Getting reviews for your book can be one of those ‘chicken and egg’ situations. Without reviews, your book doesn’t have valuable social proof (not to mention looking a little lonely and lost on Amazon without those coveted gold stars). It can be hard to find promotional sites to take your book advert without reviews. Reviews – good and bad – can also be especially helpful for the writer because well-written, considerate reviews can highlight flaws and weaknesses in your manuscript and writing style that you can then address, ultimately helping you produce a better book.
The only thing is though, especially when you’re a new writer, is getting the damn reviews in the first place!
So, without further ado, I present to you a monster post on getting book reviews, dealing with good and bad reviews and my best ever tip for building your own review team so that you never have to worry about getting reviews for any future works. Read on!
HOW TO GET BOOK REVIEWS
The first and easiest way to start gathering reviews for your book is to ask for them! Simple, huh? In the back matter of your book (the bumpf at the end that comes directly after you write THE END), simply put in a simple, polite request for readers to review your book. Give them a link to whatever site your book is published on, e.g. Amazon or Nook, and thank them for taking the time.
Make this request the first thing the reader sees after finishing your story and you’ll find it’s quite an effective way of gathering reviews, providing you ask politely and give the reader the links so they can post their review immediately.
You can also make a request for reviews on your social media platforms, in your newsletter and on your blog, if you have one.
One extra tip: DON’T ask for positive reviews only. Ugh, ugh. Such a bad idea – for one thing, it makes you look as though you can’t stand criticism and secondly, reviews are for the reader, not the author. Ask for an honest review and ask politely.
RUN A FREE PROMOTION
If your book is newly published or fairly new, one way to get it in front of lots of new readers is to run a free promotion. You can set your book to ‘free’ on Amazon for up to five days if you’re enrolled in the KDP Select program. If you’re not, the only way to get your book free on Amazon is to set it to free on one of the other retailers (Apple iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Google Play etc.) and then email Amazon KDP Support and politely ask if they could price-match your book to free. They are under no obligation to do this, by the way, so don’t count on it but it doesn’t hurt to try. You can also press the ‘report lower price’ link on your book’s page on Amazon and send them the link to the book set at free on the other sites.
Make sure you’ve put in your request for reviews and appropriate links in the back matter before you promote your free book.
As with any promotion, the more downloads of your book that you get, the more likely you are to get reviews. However, one word of warning, you are also slightly more likely to get bad reviews, as sometimes freebie hunters will pick up a book without thought and then be disappointed when they read it, as it wasn’t what they were expecting. Hey ho, what can you do?
RUN A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY
This only works if you have print copies of your books but it can be a good way to find reviewers. This link will show you what you have to do.
CONTACT BOOK BLOGGERS IN YOUR GENRE
This isn’t something that I’ve personally done so I can’t speak from experience but I know others who’ve had some success with this method. Google ‘your genre’ + ‘book blogger’ and make a list of suitable bloggers to contact. The most successful book bloggers are very busy and usually inundated with requests for reviews, so don’t be surprised if they take an age to get back to you or, indeed, to review your book. Many will have their own submission guidelines so do read those before sending them your novel.
You could also have a look at similar books to yours on Amazon. Sometimes the reviewers will post under their book review website names, which means a quick internet search should bring up their sites. Again, they might take book submissions or a quick polite email asking if they would like a free review copy might be worth sending. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
USE A BOOK REVIEW SERVICE
Important note – using a review service is NOT the same as buying reviews (more on that in a minute). With review services, you pay a small administration fee to allow the service to distribute your book to their review team. The number of reviews you can expect to receive will vary and you may not always get a positive review.
Some companies that offer book review services (I do not endorse any of these, by the way, I merely provide their names for information):
DO NOT BUY REVIEWS!
That’s worth repeating. DO NOT BUY REVIEWS. Yes, you can go onto Fiverr or wherever and get some shonky unscrupulous person to post glowing (and usually badly written) reviews to your book. Why should you not do this? At the risk of stating the obvious:
- It’s cheating
- It’s likely that Amazon will know what you’re up to, remove your fake reviews and possibly suspend or delete your account
- A book with nothing but glowing, five-star testimonials looks dodgy as hell to readers, too
- It’s cheating.
