Getting more book reviews is critical for authors – without at least 10 reviews it’s hard to even give your books away for free. Unless you already have a platform, you should shoot for around 20 before you invest in book marketing, promotion or advertising. But how do you find reviewers? What should you say when you contact them? What if nobody is reviewing? This video introduces the 3 ways to find the right reviewers for your book.
#1. Reviewer info
One way to find reviewers is to look at who has reviewed similar books on Amazon. This takes time, so there are programs and services that do it for you. You’re essentially building an email list of potential reviewers, then you can send them a nice email offering them a free book.
- I usually send the link first, so they can download and take a look without agreeing to anything
- If you’re in KU, you can still give out ARC books, but you can’t give tons away to build your list
- You still need to sell it, even in a short email (without being salesy, just a sentence or two with the hook/genre.
- A great cover can help get more replies
- You can use Bookfunnel to give out your ARC copy or just store it on your website
- This is COLD traffic, though it should be targeted traffic – which means these are people who should like your book, because they’ve reviewed similar books… so you need to be sensitive when reaching out.
- It’s a numbers game – you need to send at least 100 emails for maybe 15 responses and ultimately 5 reviews. I send thousands of emails.
ALTERNATE: Google Search
I’m deviating from the video, but I mentioned Amazon recently made a big change and removed reviewer contact info from its platform, which means many of the tools I use, like Book Review Targeter, are scrambling to adjust.
But even without any tools, it’s useful to make a list of 10 competitors (books similar to yours that are selling well) and Google “Title+Book Review”… you’re looking for the top 20 blogs or websites that have reviewed that book.
These are websites that rank well and get traffic, and also review books in your genre. Check each one out. See if you can add a guest post, or a comment, or advertise – most bloggers don’t have time to review unsolicited books, but may accept a great article that will entertain/educate their audience.
Research the results for your 10 books and build a list of 100 relevant websites. Make it a goal to publish something on ten of them, linking back to your site or book on Amazon. If you can get specific keyword anchor links, you can use them to boost visibility of your book on Amazon. (So, for example, when I mention “Book Marketing” I link straight to my book on that subject.)
#2. Build your own list of potential readers
This is actually a strategy I talk a lot about and what I used to launch my own fiction. Basically, I gave away books similar to my books, using giveaway plugins and software. Readers entered to win those books, and once they were on my list I could offer them my own books for free and try to turn them into fans.
I got 8500+ young adult readers on my email list before I published my first novel. That helped me to get enough reviews to launch well. Since then, the list has grown to about 50K with book giveaways, and I’ve cut it down to a more manageable.
#3. Give your book away for free
This is really no different from sending out ARC copies to potential reviewers, but it means readers can find YOU. Instead of you doing the research and trying to contact reviewers cold, or spending money building an email list that may not want your book anyway, you can just make it available.
You can either join KU and set your 5 free days, or make the book permafree (for awhile) and get Amazon to price match it.
HOWEVER: Just because a book is free doesn’t mean people are going to read it.
Advertising doesn’t really help, because you’ll spend to much and most people won’t buy it without more reviews.
So your choices are to either do a free campaign first with a big push (easiest) or build a list of potential reviewers and send them an ARC copy (best). I usually do a bit of both.
You could also give away a sample or short story or prequel, but you need to give readers enough valuable content to feel satisfied and want more.
- Piracy is a thing, but almost never your main concern, unless you’re already making serious money with your books. I don’t worry about it, and most publishing experts agree.
- Giving your book away for free does not “train readers not to pay.” People pay for what they want. They don’t want your books yet, and they’re never going to want them unless you get them to start reading something.
If you have tons of great reviews, a great cover, and a reasonable price for the length and content, you might be able to get strangers to pay for it… but if you DON’T then advertising and marketing is a waste of time. You must get these reviews. You can either work hard, or take it easy and let your free books earn readers and build a list on autopilot while you’re writing your next one.
Here’s one of my free permafree books on Amazon, about book marketing.
It was published in 2013 and is still in #1 in two categories:
- #1 in Business & Money > Entrepreneurship & Small Business > Entrepreneurship > Advertising
- #1 in Business & Money > Marketing & Sales > Advertising > Entrepreneurship & Small Business
That’s pretty good for an old book with no promotion. Sure, I keep it visible by mentioning in when I write new posts.
Reviews take work!
What tends to happen, is you get up to a certain number of reviews and then things just stall out. You need to get your readers onto your email list with a free offer in the back of your book, and then you need to build a relationship with them, and remind them to review. That will be much more effective than reaching out to strangers. And the more books you give away for free, the faster your email list (and reviews) will grow.
This is just a beginning strategy, by the way. Once you have a big list of fans and lots of reviews, you don’t have to give away new books when you launch them, because it will be easy to get lots of reviews.
What about paying for book reviews?
So the general stance on paid book reviews is that they’re a bad idea. However, it’s not always unethical to buy reviews. Certain sites, like Kirkus or Self-publishing Review have built a reputation around providing book review services; the catch is that they aren’t always positive, and they aren’t cheap.
Plus, they don’t show up as normal Amazon reviews, but you can use them on your marketing or editorial review section. Personally, I’d spend more money on a great cover, and I don’t think editorial reviews sells books… but since getting reviews is hard, if you need one to get the ball rolling, these are the services you can trust.
Beware of the goodreads scam, where people reach out offering to review your book but then expect payment. Paying for Amazon reviews is against the terms of service and can get your account banned, so make sure you understand the risks.
If you need more help, check out my course on email list building. You can save $30 is you signup today.
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.