“How do I get book reviews?”
The never ending question of how authors get reviews for their books seems to dominate author Facebook groups and other author forums. It seems to be the topic of tweets, Facebook posts, and in fact, I suspect, consumes the valuable writing time of many authors.
Experts disagree on the relevance of reviews on various platforms – do they count in the algorithm ranking on Amazon; how necessary are they to qualify for BookBub promotions and the like? One fact remains – they serve as the major source of social proof.
Let’s talk about 3 primary sources from which authors can obtain reviews. The sources that we’ll be talking about are:
Commercial/Literary reviews are carried out by a company or organization and will carry cache in the book world. Readers may not understand the significance of these reviews, but authors can use them for blurbs and on the book information page for Amazon and other retailers. Many, but not all, cost money.
A little history: a decade or so ago, the go-to literary review that authors sought was one from a major newspaper or literary magazine. These coveted reviews provided the stamp of approval that many authors craved. There are many such options open to Indie authors these days. Although a quick Google search will turn up quite a few suggestions, let’s highlight a few of these choices.
A question that always comes up is: “I thought I wasn’t supposed to pay for reviews.” This is true, however, there are exceptions to this rule:
With a Commercial/Literary review, the reviewer isn’t always paid (although some reviewers are paid – example Kirkus Reviews). The fee might go to supporting the networking efforts of the organization, paying for prizes, etc. You are essentially paying for the expertise of the reviewer and the cache of the review – a type of external validation of sorts. I often say that a Commercial/Literary review would be the equivalent of a SAT score. It is a type of external analysis or validation of a book in the same way that a SAT score will serve as external validation that you understand enough of the material taught in high school to be admitted to college.
Let’s talk positives and negatives.
The main positive of getting a glowing Commercial/Literary review is the external validation that comes with it. Sometimes being told that your book is really that good by an authority is worth the price tag.
Review services are exactly what they sound like. They are companies that will approach their audience of readers to arrange for reviews. In this situation, generally speaking, the reviewers are unpaid and the fee that you pay is for the company to contact reviewers and send out copies of your book (generally electronic versions).
Reviews that are posted (to Amazon and other places) are accompanied by a disclaimer that a free copy of the book was received in exchange for an unbiased review.
The reviews obtained this way can be posted to Amazon but they will not be listed as a “Verified Purchase” as you can see in the graphic above. Although Amazon wants you to think that readers care about “Verified Purchases” more than non-verified, I’m not convinced many will notice this small difference.
I’ve heard authors claim that Amazon is more likely to remove non-verified reviews before they remove verified. I’ve had a lot of reviews taken down by Amazon, and I don’t see that slant to their actions.
A quick Google search will bring up a wide variety of companies that will offer a review service. Many of the book promotion sites offer this service. There are also companies that only deal in reviews (and don’t have a book promo arm). Let’s talk about several examples.
The third source of reviews is the blogging community. Although bloggers may review for Commercial/Literary review companies and Review services, in this section, I’m referring to contacting bloggers directly rather than them being contacted for you.
Bloggers are everywhere. The last time I researched the number of blogs, the number was in the billions. Clearly, not all of this number will accept books to review, as this number will cover bloggers of every focus.
Note: although many authors will focus in on book bloggers, if you write a niche book, I always suggest looking at different categories of bloggers. If you write kid’s books, consider contacting mommy bloggers; if you write travel nonfiction, consider contacting travel bloggers, etc.
Bloggers are everywhere and finding ones to help you with your book can be seen as a bit of a goose hunt. There are existing databases to start you off. My site is The Book Blogger List (http://bookbloggerlist.com) and contains about 3000 listings sorted according to the genre of interest. Another database that has been around for a long time is The Indie View (http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/). The listings on this site are quite extensive also.
Experienced book bloggers are busy people – often swamped with review requests. In a survey I carried out of 500+ book bloggers, I found that 54% get more submissions than there are days in the month. As such, they can afford to be picky about what they accept to read and review.
About 78% of book bloggers from my survey have a review policy where they share their ‘rules.’ What they read and don’t read, how they want to be contacted and other information is contained on this page. They want their rules followed. Again, according to my survey, bloggers state that only a dismal percentage of authors always follow their instructions. Authors who don’t follow the rules are simply asking to be deleted.
Experienced book bloggers have sites, that in many cases, have massive audiences. Many have been blogging for years and have built up a loyal audience of rabid readers. Having thousands of eyes on your book is a great way to network. In fact, going forward, often the best source of reviews is bloggers who have reviewed previous books of yours. Often authors create ‘street teams’ or ‘ARC lists’ for just this purpose.
In fact, there are several ‘experts’ out there that will teach you to ‘scrape’ or gather emails from Amazon or bloggers – perhaps using a program that they have developed – and then mass mailing a review request to these emails. I’m not a fan. According to my survey, about 22% of bloggers will accept a review request from an unsolicited mass-mailed form letter type of request.
Personally contacting targeted bloggers with a query type of note will have a much higher success rate. It might be more time consuming, but it will pay off. My other concern for this method of obtaining possible reviewers is that it doesn’t allow for a study of the history of this reviewer. You might end up sending your request to someone who has a history of being unkind in their reviews.
Now that we have had a brief overview of the above three sources of reviews, what do I suggest you do? I always suggest a combination of the above. What this will do is create a balance of thoughts about your book.
Have questions for Barb? Ask away!
Social Media and Wordpress Consultant Barb Drozdowich has taught at Colleges and Universities, trained technical personnel in the banking industry and, most recently, used her expertise to help dozens of authors develop the social media platform needed to succeed in today’s fast evolving publishing world. She has published 6 books to help authors with various parts of their author platform, she owns Bakerview Consulting and manages the popular Romance Book blog, Sugarbeat’s Books.
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