Getting Reviews

I've received a fair number of reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and various book blogs. For those of you who would like to know how I've garnered them, I'm sharing some of my practices. Some of these may be controversial, so you'll have to decide for yourself which (if any) of these are right for you.

1) Don't just wait for people to review your book of their own initiative; ask people for reviews.
You'll get a lot more, a lot faster, by asking for some.

2) Find a big list of reviewers.
There are plenty of them around. Amazon lists their 1,000 top ranked reviewers, for example. You can even find a number of lists by just doing a Google search for "List of Book Reviewers."

3) Carefully select reviewers on the list.
Most of them will have some sort of profile or about page where they give information about themselves, books they like, what their review criteria are, and so forth. You can also look through their reviews.

Do they often review similar books to yours? Do they write lengthy, detailed reviews? Do they have lots of followers, and get lots of likes, positive comments, etc., on their reviews? Do they post their reviews in a bunch of places (such as Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, their own blogs, Shelfari, etc.)? These are some examples of characteristics I prefer in a reviewer. Are they angry and sarcastic? Do they only put their reviews in one obscure place? Are their reviews dumb? These are some examples of characteristics which are likely to make me avoid a reviewer.

You'll have to use your own criteria for choosing which reviewers are right for you. 

4) Expect low percentages, and plan accordingly.
The percentages of reviewers from whom you've requested a review, who actually review your book, will likely be fairly low. Many of them will write back and tell all kinds of reasons why they won't review your book, such as because they have a long list waiting to be read, and they're not taking on any more right now. Many of them won't ever reply at all.

Suppose you want to get ten reviews, and you have a success rate of 1 in 10. In such a case, you should try asking 100 reviewers for reviews, rather than asking 10 because you want 10.

5) Distinguish between preferences and exclusions.
Most reviewers have preferences. If you're writing in an unpopular genre, then rather few reviewers' preferences will accord with your book. In my case, there aren't many reviewers who state a preference for nonfiction children's books, nor ornithology books. The solution is that you have to ask for reviews from reviewers whose preferences are outside of your genre.

This is where you have to make a distinction between preferences and exclusions. If someone says they have a preference for romances, for example, I write to them to request a review, anyway. I'll note in my review request that this is outside of their preferred genre. I'll tell them that I'll understand if they choose not to review it for that reason, but then I'll let them know I'm hoping to pique their interest despite being outside their preferred genre.

It's not an impossibility. I get a fairly decent number of reviews from people who plainly have a main interest in other genres. For example: 
http://blithelybookish.blogspot.com/2013/05/growing-up-humming-by-mike-spinak.html?zx=cb5a49cde7aab937

However, if they say something like "No nonfiction", I won't waste my time. I don't bug people who have explicit exclusions.

6) Don't send them printed books without compelling reasons.
Many reviewers say that they only review paper books, not ebooks. That's fine if that's their decision, but in most cases, you shouldn't bother with them. 

Suppose sending someone a book costs you $5 for the book and $5 more for the shipping. Suppose 1 in 10 reviewers reviews your book. (And it could be even less than that.) With those numbers, it will cost you about $100 in paper book related expenses per review. Now suppose you make $2 profit per book. That means you'd need to generate at least 50 sales from that review, in order to break even. 

There are plenty of reviewers who are willing to review ebooks. Move on an find one of them, instead. 

If a reviewer contacts me, and says she wants to review my book, and asks me to send her a copy, then I may. However, I won't initiate first contact with a reviewer and send a copy, and won't send a physical copy unless I have a strong reason to think it will be worth it.

7) I ignore when they say "No self-published books."
I know it's controversial to go directly against their explicit review policies on that point. However, in my experience, plenty of the reviewers who make that statement still review my book. In fact, I have not seen any sign that the percentages are any lower than the ones who say they welcome self-published books. I think they really are mainly concerned to keep out the amateurish, incompetent junk. If your book is solidly professional quality, then you can probably ignore "No self-published books" policies, too.

8) Give them reasons to review your book.
I tell them my book is short, and probably won't take them long to read. I point out that my book is the #1 top rated in its category on Amazon. And so on.

What you say will depend on your specific circumstances. Whatever it is, try to make a case in favor of them reviewing your book.

9) Make it easy for the reviewers.
Giving them coupons for Smashwords or gift certificates  for Amazon is not making it easy for them. Send them the ebook, or host the book on your website and send them the link. Make it so it's a 1 click solution, not a complicated affair for them to acquire your book. Furthermore, let them know that, if what you sent them is not compatible with their devices, you'll be glad to send them the file in whatever format they prefer.

10) Give the reviewers everything they might possibly want.
Give them the title, author, genre, editor, word count, book blurb, link to the cover image, links to an author photo, links to everywhere it's for sale - everything.

Besides saving them work, you might find that the link to your cover, mention that your book had an editor, etc., will make them more likely to review it.

11) Tell them you're not looking for a biased review; you'll appreciate any review, good or bad.
(And mean it!)

That's what they want to hear. A lot of reviewers are skittish about authors reacting rudely to honest reviews. Some will be better inclined to review your book if you let them know you're not asking for them to pull any punches.

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So, there you are. Of course, these are in addition to a number of other practices, such as asking people who reviewed your book on Goodreads if they'd mind posting that review on Amazon, too (or vice-versa).

I hope you find these helpful.

Cheers.
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