How Do Some Authors Get HUNDREDS Of Great Reviews, While Others Get Nothing?
Reviews are a self-publishers #1 priority —because reviews help sell MORE books.
Self-publishing a book and then successfully SELLING it is made up of two essential components: your book package and your marketing plan. Both of these need to be in place before you publish.
What Is A Book Package?
A book package consists of the content of your book, the title, the cover, the description, an author page (bio), and the keywords and niche headings (eg. contemporary romance) you choose when you upload your book. In other words, the package is your book + the immediate marketing material surrounding your book.
While I consider an author website and list to be a major component of your marketing plan, the reality is you can sell books (GASP) without them.
You can’t sell books without REVIEWS!
One of the big tasks traditional book publisher undertake on behalf of their authors is getting advanced reviews. Why? Because advanced reviews help sell the book — BIG TIME. You will see snippets of review on the back cover, on the inside flap of hardcover books and on inside pages of the book.
As a self-publisher, YOU are the Marketing Department.
Your job is to get advanced reviews that can go in your Author Bio section or in your description section.
This involves asking review bloggers, review sites, other authors, magazine editors, newspaper editors, etc. for reviews.
A review from a publication such as Kirkus Reviews will go a LONG way.
You should also set up a volunteer team of readers. These are people who will read Beta copies or Advance Reader Copies (ARC). Part of the agreement is that they will write reviews.
The minute you hit the PUBLISH BUTTON, your team should “buy” the book, and post their reviews. NOTE: downloading a free copy of the book is considered to be a sale.
And finally, you must continue getting reviews, for the lifetime of your book. This step should never stop … it should be a daily or weekly component of your marketing plan.
How Do You ASK For Reviews?
There is the RIGHT way and then there is the way that guarantees rejection.
BUT, before I get started I want to address EXPECTATIONS.
Book Reviewers are NOT your friends or relatives. For the most part , they are NOT paid for their reviews. Your reviews may appear on a Blog, on Amazon, Goodreads, or any one of dozens of other sites.
Reviews from fellow authors, influential or famous people are a gift of time and effort — their reputations are at stake.
Even though you are looking for reviews in order to sell your books, the reviewers are NOT writing the review to help you sell your book. They are writing the review in order to help potential purchasers make a decision. They PRIDE themselves on writing honest reviews. This means that you may get a variety of reviews from five-star fabulous to one-star show-stoppers.
Once you send a reviewer your book,
it is out of your hands!
Approaching Book Reviewers:
Unfortunately there is no quick way to do this. You can’t just approach reviewers willy-nilly without knowing who they are, what types of books they review and the format of book they require for a review. Start with the Book Reviews Directory. Click on the genre or genres your book fits under. Most of the categories in the Book Reviews Directory are fairly broad. Pick the one that fits the best. For example if you write chick lit … you should choose Women’s. If your novel is a dystopian thriller choose Action, Adventure, Triller and also choose Science Fiction.
There is a category in both Fiction and Nonfiction called ALL … basically those are the reviewers who are willing to read almost ALL the genres in each of the categories. Don’t forget to choose this category too.
- Set up a Swipe File
- Set up a Tracking System
SETTING UP A SWIPE FILE:
Before you start contacting reviewers, create a “swipe” file. Develop a list of the “facts” as well as one or more inquiry letter templates in advance. When you are filling out forms or sending emails, all you need to do is copy and paste whatever version is best suited to the reviewer.
Your Swipe File Should Include:
- Name, address, phone number, email, your website link
- The name of your book
- Author Bio (short form)
- Genres (use the ones you are classified under in Amazon OR your own version of a genre mix)
- Publication info: Date of publication, unpublished, pre-publication info
- Formats: formats you can provide the book in (ie. mobi, PDF, paper)
- Reviews (include star count and list of independent reviews & links)
- Book — Fifty word summary
- Book — Medium length summary (up to 250 words)
- Book — Longer summary
- Inquiry paragraph (you might have several versions)
- Here is my book (attachment link)
- Thank You for your review
- IF you find yourself writing the “same” bit of information more than three time … add it to your swipe file.
SETTING UP A TRACKING SYSTEM
My suggestion is to create a spread sheet either in Microsoft Excel, Word or OneNote. Other useful alternatives are CRM database programs or Microsoft Access.
This is the information you need to track:
1. The name of the reviewer website
2. Name of the reviewer
3. Contact method (website form or email)
4. Genres they review
5. Book submission formats: Do they require a print copy or will they accept e-books (what format? PDF, mobi, Amazon GIFT, etc)
6. What is their review policy? In addition to the above what other rules do they have? Do they only accept new books, or will they read books well past the “new” date. You may want to make a note of what they won’t accept.
Finding book reviewers should be an ongoing part of your marketing strategy. As soon as you have a have a short list, you can start reaching out to the reviewers.
