Remarkable Confessions From Book Bloggers You Need to Hear by guest @IolaGoulton

Authors want book reviews. Positive reviews on sites like Amazon provide social proof and help potential buyers decide whether or not this is a book they want to read. Reviews and features on book blogs help spread the word about your book.

Reviews are also a subtle form of self-promotion: tweeting “check out this great review of my book” is nowhere near as spammy as the endless “buy my book!” tweets I see on some author accounts.

I have been reviewing books online since September 2011, first on a basic Blogger site, and now on my website. In that time I’ve reviewed something approaching 1,000 books, including hundreds from indie authors, yet there are hundreds more review requests I’ve turned down.


The average American reads less than fifteen books a year. Most book bloggers I know read ten times that. I know I do. I want to find and read and support new authors, but I can’t read all the books.

I have to be selective. I currently have six month’s worth of books in my review pile (and even more books that I’ve paid money for and still not read). I don’t need more books to read or review. I decline more review requests than I accept.

What Does it Take to Get Book Bloggers to Review Your Book?

Here are my top tips:

Tip 1: Know the Book Blogger’s Preferred Genre/sRemarkable Confessions From Book Bloggers You Need to Hear by guest @IolaGoulton via @BadRedheadMedia and @NaNoProMo

I read relatively widely, but my book blog focuses on Christian romance—ideally contemporary Christian romance, romantic suspense or historical romance. I refuse all direct requests for non-fiction or general market fiction, although I will occasionally request and review such titles via NetGalley. Please don’t waste your time or ours by asking bloggers to review a genre they say they don’t review.

Know your target reader, and find bloggers who match that profile. Your book is not for everyone.

Tip 2: Target Your Book Review Request

If you’re asking for a review because your book is similar to Book X by Author Y, and you know I liked Book X, tell me. If you’ve read and enjoyed my reviews, tell me. Flattery works 🙂

If you’re going to try and claim some common interests or pre-existing relationship, get your details right. Maybe I do follow you on Twitter, but I follow 10,000+ other people as well. Following you doesn’t mean I see (or like) your tweets. Maybe I did also review Book A by Author B, but did I like it? If not, it’s probably best not to mention it … unless you also disliked Book A and your book is nothing like it.

Tip 3: Have a Great Book Cover

If an unknown author approaches me for a review, the first thing I’ll do is check the book and author out on Amazon. I’m looking for a cover that reflects the genre and doesn’t look as though it was PhotoShopped by a teenager going through their psychedelic stage. If I don’t like the cover or don’t think it fits the genre, then I’m likely to decline the review request. Call me shallow, but I don’t want ugly covers on my website.

Tip 4: Optimize Your Amazon Book Page

This isn’t rocket science. From my point of view as a book blogger, I mean:

  1. Write a solid book description. Focus on the plot, the characters, and the conflict. Don’t tell me I’m going to love the novel, or that the writing has been compared to that of Author B or Author Y. I can decide that for myself.
  2. Categorise the book properly. If you’re telling me your book is Christian romance, then I expect to see it in categories such as Christian Books & Bibles > Literature & Fiction > Romance or Romance > Inspirational > Christian.

If your book isn’t for sale yet, then I’m going to judge this based on the email you sent me, or on any previous books you’ve published.

Please don’t fudge the genre. Don’t try and mislead me into believing your story is a Christian romance because it has Christian themes and romantic elements. Star Wars has Christian themes (battle of good and evil) and romantic elements (Han Solo!). That doesn’t make Star Wars a Christian romance.

Tip 5: Have a Great Opening

If the book is already on sale, I’ll download the Kindle sample. If it isn’t, I’ll download your most recent book. I’m looking for a novel that draws me in and pulls me through so I get to the end of the Kindle sample and want to keep reading. If you can achieve that, then I’m going to agree to review your book (that doesn’t mean I’m going to give it a glowing five-star review, but you should already know that, from reading my other reviews).

I’m looking for clean writing and clean copy. No spelling mistakes or factual errors. I’m a freelance editor, but I read and review for pleasure. I don’t want to read novels with omniscient POV. I don’t want to read novels with creative dialogue tags, excessive telling, too many adverbs, too much backstory, or writing that makes Dickens look succinct.

