Getting Reviews (The Stress-Free Way)
Reviews are essential to a successful book launch. You can have a beautiful cover, top-tier editing and a riveting book description, but those will only take you so far if you don’t have the social proof to sway the market.
You just can’t do it without reviews.
More than that, you don’t just want one or two. You want enough to really trip the algorithms and impress people who are curious about your books. How many reviews do you need in total? Answers vary, from ten (my recommended starter number) to about twenty-five to over a hundred. The consensus is that the more reviews you have, the better, and you can never try to get too many.
In fact, one Amazon employee recently said that securing reviews is arguably the most important way you can boost your ranking on Amazon.
That’s bad news for a lot of writers. How can you succeed unless you already have a large enough reader base to pile on a ton of reviews opening day? It’s daunting. It’s stressful. It’s… well, it’s almost impossible.
At least, if that’s the way you’re looking at it.
The good news is that there are options. Even a first time writer with absolutely no base can get reviews, and (better yet!) there are several ways to go about it.
Here’s an overview of my top four tactics, and I’ll review them further below:
Tactic #1: Amazon Reviewers
This tactic is one of the most time consuming, and it’s the easiest one to fail. That’s not because it’s hard. Actually, it’s incredibly easy. But Amazon hasn’t been nice to authors who want to use this method to gain reviews, and sometimes it’s hard or impossible to do this.
If you look under any of your competitors’ books, you’ll see their reviews. What you want to look for are detailed, four-and-five-star reviews written by people who appear to enjoy reviewing the books. If you click on the name of the reviewer, you’ll see that reviewer’s page. As of my writing this, the only contact information available about reviewers is their social media information they’ve decided to share. If you can contact them in this way, you’re in for a good treat.
This can be a hidden goldmine if you are willing to look into it because these reviewers love books and would likely be happy to review yours as well!
Tactic #2: Book Blog Tours
I hate to break it to you, but you're not going to get any social proof by holding an author signing at your local arts and crafts fair next season. People might buy your book, they might enjoy it, but there's no way to guarantee they're going to leave a review for you on Amazon or anywhere else.
However, if the author life really isn't complete without doing some form of book tour, you're in luck. One of the most effective ways to get a series of high-quality reviews (and a fantastic promotion, all for free) is to arrange a book blog tour.
A book blog tour is a virtual event where your book is featured with detailed reviews, giveaways and interviews on a series of book review blogs. These tours are fun for readers and writers alike, but they take time and effort to set up.
The best way to put together a book blog tour is to make a list of blogs that might be interested in your book, and then to contact them one by one. Send them a pitch according to their guidelines. Allow a month or two for these bloggers to read your book and write a solid review, and then check it out on the day their post goes live and interact with everyone who comments on it.
While there are plenty of companies that offer blog tour packages, your efforts will be more successful and more personal if you request the tour stops yourself. It’s also free.
If you choose to go this route, remember to have fun with it and be prepared to put in a lot of work. Get started early to allow reviewers enough time to read your novel, and keep track of all your communication.
Tactic #3: Beta Readers
Beta readers are small, intimate groups of fans who offer last-minute critiques and--you guessed it--early reviews. An easy way to form a beta reading group is to email your list and ask them who would like to join. Segment them into a second mailing list, and when your book is near release, send it out.
Clearly, this tactic works best if you already have a large and active mailing list, and there’s a reason it’s so popular. Once in place, a beta reading group is very easy to maintain, and it's a sure way to give you results starting day one.
If you're just starting out with self-publishing, setting up a team of beta readers can be annoying and fruitless. If you know this is the case, take some time off to build your following and come back to this approach later.
On the other hand, if you’ve already begun to establish yourself in your genre, setting up a street team like this can save you the stress of asking for reviews for the rest of your career.
Tactic #4: The Lazy Writer’s Solution
Well, I said I was going to take the stress out of getting book reviews, and this is the most stress-free option on the list. There aren't any guarantees here, and even if it works, you might lose out on high-quality reviews that you would get with the first two options. But if you're a new author and terrified of getting your first reviews, this is one solution is worth checking out.
Are you ready?
Give your book away for free.
I'm not kidding.
Nor am I talking about a reader magnet, which is a different technique entirely. I'm not saying that you should put your book on the perma-free rack forever and assume the life of a starving artist, but reviews are easily as important as royalties. Even more important, early on.
As you get closer to your release date, ideally two or three weeks beforehand, offer free copies of your book to anyone who is willing to give a review. Let people know about it on social media, and write your mailing list about it.
Some people are going to cheat the system. They’ll get the free book, read it, and move on. Many more others will likely forget the condition that you ask, so it's a good idea to collect email addresses and send everyone out several friendly reminder emails as the date goes nearer.
You can give these copies of your book out for free using any distribution that you wish. When your release day is only two or three days away, make your book available for free on the store for a few days, and encourage your reviewers to download a complimentary copy. This way Amazon will know that they did read the book and they will be listed as verified reviews, which will make your book stand out much better with Amazon's algorithms.
You can use this tactic even if you're just starting out, and it's easy to upgrade to a more traditional beta reader format after you do it a couple of times.
In the meantime, it also paves the way for you to grow your audience that much more with the appeal of a free book.
I want to hear from you. Which tactic (or tactics) do you use to get your reviews? What are you planning to do for your next book? Let me know in the comments and join my Facebook group for further discussion.