How I got 50 book reviews on Amazon

I just 50 book reviews on Amazon! (actually, I’m up to 51)

Authors asking about how to get book reviews, begging for book reviews, and so on, are fairly common out there. I did the same thing until I found out how to do it. Now I rarely ask for reviews, and they’re appearing without me even asking for them!

But it took me a long time to get to this point, and I’m writing this so maybe you can get here faster and with less money spent.

What did I do?

I asked people for a review.

I didn’t just ask anyone. I asked bloggers who specifically said they were looking to review books in my genres. I asked my friends and family. I asked on social media and forums: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit. I asked everywhere I could think of to ask.

Where do you find these people?

First I’ll give you the bad news.

If you Google “book review sites,” you’ll find a slew of sites, lists, and people willing to take your money to either review your book or find others to review it.

Let’s be honest here. Anyone can and will put up a site saying they’re going to review your book. They may actually want to help you! But …

  • They may be inundated with review requests.
  • They may be burnt out and never want to see a book again.
  • Some have been harassed by obnoxious authors and are wary of you.
  •  A few just want free books and have no intention of reviewing.
  • A very few will try to pirate/sell your book.
  • Some are doing this as a hobby, and when it’s no longer fun, they may close up shop, leaving you stranded.
  • Some don’t know how to act in a professional manner.

I don’t say these things to slam reviewers. I love reviewers!! Good reviewers are worth their weight in gold.

However, this is the reality out there for an author, and authors should know this going into it. I wish I had.

BUT (and this is an important but) the good news is that the people who legitimately WANT to (and actually DO) review are out there. You just have to find them! That’s where the fun begins.

(and when you do find them, cherish them)

So how do you know which are any good?

You don’t. But here’s what I found helpful:

  1. Make up a spreadsheet of some kind. Excel, Open Office, notebook, it doesn’t matter. But you must have a way to keep track of who you query and whether they got back to you. I have columns like the date I asked, their name, email, link to their form or site, did they answer and how, when I sent the book, when they answered, a link to their review and the date, and any comments.
  2. Make sure you read those lists you find and only investigate reviewers who do book reviews in your genre. Some say they do any genre but usually they have a few they really prefer.
  3. Look at their website/Facebook page/Twitter account/etc.
  • When was it last updated? If it hasn’t been updated in more than three months, they’re not doing reviews anymore. Pass.
  • Do they actually like your genre? Skim some of their most recent reviews. If all they’re reading are sweet romances and your book is splatterpunk (even if they say they like that!), you might want to reconsider. That’s an extreme example but hopefully you see what I mean. I’m not saying don’t query them, just don’t expect them to want to read your book anytime soon.
  • What sort of reviewer are they? What things do they really dislike about the books they’re reviewing? If the reviewer keeps having issues with books where there’s cursing or sex or whatever and that’s what your book has, don’t waste your time. You may get a review but it may not be a good one.
  • Read their review policy. They may not be doing new book reviews, or may want you to wait until a specific date. Honor that. Note things like that in your spreadsheet. If they ask for specific things, follow their instructions to the letter. Remember, they’re dealing with dozens of requests, and if you make it difficult for them, they’ll delete your email and move on.

How do you ask for book reviews?

I made up a text file with some information everyone seems to want:

  • the book blurb
  • my bio
  • links to the book (if it’s out)
  • social media links
  • my website/blog link

I also got together my cover images in one place, so I could find them quickly if I needed to.

I used to copy and paste this long spiel about my book, which is okay if it’s not out yet. But if it is out (and on Amazon) I just say hi, I’d like a review, here’s the link to it on Amazon, go take a look. If you want to review it let me know and I’ll send you a copy. It’s easy on us both.

But if there’s people who might steal/pirate my book, should I send it?

This is a legitimate fear. But the standard is to send at least a digital copy of your book to reviewers. If you want book reviews, you’re going to have to send reviewers the book so they can read it. Try to have as many formats available as you can, but at least a PDF and a mobi (Kindle) version.

Whether you send a print copy is up to you. With postage these days, the cost can become significant, especially sending overseas. I just found out about a place called Book Depository which will ship your book worldwide for free. You still have to buy the book, but even so, this can be a huge savings, depending on where you’re sending it.

(some reviewers insist on buying the book themselves which is very cool)

Now, suppose the worst happens and they just take the book and never review, or worse, try to pirate it? You get new readers! So don’t waste time/energy worrying about that.

My results?

Asked: 201

Never replied (some even to multiple inquiries): 107  – this doesn’t mean they were bad people or rude. It could be they didn’t have the bandwidth to reply. Imagine you got 20 emails at once asking you to review a book, and your kid was sick or something. I used to ask if they got it but I ran out of bandwidth for that so it could be they never got the email. It’s not a big deal.

Responded with a form letter: 4 (none of these did a review)

Responded with an actual email/FB message, etc: 90

  • declined to review it: 23 … 5 of these gave me author interviews instead, which was nice of them!
  • said they’d review it: 67
    • books sent out: 74 (Some reviewers asked for the book with the request and about 60% of those never reviewed. But 40% did!)
  • actually reviewed it: 34

But now I have 51. So where did the other 17 reviews come from?

I encouraged my fans to review

People like your book. They want to help. But a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of leaving a review. They’ve never done it before. They don’t want to look stupid. Perhaps they’re dyslexic, or don’t spell well, or this gives them flashbacks of having to write essays in school.

So you have to encourage them. A lot!

How?

  • Ask for the review at the end of the book.
  • Ask those on your email list to review it. More than once. But don’t spam, just add a little PS. to the end of your emails or something.
  • Ask those on Facebook to review it.
  • Tell them how much it means to you and that it will help others to know if they should buy it. People love to be helpful to others.
  • Show them how to review a book (I have an article you can find right up at the top of the page in my navigation bar which I direct people to all the time)
  • If they do write a review, go “like” it, mark it as “helpful,” or whatever the particular site lets you do. Do this no matter how they reviewed the book. This lets them know someone valued what they thought about it. [Note: this is controversial, with loud voices on either end of the spectrum.]
  • Emphasize that you want their honest opinion. Less than five star reviews give all your reviews validity – they show skeptical shoppers that these are real book reviews. Also, something one reader hates may be another reader’s reason to buy. So don’t feel bad about a “bad” review, and let your fans know you want to hear what they have to say.
  • Tell your fans how many book reviews you have! Make a big deal of it. Thank them for reviewing. If reviewing your book is seen as a good thing – no matter how they felt about the book – then others will feel safe to review as well.
  • NEVER complain publicly about a review you got or make fun of someone for posting it. Your readers WILL find out. Personally, I feel very happy when someone shares how they felt about what I wrote, even if it’s negative, as long as they tell me why they wrote what they did so I can improve.

Once you begin getting book reviews that you didn’t ask for, you’re in the big time! Woo hoo! Just keep going. Write your next book!

Any questions? Comments? I like to hear what you have to say.

 

Patricia Loofbourrow
 

Patricia Loofbourrow, MD is an SFF and non-fiction writer, PC gamer, ornamental food gardener, fiber artist, and wildcrafter who loves power tools, dancing, genetics and anything to do with outer space. She was born in southern California and has lived in Chicago and Tokyo. She currently lives in Oklahoma with her husband and three grown children.

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