The Book Influencer

The Book Influencer is not just a person who influences people to buy a certain book.  They influence people to read more books.

I am starting a new series on this site about being a Book Influencer.  This site has been around for about a decade now (maybe longer). Going through the audit pages to see what people read on this site, I noticed there are a lot of hits from people wanting to know how this all works.  How do we become book reviewers? How do we get advance copies of books?

So to help answer those questions, I am starting this series to help you become a better book reviewer, and eventually a book influencer.

How I Got Into This…

After leaving the hockey writing world, I switched to writing about books.  I knew absolutely nothing about this. All I knew was that post-hockey, I wanted to focus on two things I loved: books and film.

I started off by attending the Book Expo. This was an annual event where publishers met with librarians, book sellers, and the media to talk books. The first conference I attended allowed book bloggers in. I attended several panels where I learned what publishers wanted from us in order to market their books. I memorized all of the rules, picked up my advance copies, and got to it.

The following year, I noticed I was the only blogger at the Expo. I went around to all of the publishers and asked if they had seen any bloggers there. Nope. I was the only one. Someone from Penguin Random House explained that the Big Five had a meeting about who they would allow to attend, and they decided to only allow five bloggers/book influencers. Apparently, there was an issue with the bloggers from the previous Expo. They had depleted their stores, wrote a tiny blurb (if they wrote anything at all), and that was it. It wasn’t enough to satisfy gifting these ARCs (advance reader copies) to them.

So how did I beat out everyone else? I found out from an old colleague that now works for HarperCollins that he saw my name on the list and he greenlighted me for all of the publishers. He told them he had known me for years, I was a former hockey writer, he knew I would do everything by the book and already had a history of doing so. So that’s how I became one of the five allowed to attend the Book Expo. I was actually doing the marketing that was requested of me.

Now, to save you some time Googling, the Book Expo is no more. The event did not survive past the pandemic. There are book festivals throughout the United States that you should definitely attend in order to meet with publishers and authors to learn more about being a book reviewer, and possibly pick up a few ARCs.

How Do I Become a Book Influencer vs. a Book Reviewer?

For me, moving from being a book reviewer to a book influencer was a little different than most. And yes, there is somewhat of a difference between the two (but not much). A book reviewer reviews books, posts their reviews on multiple platforms in a timely fashion (or at least, we try to get the reviews out by the week the book is released).

Depending on your social media platform, you’ll need to have some sort of post about the book on your Instagram, blog, TikTok, etc. You are basically doing the marketing and sharing your review of every title you receive.

Now, this is how the Book Influencer is a little different. I receive somewhere between 30-50 books each month. 75% of those books are not books I requested. Oftentimes, these books are just dropped into the mail or into my inbox or Netgalley/Edelweiss queue.

Now, I don’t read 30-50 books a month. I wish I could. I do read over 100 books a year, though. The question is which of these hundreds of titles will I choose to be among the 100 books I will actually read. Of those 100 titles, which ones are the ones I will actually post a review for? Which ones will I promote? Which ones will get a spot on my blog or Instagram?

As a Book Influencer, I can be a little pickier about which books I choose to feature. When I told publishers that I am only going to feature the books that are good enough to share to the masses, they actually got on board with this. This method is a very different kind of marketing. That means if your book is shared, that means it was a damn good book, and I will be promoting it on several different platforms. I will be pushing the sale of the book. This is like getting a feature in a magazine or in a newspaper. The space on this blog does not just go to every single book I read. It goes to the ones that I recommend people should read.

Now, since finding those gems takes some time, I still share the books I receive from all publishers. For Instagram posting, I do a monthly round-up featuring titles I received that are releasing that month. During each pub week, I will post a graphic of that week’s releases. For physical copies I receive, I try to do a weekly or bi-weekly bookstack. For book tours I sign up for, those books are always featured. There are certain publishing houses that get an automatic post of whatever they send (think Berkley – IYKYK), as well as Penguin Random House Audio.

I do not write a review for every single book I read. I sift through all of these titles looking for books that are the diamonds in the rough. I am curating books for people who love to read that don’t want to read a mediocre or bad book.

Trust me, I know how it feels to pick up a book and think you wasted your time on it. One year, I received so many horrible books from publishers, I literally sent a message to them going WTF. Every single title from your publishing house this season was horrible. That year, it took going through 35 different books (reading them from cover to cover) to find one book that was actually worth recommending to people. So I learned how to be more selective with the books I chose to spend my time on.

In the beginning, you will find that may be the case with you. You’ll read several bad books in a row. Being a good reviewer means learning which books to stay away from because it is not going to strike a chord with you. It takes some time to master this. It will also teach you how and when to DNF (not finish) a book.

The purpose of the book influencer is not just to influence people to read whatever book you are recommending, it is to encourage them to read more books. Recommending a bunch of bad books does not influence people to read more. But if you recommend a good book, or get excited about something you read, it gets your followers excited. It makes them want to go out and read that book. And when they read one good book, they want to read more.

As a book influencer, you are not pushing the books the publishers want you to push. You are trying to establish a reputation where you are trustworthy with the books you recommend. You want to encourage people to read more books. The way to do that is to provide them direction to which books they may love. These books are the ones you vet and then decide whether to promote them or not.

This is What Happens When You are an Influencer

Over the years, as I wrote reviews and shared books, I never really looked up from what I was doing to see if any of this was having any impact. But then I started noticing that I was making an impact on people.

People that followed me during my hockey writing career followed me into the book world.  One person (shoutout to Kim) went from reading five books a year to reading a bunch of books every year.  She even joined Bookstagram and became a book influencer.

People I went to high school with that followed me started their own book club because they were inspired by all of the books I was sharing.  The hockey community started reading and sharing their books more.  Even the friends I made in the media started their own book clubs and book talks.

I do have a lot of friends and followers that are celebrities (this comes from many years of attending film festivals, writing about hockey, doing interviews, etc.). They started prioritizing reading every single day. Imagine my surprise when they started posting about books! I swear I almost fainted.

Since I do not always do book reviews or suggest books, when I do, I see within the next day a bunch of followers run to purchase that book. I think they know the difference between a book recommendation vs. all of the other other posts I do. It’s the actual book that makes the blog review that is purchased.

This is what being a book influencer is all about.  It’s not just about marketing.  It’s about getting people to read more books.  The only way to really do that is to recommend good books.

If you think this is just about writing or posting content, you should see me in person. If I know you like to read and I know your genre, I’ll curate a bookstack for you that will have you reading more and more books. I love talking about books, but I also love helping people discover their next great read.

I hope this series will help the book reviewer community. Feel free to ping me (Instagram/Threads: @michellekennethpw) or leave a comment on any of the articles in this series if you have questions and I’ll do a post on it. For those seasoned reviewers and influencers, leave comments with advice that will help others in the book community. After all, if it wasn’t for the book community, I never would have figured all of this stuff out. Plus, there’s something new every single day to talk about.