Once you start submitting requests, your spreadsheet should grow to include:
7. Date of inquiry submission
8. Result of inquiry (accept, decline, no answer)
9. Date of book submission
10. Results (keep track of when and where your book was reviewed. **You may not always find out whether or not your book was actually reviewed.
Once you get a review, celebrate with a cup of coffee and keep going. If your review was posted on a website, you can still use it on Amazon in the “Author” section. You can let people know about the review in your own blog and in your various Social Media venues: twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and others. You can also use any of the dozens of bookmarking services to give the review a +vote.
Send the reviewer a Thank You Note! Just a Thank You. NO need to get effusive. Don’t point out any reviewer “mistakes” and don’t mix your simple Thank You up with other requests or comments or links or ask them to also read this too! Just a friendly and polite THANK YOU will do!
Contacting Potential Reviewers:
You will either be contacting reviewers by e-mail or by using the contact form provided on their website. Contact forms vary widely — some just give you the room for some preliminary information while others require all the details.
Be polite, and if possible start with a salutation and their name. If you can’t find a name see if there is a user name. IF you can’t find anything approximating a name just say “Hi there.”
Keeping it as short as you can, let the reviewer know who you are, a bit about your book and if it has been published, OR when it will be published.
Offer to send them a copy in whatever format they desire (print, PDF, e-pub or as a GIFT). ** You should already know this, but are confirming and adding additional options. If your book is already published, include your Amazon (or other) link so they can check it out.
Sign off by thanking them for considering your book. Provide them with FULL contact information:
- full name (and pseudnym if applicable)
- phone number
- your website
- name of book
- Amazon (or other) link
Don’t forget to include a Header. Some website forms have a space for a header. If they don’t, put your header on the first few lines of the body panel. Make it EASY for readers to know what your message is about. If you are sending an email, put your header into the Subject panel. Your header should be something easy like: “Review Request” or “Review Inquiry.”
Before You Hit SEND
Proofread, spell check, and then do it again. Your request will hit the trash can if it is filled with grammatical errors and typos … the reviewer will think that your inquiry is a direct reflection of your book. Using your swipe file to copy/paste information should help you avoid mistakes. Create a really great file, make sure it is grammatically perfect and typo free. It will save you a LOT of time and effort.
Do NOT Expect ANYTHING. No reviewer will guarantee a review. They may have the best of intentions and simply run out of time. They may “start” reading and decide they don’t like your book. Consider yourself lucky if they don’t post a bad review.
Do NOT ask for a positive review. Reviewers fiercely protect their right to their opinion.
Do NOT ask for a review to be posted on a specific date. I’m not a reviewer and I have a huge stack of both paper and electronic books to read. Reviewers probably have a stack three times as big. Most reviewers are NOT being paid for this. They spend hours (or days) reading a book and another few hours writing a review. They do it for FREE. They do it because they love it. Don’t even THINK about trying to impose your schedule on them.
IF you want reviews to start coming in as soon as your book is published, make sure you give yourself plenty of time in your pre-publication schedule. Get your beta readers to do your first round of reviews.
Do NOT offer to pay for a review. Most reviewers will accept a free copy of your book. Many will state that they received an ARC or a free copy IN their review.
DO NOT bug the reviewer. Many reviewers get hundreds of inquiries. If they spend the time answering them all they will have no time left for writing reviews! They will reply to your inquiry IF they are interested. They MAY tell you when your review is done and where it is posted. “MAY” is the key word. Don’t bug them for any reason. I KNOW you are anxious. Get over it!
DO NOT ask the reviewer to change or revise their review. If you get a bad or neutral review, just accept it. Don’t ask … it puts them in the position of having to say NO which puts you on their bad karma list. If they said something wrong, or included a wrong bit of information, just ignore it. That’s the way THEY understood it, which is why they wrote it. If you get more than one reviewer “misunderstanding” what is happening, maybe your book needs a rewrite, or you could just go with the flow and rewrite your description!
DO NOT comment on your own reviews. Whether the review was fabulous or negative, you should leave it be.
Does this sound like a lot of hard work? It not only “sounds” like it, it IS hard work.
Best selling authors get hundreds of reviews. They work hard at making their book a best seller. It is NOT an accident.
If you are overwhelmed, it may be because you are trying to do to much all at one time. Instead of setting a target to get 100 reviews, work on your first five. Then once they are in place, work on your next five. Though you may soon surpass 100 reviews, you still only concentrate on the next five!
Best of Success!
Book Reviews are critical to your book’s success.
Be sure to read this entire How To Get More Book Reviews series:
How To Get More Book Reviews: Your Website
How To Get More Book Reviews: Social Media
How To Get More Book Reviews: Author Groups
How To Get More Book Reviews: Facebook Groups
How To Get More Book Reviews: Reviewer Blogs
How To Get More Book Reviews: Amazon Reviewers
How To Get More Book Reviews: Purchase Reviews (this method is legit)