I ran across a posting on Goodreads recently, where the lady was inquiring about starting the review for money service. I thought that it might be worthwhile to post my short chapter on the subject of reviews from my new book The Writer’s Plan.
If your prospective customer is on the fence about buying your book, after seeing the book cover, and the book description, the thing most likely to shake him off the fence on the ‘buy that book’ side, is the heap of reviews that he can read, telling him what other people liked, or did not like, about your book. Reviews are vital for getting new Readers.
Getting reviews are a paradox for new Authors. You do not yet have avid fans, which will snatch up your next book, read it, review it, and tell all of their friends that they have to read your newest book. There are so many books out there now, and millions of Readers can pick and choose among millions of free and cheap books for their next reads. How do you find anyone to actually read, and then take the time to review your book?
I am a typical writer. I write a book, because the concepts that I put to pen insist that I write them down. I am driven to write, not because of any particular notion of success, but because something inside me insists that there is something that I must attempt to let people understand. When I have finished the book, I see all of the possible flaws, and I fear that my Readers will focus on them, instead of focusing on the message. I have a fragile ego, and I am fearful that not everyone will love the book. I am afraid every time I receive a rare review that it will be a negative review.
I am also a typical Reader. I read between two hundred and four hundred books a year. Most of them are of the information book type, with a limited number of pages. Since I also write, I write reviews on some of these books. When I read a book, I either like the book, or I do not like it. If I did not like the book, but it was an honest attempt by the Author to provide what he promised the Reader, I will usually not write a review. I reserve bad reviews for bad people, not bad books.
If I liked the book, and I have a little time available, I look to see how many reviews they have. If they have a large number of reviews, I will usually not leave a review, since they have enough already. If they need reviews, I will try to leave one for the book.
If I leave a review, it will almost certainly be a five star review. I reserve the right to leave a four star, but usually, it will have five stars. I think that any real attempt to write a helpful or entertaining book deserves the highest ranking I can give.
Even though I give almost all five star ranks, I still try to speak to what I liked, and what I did not like, about the book. I am not usually bothered by grammatical errors, unless they make the book hard to read. I will still note that they exist, or I will say that I did (or did not) like characterizations, actions, concepts or other details of the book. I have read Romance novels, and I have given five stars to ones that deserved them, but I also noted that I did not like the subject matter. I recognize that the new Reader may love the things I do not like, so I try to provide an objective analysis of the book, regardless of my preferences. The trick is to try to accept that the book may not be my cup of tea, but still be fair to the Author for his or her work.
If the book that I read is horrible, but the concept is good, I will sometimes try to make contact with the Author privately, and suggest, as gently as I can, some possible ways that they can improve the book.
Amazon and other platforms are continually changing their opinions of the ethical ways that an Author can seek and get reviews for their books. The only 100% safe way to get a review is to just let the Readers give them out organically, hoping that they will just review the book without any action on the Author’s part. If you are lucky, this may garner you one review per year, doing you no good at all.
The various publishing platforms are critical of any ‘relationships’ that may exist between the Author and the reviewer. This used to mean that you could not pay someone to give you a great review, because they would then feel compelled to give you a good one. It evolved to mean almost any situation where any direct contact was made between Author and Reader, and it changes all of the time.
No matter how carefully you seek reviews, you will likely have the occasional ethical problem, and the platform will remove the reviews they think crosses the line. There is nothing you can do about this, other than try to be ethical when seeking the review, and adjust your methods as needed.
If you are lucky, at some point, after you have already obtained a few good reviews, you will attract more Readers, and the reviews will start coming in without you doing anything. As long as you understand that most people do not leave reviews, you can rejoice in the ones who do.
Out of the few thousand books that I have read over the last decade or so, I have left only a couple hundred reviews on all platforms combined. I am sympathetic to the plight of Writers, so I am prolific in leaving reviews, compared to most Readers.
There are essentially four actions that the Author can take to get reviews. They can do nothing, and let the Readers review, or not review, with no encouragement from the Author. The Author can passively leave a request for reviews in the back matter of their books, as I have left just such a plea in this book. You can directly contact people who have reviewed books similar to yours, and request that they review your book. You can also use Bloggers and website owners to promote your book, and sometimes, this will result in a review from the owner of the Blog or website, as well as increasing sales.
If you look in the back of this book, you will see my feeble attempt to solicit a review from you. I will quote this request below:
If you enjoyed this book, please consider leaving a favorable Five Star review at the site where you purchased it. Good reviews are life or death for Authors, and I would really appreciate a good review from you!
Most Readers will ignore this request, but a few may be kind enough to leave a review. As a wise salesperson once said, “You have to ask, if you expect to get.”
The third method to get reviews is probably the most useful one. Look for books similar to yours, and look up all of the reviewers that have left a contact email. Send the Reviewer a very respectful email, asking them if they might be interested in reviewing your book as well, if you sent them a free copy of the book. Some of them will actually be nice enough to do this for you.
There are many variations of this method of getting reviews, and I do not consider myself an expert on them, by any means. If you would like to try getting reviews using this method, a good short book by John Smith that you can read called Amazon Kindle Reviews .
There is also some online software, which will search the reviewer listings to find contact information for you. You can use this sort of software if you are a premium member of Author Marketing Club.
Finally, there are a number of Blogs and websites out there that will put your book under the noses of prospective new Readers. They offer to display your book cover and some information on the book, possible also publishing an interview of the Author (You), conducting giveaway contests, and some of these web sites will also publish a review as part of their activity. You can Google for all kinds of online sites that will advertise your book by any or all of these methods, sometimes free, and sometimes for money. You want all the cost effective promotion for your book that you can get, but try to make sure that reviews are not delivered for a fee. That is a no-no.
It bears repeating that you should carefully read any rules the various sites state regarding the submission of your book for reviews. You do not want to have an angry reviewer reviewing your book!