columns for the date you queried each reviewer, the date they responded, whether they said yes or no, the date you sent them the ARC, and the date their review was published. Optional is another column with the URL of the published review.
Don't skimp on the number of reviewers you query. Think dozens, even hundreds, because most will not respond or will say "No, thanks," and others will take your ARC and never publish a review. Don't fret about that; it's just part of the game.
I do the same thing for people who do author interviews. Prepare to be, as we say in the military, Semper Gumby -- Always Flexible. Before Eden came out, I offered MilSciFi.com an ARC for a review. The editor responded that they were backed up on books to review, and offered me an interview instead. I think I got more publicity from that interview than I did from anything else.
In the Reader Sites spreadsheet, I record when I add my book to my author profile in each site. By Reader Sites, I mean web sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, Library Thing, iAuthor.uk, Literary Café, AskDavid.com, and others. And don't forget your author's page on Amazon!
I occasionally do some paid advertising on sites like The Fussy Librarian, usually for special occasions like an Amazon give-away or price drop. Again, I log each time I buy an ad and log when it appears.
I also send press releases out to local newspapers and magazines about my book launches, as well as nationally via free press release distributors like PRLog.com. The latter has gotten me publicity on web sites whose operators use those press release distributors to find content for their sites.
Is this effort time-consuming? You bet it is, but it's an
effective method of keeping track of your publicity and marketing efforts. In
the movies, you may be able to build a ballpark and "they" will come.
But in publishing, it just doesn't work that way.