One way to find more reviewers for your book is to look at what’s selling in your genre, see who has reviewed them, and then reach out to those people. When I started publishing fiction I did my own research. It’s easy: you just go through all the reviews, and copy down any contact information. They usually have a blog or website or something (maybe about 50% of them, anyway). It takes a little work but you can find a contact form or email and send them a review copy.
However, that resulted in a big, messy word document of garbage and I’ve never had time to go through and get it organized. And now there are services popping up that will do that for you.
So I decided to try them all out and do a big case study…
Goal: to email 1,000 new reviews and get 100 new reviews.
Firstly, if you’re cold-emailing prospective book reviewers, I’d say a 10% rate isn’t bad. Your success rate will depend on your cover and description, and your current reviews. (If you don’t have any reviews, some reviewers may not be interested).
I’ll also assume I need to give out copies of my books to those reviewers for free, so I need to set that up, either by putting the books on my website, using instafreebie or bookfunnel … or better, just emailing when I do a free campaign or linking to my permafree books on Amazon to boost the rank (might as well, right?)
But you could do this before a book comes out too, and email them again when the list is out.
How to do the research.
My first instinct, since I’ll be pushing Shearwater hard later this year, is to focus on mermaid books…but that’s probably a mistake. Mermaid books are usually more for younger teens, and they’re lighter fantasy. My books, even Shearwater, are more dark, gritty urban fantasies. So I want reviewers who will like all my books, and if I targeted typical mermaid book reviewers, that probably wouldn’t be the right audience.
Likewise, I will have some dystopia/technothrillers soon, but those readers may not enjoy the four series I’ve already started. Ideally, if I build a list of 1000 reviewers and ask them to review one book, they may also review my other books (so I’d be getting 4x the value).
Instead I should target the dark fantasies in my genre, and maybe add in a few that are cross genre. I should also probably avoid the mega bestsellers (I could just do Fallen or Hunger Games or something but those have thousands of reviews, including some people who may not typically read those kinds of books, so they aren’t representative.)
It will be better to pick maybe 25 books in my genre, that are self-published but reviewing and selling well (that way I’ll get readers who read books like those and buy indie books). Most of these services will just do the research for you, but I think selecting the books who share your audience is better – as long as you’ve read them or screen them to make sure they are similar to what you’re offering: don’t market to someone else’s audience if you aren’t providing a very similar reading experience or assuming those readers will like your book if your book is very different.
It’s also worth mentioning, this is basically “data scraping” and you could hire someone on Fiverr to do this for you for cheaper, but with a service you’re paying for quality and experience, to make sure you get the best leads possible; and with a tool, you can do it yourself – though it’s time consuming.
ALSO: this needs to be compared with my typical way of building an email list, which is through giveaways. My current giveaway for a package of 8 signed books and $150 in Amazon credit has reached 22,321 people and gotten 853 engagements, but only 507 clicks – HOWEVER, because I’m using KingSumo which encourages them to share to win, it’s also added over 3000 new readers to my email list this week.
HOWEVER – just because I can get readers on my list, doesn’t mean they’ll review my books. It’s pretty easy to get people to sign up to win free stuff, and some people will sign up just to win the Amazon credit. That’s why it’s better to run short-term giveaways and target aggressively with Facebook ads to very specific types of readers. Otherwise your giveaway will get listed on a “Free Stuff” website and you’ll get a thousand fake emails signing up.
If you want someone to do this kind of giveaway for you, Rebecca Hamilton has a service that averages around 1000 leads for $200 (results vary) and I’ve seen similar services popping up. Generally though, these *work* but have to be done right, and the way you start engaging and building trust with the new list you built is important and easy to get wrong.
But this post is about using “review research” sites to build a list of potential reviewers, and emailing them specifically asking for reviews. In theory, this reviewers will be more likely to review your books than “regular readers” who sign up to win stuff but don’t necessarily post reviews. To test it out, I’m going to get 1000 leads from both services listed above and keep two separate lists, and direct each list towards one permafree book.
I’m also splitting between dark fantasy, and scifi/dystopia, which are my main two genres.
Book Razor is the leader in this space – I discovered their site several times before finally placing an order for 1000 leads. I sent out one email to the new list. I *should* resend the email to non-opens, and I’ll follow up in two or three months with a different/new book.
But from that one email, about 20% replied and said they’d download the book and review when they have time (about 200). If that results in 25+ reviews, which I think it will – and that’s a conservative estimate – I’ll be happy with the investment.
I was worried about this seeming spammy in the first round, which is why I just sent one email, but the majority of responses were eager and thanked me for reaching out – so next time, I’ll resend to unopens, check back in a few weeks to see if they got my first email, and then try one more time a few weeks later (then wait until I have another book out). So basically, I think I’ve already gotten value from my BookRazor list, but plan on getting even more value out of it soon.
Reviewers for Books
I’ve been too busy writing, but I’ll add to this post once I have more books out and invest in some more leads from Reviewers for Books.
What to email
You’re basically cold-emailing prospects, so you need to be careful and sensitive, but in my experience if you’re just offering a free book, most readers will appreciate the email (or at least not mark it as spam).
The trick is to keep it very casual.
Better to personalize by name and book, for example “Hi Tom, I saw you reviewed one of my favorite books, “XXX” – I’ve recently finished my own novel that I think you’ll enjoy as well, so I wanted to reach out and offer you a free copy.
Here’s the link:
It’s a (very short, one sentence description).
I’m giving away copies to reviews in the hopes of getting more reviews – I’m still starting out so reaching new readers is more important than profit at this point. But no obligations of course, only review it if you actually like it. If it’s not for you or you don’t have time right now, I totally understand.
You could also bulk send something a little more general – like “hi, I noticed you reviewed some “genre” books on Amazon and I wanted to offer you a free book.”
Some skeptical people might write back with “Which book?” – if you’ve kept your data, you can answer them, or just ignore them.
I think hitting a 20% response rate is reasonable – also I always send out the book in the first email, instead of asking them to respond for a free copy (most people won’t want to engage with the author until they’ve taken a look at quality.)
Don’t say “I’m offering a free book IN EXCHANGE for a review” – you’re not allowed to exchange anything for reviews, not even a free book.
You can follow up once or twice, “Did you have a chance to read it?” But the more you follow up, the more you’ll piss people off. On the one hand, if you do followup a few times you’ll get more reviews by being pushy. On the other hand, you’ll stress people out (some authors review my books then email me expecting that I’ll do the same for them…)
If you’re having a really hard time getting anyone to read or review your book, you probably have a fatal error with your core package (cover, description, or product).
Also, it’s a numbers game. I try to give out 1000 copies to interested readers and hope for 20 or 30 reviews during launch. You can get more if you’re more engaged and followup more. I’m very relaxed with my marketing and don’t like to push.