Book reviews sell books. Although we all like to see glowing reviews, surprisingly even some bad reviews can sell books. However, getting reviews can be challenging when you are a new, unknown author. Here are some tips on what you should (and should NOT) do to get your book reviewed on Amazon and elsewhere.
Go for pre-publication reviews.
Don’t wait for the book to be “on the street” before asking for reviews. Most of the major publications, such as Publishers Weekly, require that you send an advance galley months before the publication date. They will not even look at a book that has already been published and released. You can use a printer such as Lightning Source or Amazon’s CreateSpace to get galleys made. They should be clearly marked as pre-publication copies. John Kremer suggests, “go ahead and use your real cover on your galley copies, but over print with a banner or attach a bold sticker saying Advance Review Copy Only.”
Identify possible reviewers and approach them.
Are there book bloggers, industry experts or others who might be interested in reviewing your book? Contact them and offer a print or electronic copy of your book if they would like to review it. Ideally, they will post their reviews online as your book is released to create buzz around the launch.
Look for Amazon reviewers who review books in your genre. Do a search for books that are similar to yours and read the reviews. When you find a thoughtful reviewer who might be interested in your book, look at their profile to see if there is contact information (e.g., an email address) there. Contact them, let them know you read and liked a review they wrote (name the book in your email), tell them a bit about your book and ask if they would like to receive a review copy. Some will want a print copy but others will prefer an ebook.
You might also do this if you are doing a KDP Select promotion and giving your Kindle book away for free. Contact some possible reviewers, let them know the book is available free for a few days, and ask if they would consider downloading and reviewing it.
Ask friends and family for reviews.
A review from your Mom may not be the most impartial or useful review, but you may consider asking a few reliable and honest friends to post reviews to get the ball rolling. Let them know that you do not expect rave reviews saying your book is the best one ever written. A straightforward review telling a little about the book and the type of reader who would enjoy it (not “everyone”) can be honest and helpful to readers.
Connect with other authors.
No one understands the importance of reviews as much as your fellow authors, and they can be a source of reviews. One caution: Amazon does not want authors reviewing books that would be considered “competing” titles. I suspect that rule exists because they expect that another author who writes on similar subjects would give unfairly negative reviews; however, before that policy was implemented I reviewed books that might have been considered competing titles to mine and gave them good reviews. Many other authors have done so as well. Because of Amazon’s policy, avoid reviewing competing titles or asking those authors to review your book on Amazon. Or at least be prepared for the possibility that Amazon will remove the reviews if they notice or someone complains. Of course, there is nothing to stop you from reviewing each other’s books on your blogs.
Pay for reviews?
There are places that will review your book for pay. Amazon prohibits paid reviews and they remove them from the site whenever they find them. It has now come to light, however, that one of the success stories they promoted the heck out of used paid reviews to sell more books. John Locke was the first indie author to sell a million Kindle ebooks, and Amazon made a big deal out of that milestone. Now we know one of the ways he did it.
So should you pay for reviews? I wouldn’t recommend it. Although there are some review-for-pay outlets that write objective reviews, the perception will always be that the reviewer will be biased toward giving a good review if they are being paid by the author.
Gift books for review.
One of the things you want to see on your Amazon reviews is the notation, “Amazon verified purchase.” Anyone can review a book on Amazon, and there is no requirement that they prove they own a copy. Many readers look for the “Amazon verified purchase” badge as a sign that the review is from someone who may have actually read the book. There is some evidence that Amazon may not always add this notation when you specifically gift a copy of your book, but if someone has agreed to review your book you could send them a gift card for the cost of the book without specifically saying you are gifting that book.
Ask for reviews every chance you get.
One of the best ways to get reviews is to ask for them. Ask the people on your email list, your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers and everyone you can to leave a review. At the end of your book ask the reader to take a few minutes to leave a review.
Some authors offer an incentive, such as another ebook for free, when readers leave a review. Amazon’s policy is that you can not offer anything other than a free book to reviewers. Although their intention is probably that the reviewer receive a free copy of the book they are to review, it doesn’t seem much different to give them another title to thank them for a review. This is one of those things that is, to me, a gray area. You might, though, position it as providing them another book to review after they have reviewed the one they purchased. After all, if someone read and reviewed one of your books they may be willing to read and review another.
Book reviews need to be a part of your book marketing campaign. Look for every opportunity to get reviews for your book. And when you inevitably get a few bad reviews? Realize that not everyone is going to love your book and that even the bad reviews can help sell books. Readers tend to be suspicious of titles that have only five-star reviews. And if it is any comfort, even hugely successful best sellers and the classics get bad reviews.
Cathy Stucker appreciates thoughtful reviews of her books, on Amazon or anywhere.