This post deals with something super important: how to get book reviews for your book. I don’t have a magic formula or some ninja trick for this. It’s a long game, over time. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Getting book reviews sometimes seems like a ninja trick. It’s a struggle in the beginning and feels like a chicken and egg problem. Reviews help you sell books (and secure some of the paid promos), but you can’t get reviews without selling books.
If you’re frustrated, you aren’t alone! But you CAN do this.
Listen to Episode 158 – How to Get Book Reviews
HOW TO GET BOOK REVIEWS
Write a good book.
No duh, right? Here’s the thing: we all think that we’ve written a good book. But what you really need to know is if your book is well-written and suits the reader expectations for the genre. If you are not writing in a specific genre according to that genre’s conventions and you’re just choosing to write what you want, getting reviews will be harder. Unless you write a unicorn book. (Not an actual book about unicorns, but a book that just HAPPENS to find success.)
To help make sure you’ve got a good book, get some other eyes on it. Find some beta readers or ask other authors in your genre. Make sure you’ve read the successful books in your genre. Above all, make sure your books meets reader expectations. The cover, blurb, and the contents in the book should all line up together and should all be what the reader expects.
This is the basic foundation for getting reviews. Don’t miss this! If you aren’t sure about how to write to a particular genre, check out my post on niching down.
Grow your audience.
It’s hard to grow an audience as you start. This is slow work, but it’s work that you should be continually doing. Growing an audience is something you’ll do for your whole author career. You may be using social media, but your main focus should be your email list.
Do newsletter swaps with authors who are in the same genre. Run ads targeted to the right people. You need eyes on you book to get reviews. As I launched my Emma St. Clair pen name last year, my reviews grew as I continued to write books. My earlier books had less reviews in the first thirty days than the books I write now.
Build a review team.
While growing your audience, also grow your review team. I’ve talked about the difference between ARC readers and a launch team–you might have one or the other or both. But as you grow your overall audience, continue to build this team of people who see your book first and will review for you.
Different people handle this different ways. Some ask for proof of reviews form the members and remove people from the team. This seems like a lot of work for me, and technically Amazon could take you to task. You are not allowed to incentivize reviews or require them in exchange for your free book. (More from Amazon on this.)
Something realistic to realize: it is a SMALL percentage who leave reviews. As far as I can tell (without doing more work than I want to), about half of my current team leave reviews. When you’re looking OUTSIDE your review team, it will be less. As an example, I’ve sold and given away over 6k copies of my most-reviewed book and it has had 1.5 million pages read. It’s just shy of 100 reviews.
Ask for reviews.
To get more reviews, you DO have to ask. This is a place where authors sometimes get uncomfortable and then awkward. Let’s avoid that. You don’t need to feel bad asking for reviews and you also don’t want to make READERS feel bad if they don’t.
Somewhere in the back matter of your book, ask for reviews in a simple, clear way that isn’t emotionally manipulative or apologetic. I normally don’t review because an author asks, but because I like them book and then am reminded to review when I finish a book on the app and Amazon asks for a review. It may not be the author asking, but the fact that I AM asked gets me taking action. Calls to action work. Don’t miss this simple step.
As for the wording, keep the tone light. You can explain why reviews matter, but don’t go on too long about it. Ask for an honest review if they liked the book. Don’t make people feel bad or like they HAVE to leave a review. Try not to come across as needy or whiny or demanding. Don’t beg. Check to see how some of your favorite authors do this and then find a way to ask in your own words.
If authors don’t like asking for reviews, they DEFINITELY don’t love reminding readers. This feels like nagging. But nothing is wrong with reminding your email list or your Facebook page to leave a review. You don’t have to ask overtly, but that’s fine too. One way I’ve found to remind people is to post a screenshot or quote of a review and share how thankful you are for it. That gets people thinking, “Oh yeah– I mean to leave a review!” It also shows that you appreciate your reviewers. Here’s an example:
With your review team, you can do more overt reminding. You should email them at least twice, maybe more, about reviews. After all, they signed up for this. You aren’t annoying them, but reminding them that they signed up to do this.
WHAT OTHER OPTIONS DO YOU HAVE?
If you’ve gotten this far, obviously these are slow, long-term strategies. They aren’t quick wins or fast ways to get hundreds of reviews. There ARE some other ways to get reviews if you want to try other things. I just don’t recommend them as much. BUT if you’re just starting out, some of these might help you with that.
Paid Review Services
There are services where you can pay them to connect you with readers and reviewers. This is NOT buying reviews, but giving away your book through a paid service to their audience with the hopes of getting reviews. I have never used these (other than Shifted Sheets, which worked well and grew my email list by 50 or so), but have seen other authors recommend them.
- Happy Book Reviews
- Shifted Sheets (mailing list builder option)
- Hidden Gem
- Book Sirens
- Xpresso Services
Some authors have used Net Galley, but this seems to be a more expensive option with very harsh reviewers. I’ve not seen any authors recommending this.
I’ve seen the advice (and even courses) about manually going in (or using a data scraping tool like Import.io) to get email addresses from Amazon reviewers, then emailing them offering a free book for a review. I’m not a fan of this for a few reasons, though I think it CAN be done well. Some Amazon reviewers WANT free books to review. They do this all day long. Amazon did remove the ability to SEE the email addresses when you click on a reviewer, so now it takes more work to click on a webiste or blog and find their email address.
I did try this once. It took hours. I should have been writing more books instead. 🙂
WHAT IF I GET BAD REVIEWS?
Some people suggest that you shouldn’t read your bad reviews. That’s not bad advice. Sometimes it’s healthy to just step away. But you also might find something really helpful to you as an author in those bad reviews. I say read them. Learn from them if you can. Don’t let them negatively impact you. Then move on.
There isn’t magic in getting more reviews on your book. If someone tells you there is a quick way to get lots of reviews, they are probably selling something or violating Amazon’s terms somehow. Write good books. Grow your audience. Ask for reviews. And then repeat.
Questions? Tips or other resources for getting reviews?