An Indie-author’s Quest for Book Reviews

As an indie-author/publisher, my work does not stop when a book is released. Unlike 4 years ago when I launched Immigrant Soldier, 2020, with its Covid-19 shut-downs, has made live visits to bookstores, libraries, and book groups impossible.  These days, my publicity efforts must center on social media and gathering book reviews.

Getting reviews is (and always has been) an integral part of publicity. However large media outlets and prestigious journals still practice a kind of “book snobbery.” They seldom review books that are independently published. What’s an Indie-author to do?

The process of getting reviews is far different than it was only a few years ago. The big journals, most of which now also have an on-line presence, (Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Foreword Reviews and the book sections of major newspapers like The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times) still attract librarians, publishers, bookstore buyers, and discerning readers. But these titans of literary judgement are very selective. They have limited space and prefer to review books released by the big, traditional publishers. They also often require a long lead time, as much as 6 months before a book is released, and that can be difficult for a small publisher. Still, an author can try.

A few of the big guys, notably Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Foreword Reviews, also offer reviews to authors willing to pay a fee. These fees can be high! A paid review with Publishers Weekly will set an author back $399, Clarion/Foreword charges $499, and a Kirkus review goes for $425 to start. In general, a paid review is not considered as creditable as one for which the author didn’t shell out money, though their reputation is gradually improving. So why would an author pay these high fees?
• A guaranteed review (though not guaranteed to be favorable).
• Control over publication (in case you don’t like what the reviewer wrote.)
• Full rights to use all or part of the review in your own publicity as long as you properly credit the reviewer.
• A well-known journal name may impress readers.

Link to my Kirkus review: kirkusreviews

The U.S. Review of Books offers professional reviews for a reasonable cost starting at $99 (extra publicity perks can be added for more money). I opted for the second tier up (called Plus) which included a link and a book cover image. I received a beautifully written RECOMMENDED review in a timely fashion.

Luckily, the internet has opened up the review climate making free-lance reviewers easier to find. Indie-authors can search a variety of sources including author sites, book blogs, and special interest blogs. GoodReads, a social platform for readers, blogs, review sites, and the reader reviews on Amazon have become go-to sources for many avid readers. In fact, more and more book lovers look to the recommendations of other readers like themselves that they find on

Finding freelance reviewers is a grueling task. In the last 6 months, I have spent many hours at my computer, researching potential reviewers, local newspapers, and book review web-sites. I read dozens of travel memoirs and contacted their authors. I checked out travel, RV, and van-life web-sites and Instagram accounts. I contacted the editorial staff of local newspapers. I wrote countless email requests introducing my book and asking for the favor of a review or even a short, one paragraph blurb.

Some contacts sent polite declines, a few remained totally silent, but occasionally a response came that lifted my spirits. After a yes answer, I sent the prospective reviewer an advance reader copy of my book either in paperback or as a pdf. Of the half-dozen books I sent out, only one writer did not returned the promised review. Most returned  blurbs rather than full reviews, but all were positive and contained something quotable. Yea! And a few were really lovely!

A travel blogger from Australia, a total stranger, returned a review that captured the soul of my memoir:

“In the 1970s, for the first time, it became possible for responsible, middle-class 20-somethings to work for a few years and gather enough cash to spend the next few years wandering the world. In 1971, together with her newly acquired husband Tom, Katie Lang-Slattery hits the road in a Volkswagen microbus with no destination in mind other than somewhere farther down the road. . . Wherever the Road Leads is a fond and evocative recollection of a world that has changed beyond all recognition. It’s not all roses and gilded sunsets but a heartfelt and sinewy account, full of fragrant moments as they roam free, laying down a bed of memories to treasure and share half a century on.” –  Michael Gebicki, travel writer, photographer and columnist at

In general, free-lance reviewers will post their review on Amazon and GoodReads and they all gave me permission to use their words in my publicity, on the back of my book, and on my web-site. GoodReads and Amazon feature reader reviews, so fans can become reviewers of any book they read.

The following are a few quotes from reviews for Wherever the Road Leads:

“Slattery is a good writer. Her smooth prose is injected with warmth, humor, and insightful observations of the many cultures she encountered. I enjoyed the sights, tastes, and details she relates experiencing on travels from Mexico to India, and many points between. . . . .Reading this book was experiencing a window of history, during a pivotal decade, pertaining to travel without the convenience of modern technology.” – Janilyn Kocher for Story Circle Book Reviews

“An unvarnished view of a massive trek from California to Central America to Europe, the Middle East and Asia, this book doesn’t skimp on detail but brings to life this astonishing adventure. Down to earth accounts of what the day to day life was, doing the laundry, bathing, buying food and cooking it in the very limited facilities of a Volkswagen van ground this account in the realities of travel-on-a-tiny budget so characteristic of the young of many countries in the early 1970s. It was a time of bravery, of a spirit of romance and adventure hardly seen since.” – Indie B.R.A.G. (Medallion Honoree)

“I loved reading this astonishing story – made more pleasurable for me by the frequent insertion of drawings, photos, and maps.” – Sue Boardman, reader

“If you’ve ever dreamed of a two-year camping honeymoon exploring the world, this book is a must-read. With Tom and Katie, you’ll camp and cook on the banks of the Tiber, sleep in a van under the Eiffel Tower, and discover markets from Marrakesh to Kathmandu.” – Georgeanne Brennan, author of A Pig in Provence-Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France.

“Delightful illustrations and vintage photos enhance the fascinating stories.” – Jill G. Hall, author of The Green Lace Corset.

“Youth does have its advantages and the skill and grit these two had was something beyond extraordinary. A delightful read, and one which you can thoroughly enjoy with gratitude—that you are simply reading and not having to tear that microbus apart one more time.” – Carole Bumpus, author of A Cup of Redemption and Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table.

“To travel the world in a Volkswagen van is a dream of many travelers. This account of a young couple who did just that will spark wanderlust and make you ponder the possibilities of hitting the open road. A remarkable adventure and a delightful read.” – Janice MacLeod, New York Times best selling author of Paris Letters.

“This rosy glow follows the couple throughout their escapades and encounters. Recreated dialogue and descriptions lend a ‘you are there’ feel to the story.” – D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

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Have you ever taken the time to write a review on Amazon or GoodReads? What makes you willing to take the extra time this takes?  If you do, we authors thank you.  Every honest review is welcomed!


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