Picture this: You’re shopping for a new product online. While deciding exactly what you want to buy, what do you look at? A product description, images, customer reviews?
Our guess is that customer reviews are most meaningful to your shopping process. Why? Because reviews give proof of other people’s experience with a product.
When readers browse for their next eBook purchase, the process is no different. People want proof that they’re getting exactly what they’re paying for. This assurance frequently comes from reader recommendations – in the form of reviews – that a particular title is high quality and on-genre.
For authors, the process of getting book reviews isn’t always easy. If you don’t already have a spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list, you may be struggling to piece together reviews for websites like Amazon or Kobo. This doesn’t mean you should give up on getting new reviews, though. The value of book reviews is undeniable; they can build name recognition and legitimacy for authors. Reviews can also help your title climb the charts on Amazon, Goodreads, and more.
When it comes to receiving book reviews on Amazon, please note that there are minimum spend amounts required. Site users need to have spent at least $50 USD on Amazon.com to participate in the community – this includes leaving product reviews.
If your book has been vetted and edited, chances are that it’s ready to start gaining reader reviews. Below, we break down five easy and approachable methods for getting book reviews – as well as the pros and cons of each. Keep in mind that these shouldn’t be attempted until your book is in its finest form. While bad book reviews can’t always be avoided, having a well-written product that is free of errors is more likely to result in that 5-star review.
- How to get book reviews with advance reader copies
- Get book reviews by promoting your eBook on Freebooksy
- Contact Amazon Top Reviewers for book reviews
- Seek out the help of paid review services
- Email your reader list for book reviewers
1) How to get book reviews with advance reader copies
If you’re still prepping your book for publication and have a base of readers familiar with your work, a great tactic to gain reviews is to send out Advance Reader Copies. ARCs, the acronym commonly used in the indie publishing community, can be defined as “copies of a book that are given out to reviewers prior to the publication date.” Readers are often excited to participate in an ARC program, in which they receive an advanced copy of a book in exchange for feedback or reviews.
While some sites like Goodreads or Kboards offer forums to request ARC book reviewers, many independent authors go to their social media platforms for this.
Below, you can see a giveaway that romance author Nicole Snow ran for her book Office Grump. Some authors will request that readers leave a review in exchange for the early copy that’s won in the giveaway.
Sharing a tweet or Facebook post advertising your ARC giveaway can quickly reach a high number of followers. In your post, you can link directly to Amazon and give away Kindle books from there – or you can even send out manuscripts to your giveaway winners via email. In Nicole’s tweet, she linked to a website landing page for her giveaway and gathered email addresses from that page.
Although ARC giveaways can reach many excited readers, you should remember that you can’t guarantee (or demand) that a reader will leave a book review in a particular time frame – or at all. It’s good to approach ARC giveaways with the mentality that you’ll get a review from a small portion of the readers who snag a copy.
Pros of ARC Reviews
|Cons of ARC Reviews|
Completely free to you
|No guarantee of reviews|
|Easy to reach interested readers||
Reliant on an open timeframe
2) Get book reviews by promoting your eBook on Freebooksy
As an indie author, you’re likely familiar with Freebooksy: a popular promotional website that shares free eBook deals in a daily newsletter. The power behind Freebooksy is its reader count. At the moment, there are more than half a million registered readers signed up for these emails. Freebooksy’s readers provide one way to get your next book review.
The best way to promote on Freebooksy is if your book is permafree or enrolled in a KDP Select promotion. With available genres ranging from Cozy Mystery to Adventure/Travel, you’re likely to find a Freebooksy feature suitable to your genre. Be sure to include a polite, personalized review request at the end of your book when you use Freebooksy. This can give readers a nudge to follow up their reading experience with a review on Amazon, Kobo, and other retail sites.
By paying between $30-$230 (promotional pricing is in relation to the email list size), your book goes out to readers who are interested in your exact genre. Just like providing ARC giveaways to social media followers taps into a motivated reader audience, purchasing a Freebooksy feature connects you to people who are already looking for their next read.
While Freebooksy, and other promotional services, cannot guarantee that you will receive book reviews from one of its features, it’s important to remember how large the subscriber base is. There are over half a million people anxious to snatch up freebies that catch their eye! Watch Freebooksy’s effects unfold in real time as your book begins to climb the charts on Amazon. After your promotional date, it’s likely that some readers who downloaded your book may go on to leave a review.
Other book promotion sites can put you in touch with potential book reviewers who are interested in downloading Kindle books, Nook books, and more. Short of paying for a book reviewer service, promotional sites (particularly for freebies) are one of the best ways to start pulling in reviews.
Pros of Promo Site Reviews
|Cons of Promo Site Reviews|
|Get in front of thousands of readers||Promo sites are paid services|
|Climb the Amazon charts in real time||
No guarantee of reviews
3) Contact Amazon Top Reviewers for book reviews
If you aren’t familiar with Amazon Vine, it’s a program that invites Amazon’s top reviewers to share their opinions on certain items. There is a list of thousands of these top Amazon reviewers that work with the Vine program and are able to publicly list their contact information online. While it can be challenging to successfully get in touch with an Amazon Top Reviewer, it isn’t an unheard of method for gaining new book reviews.
As many authors will tell you, this method is anything but a sure bet for getting a review on your book. It can also take considerable time. However, if you land a Top Reviewer then this can result in an esteemed level of review often seen as “the holy grail” on Amazon.
If you’re interested in pursuing a Top Reviewer, you can do so by checking out their profile and looking at past books they’ve reviewed. It’s important to seek out a reviewer who is “on-genre” for the type of book that you write. You can then see if the Top Reviewer has contact information included in their profile, which may just be a website or social media information. From there, you’ll need to contact the reviewer and wait for a reply.
