Getting book reviews

Last week, I wrote about whether book reviews were an important marketing strategy. As it turns out, a good, well-written book review can benefit your sales. When choosing between a book with numerous reviews and one with only a few or no reviews, many readers will pick the more “popular” choice.

So how do you go about getting those reviews?

1.) Ask for a review as part of the back matter of your book. It is simple to include “If you enjoyed this, please leave a review. Thanks!” to the end of your book. Amazon does a good job of asking readers to write a review before they exit the book on their Kindle.

2.) Join book reviewer groups on places such as Goodreads or Google+. Here you can find people who like to review books. Just make sure you follow any of the posted guidelines before you post looking for reviews.

3.) Contact book bloggers for reviews. When doing this, make sure they read your genre and be sure to follow any guidelines they provide. Beware that often the reviewer’s to-be-read list is long. You will also want to find out if they post only on their site or if they post on Amazon and other e-book retailers’ sites.

It sometimes helps to cultivate your relationship with reviewers before you ask for a review. This means get involved on their blog by asking and answering questions related to their posts. Think of these book bloggers as potential business partners.

4.) Approach top reviews on sites like Amazon. Often in their profile, it says if they review books and many provide an email address for author to contact them. Remember to be polite in your inquiry. You can also look for people who reviewed books similar to yours and contact them to see if they would like a free copy in exchange for a review.

5.) You can of course pay a company to find reviewers for you or to even review your book. It is one thing to pay a reviewer and quite another to pay for a positive or five-star review. And I think reviewers will not put as much credibility of a “bought” review. So this option should be used only if you have considered all the pros and cons.

6.) One of the best ways to get a lot of reviews is to giveaway many copies of your book. The more hands you get your book into, the more likely it will be read. An increase in the number of readers will hopefully increase your chance of reader reviews.

It is easy to offer a free copy. On Amazon, you can gift a copy of your book. On Smashwords, you can set up a Free Coupon, or you can use a site such as Instafreebie that allows you to send readers free copies of your e-book.

Reviews are obviously a benefit no matter when you received them, but if you can get reviews out BEFORE your book is released, it can only help the momentum of any book release promotions you do. This means you will need to start early to make sure the reviews coincide with your book release date

But no matter when you get a review, the important thing is to get reviews.

How important are book reviews?

As an independent author, I often hear about how important book reviews are. But is this the real make-it-or-break-it item for authors?

Years ago before the Internet, many readers bought their books from brick-and-mortar book stores. They would find a book with an interesting cover, read the back blurb, and if it sounded intriguing, they would buy it. Unless the story was already a best-seller, reviews were probably not even considered but a friend’s recommendation might have been. When deciding between two books, readers are probably far more likely to pick the one recommended by a friend.

But nowadays we have the Internet and a mass of independently published books. Whether right or wrong, some readers have a poor perception of those books. Perhaps they think because they were not traditionally published, they are not as good. Of course, that is not true. There are many reasons people decide to self-publish.

This is where reviews can come in handy. A good, well-written review can do wonders for your sales. But so can word of mouth recommendations. In 2011, Smashwords creator Mark Coker did a survey asking readers to select the biggest deciding factor in choosing a book to read.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they selected books based on recommendations from readers on forums, message boards and blogs. This implies that it isn’t so much reviews on a book-buying website but the reviews of peers elsewhere that influence the purchase of a book.

This makes sense as the trustworthiness of online book reviews have been called into question. Some authors pay for top reviews (though paying for a review is not always bad) or the reviews obviously sound like a friend or family member posted them. Sometimes online reviews on places like Amazon are thoroughly unhelpful to other readers as all you get is an “I liked it.” quote.

That is the problem with reviews found at online book retailers. They can be written by anyone, including someone who doesn’t read or like your genre or someone who has a beef about something totally unrelated to your book. But when these point-of-sale reviews are detailed and positive, they can reap rewards in the additional sales.

Whether the reviews are on a blog/forum or at the point of sale, these reviews are a form of social proof that readers liked your book. How much other readers value these reviews depends on their trust of that reviewer. Perhaps they will believe a fellow reader on a forum or book-viewing website more than someone on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It is hard to predict.

And while I believe reviews do matter and help sell books, you need to remember that book reviews are only one small piece of the book marketing puzzle.

Not sure how to get book reviews? I’ll address that next week.