It’s reported that over 95% of people will read reviews before making an online purchase. And that’s never truer than with books.
Reviews provide social proof, reassure readers they’re making the right choice and give vital honest insights and perspectives that haven’t been polished and spun by authors or expert marketers.
But beyond the benefits for readers, reviews are also valuable for authors to boost sales, rankings and impulse purchases, to mine quotes and new angles for marketing, and to identify improvements for new editions, clever ideas for the next book, and to better understand readers’ needs and expectations.
But reviews aren’t easy to get, so how do you go about it?
Here are our Top 10 tips:
People coming to your website are likely to be interested in your offer. Capture their interest (and, with the right consents, their contact details) with the promise of a free book in return for an honest review.
To make sure you’re only giving your book away to people that are truly interested in reviewing it, use an online form to create an application process so you can review free copy requests before sending them out.
If you know who’s bought your book why not ask them for a review or endorsement?
Pop a leaflet or bookmark into the parcel that requests a review and explains how to post one. Or, after a reasonable amount of time, email your customers and ask them for feedback and reviews.
When seeking reviews for your book it’s important that you don’t flood your potential market with free copies, so when you contact your mailing list make sure you limit the number of copies available and target those readers who are least likely to buy a copy anyway. Focus on influencers - those people with a big network who, after reading and reviewing your book, might talk about it to their followers.
This is particularly useful for non-fiction authors as LinkedIn will help you target your review activity at people in the professions most likely to be interested in your book.
Search for relevant people in groups and job roles and send connection requests to anyone not already in your network.
Once you have a pool of potential reviewers in your network you can either send them a direct message via LinkedIn, or download their details and email them yourself. It can be a little time-consuming, but is well worth doing. You’ll not only be finding reviewers, but also reaching new potential readers, building your audience, and growing your network and platform.
What better time to ask for a review than when a reader has just finished your book? Add a page to the back of your book that asks for a review and explains how readers can do it.
A little online desk research will uncover a host of book bloggers and social media influencers who are ready to review your book. But if you don’t tell them your book exists, they won’t know to review it.
Most bloggers will only be interested in reviewing newly published books. And some will have larger “To Be Read” piles than others. So, be sure to start early and give a couple of months’ notice.
Only reach out to bloggers and influencers that have followers likely to be interested in your subject or genre, and if your book is very niche don’t try to appeal to a wide audience. And don’t just look out for book bloggers and influencers. Think carefully about other products, subjects and interests related to your book and look for bloggers in those areas too.
Social media can be a powerful way to reach a lot of people quickly but can easily spiral out of your control. So, limit the number of review copies you’re willing to give away, perhaps on a first come, first served basis. Include a short and sharp synopsis of your book in your post, plus a link to a book page to provide more information and instructions on how to request a review copy.
Goodreads is owned by Amazon and is a huge online community of book readers and reviewers. It’s worth taking time to get to know Goodreads as a user first so you can understand its culture and how it works before you start actively seeking reviews.
Goodreads has thousands of reader groups that are classified by genre or subject. Whilst some groups actively encourage reviews and promotional activity, many are for readers only and discourage or forbid author participation – so make sure you know the rules before you start.
Use your network, email list, Linkedin and social media followers to build your own ‘street team’. This is a group of keen, interested and engaged readers and advocates who are willing to review and promote your books.
Build your street team by posting regular requests for new volunteers to join. You can offer goodies or discounts as incentives to join your team and send them copies of your book so they can read it and post a review. Your street team can also help you by finding new reviewers on your behalf.
Make sure everybody in your team knows that getting free review copies isn’t contingent on them providing a positive review and that their review must be 100% honest.
Whilst we neither recommend or condone paying for reviews, there are legitimate premium and paid-for services that can connect you and your book with readers that have an interest in your subject or genre (NetGalley is an example).
As you won’t be paying for the review itself, only for the service to connect you to a reviewer, it’s very different to ‘buying’ reviews. But it’s worth making sure you only work with a legitimate service that has high standards.
You won’t get a review from everyone you give a book to. A good rule-of-thumb is to expect a review from about 20-30% of the copies you give out. But the closer your connection to a potential reviewer, the more likely you are to receive a review from them, so take time to nurture interest and avoid sending out copies on spec.
Providing your review copies as ebooks will make the process easier, simpler and cheaper. But bear in mind that most readers prefer to read, and are more likely to review, hard copies.
There are, of course, time and capital costs to consider in pursuing reviews. Every free book you give away comes at a cost to you. But you don’t always have to give away free copies to get reviews; sometimes the offer of a discount can be all that’s required.
Remember that you don’t want too many free copies floating about, so be selective and reach out to new reviewers in regular short campaigns. If you’re providing your review copy digitally, do what you can to keep it safe by using a service like Bookfunnel.com or by making sure your pages are watermarked as ‘for review only’.
Finally, there are various written and unwritten rules that help us all keep reviews honest and trustworthy. But if you make sure reviews for your book are voluntary, honest and uncompensated you should have no problem staying on the right side of most regulations.
It’s a simple fact that your book is more likely to be purchased if it has reviews, and it really pays to keep them fresh, relevant and up to date. So why not make seeking new reviews a routine part of your book marketing strategy?
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