Great reviews start with a great book in a clear genre

First impressions count, so make it good. Understand genre. Understand your target reader. Understand your author brand. Make sure your review request—and your entire author platform—reflects your brand. Which leads me to a bonus tip:

Bonus Tip: Have an Online Platform

When I review a book on my website, I link to the book on Amazon, Goodreads, and a couple of other online retailers. I link to the author’s website and main social media sites. I also share my reviews on social media and tag the author where possible. So do most book bloggers I know.

If the author doesn’t have a website or isn’t on the main social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter), then they’re missing the ongoing benefit of an online book review. They don’t get the backlink to the blogger’s website. They don’t get the increased online influence from the social shares.

They don’t even know what they’re missing. And yes, I have reviewed books for authors who I’ve later realised have no online platform. Nothing. Not even a free Blogger site.

Authors, there is no point in asking for reviews if you’re not in a position to maximise those reviews.

You need an online platform as a low-key way of low-key tracking your reviews and thanking reviewers. Because we all know you should never respond to a review on Amazon, right? Not even to say thank you. Instead, follow the reviewer on social media so you can like and comment on the review, or boost both your brands by sharing or retweeting.

If you’re not sure if your online platform is where it should be, check out Rachel Thompson’s 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge. It’s a great resource that will help you check, refresh, and update your platform with consistent branding.

If you don’t have an online author platform, then check out my Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge. Over 40 days, I’ll take you through genre, target reader, author brand, and setting up your branded website, email list, and social media accounts. I’m offering one free enrollment in the Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge to one commenter.

What burning question have you always wanted to ask a book reviewer?


Day 12 Giveaway

Enter to win One free enrollment in the Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge, a $69 value by commenting below!

Iola Goulton…

…is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).

Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, works as a freelance editor, and has recently introduced the Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge, an email course for authors wanting to establish their online platform. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, two teenagers and one cat.

Iola Goulton Author Image

Find Iola on

Facebook at Iola Goulton Author

and Twitter at @IolaGoulton

or check out her website at


  1. Daniella Shepard on May 12, 2018 at 4:23 am

    Really enjoyed this article. I like it when I can find well written reviews for books. Haven’t published yet, but I will definitely put some effort into getting my work reviewed.

  2. Donna on May 12, 2018 at 4:45 am

    Great blog post! The only thing I would add is to make the pitch the best it can be – include all relevant info but keep it precise. I get too many review requests to go looking up the book so my decision on whether to review or not is solely based on that email pitch. I also manage a review team so I’m deciding from that pitch which of my reviewers it might fit the best.

  3. D.B. Moone on May 12, 2018 at 7:00 am

    Although I have two manuscripts, three counting one I had to walk away from because I’m not mentally ready to redeploy, in mind or paper. The majority of my writing has been dedicated to writing book reviews so as a book reviewer, I found today’s #NaNoProMo blog post helpful to myself as a book reviewer. I’ve been learning as I go. Initially, I would be asked to write a book review, and like you, I have my preferred genres. In fact, today I will be writing my review on BEFORE AND AGAIN by Barbara Delinsky which came from NetGalley. I only recently discovered NetGalley, as well as Authorsxp | Elite Reader, which I like as I can be selective in my chosen reading genres. I never considered downloading a sample, if available before accepting a book for review. I will keep that one in mind. I also take a hard look at the book cover, as well as the description the author provides before agreeing to read and review the book.

    I write the review on my blog and share to Twitter, FB, and Instagram. My last book review of Carrie Rubin’s THE BONE CURSE, I linked to Carrie’s blog and provided links to purchasing her book. I have come to realize I need to add my book review to Amazon and Goodreads as well. My question for you is now that I have become the autodidact type of book reviewer, should I go back to the book reviews on my blog and include the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads? I’m confident I know the answer to my question.

    But wow! What a helpful blog post this is for me in my current endeavors. Many thanks for talking from the aspect of the book reviewer’s point of view.


    • Rachel Thompson on May 12, 2018 at 5:49 pm

      As an author, I would say ‘absolutely!’ because that’s where other readers look at reviews to purchase. Most won’t know about your social media or blog (unless they follow you specifically for that reason); but they will go to Amazon or Goodreads to read reviews of say, Barbara’s latest book.

