So you’ve written your book for the world to enjoy. You know it’s the best thing since chocolate brownies, and heck so should everyone else right?
But how are they going to know unless they read it?
How do they know it’s worth their time?
In this guide we’ll cover these questions and whether reviews sell books, how to get book reviews (free template), should you pay for reviews and dealing with bad reviews.
Before setting out to promote your book on Amazon, or execute your release campaign, make sure you’ve already reduced your buyers’ risk and provide indicators that your book is worth reading.
What do I mean?
When a potential book buyer (who doesn’t know the author) sees a book on Amazon (or any other online store) and observes that there are no reviews for the book at all, the buyer’s confidence is diminished.
This creates a negative perception of the book being untried and not vetted by others, which makes the book seem like a risky purchase. Inevitably, the potential customer moves onto something that looks more credible and worthy of their hard earned green.
Unfortunately this is what occurs for many authors who don’t give reviews a thought.
Do reviews help sell books?
You see reviews help serve as, what’s called in the business marketing world, ‘social proof’.
Book reviews, endorsements, testimonials and awards, improve your book’s perceived value, that it has been tried and tested by other readers.
Your book is seen as being more credible, trustworthy and having a higher perceived value. These things amount to what’s called ‘social proof’ which is what helps potential buyers feel like the purchase is not a risky one. A sound purchase.
That’s the purpose of book reviews.
Example of Ricky the reader
Let’s say we have two medieval adventure novels. Both set in the same period, offering pure escapism. The first novel has 15 reviews and the second novel has none. Ricky the reader visits the online book store and sees both novels. They both suit his taste in adventure, both covers look compelling and they’re the same price.
Which one does Ricky the reader choose?
Which one would you choose?
Yes, the one with the reviews. And that’s how reviews sell books to readers, librarians and bookstore buyers.
The key here is to get early reviews before you announce your book’s availability and start your main launch campaign. Get as many reviews as you can before you drive traffic to your book’s Amazon page.
Okay, so how do we get those early reviews to increase the social proof of our book?
How to get book reviews early
First you need to have your print book and eBook finished months in advance of your official book launch.
The majority of self-published authors launch their book the moment it’s complete, before the ink is even dry!
If it’s your first book, I understand the excitement. If you’re onto your second or tenth book and want to gain more traction you need to be more intentional about how you release your book.
The ideal strategy is to plan ahead and be aware of the law of percentages. What I mean by this, is that when seeking early reviews understand that you’ll need to contact many potential reviewers and may only have a fraction of those potential reviews come through.
People are busy.
If you want 15 reviews, be prepared to contact around 45 people. It’s just the way it works.
Get at least 10 reviews
This is a very attainable amount of reviews. I think most people can obtain this with some planning and effort. Getting at least 10 reviews is a good start, because this clears you of the minimum review requirements of a lot of the bigger book promo websites online. Many won’t accept books that don’t meet their minimum set number of reviews.
Getting book reviews
1. The big boys
These are the top respected review sites that carry a lot of weight with librarians, book stores and readers. The thing is, you’ll need to plan ahead as some submission guidelines require a book copy months in advance of the book release.
- Self-publishing Review
- RT Book Review (Romance)
- Foreword Reviews
- Library Journal
- School Library Journal
- Kirkus Reviews
- Publishers Weekly
- Magpies Magazine (Children’s)
- BlueInk Review
- Locus Magazine (science fiction/fantasy)
2. Notify your email list, first in best dressed
People on your email list have already given you permission to email them. They want to hear from you. You can send out an email to your list stating you have 10 free signed copies of your new book you’re happy to give them in exchange for a review.
3. Ask for a review at the end of your book
Include a call-to-action in the back of your book asking for readers to kindly review the book. Make it super simple for them to do so, by directly linking to your book website page or to your book on Amazon.
Remember, you’re only asking for an honest review, not just a positive one.
4. Your personal social circles
Start by giving away free copies to friends and other writer colleagues in exchange for reviews. Make sure you are specific in stating that this free copy is in exchange for an honest review. If it’s positive, they are to post their review on Amazon, Goodreads or another website of your choosing.
