Updated: Sep 8, 2022
This question has been a sore spot for authors since the time printing presses were first invented. We slave over our work, put it out into the wild raging sea that is Amazon or other retailers, and it either sinks or swims. Of course, there are a few life preservers that we can throw it to help it make its way through the rough waters.
One of those preservers is Reader Reviews. If you don’t think they are important, think again. When's the last time you shopped for anything without looking at reviews? Getting a few reviews for your work can help people be more willing to take a chance on you. For me, that's a review's main purpose in life… letting other perspective readers know that my book is worth the small pittance they have to pay for it.
But how do you get those precious reviews when most readers, heaven forbid, are the read-bam-thank-you-ma'am kind of readers? The likelihood of a reader, even one who truly likes your work, leaving you a review are slim to none. It can take a hundred or more sales to get your first organic review. And how do you get sales when no one will take a chance on you because your book doesn't have any reviews?
It's a vicious, vicious circle.
Well, I'm here to help you break out of that circle and get some reviews on your work. Yes, Grasshopper, it is possible. And the best possible time to get those reviews is in the early days of the work going live at retailers.
You do this by offering ARCs, short for Advance Review Copies. If you are going to be exclusive with Amazon, then it's important to get most of them distributed to your readers before it goes live. Once you're exclusive (meaning in Kindle Select to put your books into the Kindle Unlimited program) then your options are more limited as to how you can get ARC copies out.
Here is my step by step method for getting reviews. Ready? Here goes.
Step Zero: Make sure your cover and blurb really shine. Make the people you approach in this process really WANT to read your book.
Step One: Upload your book onto Bookfunnel as a Download Page. This will mean that you will need to join Bookfunnel. It isn't expensive, only $20 a year if you don't want to collect email addresses. Perfect for our purposes here. Once loaded, Bookfunnel will give you an easy, handy link to give to anyone willing to read and review. Easy-peasy and they handle the book delivery.
Step Two: Search Facebook for groups of readers in the genre that you write. For instance, one of my pen names (please don't out me) writes Gay Romance. I found a group in Facebook that specializes in MM Gay ARC's. How about that? Instant place to go for a multitude of reviews, and they are generally very positive as they all LOVE the genre.
Now, I'm getting ready to launch the first book of a Paranormal Cozy Mystery Series. I did a search and found a ton of reader groups that love cozies! Then I found that perfect one… that focuses on reviewing cozies. I asked for permission to post an offer for ARC, and it was graciously accepted. Right now, between this group and another, more general, ARC group I found on Facebook, about 20 people have downloaded my ARC copy to read and review.
Will that result in 20 reviews? Probably not. I'll be happy if half of them turn into actual reviews. Not all readers will review, even if they say they will. That's okay.
The fact is, you don't need a gazillion reviews. If you can get 5 or 10 good ones, you are golden. Then you can wait for those awesome, organic ones to come rolling in as you get sales. It will happen.
Step Three: If step two doesn't garner you the number of reviews that you want or need, then it's time for step three: approaching bloggers. This time, your search will be on Goggle, not Facebook, as you look for blogs that like to review books in your genre. Make a list of them and then reach out to them with an offer of an ARC. If they have a good following, this can get a lot of eyes on your work.
Step Four: This one is obvious, but a lot of authors overlook it. Ask for reviews at the end of your book. Link to your Amazon product page to make it easy for the reader and tell them how much a review would mean to you.
Step Five: Build your list and your street team. I saved this for last because, truthfully, it should be its very own blog post. It's far too lengthy a subject to cover well here. Suffice it to say that if you have an email list—use it. In your next newsletter… you are emailing them regularly, right?... tell your readers that you are building a street team and would like to hear from anyone interested in joining. This is your absolute best place to get reviewers because, hey, they already love you, right?
So, that's it in a nutshell. My five steps to getting reviews for your work.
Oh, and if you've heard that rumor than your book has to have 50 reviews before Amazon will promote it? Poppycock! Amazon promotes books that sell. Period. If your book has 5 reviews and is selling a few copies each and every day, Amazon will help it along. They are not sitting back saying "Nope, it doesn't have 50 reviews yet!" They want to make money too!
I truly hope this helps someone out there. Self-publishing isn't the walk in the park that traditional authors seem to think it is. It's hard work.
But if you get it right… it can be awesome!
(And yes, I'm still trying to get there!)
Best of luck, and just keep writing.
About the author: Belinda White is the author of the Benandanti Series, a trilogy of books featuring Tazlyn Hunt (Benandanti werewolf) and her most unorthodox pack mates. Currently she is working on a new paranormal cozy mystery novel. You can find her and her writing on Facebook.