Why are book reviews so important?
Book reviews are important for both authors and readers. As a self-published author, book reviews can influence sales and give insight into how your book resonates. To readers, book reviews can help determine whether or not they would be interested in reading the book. Reviews are social proof that your book is worth the investment of time and money. Although you provide a description, readers share their experience with your book.
There are different types of reviews. Crowdsourced reviews are reviews written by everyday readers who post them on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads, among other channels. These can vary in helpfulness, but some are well-written and can be beneficial for authors. Even a negative review can provide valuable insight. The second type of review is a professional book review. These are written by critics who work for credible institutions, such as respected magazines, newspapers, online publications, etc., and have knowledge of the subject matter of the book. Another type of review is from influencers like book bloggers and podcasters.
Here are some ways you can build your collection of book reviews.
Paid Review Services
Authors turn to professional review services to enhance their credibility. Services like Kirkus, which has been around since the 1930s, Readers Favorite, and Reedsy are paid services with guaranteed reviews. Free but highly competitive review services include the New York Times Book Review, School Library Journal for children’s and YA titles, and BookLife, the indie author division of Publisher’s Weekly provide additional avenues for visibility.
Book Review Sites
Book review sites are a form of advertising specifically designed to encourage new readers to find and experience your books. When you choose a day (or days) to advertise, the review site sends an email to book lovers who signed up for free or bargain ebooks. More eyes on your book lead to more reviews on the book being advertised. Hopefully, this approach also leads to new readers for all of your published books—your backlist and future publications. Read more about specific book review sites here.
KDP Select Free Book Giveaway
If your ebook is enrolled in KDP, you can take advantage of the free book giveaway option within your KDP dashboard. In the Marketing tab, select up to five days out of each 90-day period to give your ebook away for free. Although your goal is to make money, giving your book away allows more readers to experience your book without the risk of spending money on an unknown author. More readers, more reviews.
Another useful resource is the book blogging community. Some book bloggers will review books free of charge. Research book bloggers who have done reviews on books in your genre will have an audience that could be interested in your book as well. If the blogger likes your work, a good review on their blog could go a long way with sales or even just getting your name out there! Podcast hosts provide a similar benefit, whether you are a guest on the show or if they simply feature your book.
Many authors have success using Amazon ads. Done well, Amazon ads put your book in front of readers at the exact moment of need. With Amazon’s advanced algorithms, your ad appears in the search for readers to select. While it takes a little work to maximize ad spend, ads can be an effective way to increase readership and therefore reviews. It should be noted that ads aren’t foolproof and can lead to spending more on advertising than you are making on your book. This is especially true for authors with only one published book.
Ask for reviews!
Many authors don’t ever ask anyone to review their books, and most people don’t regularly review books unless they have such strong feelings about them or unless they are asked! It is essential that, as a self-published author, you ask people to review your book! Between social media, bookseller websites, author groups, and bloggers, there are countless opportunities for you as an author to build relationships with people who would read and review your work. Direct messaging and emailing people in the industry to ask them to review your book is key to increasing your reviews!
Here are a few ways to make the ask:
Assemble a book launch team
A book launch team consists of your biggest fans and colleagues. The launch team acts as the catalyst for your book in the first week after your book release. Aim for compiling a list of about 50 people knowing that not everyone will participate. You’re asking for book reviews during launch week, plus sharing your book on social media. Through a series of emails, along with a digital copy of your book, you’ll walk your team through successful completion of the launch. You’ll end your launch week with a healthy number of reviews.
Ask for reviews on social media
Social media is a great tool for getting crowdsourced book reviews as well as getting the word out about your book release. Promoting your book on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest are great ways to reach a broader audience that may be interested in reading and reviewing your book.
Even if your followers don’t write an official review, simply leaving comments on your accounts can also be very helpful reviews! Having a fanbase that supports your work can help you build credibility and your author platform so that more people are inclined to purchase your books.
Additionally, if you involve your followers in the writing process, they may be more interested in the final product and want to give a review. This illustrates the importance of starting to market yourself and your book early.
Give followers a goal. Announce, “My goal is to get 25 reviews this week. Can you help?” And then follow up by asking them to add a photo with a screenshot of their review on your page.
At live events
Ask for reviews when you speak, present a workshop, or do a reading. At the end of your talk, announce that your books are for sale and note it would mean the world to you to have readers write a review when they are done.
If you do a lot of readings, you can also print inserts or bookmarks to include in the book to encourage book reviews.
In the back of your book
Use a Stay Connected page or Keep the Conversation Going page at the back of your book to ask for and encourage reviews. Use language like, “Thanks for reading [name of book]. I would love your feedback. Please leave a review on Amazon [leave shortened URL] or wherever you purchased this book.”
From bloggers, podcasters, and the media
This sounds easy in theory, but how can you write a compelling direct message or email to persuade someone to read and then review your book? According to Book Cave, before approaching anyone about reviewing your book, it’s imperative that you established a website. A well-designed website establishes your credibility. You also want to ensure you’re reaching out to people that have done reviews of books similar to yours in the past or whose ideals line up with what you’re writing about. Research is the key.
Once you have done all that, draft an email to send to possible reviewers. Additionally, do not attach your book to the original email before they accept your request to review it, and ensure you give the reviewer ample time to review whatever you will be sending them. Remember to be persistent, engaging, and professional in all your interactions with potential reviewers. Find out more about pitching podcasts and press releases.
Amazon Review Policy
While your goal is to get reviews on Amazon, Amazon’s review policy restricts some would-be reviewers from leaving a review. Chiefly, they must be an Amazon user who has purchased at least $50 worth of items in the past year. This policy prevents authors and other sellers from creating fake accounts and posting fraudulent reviews.
What can you do if a reader can’t post a review? Ask readers to send it to you to post on social media, on your website, as an editorial review through Amazon Author Central, or use it on your book one-sheet. There are no wasted opportunities for reviews!
It should also be noted that the writer of the Amazon review holds the copyright to those words.
In conclusion, getting book reviews as a self-published author can be a challenging task, but it is essential to the success of your book. Utilizing social media, bookseller websites, podcasters or bloggers, and building relationships with potential reviewers are all effective ways to increase the visibility of your book and secure book reviews. With the right approach, you can get the book reviews you need to help your book reach a wider audience.