Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How To Get a Book Review When Nobody Knows Who You Are

Getting a review seems painful. Like going to the dentist. What if they hate it? After submitting the book, waiting for the outcome is like waiting for the results of a biopsy.
We've all seen books with nothing but 5 star reviews. We assume that the author had friends and family write those or the authors wrote them themselves. Readers are skeptical, so it's important to get as many real reviews as you can. Writers almost hope someone will give them a three star review just so it looks real, that someone not related to them actually read it; but then again getting that "unbiased" three star review kind of sucks. You want at least four stars. The book is easily worth four stars! 
So where does an author go to get reviews?
You could pay Kirkus Reviews $425-575. Boy, I would hate to pay that much for a three star review. Imagine if it was two stars, or one? Ouch.
J.A. Konrath swears by Bookrooster.com, but it costs $49.
Sites like Midwestbookreview.com only take physical copies of books and they also require a press kit, which isn't difficult, but it does take time, maybe time well spent, but time away from writing nonetheless.
You might want to try the networking sites first. Goodreads has a giveaway program, but only for physical books and only if its a new release. I've found that the Librarything Member Giveaway Program is by far the best. For just basic book talk, as far as I'm concerned, Goodreads is the best, but Librarything's Member Giveaway Program is really impressive. Authors are allowed to give away as many copies as they like, as often as they like. Readers sign up to a sort of lottery, receiving free books only if picked at random by Librarything associates. The winners can either receive physical books (authors are responsible for postage costs) or they can get ebook coupons sent to them via email. When the giveaway time is over, the author is sent a winners page with all the home addresses and emails of the winners.  
For my first giveaway, just to test the waters, I put up 10 copies of my novel, The Traveler's Companion. There were varying amounts of books being offered. Some authors offered 10, some offered 200. Almost every book had more requests than books being offered. When the giveaway time had ended, I had more than fifty requests for my book. I decided to contact the ten winners one at a time, rather than a mass email, but if it were more than fifty, I would have sent one email with a Smashwords coupon code. If you're sending a mass email, make sure to address the email to yourself and then put all of the reader's email addresses in the BBC field. This ensures the privacy of the people you're emailing.
Out of 10 free books, all were downloaded. A few weeks later, I received one review. 1 out of 10. Not great, but better than nothing.
Still waiting for the other 9.
For my next book, I offered 50 books. So far, out of about 14 downloads, I've received about 7 reviews.  Some of the readers posted their reviews on more than one site, bless their hearts.
How was the experience overall? Awesome. The reviews have been fantastic. Getting feedback keeps us authors going. Best part, it's free.
What if you get a bad review?
Often what's in the review is more important than the number of stars. Some reviewers are star happy, others save their stars for the second coming of Dostoyevsky. Tastes vary, of course, but it's more important what they put in the review. They may say something like, "I really don't like funny action adventure stories . . . I wanted literature, not popular entertainment." This would be a great review, because, guess what, most people want to be entertained. Also, the three star reviews say to potential readers that it's not just your family reading the book--someone actually read it and kind of liked it. Fantastic.
Another important thing about using a networking site is that you are given a chance to connect with your readers. I mentioned in my email that they should feel free to contact me or to request me as a friend. It's an opportunity to build a fanbase. You should make your email as interesting and as personal as possible, but keep it quick. Make sure to include links to everything. Think about inserting a picture of the book. Make it look professional. Just remember to never argue with anyone about over a review. Take it on the chin and move on.  Who knows, they could read your next one to see if you've improved. If you're lucky, you might make a fan for life. Maybe even a friend.   


  1. Very helpful! I'm aware of goodreads, of course, but I hadn't heard about Librarything's giveaway program! I'll keep it inmind for review purposes, but I think I'll join for the reading now. Good post.

  2. Hi Christopher,

    Interesting to see we came to the same conclusions.

    I found it a very positive experience, and I will certainly do it with my next book.


  3. You made some great points in your blog. For instance, making sure to BCC mass emails. I encourage everyone to check out your post.