6 ways to get reviews

The holy grail for any author is to get a large number of Verified reviews on Amazon. This is increasingly hard to achieve, because Amazon is ruthless in detecting “fraudulent” reviews – it strictly forbids reviews from friends and family, or review circles – and because it now demands a minimum spend before someone can review.

Amazon isn’t the only place to get reviews. It’s easier – and sometimes more powerful – to get them on Goodreads, as it’s more of a social site, with book fans actively following one another’s reviews. And while Goodreads is owned by Amazon, currently it’s more relaxed about reviews from the author’s friends and family.

Here are six ways to get reviews:

1. Friends and family – NOT FOR AMAZON

First the worst. Friends and family are typically an awful source for book reviews. Most authors get very disappointed and disillusioned by the lacklustre response from people they know. There’s probably an entire research thesis to be written on why friends and family don’t review, so just ensure you have low expectation when you send your manuscript to your relatives. Do not let your relatives post their reviews on Amazon, even if they legitimately bought the book on there. Amazon knows who your relatives are, it tracks surnames, addresses of people you’ve sent gifts to, it tracks who you know on Facebook, and host of other methods.

2. Fellow authors – NOT FOR AMAZON

Fellow authors can be great for doing review swaps. Just beware that Amazon quickly detects reciprocal reviews and review circles (eg half a dozen authors reviewing one another’s work) and will delete reviews and even block accounts. Nonetheless, some positive but honest words from writer friends can still be valuable marketing collateral. You can add it to your blog or website, for example.

3. Goodreads members

You need to tread carefully here, because Goodreads is vigilant about banning “spamming” behaviour. Check their guidelines for authors here. But if you genuinely interact with people, and participate in discussion groups, you will find places that you can legitimately reach out to reviewers. Some of these will even cross-post their reviews to Amazon, which is brilliant. Otherwise you can manually add excerpts to the Editorial Reviews section of your book on Amazon (via Amazon Author Central) as well as to your blog/site, and even to the back cover of any print versions.

4. Book review blogs

There are masses of book review blogs out there. What you’re looking for is a book reviewer/review site that (a) is currently accepting books for review and (b) is specifically interested in books in your niche or genre/subgenre. Then, contact them through their preferred method, and provide a copy of your book in their preferred format. You’ll probably need ePub, .mobi/Kindle, pdf and even Word versions.

5. Individual Amazon reviewers

This is very time consuming in terms of research, but can deliver great results. Find reviewers who have favourably reviewed books in your genre/books similar to yours. If they have their email listed, or a website, you can contact them directly. Make it clear why you are doing so: ie that they have enjoyed a book similar to one you have written, and you would be happy to offer them a free copy of yours, no obligation.

Keep all of this outreach in a spreadsheet: the names and emails of people you sent copies to, the dates, the results. It will greatly accelerate the process for future books.

5. Commercial review services

Commercial review services  are legitimate when it comes to Amazon, because although you have to pay a fee, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a review.  So you’re not directly “paying” for reviews: you’re paying to make your book available to a select, targeted, and responsive group of readers/reviewers. Check out our guide here.

BookSirens, for example, quotes a 75% review rate for downloads – and an early experiment we’ve tried with them bears this up. This is a far higher rate than most authors get even off a personal mailing list of readers and fans who have expressed a specific interest. ReedsyDiscovery is another new service, and BookSprout, which like BookSirens claims a 75%+ review rate.

As a final note: remember that there is no obligation for a reviewer to review just because you gave them a free copy. You can’t even make it a condition of doing so. You cannot pay or bribe book reviewers for reviews – you will get your account banned. It may be dispiriting to give 100 free review copies away, and get three reviews in return, but that’s the reality of publishing in the current era.

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