How to Get Book Reviews
5 simple tricks to help get your novel noticed.
Don't be confused by thinking that writing is art. Books are a product, and people who sell other products want consumers to buy their product and not yours.
The first thing you need to know about book reviews is that the deck is stacked against you. Major publishers spend billions on advertising plans that include paid book reviews, but for some reason the industry has established a false narrative that independent writers should NOT pay for reviews.
It's contradictory, it's dishonest, and it's standard industry practice.
There are many predatory agencies out there waiting in the shadows to fleece writers of their hard earned money. As an independent or small press writer, you don't want to spend thousands of dollars on reviews.
In this article we will discuss both the good and the bad options available for getting book reviews.
1. Kirkus Reviews
As far as I'm concerned, Kirkus Reviews is a joke. They're a predatory service that charges hundreds of dollars for a cut rate review.
This hasn't always been the case. There was a time when Kirkus was a legitimate and important part of the literary establishment. Perseid Press author Janet Morris once told me how important Kirkus was back when her popular Thieves' World novels were published by Baen in the 1970s.
Back then, a solid Kirkus review was well-respected and could jump start the discussion and sales of your work. Today... not so much.
A few decades ago the company was sold off in order to take advantage of the rise of print-on-demand publishers. There's big money in reviews, and Kirkus has an effective name recognition monopoly so they're cashing in.
The most disgusting thing is that even though Amazon frowns on paid reviews, they allow Kirkus reviews which contributes to the illusion of legitimacy.
If you have a publisher and they're willing to pony up for a Kirkus review, that's great, don't protest it. But don't shell out the cash yourself.
2. Amazon Reviews
You have to be very careful when it comes to Amazon. Amazon dominates the marketplace, and you do not want your account to be shut down. It's important to comply with all of Amazon's guidelines.
The simple rule is this: you should never pay anyone to publish a review on Amazon. You wouldn't want a paid review anyway because legitimate discussion is much better for the long-term influence of a book.
Don't be bothered by the occasional poor review. There is almost always a more significant sales jump from one or two star reviews than there are from five star reviews.
If you want to promote your work on Amazon, you should check out their advertising options. Amazon does allow you to send a person a book in exchange for a review. Usually the reviewer posts that the book was received for free (these guidelines are subject to change).
In short, make sure you know and abide by Amazon's product review guidelines.
3. YouTube, Twitter, and Book Blogs
As an independent writer looking for reviews, you're going to want to live on social media platforms. There are hundreds of individuals with book review channels on YouTube that are happy to blast your book (again, there's no such thing as bad publicity).
YouTube, Twitter, and book blogs all provide great visibility for your work. Some of these places also post to Amazon, but often the review lives only on the channel or web page.
If an independent reviewer posts a review of your book, promote it! You want to establish relationships and show that when your work is discussed, it elevates BOTH your profile AND the profile the entity that reviewed it.
If an independent reviewer notices that reviewing your work results in a traffic spike, guess who is getting the rest of his or her work reviewed?
4. Review the Work of Others
I'm not talking about doing review exchanges because Amazon does not like those and they're not legitimate reviews anyway. I'm talking about simply getting into the habit of reviewing everything you read.
The sad fact is that there simply isn't enough engagement with all the great new books that come out everyday. There are too many books that get lost only to get "discovered" a hundred years later when it doesn't do the original author any good.
Every writer needs to buckle down and review the work of independent authors. Independents are fearless compared to traditionally published authors, and there are some fantastic stories out there.
Reviewing books is great for building your content portfolio. Check out this review of Our War that I did recently. Have some fun with your reviews. Make them interesting!
When you do a review, the author should share it, the publisher should see it, and you're likely to get a few new readers visiting your social media pages (not to mention other opportunities).
A HUGE factor in making it easier to get books reviewed is to help develop a reviewer's community. We all need content, and book reviews are great. As a matter of fact, if you have a book that needs to be reviewed, contact me!
The best way to get reviews is just to ask. Not just once but over and over and over again. Be slightly annoying, it's okay.
If you happen to get a nice email from a reader, thank them and then politely ask them to publish a review. If you do a book signing or presentation ask everyone who attends to review. Encourage them not just to review your book, but to review books in general. Explain the importance of reviews.
If you're curious to get to know authors, review their book, and then send an email with a link to the review. Authors need these reviews, and if you approach an author that way it can be the start of a mutually beneficial relationship. Don't focus just on the reviews, focus on shares, likes, comments, and followers as well.
You have to ask. Most people have been trained to think that their opinion isn't important.
In the era of social media, everyone has a voice. Many people are flattered when you ask them to post a note about your book. It doesn't have to be on Amazon. It can be on Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIN, anywhere!
Ask, ask, ask.
Many people complain about the quality of content in film, television and publishing. There never seems to be enough shows or books that engage cutting-edge topics in a new and interesting way.
When you sit down and think about it, how many truly great books have you read in your lifetime? How many books have made an impact on you that you'll remember forever? 50? 20? 10?
There have to have been more great books written than that!
The current structure of our literary community is a business. Books are pumped out with paint-by-numbers plots in a constant pursuit of whatever trend advertising executives feel is fleetingly popular. Better stuff is buried.
What publishing executives don't get is that readers are looking for quality, not gimmicks.
What we need is a new community perspective that encourages everyone to help sift through the hundreds of thousands of titles that are published every day in search of diamonds in the rough. There currently is no mechanism to sorting through everything.
The gatekeepers of traditional media can't be trusted, because they're the ones who passed over JK Rowling hundreds of times and gave us Sharknado on the first go around.
The simple fact is that there aren't enough entities out there committed to honestly evaluating published works. We have to aspire to create that community.
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