Interview about the review with Carolyn Howard-Johnson


I sent this email to Carolyn in early September. She replied, and we ended up with an interview all writers will find illuminating.

And please note: one person who leaves a comment will be randomly chosen to receive a FREE copy of the book we are chatting about.


Carolyn, I have just published the next issue of my Bobbing Around, and suddenly realized that I haven’t received notification of your newsletter for a few months.

I hope this doesn’t mean something dire.

Please let me know how things are with you.


It means that I almost have the third book in my HowToDoItFrugally Series done! It’s been tough going. Would you like a copy to review? It’s How to Get Great Book Review Frugally and Ethically. And it’s a tome!

Thank you so much for caring.




Can you get a book review expensively and unethically?


Yes, if you pay for it it’s too expensive. Especially when you can get lots of them free and especially when the ones you get free are more ethical from a journalistic standpoint. When you pay for a review it is by definition suspicious to much of the professional publishing and media world. No matter how “fair and honest” the reviewer tries to make it, those in the publishing industry can usually tell money changed hands to get it. They are very unlikely to be impressed by the good things that reviewer has to say.

And it probably won’t be all that “fair and honest.”

So, why would an author want to do that when they can get reviews free. And keep getting them for the good of their book. They will be free, honest, and essentially forever (or for as long as the author wants to continue to promote his or her book), and they will be trusted.


Don’t you feel that venues such as Kirkus reviews and US Book Reviews have a high standing, and so people paying for them get value for money? Mind you, I never have paid.


They do have a high standing. Which is why they should have thought twice or maybe a dozen times before succumbing to the need of an additional profit stream. When an author discovers that a review they paid $300-$500 for isn’t respected by people in the industry (who know the paid-for review from a legitimate review) those journals lose a little bit of respect at a time.

Further, those paid-for reviews get put into a separate section apart from the legitimate reviews in the journal. It’s true! They do! So even casual readers may eventually ascertain that they are only second class reviews. I fully explain other aspects of the publishing industry that unsuspecting authors may not have a handle on yet in my new book How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. I even quote from some publishers who have been soured on the kind of reviews they get from these entities. In other words, they are paid for and they still aren’t enthusiastic enough about their contents that the publisher can’t extract a great blurb from them.

Bob, we authors must take some responsibility for these problems. We need to do due diligence–maybe even more when we are new than after we have been around a while. Books are a very frugal way to learn from experts before we make big-money decisions that don’t benefit our books.


Thank you, Carolyn. I’ve learned several things from this short reply alone. I wonder how many other gems your book contains!

But, staying with paid publicity, what about cheaper options, which charge under $50 for various services? I’ve always shied away from them, for the simple reason that I’ll merely get lost in the great crowd of other customers. Well, I succumbed once, and paid $14 for a listing. It was so well hidden that I couldn’t find it myself.


Bob, I guess that’s one good reason to read how-to books by authors who have been around a while. They usually share what works and what has worked for them (at least I do). And sometimes I even tell people the things I’ve tried and hated. There are several ideas in How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically I liked — things that cost considerably more than $50, too. I try to find the ones that have benefits worth the cost. One of them is the paid-for help one can get with online book tours. The reasons they can be worth it are listed in this new book and two of the services I’ve used and liked are listed in the book, too. Hint: Denise Cassino and Nicki Leigh. 🙂 Once you know some of their secrets for online book tours, you can do it on your own — professionally — forever after.


Thank you, Carolyn. But do blog tours sell books? For that matter, do reviews sell books?


For that matter, does any one thing we do in marketing sell books? It’s hard to tell which one. But when all of it is taken together, absolutely! 🙂 And remember, it’s not only about book sales. It’s about career-building (maybe so eventually we sell more books? ) The magic words here are “campaign,” “persistence,” “motivation” and, of course, “knowing the ropes.”


Carolyn, you’d better enlarge on that. Career Building?


The more your title gets seen, (even if it doesn’t result in a sale), the more you get known. Even more important, the more your name gets seen, the more likely a reader will eventually buy a book. Especially when its tied to authentic and memorable endorsements, either free-standing endorsements or those extracted from reviews. And, remember, online reviews often have permalinks. That’s a word — obviously — derived from permanent. So, your reviews increase your title and name recognition about as long as you want them to — maybe until you kick the bucket. Not that I’m looking forward to that.


OK, Carolyn. Suppose someone has read both your previous Frugal books. What does this one add?


Oh, lots! It’s really a fat book! But the topic of reviews deserves that kind of attention because it is such an important part of any book’s marketing campaign. Let’s see. It covers reviews and how to excerpt great blurbs (endorsements) from reviews. Here are just a few more:

a. Review scams. We touched on some of those in this interview. But there is lots more to say.

b. Why you need to get reviews — of course!

c. How to circumvent book bigotry — which is still out there, though nowhere what it was in the early 2000s.

d. Preplanning, including building reviewer lists, planning for an e-book pre-order plan, and how to get around some of the big review journals’ dreadful (from an author’s perspective) deadlines.

e. How to write a query letter that’s a cut above the competitions queries — and avoid ticking off reviewers.

f. Lots on how Amazon can help authors through reviews and related benefits.

g. And how to manage reviews and make them work for you. (Stuff like when to complain about reviews and how and how to get reviews back when they suddenly disappear from Amazon.

Really, this is a book that covers topics that many would have to struggle to find piecemeal, if they could find them at all.

By the way, I happen to know that you know that writing reviews of others’ books is part of a great marketing plan. Trouble is, many authors don’t know how to make those reviews really work for them (meaning get them the most possible exposure). This book helps with that, too. The Contents is on my pre-promotion page for How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career. It will be released very soon — I’m hoping by the end of September, 2016.


Carolyn, good luck with this book.

Also, I feel honored that I was the FIRST person you shared the cover with.

Thank you for gracing Bobbing Around with this interview.

Book cover design by Chaz DeSimone.


About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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7 Responses to Interview about the review with Carolyn Howard-Johnson

  1. Karen Cioffi says:

    Great interview! I have Carolyn’s other two Frugal books and will be adding this one on book reviews to my collection!


  2. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Difficult to type on a keyboard like that!


  3. Carla Moora says:

    That was a very interesting and informative interview, Bob. Thank you for sharing it!


  4. Dr Bob Rich says:

    And thank you for commenting, Carla.


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