When and How To Get Book Reviews - Without Having to Beg or Bribe
I recently asked my Instagram community to share their book marketing questions, and I received quite a few requests regarding book reviews. This is actually a pretty big subject because today, more than ever, we have so many review options available. And this only makes it all the more overwhelming, right?
Well, today I’ll not only give you clarity on the process but also give you some practical and helpful information so you can put them into practice for your own book.
But first I have to address something: there is no quick fix or surefire tactic to getting book reviews. I don’t want to sound like Debby Downer (wa waaa) but this is actually a good thing. Why, you ask? Because working on book reviews isn’t something that you do to just check it off a to-do list. For you to see the full power of gaining book reviews, you need to approach it with intention and purpose.
The power of a book review isn’t in the number of reviews you get, it’s in your review reaching the right people. So this takes some forethought, planning, and getting a strategy in place. And that’s what we are going to do today.
But first, let’s address some questions that might have popped in your head…
What is the point of book reviews?
do they really matter?
Do reviews even impact sales?
According to a study that Penguin Random House conducted this year, they asked over 40,000 readers how they discover books, and what influences them in their reading and buying choices. 69% of readers found new books on Goodreads, (wow!) 49% by magazine/newspaper reviews, and 37% on blog reviews.
Readers look at what other people have to say about a book - especially reviews from their peers. A review certainly comes into play when a reader considers a new book or author. On Amazon, the number of reviews is a very important factor in their algorithms and how they calculate a book's ranking in search results on their site.
So yes, reviews do matter and make an impact on sales.
A word of caution: there are companies out there that offer “too good to be true” options for authors to get hundreds of reviews with no effort at all by buying reviews. I leave this decision up to you, but I would greatly advise you to stay away from this. First of all, it’s unethical and it violates Amazon's terms. Secondly, it’s disingenuous and, in my opinion, is a huge waste of money. Especially when there are ethical and free ways to get reviews. My advice would be to stay away from the paid reviews all together.
When to Start Working on getting reviews for your book
Here’s something I want to emphasize right off the bat: book reviews aren not limited to a certain timeframe. Yes, it’s good to have a good collection of reviews for your book launch, but that doesn’t mean if you don’t have reviews right when your book comes out that all is lost. Gaining reviews is just as important and powerful well after your book releases. Because it’s about the lifespan of your book - your books will sell well beyond (and often even better!) after your book launch.
If you’re reading this and it’s after your book has launched, don’t worry. You can still gain reviews for your books well after it’s released. And the points that we will cover in this post will still work for you.
So when is the best time to begin working on reviews for your new book?
START EARLY - EVEN BEFORE YOUR BOOK IS COMPLETED!
Yep, you read that correctly. It’s going to take time to develop the relationships with readers and connections with influencers that are essential to gaining book reviews. This not only helps you with the quality of your reviews but it also prevents you from frantically rushing to get reviews at the last minute.
The absolute best way to ensure you will have reviews by the time you release your book is to begin the process at least five months prior to the launch date. Many authors that I talk to get so focused on writing their book that they either don't think about or they put off marketing plans to connect with readers until after they finish writing. That afterthought approach often results in a very disappointing outcome, not only for their book reviews but also for their overall marketing.
Where to Focus On Getting Reviews for Your Book
One of the surest ways to get reviews for your books is to ask the people you already know and trust. Make a list of people you already know or have connections with that you can count on to read your book and review it. This list might include family and friends, professional connections that you can tap into, social groups you’re a part of, etc.
This might not be a really long list, but they add up and can get the ball rolling on gaining reviews.
Your Email List
Your newsletter is a solid list of people that you can tap into for reviews. When a reader subscribes to your email list, they are saying, “I value what you have to say and want to hear more from you.” You already have their attention, so ask your list if they are interested in reviewing your book. Send them a PDF draft of your book and ask them if they would be willing to leave a review on Amazon or another online store.
- Send it to your list at least 8-10 weeks in advance of your book release along with a message thanking them for taking part.
- Follow up with another email one week before your book releases to thank them again and remind them that your book will release in a week. Include a link to your Amazon page and other online store pages so they know exactly where they need to go to leave their review.
- Finally, send them an email the day your book releases saying, “Today’s the day! Don’t forget to leave your review!” and thank them in advance for the review.
Even if you have a very small following on your email list, remember that it’s about quality not quantity. A small group of devoted readers can make a much bigger impact on your behalf compared to a larger list of half-interested people.
The biggest factor to consider when it comes to contacting book bloggers for a review is this: you have to cultivate relationships with them well before you ask for a review. Time and engagement are the key. This is why it’s so important to start early - well before your book is completed.
