I REALISE IT’S BEEN A WHILE since I wrote anything remotely related to authoring. Yeah. It’s a word.
So, I wanted to take a moment to explain what I do to get reviews for my books.
What triggered this particular post was reading the RTE best reads of the year by Sinead Crowley. Some of the listed books are probably wonderfully written (certainly if you judged by the glowing testimonials by critics) but it’s a little depressing to see that they’ve received so few reviews, especially in the much bigger US market.
Why is this important?
It’s hurting their ability to find new readers. SOCIAL PROOF people!!
To date I’ve accumulated around 200 reviews on Amazon US alone across all my books since 2016. It won’t set any records but I don’t think that’s too shabby considering I’m an Irish self-published author.
I read somewhere that if you simply allow for organic reviews, a book will receive 1 review for every 100 copies sold. A debut author will struggle to shift that many copies without a platform, so I’m speaking to that person now.
More legitimate reviews = more social proof = no-brainer for potential buyers.
We’re assuming that the product is good. If it’s not good, be prepared to swallow a bitter pill. I’ve received some awful reviews and they shook me to the core. But you know what? They helped improve my craft.
By no means is this an exhaustive guide, but it can certainly help those starting off who want to find legitimate reviewers without upsetting the mighty ‘Zon.
Start building an email list
If you take away only one insight today, do this. No excuses.
You are responsible for building the list. In my opinion it is still the most powerful marketing tool in your armoury. Strong social following? OK…but how many of those are actually seeing your messages because of the algorithms? Through email you can ask for reviews. It has been the most effective means for me to engage with my readers and elicit reviews.
I could speak about the how’s and why’s of building a list in detail, but to summarise what I did:
- Use sites like Bookfunnel and Prolific Works. There are thousands of hungry readers out there. Giving your book/short story or an excerpt away for free in exchange for an email address is an effective way to engage readers. The hope is that they will enjoy it and leave a review. Failing that, you can nurture them through future emails, offer more value and create a fan for life.
- Book magnets. At the end of my books I have a magnet (typically at the back — sometimes at the front) where people can click to get something for free (usually a free short story). They need to sign up via email to receive it. I have a bunch of free short stories on several book outlets. It’s a low calories approach to grabbing a few new emails per day.
- Subscriber pop-ups. There’s one on my own website. Yeah, yeah. They can be a bit spammy, but I make sure to only show the window once and then it’s gone for good. In it I offer a bunch of goodies for their email. Fair exchange I think. BTW, you can sign up for it here.
I also used the Hidden Gems reviewer service which was an epic fail, dragging the total average review for Pathfinders from 4.3 to 3.7 with a dozen or so scathing reviews. All part of the learning process.
N.B. Important also to know your audience in advance! My kooky sci-fi story was offered to a review team that had traditionally leaned more toward the romance genre.
Create your own Review Team
Why and How? I write about this here.
Reach out to Amazon Top Reviewers
They love reviewing stuff (provided it’s free). They are also top influencers and their review looks pretty powerful next to your book.
Will their (hopefully) glowing review help you shift many more books? Probably not, but at the very least it’s a little more social proof.
I write a detailed post on this approach here.
Ask. Ask and Ask again
People are busy.
Even though leaving a review takes all of about 60 seconds, it’s not top of the list of priorities for many people. Me? I have read sixty books this year and not left a single review on Amazon.
Had I been part of an author’s newsletter and they had asked me to do it, I would have. If not on the first time of asking, certainly on the second. Don’t be afraid to ask either through your social feed/newsletter. People are often willing to help especially if you explain the importance.
The Power of Free
Many of my stories are free on Amazon, either permanently or via KDP intermittently.
I have no qualms about giving them away. In fact, I strongly encourage it. I use the short stories as ‘bait’ so people can see my writing style and if they like what they read, the hope is they will look at some of my novels.
I’m dedicating the remainder of 2019 to writing many more short stories and promoting them far and wide. Also, if someone receives something for free they are less likely to slam it with a critical review.
Why get pissy about something if it cost you nothing?
If someone asks for one of my books, I’m happy to gift them an e-copy for free with a proviso that they publish a short review when completed. I’ve given away thousands of copies away in the last couple of years.
The problem (for authors) isn’t piracy. It’s obscurity. — Cory Doctorow
In summary, we all had to start somewhere.
I started building my email list in April 2016. I now have 6,000 newsletter subscribers, and I’m constantly trimming it.
Do they all read my emails? No. I typically hover around a 28% open rate for my twice monthly newsletter. These days I use it to tell my subscribers about giveaways, promotions and books that I’m reading.
When I launched my latest book Yage, it quickly became a #1 Amazon bestseller. This wasn’t by accident. It was primarily because of my newsletter. I had built enough trust over the months that it sold around 100 copies on the launch day. Again, not exactly Stephen King-esque but certainly trending in the right direction.
From the main newsletter, I recruit readers into my VIP reviewer team (mentioned above). This worked really well for the ROT series where I was able to get around a dozen reviews each month on release day.
Once every few newsletters, I ask for reviews, but the key is offering value. It’s all about playing the long-game and building relationships with readers for life.
At least, that’s what it’s about for me.
- If you enjoyed this post, please consider joining my newsletter, I share new stories monthly, giveaways/competitions and more free stuff for subscribers — spam free. Check it out here.