This certainly isn’t a guaranteed method, and does only apply to books published on Amazon, but it has a high reward for any success stories out there.
When seeking out Amazon Top Reviewers, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Be patient. It can take quite a while to hear back from these Top Reviewers, if you do at all.
- Don’t be afraid to move on. If you aren’t hearing back, pursue another method for getting a book review.
Pros of Amazon Top Reviewers
|Cons of Amazon Top Reviewers|
|High risk – high reward||
High failure rate
4) Seek out the help of paid review services
If you have money to burn in your marketing budget, pursuing paid review services may be an option for you. While some of these services have gotten a bad rap for illegitimacy, there are also websites that do exactly what they’re paid to do: read your book and leave an honest, impartial review on it.
Keep in mind that the top book review services aren’t going to come cheap. Some sites, like Kirkus Indie Reviews, can charge for their name recognition. The benefit of requesting reviews from companies like Kirkus is that the process is spelled out easily for you:
- Submit a request for a book review.
- Submit your manuscript to the site.
- Wait for the service to review your book.
- Receive your review!
Once you receive your review from services like Kirkus Indie Reviews, you can publish it on Nook, Google Books, and other retailers. To post your review from Kirkus on Amazon, you’ll need to contact an Amazon representative.
If you’re not so keen on paying hundreds of dollars for a review, there are still options at your disposal. Reedsy’s list of book review blogs provides an easy sorting tool to narrow review services down by book genre, and by services that accept indie books. From here, you can find a world of readers who enjoy leaving book reviews. Some options are relatively inexpensive – like Reedsy’s Discovery review program, coming in at $50/review.
BONUS TIP: You’ll need to keep an eye on the review publishing options for these programs. If you need your review published on Kobo.com, make sure that specific retailer is included in the fine print.
While paid book review services can be a controversial conversation in the indie community, there are legitimate and honest options out there for authors who have the cash to spend on it. The best rule of thumb is to seek out professional services from big-name companies with great reputations. Paying for illegitimate reviews from non-professionals can result in the review being banned on sites like Amazon.
Pros of Paid Service Reviews
|Cons of Paid Service Reviews|
The most guaranteed review option
Watch out for illegitimate sites!
5) Email your reader list for book reviewers
Many indie authors already have an active reader email list set up. Email lists can be a great way to alert readers of upcoming releases or provide writing updates. It’s also a great option for those wondering how to get book reviews. If you don’t already have one, you should start to build an email list. After all, email marketing strategies are 40 times more effective than social media.
Whether you keep track of a reader list on Gmail or Mailchimp, you have a platform for contacting a large number of readers in one single message. Some indies may automate email outreach on a weekly or monthly cadence to keep their lists “warm.” Regardless of your current email strategy, be sure to balance the types of messages you’re sending when it comes to requesting book reviews. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with emails. That’s especially true if you’re asking them for something.
Ultimately, think of your emails as being occasional treats that should delight a reader. Start sending too many emails asking something of them, and you’re going to see far fewer readers opening your messages. Maintain your balance between giving readers something (like sought-after info on an upcoming release) and very occasionally asking for a review.
Below, here’s a template for what a polite review request may look like. If you’re emailing your reader list to ask for this, be sure to make it easy for them. Include links directly to review pages on sites like Apple Books or Goodreads. Provide as much information as the reader would need in your message so that their job is easy. All they’ve got to do is read your book and leave a review if they’re so inclined!
BONUS TIP: Combine this email strategy with an ARC giveaway! Incentivize your reader list by offering them free early copies of your next book – along with a polite request to follow their reading up with a review.
Pros of Email List Reviews
|Cons of Email List Reviews|
Quick, free and easy
Can tip into overcommunication
|Draws from a loyal reader base||May cost money for an email automation service|
Our recommendations on how to get book reviews
Ultimately, there’s no one tried-and-true method for getting great book reviews. What we’ve found is that having a strategy with several approaches is the best way to increase your chances. We hope that out of our five tips, you’re able to find at least one that brings in honest reviews for your book.
If you’ve had luck with one of our recommendations, we want to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below!
12 comments on “How to Get Book Reviews for Self-Published Authors”
A problem never addressed in articles such as this is that people can only leave reviews on Amazon if they have spent at least $US50 on books alone on Amazon in the last 12 months. If your potential reviewers haven’t done that, they are barred from leaving reviews. In Australia, that’s about $A120 just on eBooks (because Amazon only offers eBooks in Aust and the cost of postage from the US means not many people buy print books from Amazon US). That massively diminishes your options for obtaining reviews to promotional sites, and you have little or no control over that process. It would be great if this problem was 1) acknowledged and 2) addressed.
Hi Debra – thank you for mentioning this. That’s a great point and is worth addressing. We’ve updated our article accordingly.
Kirkus and other editorial review sites are fine, but it is against Amazon’s terms and conditions for authors to pay for customer reviews. Authors can have their Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing accounts terminated for this. Not a good recommendation.
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Not quite true Cherise. These services are fine if they are listed in your editorial reviews section. You are correct, that you should not pay for customer reviews. A subtle, but important difference.
Robert: I am afraid I am having trouble parsing your comment. If they are paid services, and you should not pay for customer reviews, then having them listed in your editorial reviews section means you paid for a review, does it not? Are you saying it is ok to “list” them but not display the reviews? Trying to figure out exactly what you are saying. At any rate that is a terrible policy.
Robert: a brief follow-up: I COMPLETELY glazed over the word “customer” in your response to Cherise, and in Cherise’s initial post. Yes, paying for editorial reviews from Kirkus, Booklife (mine, and a rave review too!), Midwest Book Review et al., are fine–paying a private person like your friend Sarah or an anonymous person on his own, OTOH, is obviously improper and is grounds for revocation of your agreement. Sorry for the confusion.
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