More often than not, if you contact a book blogger a week or two before your book is going to be released, you won’t get the answer you’re hoping for. Remember, good bloggers are inundated with requests from hundreds of authors every week (sometimes every day!) for a review. They have to plan their reading and writing out weeks or months in advance, so you need to work in advance as well.
So how do you do develop relationships with book bloggers?
- Start with a Google search. Type in “book blog reviews” or the name of an author that you share a genre with followed by “blog reviews.” This is going to give you a huge list of blogs to check out. You can also check out this list of book bloggers as well as this list of indie book bloggers to get you started.
- Start looking at the search results and take note of a few things:
a. Do they accept unsolicited reviews?
b. What is their submission process?
c. When is the last time they posted?
d. What genres of books do they review/cover?
e. How far in advance you need to submit your book?
f. Where are they most active on social media?
- Create a spreadsheet of 9-10 blogs that look like they would be a good fit for you and your book. You can always add on more to your list, but initially start off with 9-10.
- Be sure to include if the review will be posted only on their blog or if it will also be included on Goodreads, Amazon, and other sites they might be involved with.
- It’s important to note the blog’s reach and traffic. If a blog has very little traffic, comments, or social shares, their reach might be too small. If they aren’t reaching readers it’s probably not worth the time investment. And a more popular site might have a bigger reach but might be more difficult to get a review. You can see an estimate of a site’s traffic by checking the Alexa rank. Add this figure into your spreadsheet.
- Start following them on social media, leave comments on their other reviews and posts. Engage with their community. Get to know the blogger and their readers. Add value to the conversation and create meaningful connections. When you have a great relationship established with bloggers and their own online community they will be more inclined to review your book.
- When it comes time to pitch your book for review, be sure to personalize each submission for each blogger. Address them by name. Point out some reviews or articles that you valued their opinion of and show them that you are already a fan and are familiar with their site. Keep the pitch brief and provide the basic info they need: title, genre, a short blurb, published or self-published, the release date, and a link to your website.
- When you receive a review, be sure to thank them and highlight their review on your website and social media outlets. Be sure to tag them in the post so your fans can visit their profiles as well.
This might sound like a lot of work, but great connections with bloggers can be worth their weight in gold. And remember: this connection you’re making isn’t just for your current book - it’s for all of your books that follow as well.
Target Amazon Reviewers
Another way for you to get reviews on Amazon is to get a positive review from one of their top customer reviewers. This is a list of people who Amazon has deemed qualified. They have the Top Review Rankings list and the Hall of Fame Reviewers. Click here to access the Amazon list.
It is a huge list, and it’s not categorized. So it takes some time and research to find the best reviewers for your book. Most of the profiles feature a short bio of what they are interested in, what they review, and if they accept unsolicited materials. When you click the “see more” link below their bio, you can see if they include their email address so you can reach out to them directly.
Like book bloggers, you need to start ahead of time and establish a connection with reviewers well before pitching to them to better your chances of getting a review.
Noisetrade is one of those hidden gems that can help you in growing your newsletter list as well as getting you some great reviews. We actually have a free ebook on how to best use Noisetrade that you can download.
Simply put, Noisetrade is a website that has a massive following of music and book lovers. It’s free to sign up and you can post your books, a synopsis, social links, your website and more on your profile. The way it works is you provide free content for the fans to download (you can do your entire book, a segment, a few chapters, a short story, etc.) and in return fans will give you their email address to access the content. They also make it easy to share a link on social media saying that they just downloaded your ebook, which helps give you an even wider reach.
Noisetrade sends out a newsletter once or twice a week that highlights books that fit different segments of Noisetrade’s list. So you know that your book is reaching people that already love your genre. To be included in their newsletter there is a small fee, but it is certainly worth it!
About once a week you will want to download your Noistrade contacts list and reach out to the people who have downloaded your free material to ask them for a review. You can direct them to your Amazon page or even ask them to share their thoughts on your social media pages.
And don't forget to import that list of Noistrade readers into your newsletter list!
You might have noticed I didn’t include “ask your social media connections for reviews” on this list. You can absolutely ask your social media followers to leave reviews if you would like. But here’s my two cents: social media connections are not as solid as a newsletter list. I’ve talked with several authors who have given away 50-100 copies of their book on social media to not get even a single review. When a fan is on your newsletter list, they are more committed to hearing more from you and even helping you with reviews than just a connection on social media.
Remember, it’s never too late to get reviews for your book - you can apply these strategies throughout the year.
Now I want to hear from you! What has been the best strategy that you’ve found to get book reviews? What has your experience been like? Let me know in the comments below!