5. Facebook groups
If you’re a member of writer or reader Facebook groups, post an announcement seeking reviews in exchange for a free print copy. I would highly recommend considering any other incentive you can provide to get them over line.
Free round of coffee anyone? Perhaps a free copy of the audio version?
6. Story Cartel
This is a review marketplace where authors and readers can connect allowing authors to provide their books for free in exchange for honest reviews. Story Cartel also allows authors to “pay it forward” by supporting their peers with a review. It’s worth noting that the site mainly attracts authors and readers of nonfiction and fiction, not children’s picture books.
This is the largest reader specific social website in the world. Goodreads has millions of users who are all passionate readers. You can enlist members and reviewers to review your book and run giveaways to drive interest and increase reviews. There are free and paid options available.
8. Book bloggers
This segment of passionate book worms has grown over the last five years. There are book bloggers for every topic and genre with some having a considerable audience size and influence. Just like established review websites, book bloggers require time in advance to schedule and review.
You need to follow their review guideline policies which are available on their website, and be very specific and targeted on who you contact. Make sure the book blogger deals with your genre, as not all of them read everything. Also, be sure to personalise all your email queries to them by name.
You can search Google using your ‘genre’ and ‘blog’ when you search.
9. Amazon reviewers
You can find them on Amazon. They’re avid readers that are listed as official Amazon reviewers who are ranked. Amazon reviewers in the top 50 are more highly regarded but harder to get hold of. There’s even a top 1000 rank for Amazon reviewers, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Some of our authors have received reviews from Amazon top 50 and top 1000, so it’s achievable.
You can also consider other bonuses to show your appreciation such as a free audio book or guide to increase the value to your readers for taking the time to read and review your book.
To make it easier for you to get started, here’s an email template example for requesting a review from friends or colleagues.
Grab your free book review email template. Download here in Word.doc file format.
Should you pay for reviews?
Oh boy, now this a point of contention between some groups.
Is it ethical or not? Is it worth it?
In today’s noisy world, I think that paying for someone to give you an objective, unbiased review is fine. Paying for a guaranteed positive review does cross the line.
There are many respected, high profile review companies out there such as Kirkus, Foreword and Self Publishing Review that offer reviews for a fee. This simply offsets the time for someone credible and professional to spend many hours reading a book. It sometimes expedites the turnaround time for an author to receive a review, but these websites do not guarantee a positive review.
Is it worth getting a paid review from one of these sites?
If it’s in your budget, sure. Reviews like these provide higher social proof to book buyers and librarians. These industry people know of all the reputable, credible sources that provide reviews so they take notice of these.
So having a review or two from well respected authorities can help sell your book above others that don’t have reviews at all.
Don’t be a bug bear
The last thing a reviewer wants is to be nagged by impatient authors. Reviewers are busy and you should feel proud and appreciative if they review your book. If a reviewer has given you a time-frame for when you can expect to hear from them, give them that time to respond. They’re busy people.
What if I get bad reviews?
It’s going to happen at some point. Not every honest review will be five stars. That’s the reality of it.
Someone will read your book and find it’s not exactly to their liking or doesn’t fully resonate with them.
We all have different perspectives and views and it’s what helps colour this world.
What you don’t want to do is race out the house, track the person down and scream at them stating how silly they are and that they just didn’t “get it”. This won’t do any good and just deter that person from ever reviewing another one of your books.
Just accept the bad review for what it is, and move onto reading the next favourable review. Ideally you may learn something interesting from the bad review you can take with you for the next book.
Allow some time
The process of getting book reviews requires some patience. You need allow time to contact reviewers and for them to respond back to you.
If you’ve planned ahead, this shouldn’t be an issue.
So before launching your next book, start thinking ahead of time how to get book reviews. It could make all the difference from launching with a bang or a fizzle.
So consider this; how can you be more strategic and intentional with your book release?
Be the captain of your own ship.