      I can speak for Barbara because I work with her — she definitely appreciates pre-release Goodreads reviews and first-day sale Amazon reviews (so does her publisher!). In fact, in general, publishers track which book bloggers and reviewers received ARCs and left reviews and which did not – this can affect who gets future ARCs and who doesn’t (a little bit of insider stuff for you).

      I’m sure Iola can give you far more info than I can as I’m not a reviewer or book blogger — I hope my little bit helps, though, Donna! xx

  4. Lisa A. Listwa on May 12, 2018 at 7:37 am

    As a reader who often thinks about how to handle reviews, and a writer who is working toward publication, this post is invaluable. Great info. Thank you!

  5. Kristy McMorlan on May 12, 2018 at 9:50 am

    I’m brand new to the published book industry and am always seeking more knowledge; your article was very insightful and had useful information. Thank you for sharing! I wish I’d seen this before I published. I especially like your thoughts on a good book cover, I agree. Thankfully as I read I did a mental check list; repeatably thinking to myself: Done! That was affirming.
    Your article drew me in and now I want to read them all! Perhaps other articles can help me with the problems I’m facing now?
    One of the problems I’m encountering is my genre seems to be limited when it concerns the book blogger / reviewer. Even though I believe there’s a place for my book, in the reading community. In my opinion, it’s a topic few have had the courage to share. The market is saturated in some areas and while others are extremely limited. Self-help / Abuse is a broad term which depicts a tough topic and appears as not an easy read. Under Parenting people want a step by step manual of how to, not my book either. Memoirs seems to be the only avenue left: “People love a virtuous comeback kid story, being raised by a mentally ill woman and recovering from the resulting trauma is a story that could stand alone. It is in putting the pieces of my childhood together, that I saw similarities in my ex-church leaders. Their continued unkindness activated flashbacks from my childhood; without a solid demonstration in forgiveness and grace, healing was elusive.”
    AS time permits I’ll be reading more of your articles!

    • Rachel Thompson on May 12, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      Hi Kristy! Lots of good questions — if I may help here: my two memoir/poetry books (Broken Pieces and Broken Places) are NOT self-help. I absolutely did not want them viewed or read that way. They are my stories of surviving childhood sexual abuse and the effects of undiagnosed PTSD.

      Here are my categories for PIECES:

      Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,641 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
      #20 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Women
      #64 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Women Authors
      #110 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Parenting & Relationships > Family Relationships > Dysfunctional Relationships

      As for reviews, I’ve not had issues with regard to getting book reviews as long as I approach them in the manner Iola suggest — and having built a strongly branded base on my author account over the years, that helps immensely. It takes time and effort. xx

  6. Sarah on May 12, 2018 at 10:01 am

    This is a part of marketing that has been the trickiest for me. This article has some great points.

  7. McKenna Dean on May 12, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    I guess my burning question is how useful are book tour/promotional services? As a reviewer do you tend to work with them or deal mostly with direct solicitation by authors?

  8. Lisa Allen MH on May 12, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Great article – I know what you mean about genre! I am a non-fiction body/mind/spirit author for a traditional publisher, and am currently working on the manuscript for the first book deal (wehew!) I can’t tell you how many fiction authors ask me for connections, and I honestly can’t help with that, at all! I wondered if this course is also helpful for those authors getting newly published with a real traditional publishing house. Thank you so much! 🙂

    • Rachel Thompson on May 12, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      Hi Lisa! Thanks so much for reading Iola’s article. Grats on your pub deal!

      When I first published my 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge, I was traditionally published, interestingly. I’ve now re-pub’d it myself (I was doing all the book marketing and author platform, advertising, publicity, etc all myself anyway) — and making far more and enjoying my creative freedom as well.

      Take a look at the #NaNoProMo post here by NYTimes Bestselling author Barbara Delinsky for a look at marketing from a traditionally pub’d author

  9. Emmaline on May 12, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    In between writing, I am also a book reviewer. But now I am working the flip side of things and establishing my platform, social media, website, etc. as a writer. This is not as easy as it looks!

  10. Dana Lemaster on May 12, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    Thanks. Rachel and Iola, for a helpful article. I know gathering reviews is important, and appreciate having tips on how to acquire them.

