Reviews can make or break a book. They provide social validation, showing that people like your book. They affect whether you show up in the algorithms of sales sites or get through readers’ search filters. They create a large part of the buzz that will sell your book.
So how do you get reviews for your book?
The Perils of Amazon
Before getting into sources of reviews, it’s worth talking about Amazon.
Amazon is the biggest bookseller in the world. It’s also the place where most people leave reviews. If you’re going to sell books, then getting reviews on Amazon is a must.
While Amazon will let anyone review a book, they are on the lookout for dubious practices. If they think that a review has been left by a friend or relative then they may remove it. These reviews will sometimes be obvious to readers too. If they think a review is there only because the reader is your friend, they may ignore it.
By all means, ask friends and relatives to review your book. Just be aware that this may not help as much as you hoped.
Some services will offer to sell you a certain number of positive reviews. Aside from the unethical nature of this approach, it can cause practical problems. Amazon are aware of these review-purchasing scams. If they catch you using one, they may stop selling your books through their site. It’s best to avoid these services.
One of the best sources of book reviews is to approach book bloggers. Popular bloggers can win around large numbers of readers. Even the most obscure book blogger is likely to post their review on Amazon and Goodreads as well as their blog.
Only approach book bloggers who are genuinely interested in the sort of stories you write. Approaching someone who isn’t interested in your genre is a waste of time at best, and at worst may earn a negative review.
When contacting book bloggers, address your message personally, so that it doesn’t seem like you’re just copying and pasting. Make the book sound appealing. Make sure to follow their guidelines on what to send.
You can find a list of indie book bloggers at The Indie View. You can also find suitable bloggers by googling the names of books like yours together with the term “book review” or “book blogger”.
The KBoards, a forum for Kindle readers and authors, are another good source of reviewers. There you can offer free copies of your book in exchange for reviews.
As with book bloggers, try to approach people on the KBoards before the book is out. This means that you can line up reviews in advance. For reviewers, it adds the appeal of reading something before others can.
Put up a note about your book in an appropriate part of the forum, following the rules there. Make the book sound enticing. Remember that reviewers are doing you a favour, so be polite and make sure that you’re asking rather than making demands.
Amazon Top Reviewers
If you’re feeling ambitious then you could also approach some of Amazon’s top reviewers. These are people who read a lot, read fast, and review well. They may have a following among other readers. You can find them listed at https://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers.
As with bloggers, make sure to target only people who are interested in your genre. When you contact them, let them know how you found them and why you think they’ll enjoy your book. Offer them a free copy and thank them for their time.
Many of these reviewers won’t respond, but the ones you get will make the effort worthwhile.
Giveaways to your existing readers are another good way to generate reviews. Use your website and mailing list to reach out to your fan base and make use of them.
You could offer copies of your book as part of a competition, as a giveaway to anyone who promises to leave a review, or even to people who have left reviews before. Don’t just give away a limitless number of books, but use this as an opportunity to get reviews. If possible, send these books out before the release date to get reviews in advance.
Lastly, make sure to ask for reviews in your book. In the back matter, mention how useful reviews are to you, and ask readers who enjoyed the book to review it on Amazon. It’s a great way to get extra reviews from people who liked your book enough to get to the end.
Putting it All Together
Cultivating a repertoire of positive reviews is never a waste of time. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews, but be smart about it. And remember, those elusive golden stars add up to royalties and checks.