How To Get Your Book Reviewed Now by @sugarbeatbc
“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
- Review Services
- Book Bloggers
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.
- Kirkus Reviews– is a commercial site with a significant history and for a fee will review your book. In fact their website has the tagline “The most trusted voice for book reviews since 1933.” They also claim “We’ve reviewed the nation’s top publisher’s books since 1933.” Their website states that they have 55K newsletter subscribers and 15K readers for their Kirkus Reviews Magazine. Although the review or quotes from the review can be part of your marketing materials, the distribution the organization offers will help with visibility. A quick peek at their pricing page shows fees starting at $350 for children’s books or $425 for all other books. There are higher fees for an ‘Expedited’ review as well as fees for longer reviews and series of books. Their current lag time is stated to be 7 – 9 weeks.
- Chanticleer Book Reviews – They provide reviews for a fee and also have a well-attended conference where they feature the prizes for the various awards they offer. According to their website, the review service is $395. This fee will provide an extensive written review and dissemination to a fairly wide network of subscribers as well as various digital platforms including Goodreads and Amazon.
- The Midwest Book Review– has been in existence since 1976 and offers reviews of a variety of items – books, CDs and DVDs. They charge a $50 ‘Reader fee’ for reviewing e-books, pre-publication manuscripts, ARCs or PDF files. To avoid the $50 fee, 2 copies of the book can be mailed in with a cover letter and a press release. Not all books will be chosen for review.
- BookLife – is the section of Publisher’s Weekly for self-published authors. Reviews from BookLife are free however, they only review a tiny percentage of books authors and publishers sent them (over 1,000/month). Read their submissions guidelines closely.
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:
- Commercial/Literary reviews and
- Review services
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.
Positives and Negatives of Literary/Commerical Reviews
Let’s talk positives and negatives.
- Many of these types of reviews are expensive – not affordable by all.
- As I’ve pointed out, many readers wouldn’t understand the significance of these reviews. Readers generally understand the significance of being on the NY Times list or USA Today list and might be attracted to a book that has won an award, but many wouldn’t understand the difference between a Kirkus review and let’s say, a reader review.
- Lastly, most of the Commercial/Literary reviews are not posted to Amazon. The positive side of this is that many of the larger Commercial/Literary review organizations publish to very significant audiences.
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.
- Netgalley – is a company that has existed for quite a few years. Readers/reviewers of various descriptions can open an account, share their contact points and a blurb about themselves and once approved, can request books that are listed for review. Netgalley is quite expensive for the average author, but many writers organizations have co-op arrangements available at more reasonable rates for the average author and several of the blog tour/book review service companies also offer access for a month at a time.I’ve used Netgalley several times over the years (and I’m a registered reader and have gotten quite a few review books) and I find the reviews to be unfiltered and honest for the most part. This isn’t the place to look if you are only interested in 5-star reviews, however.
- BookRazr – is a company that specializes in finding reviewers for you. Their prices start at $29.99 and they take the information you supply about your book and similar books and create a list of reviewers that you then email and request a review from.
- The Romance Reviews– is a service that obviously specializes in romance novels and has been around quite a few years. This is also a company that I reviewed for quite a bit. Authors of the various romance genres can submit their book to be listed as available to reviewers and reviewers can pick and choose what they want to read/review. Reviews are posted on the site as well as the ezine.
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.
- A Commercial/Literary review will give many authors the external validation they crave and quotes to use in blurbs.
- Review services help a busy author find folks who are interested in reviewing and can often form a body of reviews fairly quickly.
- Lastly, networking with book bloggers and other bloggers is always a good idea in my mind. These readers may not offer fast results, but can certainly form a body of Amazon and non-Amazon reviews that will stand the test of time and may also be your go-to group of future reviewers.
Have questions for Barb? Ask away!
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