  11. Iola on May 12, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    Hi Daniella,

    I think we all appreciate well-written book reviews. As my credit card statement can confirm, good reviews sell books.

    I definitely think it’s worth the effort to develop a review team. It will be a lot of effort for the first book, but many will volunteer to review subsequent books as well if you ask.

    Thanks for visiting!

  12. Iola on May 12, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    Hi Donna,

    Excellent advice! Yes, do include all the relevant information in the email pitch. Most bloggers make it clear what information they want, so you’ll make a better impression if you’ve obviously read and complied with their review request policy.

    I once read a blog post where the author was complaining that each blogger has their own requirements, and she didn’t have time to read them all and follow them. I thought that came off as more than a little arrogant – as if she was doing reviewers a favour, not the other way around. If she really didn’t have the time, she could hire a VA for the job. I have no issue in receiving review requests from a VA.

    Thanks for contributing!

  13. Iola on May 12, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    Hi DB Moore

    I’ve definitely been learning as I went regarding book reviewing. I decided I had to read the Kindle sample first after agreeing to review a couple of books that turned out to be absolutely awful – bad writing, plot holes the size of a continent, yawn-inducing characters … and the problems were obvious from the first page. I now see why agents and publishers request the first three chapters. It’s because you can often tell a book is bad by page two.

    Regarding your question: do you go back and add your older reviews to Amazon and Goodreads? The authors and publishers will appreciate it if you do, but I don’t know how many reviews you have. Even copying and pasting reviews takes a few minutes per review.

    Going forward, definitely add your reviews to other sites. I haven’t done this yet, but I think you can connect your NetGalley account to Amazon and Goodreads. It will then autopost for you, which makes it easy.

    I post my reviews to Amazon US, UK (until they stop me because I don’t meet the purchase requirement) and Australia (although they have stopped me because I haven’t met the purchase requirement in the last year). I also post to Goodreads, Rifflebooks, and to a couple of Christian retailers.

    I’ve also started (this week!) posting my reviews to BookBub – something I didn’t know I could do before. I also share my reviews on the major social media platforms, including sharing book quotes on Instagram. I tag the author on Twitter and Instagram when I know their handle, which is one reason I recommend people use the same handle on both, and make it something that’s easy to remember (like their author name).

    Hope that helps!

  14. Iola on May 12, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    Hi Dana

    Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you found my tips useful!

  15. Iola on May 12, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    Hi Emmaline

    I think reviewing books is a good way of starting to build your platform, assuming you’re reviewing in the same genre as you write. After all, that way you are writing for the same target audience, and you’re writing to serve them (not to please yourself).

    Thanks for visiting!

  16. Iola on May 12, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    Hi Lisa

    So pleased you found the post useful!

    Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  17. Iola on May 12, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    Hi Sarah

    Some authors think getting reviews is tricky because they don’t know if it’s okay to approach book bloggers and ask for reviews. It is! Not everyone will say yes, but you have nothing to lose.

    Good luck with your marketing, and thanks for visiting.

  18. Iola on May 12, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    Hi Kristy

    I’m glad your book ticks the boxes on things like cover design! It’s a great start.

    I’m not a big non-fiction reader, but my approach to getting reviews for your book would be to consider what other authors have written books that are similar to yours, or books that might attract a similar reader.

    Now do some research. Who has reviewed these books – on blogs, on Amazon, on Goodreads. Has anyone done a blog tour of any of these books? Who reviewed them? Can you find their blog or website? Do they have a review policy? Can you email them? We cover this in more detail in my Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge.

    I hope this helps. Good luck in finding reviewers!

  19. Dylann on May 12, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    Thanks for the great info! I’m just starting to ask for reviews so the advice is very timely!

  20. Claire Gem on May 13, 2018 at 1:39 am

    Great advice on how to seek out and secure reviews for your book! It can be a time consuming process, but believe me, well worth the effort. Thanks for this informative blog!

  21. Iola on May 13, 2018 at 1:53 am

    Hi McKenna

    I get most of my review copies either from NetGalley, or directly from authors. I have participated in some blog tours, run by publishers and/or publicity companies. These have tended to be niche publishers or blog tour/publicity companies who specialise in a specific genre (e.g. Christian fiction).

