Would you like to have an easier way to acquire book reviews?
In this post I share with you all the resources I have used over the past few years to get book reviews. Some of the resources proved to be a waste of time, while others proved to be lifesavers.
In addition to listing out the resources for book reviews, I have also shared the lessons I learned while promoting books and acquiring reviews. I only wish someone had told me these things when I started out in the self-publishing business!
Now that your book is published, you want it to start selling, right?
Among the list of things, you need to do to sell your book, book reviews are right at the top. You don’t need a gazillion number of book reviews. But you do need a certain number of reviews to jumpstart your book sales.
How Many Book Reviews Do You Need to Sell a Lot of Books?
Let’s consider the following facts about book reviews.
- Unless you have, say five or ten good reviews, many book promotion sites won’t agree to promote your book.
- It’s a total waste of money to spend a single dollar on book promotion – unless you have a few great reviews of your book on amazon.
- A book with ten reviews does sell more than a book with one or two reviews.
- Having fifty or hundred amazon reviews doesn’t give you much more incremental benefit than having ten great book reviews on your amazon page. After getting, say, ten great reviews, you need to start focusing on overall book marketing efforts such as creating an author platform.
- It is good to try and accumulate at-least ten great reviews. This way, even if you get one or two negative reviews, your overall amazon star rating would still be positive.
- You need to focus on both reviews in blogs as well as on amazon. Both serve two distinct purposes. The book reviews on blogs increase your search ranking through external backlinks – and serve as a book marketing strategy. The reviews on amazon convince a potential book buyer to press the buy button – the amazon reviews serve as a sales strategy.
While your book does not need to cross a minimum review threshold for Amazon to start recommending it, having certain number of positive reviews does help. So, we fixed on the number ten. Ten is a nice round number – ten sounds better than five, and seems more easily achievable than twenty. Once you crack the secret of ten book reviews, you can rinse and repeat the same recipe for more reviews if you like.
Have you got 10 book reviews yet? Let’s get started and see how you can get 10 great reviews on amazon.
Book Reviews & Book Review Myths
I know that for most of us, penning emails, requesting reviews from strangers seems an onerous task. This is especially true when we don’t know whom to ask, and even more so, when we are not sure if all that legwork would actually result in more book sales.
The problem is that we are surrounded by myths perpetuated by the internet.
Let’s look at some of these myths.
There are a lot of myths and uncertainties which prevent authors from acquiring reviews for their books. Here are a few of these myths which sow fear, uncertainty and doubt in our minds, and de-motivate authors from actively soliciting book reviews.
- “Is there any benefit of book reviews?”
- “I already got 5 reviews but my book sales are still languishing.”
- “How many reviews do I need?”
- “Shouldn’t I invest my time promoting on social media, Facebook or free book sites, rather than spending time soliciting book reviews?”
- “Book bloggers are an unpredictable tribe, what if they give me bad reviews?”
- “I don’t have money to spend on premium review sites.”
- “Whom should I contact? I don’t know anyone!”
- “Book bloggers are a surly, unresponsive tribe. I am so afraid to approach them!”
- “I need some snazzy software to find reviewers.”
Let’s unravel these book review myths!
Beyond the Myths, The Real Scoop on Book Reviews
In this section we look at how book reviews really work and also when they don’t work.
Getting your book reviewed on blogs isn’t going to get a lot of book sales. The only people who visit such sites are other writers like yourself you are looking to get their own book reviewed. Even reviews on amazon don’t serve much purpose since people need to first get to your amazon page before they can be persuaded to press the buy button.
So, what’s the point of book reviews? Are they completely useless?
Book reviews are not useless! They serve two very important functions.
Firstly, book reviews on blogs and other news sites can lead to a higher page ranking for your own book page. This in turn makes it easier for readers to find your book. How does this happen?
Let’s consider how a reader finds a book. When readers are looking for a book they typically search for words related to their topic of interest. Since Google is the biggest search engine in the world, if you can make your book surface to the top on Google searches, you are quite likely to get a buzz everywhere else as well. So how can you make your book discoverable on Google? The most important element in Google ranking is the number of high-quality external backlinks pointing back to your book page.