Okay, so we’re clear? Don’t buy reviews.
HOW TO DEAL WITH BAD REVIEWS
It’s inevitable that, as the reviews start to come in, that you’ll get a bad one. More than one. More than one really, really bad one. This is a rite of passage (a ‘write’ of passage, perhaps) that every author goes through.
I get how it hurts. I can still remember my first one. In fact, to make you feel better, here’s a choice selection of some of mine:
“Not one believable character in the whole book…”
“I hated this dreary tale…”
“What a waste of time reading this boring and often maudlin excuse for a…novel”
“would make an awesomely “bad” B horror movie…” (actually, that one I sort of like 🙂
The worst thing you can do with a bad review is to let it bother you enough to stop you writing, even temporarily. A review is just someone’s opinion, that’s all. It’s not a judgement from God, or written in letters of fire in the sky or a sign from the Universe that now would be a good time to give up.
I can honestly and safely say that the more bad reviews you get, the less they hurt. (Caveat: if you’re only getting terrible reviews, it might be time to take a look at your writing, or marketing or both). If you’re getting some bad reviews but plenty of good ones then, that’s fine. You’re a writer. You aren’t going to be able to please everyone and nor should you. Don’t be so mediocre that you neither delight or offend anyone.
Some tips that might help:
- Don’t read your reviews
- Get someone you love and trust to read your reviews and tell you the good ones 🙂
- Never, ever, ever, ever respond to a review, no matter how bad/personal it is. Just don’t.
The other thing about bad reviews is that, occasionally, they might actually persuade readers to buy your book! An aspect of the book that one reviewer hated (the bad language, the sex scenes, the violence, etc. etc.) could be the thing that makes another reader snap it up.
HOW TO GET REVIEWS ON A PRE-ORDER
Again, this is something that I’ve not managed to do for myself (because, you know, that would actually mean I’d have to be organised and stuff). Usually, as an indie, you won’t be able to gather reviews on a book that hasn’t yet been published (i.e. if you’ve put it up as a pre-order). However, if you have the print copy done at the same time, publish that to CreateSpace and get the two editions linked on Amazon, reviews on your print copy will show up on your eBook page as well. Result!
THE BEST WAY TO GET FUTURE REVIEWS
After four years as an indie author, I know am able to publish a book and look forward to a nice flood of reviews (mostly positive ones too) on the very day the book is published. How am I able to do this? Because of my lovely reader team, of course.
BUILDING A READER TEAM
This is a long term strategy but one that you should follow if you’re planning any more books or indeed a career as an indie author. Here’s how you do it.
- A website/Facebook page/somewhere where you can put a newsletter sign up box
- An email service provider like Aweber (the company I use**) or Mailchimp
- A request in the back matter of your book for reviewers/readers
- A company that can handle distribution of your advance review copies to readers (I use BookFunnel who are amazing)
Here are the step by step instructions:
- Set up a mailing list for your books and put the sign up box on your website/Facebook page etc. Your email service provider should have plenty of advice on how to do just that. It works well if you can offer a free gift to your mailing list subscribers as a ‘bribe’ for joining your mailing list. I offer 3 free books to my subscribers but if you don’t have that many to give away, you could offer a bonus chapter, a short story, a novella or something that your readers might want.
- In your email to new subscribers, ask politely if they’d like to join your reader team and get free copies of your new books in exchange for a review.
- Start a new mailing list for your reader team subscribers
- When you have a book for them to review, upload it to your distribution company (like BookFunnel) and send your reviewers the link.
- When the book is published, send a polite reminder that the book is now live and your team can now leave reviews.
- Make sure you remind them that it’s good practice to disclose that they received a free review copy in their review.
If you want to see how it’s done, sign up to my mailing list at my Celina Grace website. Feel free to adapt the text I use for your own mailing list (adapt – not steal wholesale!). Or you can download your swipe copy cheatsheet here.
Phew! That was a long post. Hopefully you’ll find it useful. Any comments, suggestions, arguments? I’d love to hear them. Toodle pip for now.
** This link is an affiliate link – that means should you purchase anything from Aweber, I receive a small commission payment. I only endorse companies that I truly commend and happily use.