    I’ve had good reviewer experiences with such companies, but that doesn’t mean I think they are all good. If I was an author looking to engage a company for a blog tour, I’d want to know they have a large and reliable pool of potential reviewers – more than I could access myself – and in a relevant genre e.g. if the tour company mostly has clean romance readers, then a sexy or erotic romance author might not get good results from that company.

    Thanks for visiting!

  22. Iola on May 13, 2018 at 1:54 am

    Hi Dylann

    Thank you 🙂 Good luck with launching your book and getting reviews!

  23. Iola on May 13, 2018 at 2:06 am

    Hi Lisa Allen

    I have had some traditionally published authors go through my course, and one said she wished she’d had the course before she was published. I designed the course for pre-published authors looking to establish their online platform before self-publishing or submitting to a traditional publisher, but it will still work for anyone (published or not) who is looking to take those first steps to establish their platform – a branded and integrated website, email list, and social media networks.

    The principles hold true across all genres (we should all be aiming to share quality content, not spam). But the specifics of which authors to follow and connect with is definitely based on genre. Iola Goulton Author shares Christian fiction with an emphasis on contemporary Christian romance. Iola Goulton of Christian Editing Services shares about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. I’ve got a solid knowledge of those two markets. Outside that? Not so much!

    Thank for stopping by!

  24. Jena on May 13, 2018 at 5:13 am

    Thank you for being a faithful book reviewer and blogger!

  25. Susan J. Bruce on May 13, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks Iola. Great insights as usual . I’m wondering if you would recommend authors becoming book reviewers. I assume it’s another thing that would help visibility but it would also take a lot of time. How many hours a week do you spend on reviewing and reviewing related activities? Apart from helping authors (which is very important! :D) does it help with your own writing and your editing business?

  26. Nola Passmore on May 13, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    Great tips, Iola. We hear a lot about knowing our genre when it comes to marketing, but it’s easy to forget how important that always is when it comes to making requests to book reviewers. Do you have any tips for reviewers who are also authors? For example, I imagine it can be tricky having 1000 reviews out there when it comes to asking reviews for your own book. Probably pros and cons, but it’s something I’m thinking through at the moment. (And no need to include me in the draw as I’ve already done your fab course. Now I just need to actually do all the tasks).

  27. Sab Edwards on May 13, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    As a reader, I’m attracted to the covers first and I don’t do ebooks, I do real books, so try to have a real book as an option for those of us who are still crazy like that

  28. Iola on May 13, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    Hi Jena

    Thank you! It’s a lot of fun.

  29. Iola on May 13, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    Hi Sab

    Getting books from the US to New Zealand (where I live) is expensive, which is one reason I mostly read and review digital copies (the other is I’ve run out of room for paper books!).

    I know some authors will offer a limited number of paperbacks to reviewers, but printing and postage is expensive, even within the US. That’s why so many authors, especially self-published authors, offer digital copies—they are cheaper, and often free.

    But I will admit to a feeling of envy when reviewers post pictures of all their review books! A digital file isn’t nearly the same 🙂

  30. Iola on May 14, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    Hi Susan

    How many hours … I’ve never added it up. If I count reading the book, writing the review, formatting the blog post, creating the quote graphics, then sharing the review when it’s published, then I probably spend around 5-6 hours per review. It would be less if I only reviewed on my blog or Amazon, and didn’t promote my reviews.

    Does it help with my editing business? Not directly, but reading a lot ensures I keep up-to-date with trends in my genre, and that I can see what good (and not-so-good) writing looks like.

  31. Iola on May 14, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    Hi Nola

    There are some definite cons to being an author/reviewer, especially given the way Amazon (rightfully) don’t allow review swaps or reviews from people you have a relationship with. I never intended writing myself, so that was never in my mind when I started reviewing!

    There is no problem reviewing books by your friends on your own blog, or even on sites such as Goodreads or Koorong. It’s Amazon who have the problem 🙂 Reviewing is a good way of supporting your fellow authors.

  32. […] Goulton reveals remarkable confessions from book bloggers, John Burke shows how to use your author website for book marketing, Carolyn Howard-Johnson […]

  33. Rita on May 28, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    As usual Iola’s canny insight, into all things writing an author needs to know, convinces me I am a puny marketer of my own work! But she also gives me hope that I might somehow grasp this knowledge and run with it.

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