Voila! You got it now, right? If more bloggers review your book and embed links to your book page in their own blog, Google will start seeing many links pointing back to your book page. It will note that your book page is popular and it will surface it to the top. Of course, there’s more to it such as selecting the words you want your book to be associated with, and then focusing on those few words (keyword ranking in a nutshell). However, generally speaking, if a large number of fairly decent blogs have links pointing to your book page then you will have a high chance of getting discovered by your readers.
This way, book reviews fulfil the marketing function of helping you find potential readers by ensuring that you, your book and your own sites show up high in search rankings when readers search for books on Google, Amazon or elsewhere.
Now that you got that traffic, you need to get these potential readers to become actual readers! This is where book reviews again come in. When a reader visits your amazon page how is he or she going to decide if the book is a good fit? By looking at your table of contents, book description, book cover and of course book reviews! If the book reviews are positive and seem authentic (as opposed to fake book reviews), your prospective reader will feel confident enough to click the buy button.
This way book reviews fulfil the sales function of getting your prospective customers to buy.
Thus, as we see, book reviews, when used properly can fulfil both marketing and sales functions for you.
Paid Book Review Websites
Let’s start with the junk sites first. We then review the middle level (inexpensive sites) and then the premium book review sites.
Junk Paid Book Review Sites
You can easily find gigs which promise you the moon for almost nothing. Here’s an example: “For $5 I will post a review of your book on my DA45+ site. For $20 I will also write the review for you, create 250 backlinks to it, and share it with 100,000 of my followers on Twitter.” It is easy to create a free blog either on a public forum like Medium or a personal domain, and then offer to publish a review of your book there.
All these sites are junk sites. Even if you had a thousand such reviews, they would contribute almost nothing to your marketing or book sales. Your book featured on such low-end junk sites wouldn’t even show up in Google and Amazon searches.
However, this is not to say that anything low-cost is junk. I have found some amazing sellers on Fiverr who run decent book review blogs.
There are some ‘quantitative ways’ to classify a site as junk of course. As an example, check out a post on the junk site. Then on Google search for a topic related to that post. Do you see the post from the junk blog show up anywhere on the search results? You can of course check out the DA and PR of a blog, but you don’t really need to go to that trouble. I use some simple criteria which at a glance can tell if a site is worthwhile having your book reviewed on.
Here’s the criteria I use to quickly identify a site as junk:
- The junk sites have no focus, i.e. no niche. Give them $5 and they will post your article on any topic whether it is a book review, or an article about neurosurgery. Their site is full of poorly written articles on a mishmash of topics.
- The junk sites don’t have a decent name – they have simply picked up some ridiculous sounding domain name. Do you want a review of your book hosted on “pennystockcredit.com?”
- Even though many junk sites claim to be DA45+ or having PR60 – all this is misleading. The point of high ranking – i.e. DA (Domain Authority) and PR (Page Rank) – is that reviews on such sites is expected to feature high in search results leading to a higher discoverability of your books. Imagine your book gets reviewed on NYT – the buzz on the internet would be phenomenal! However, the DA and PR numbers claimed by junk sites belong to the blog hosting service (e.g. Medium, BlogHer, Wix, BlogSpot) not to the individual blogs. Anyone can create a free account on such blog hosting services and create a personal blog – that doesn’t mean that search engines will give that individual personal blog a high ranking.
Inexpensive Paid Review Sites
The inexpensive paid review sites are those which are hosted by reasonably popular individual bloggers. Reviews on such sites range from $30 to $100. The best way to find such sites is to check the book reviewers’ directories like ninjainfluencers.com.
Whether on blog review directory or on gig sites, how do I decide that a blog is good?
Here are some of my filtering criteria to identify a decent low-cost book review site:
- If a blog or website is focused on a particular niche, and doesn’t offer the moon it is good.
- I would give it an even higher point if the blogger has taken the trouble to get a personal domain name instead of hosting it on a shared service (e.g. BlogSpot or Medium).
- The posts on the blog are well written.
I would opt for such a blog even though it might not feature very high on Alexa rank and may not have high DA and PR. A review of your book on such a blog would not bring in instant fame, but would certainly contribute to the long-term discoverability of your book.
Premium Paid Review Sites
These are sites which are well known and enjoy a high level of credibility in the industry.
- Zavesti: https://www.zavesti.com/zavesti-book-review-policy/
$125 (plus the cost of purchasing your book) in 4 to 6 weeks for a 300+ word review. Your review also includes a great bundle of book promotion services such promotion on social media, featured on front page Spotlight Category, option for Author Interview, and cross-posting to amazon, Goodreads and LibraryThing.
