If you want to find a good movie to see or a good restaurant, asking a friend gives you tried and true advice you can depend on. The same thing is true with books. A recommendation from a friend makes you confident that a book is one you’ll enjoy reading.
What authors need to understand is that today 3 of 4 potential readers trust online book reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Part of the reason is that as book retailing has moved online most readers aren’t in a bookstore where they can pick up your book and get a feel for it. Instead they rely on online reviews, particularly those on Amazon, Goodreads, or by book bloggers. So the quantity and quality of the reviews your book receives are critical to its success. A substantial number of high quality reviews provides social proof of your book’s legitimacy.
Let’s look at both quality and quantity. Nothing is sadder than a book with a handful of reviews of a sentence or two likely written by the author’s family or close friends saying little more than this is a great book; you should buy it. Amazon is cracking down against reviews of this sort and removing them from the site, but even if they didn’t, such reviews aren’t likely to convince anyone to hit the buy button.
You want the reviews of your book to look at why the characters, plot, setting, and style of your book are worthy of the reader’s time. An Amazon verified purchase tag adds to a review’s trustworthiness.
Having as many reviews as you can is important. Many promotional sites require 5-10 Amazon reviews to promote your book. Some librarians report that unless a book has 50+ reviews they won’t consider ordering it. There is some controversy as to whether having a high number of reviews causes Amazon’s algorithms to promote your book, but whether it does or not, a greater number of quality reviews does provide more social proof of your book’s merit to potential buyers.
Okay, you say, everybody agrees that reviews are important. How do I get them?
Here are nine ways potential sources:
1. Critique Group/Beta Readers – These are people who are familiar with your book and maybe helped to shape it. They have already demonstrated a willingness to help you. Make sure to tap them as reviewers. They will be ideal people to ask to post a review during the important launch of your book.
2. Advance Review Copies (ARC) – Prepare a copy of your book, print and ebook if you will release both, to send to potential reviewers. Carefully select experts in your field, top writers in your genre, traditional media reviewers, and people like book bloggers who have robust online platforms. A month or two before launch, send them a copy of your ARC with a cover letter requesting a review. ARCs can be a great source of reviews, and also provide blurbs which you can use on your books cover.
3. Influencer Campaign – One way to enhance the success of your ARC campaign is to prepare by researching potential reviewers with powerful platforms and cultivating them online. Leaving comments on their blog, retweeting, commenting on Facebook posts are good ways to start. Contact the person directly and tell them why you find their voice an important one and how you share their interests. Look for a way to help that person possibly by promoting a book they are releasing or an appearance they have scheduled. In short, develop a relationship with the person before you ask for anything. That way when the time comes to ask for a review, your influencer is much more likely to be disposed to help you. This approach can take months, so get started well before your projected launch date.
4. NetGalley – NetGalley is the premier distributor of digital review copies. Uploading a digital copy of your book to NetGalley makes it available to over 230,000 members and generates over 40,000 reviews per month. This is a go-to site for professional reviewers. Its biggest disadvantage is cost of as much as $650 for six months. There are, however, discounted options through the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA)and promotional sites like Espresso Book Tours which make this very valuable service more likely to fit an indie author’s budget.
5. Blog Tours – Arranging with bloggers to feature your book is a great way to publicize your title. Often the blogger’s feature is a review of the book. Many bloggers will also post the review on Amazon and Goodreads. As with NetGalley it is good to get the arrangements for your blog tour completed well before the launch of your book so that blog appearances will appear with your book’s launch.
6. Your Email List – If you have an email list (.and you should), by all means ask your subscribers to review your book. Provide the volunteers with a digital copy, your launch date and a request that they post their reviews as soon as the book goes live on Amazon.
7. Online Forums and Facebook Groups – As with the influencer campaign strategy above, this approach involves building online relationships over time. Choose communities which focus on your genre or subject matter. Some examples are the Reddit Protect and Serve forum for mysteries, Nerve.com or FetLife for erotica,check Darla Denton’s list of 35 Facebook Groups for Romance Readers, or the Christian Fiction Devourers on Facebook. Become an active member commenting and contributing to the dialogue. Once you have established yourself, people will be more likely to respond positively to your request for a review.
8. Note in the Back of Your Book – Write a note to readers in the back of your book emphasizing how important reviews are to success of books like yours, and asking them to help you out by posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads.
9. Giveaways – Giveaways through KDP, Goodreads, or services like Book Funnel serve two purposes. They get your book into the hands of readers who will tell their friends about it. Second, accompanying the giveaway with a review request can lead to reviews from grateful recipients.
(Image courtesy of Thad Zajdowicz on Flickr)