Create a Rev/Test Page (reviews & testimonials)

Create a Rev/Test Page (reviews & testimonials)

For a writer’s website, one item I recommend is a single page of reviews and testimonials. This is sometimes referred to as a “rev/test” sheet (or web page).

Besides creating this online compilation of many brief blurbs of praise as a part of an online press kit (for a single book or for overall professional services), it’s also helpful to have a formatted version to print or email to interested contacts as needed.

(In general, “reviews” come from published sources, and “testimonials” are bits of personal praise or endorsement from individuals. A “blurb” is just a brief, often excerpted version of either type.)

A page of collected praise often leads with: “Read what people are saying about . . .” or “Praise for [you and your writing]” or “Testimonials from satisfied customers/clients” or something in that vein.

This page compiles your best blurbs from the most influential sources. It’s nice to have perhaps six to ten great quotes, short and sweet, praising your work. I recommend excerpting liberally with ellipses (. . .) to highlight the best phrases. Let the reader fill in the blanks. You want to give the impression that this is just a fraction of an immense pile of praise.

There’s a bit of an art to this. First, I usually skip a review (even if well-meaning) that hints of too-faint praise. Ditto for blurbs that are purely descriptive without any sense of the work being good and recommended. (Unless sometime notable is mentioned, like “includes an appendix of resources for . . .”). But better is a blurb that at least says “good” or “useful” (or better, “great” or “essential”) or some statement of real quality.

You need more than one or two blurbs to make it worth doing a rev/test page. At least one, especially a lead quote, should come from an impressive, influential source. A sheet of praise citing only minor sources looks weak.

However, minor sources are great to fill out a page once you have one or two big-time reviews. “Minor” means sources unlikely to be known or impressive to most readers. (Minor ones often can offer details not covered in the main reviews, or come from sources significant to a particular segment of your audience.)

For most blurbs, I like short and punchy. Why? Because this emphasizes the words you want people to remember. Think of the blockbuster novel described as “spellbinding” or “a real page-turner.” Do you really need to hear more?

For instance, for The New Writer’s Handbook, I often use this:

“Surprising and satisfying.” Library Journal (Starred Review)

A slightly longer version can work:

“. . . from the preface by Erica Jong to the closing piece by Mary Pipher, it surprises and satisfies.”
Library Journal (Starred Review); Sept. 15, 2007

But keep it short and sweet. Often it’s the source as much as the exact text. For librarians, the Library Journal name and the “Starred Review” phrase is as important a selling point as the review text itself.

Here’s an example of a rev/test sheet as a web page. (It’s from an occasional blog I maintain for odd bits of lore and literature about old-time music & fiddling. It’s a low-key spin-off from a book I wrote years ago, Farmhouse Fiddlers, from interviews with older fiddlers, mostly around rural Wisconsin, about the role of homemade music in community life.)

Praise for Farmhouse Fiddlers

That’s seven blurbs, an award or two, book specs, where the book is available. It’s the essential rev/test page.

Publishers often do this for a book’s press kit. However, as an an author, you should create and maintain your own version. Reviews and praise might come in long after a publisher has lost interest in updating a press kit or their website.

It’s an important part of your resume. It should be on your professional website or blog.

Marketing for Writers 101, dude! The “long tail” effect.

Here’s another version, from Trevor Corson’s website (for two books on lobsters and sushi). This is a great website, by the way. It illustrates how to develop an impressive site, reaching out long after a book’s pub date to collect news, photos, and far-ranging stuff on the book’s topic.

Praise for Trevor Corson’s books

Yes, you can repeat the best blurbs, sprinkled throughout your site. But a single page, with a long list of praise, has special impact.

Why is a rev/test page (and in general, any good review or testimonial) so important?

Let’s face it: You or your publisher can say your writing is the greatest thing since sliced bread. But that’s obligatory and obviously self-serving.

But if a third party (with some prestige) says that voluntarily, it suddenly becomes more believable!

Show me a half-dozen diverse sources that agree, and you’ve got a pretty good case that it’s actually the truth.

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