- Kirkus: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/indie-reviews/
The starting price is $425 for a 250+ word review with a 7 to 9 weeks delivery.
- Self-Publishing Review: An online magazine that features coverage of the indie book world as well as editing services. It offers a number of options for paid reviews: http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/get-reviewed/. $79 gets you a 70+ word review. $219 gets you ‘Classic Tier’ review which includes 500+ word review, star rating, social media promotion and pre-approval of your review (so that you can choose not to have negative reviews published).
- BlueInk Review: http://www.blueinkreview.com/purchase. $395 for standard review to be completed in 7 to 9 weeks.
- Clarion: https://publishers.forewordreviews.com/reviews/#service-clarion-review. $499
Remember how we spoke about the fact that backlinks from book review sites actually help your own site to rank higher in search engines. This way you drive more visitors to your author platform – i.e. your website – and from there to your amazon page.
Now all backlinks are not equal! Backlinks from premium sites are considered high quality backlinks by Google and you get a higher ranking. Backlinks from junk sites can actually hurt your ranking.
How to select a premium site for your book review?
My own experience with premium sites is that the more expensive ones don’t necessarily add more value. A review of your book on a very expensive site is unlikely to skyrocket your sales and would only provide incremental increase in your search ranking. Further, some of these premium review sites can provide harsh negative feedback which can hurt your book sales more than anything.
In the category of premium sites, I found zavesti.com to be the most reasonably priced for the great value it offers. Also, the reviewers in zavesti.com typically focus on positive aspects of your book and provide a lot of value-added services (such as cross-posting to other sites).
Free Book review Sites
- Foreword: https://publishers.forewordreviews.com/ This is a sister site of the fee for review site, Clarion.
- Check the Book Reviewers Directory (e.g. ninjainfluencers.com) to find bloggers who post reviews for free on their sites.
- Search on google to find book reviewers: + “book review”
As an example, if you write historical fiction then search with the following terms – historical fiction + “book review” This strategy requires a lot of legwork as many reviewers you find may not be actively reviewing books anymore. Also, if they do reviews purely as a labor of love, then their turnaround time is very long. I haven’t had a great experience with this strategy even though it seems very easy.
Tier 1 Book Listing / Email Blast Sites
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/
- BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/partners/pricing
Cost of advertising on BookBub can range approximately from $200 to $800 depending on the genre of your book. Here are their listing requirements: https://www.bookbub.com/partners/requirements
- LibraryBub: https://librarybub.com/authors/ LibraryBub offers a convenient way to promote your book to libraries through their mailing list of 17000+ librarians.
The cost of advertising through LibraryBub may be approximately $200 USD based on the discussions in this thread (see comment by Alinka Rutkowska, CEO of LibraryBub): https://www.kboards.com/index.php?topic=223380.0
Based on the above thread I assume this: Typical cost of getting featured in a LibraryBub newsletter could be approximately $179. With this I could expect about 300 clicks on my book. So at the end of the day, it boils down to the ROI you are getting from the advertising strategy. What are the alternatives to LibraryBub? You can purchase Facebook ads and promote to a specific category of people (e.g. librarians), or purchase Google adwords and promote to those people interested in specific topics. As Alinka says, on average google adwords’ cost per click is in the $1-$2 range and Facebook is similar. So this makes LibraryBub a better investment for your advertising dollar. More importantly, emails have a greater influence on potential book readers (& librarians) than Facebook or google ads. When I am on Facebook I am looking for friends and entertainment. When I am on Google I am searching for specific things to get my questions answered quickly and rarely click on ads. But a book suggestion in my email box stays there for a long time and there is a strong possibility that I will click on it. This is certainly not an endorsement of LibraryBub (or any other newsletter service). Any such email blast service can only be one part of your overall book promotion strategy. You must first craft a complete strategy and develop a realistic goal before you spend a single dollar anywhere.
- Book Life (a.k.a PW Select) is the Publisher Weekly’s program for Indie Authors: https://booklife.com/about-us/pw-select.html
$149 for listing you book on Publisher Weekly’s sites.
- NetGalley – $849: https://netgalley.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/115003952873-Do-you-work-with-individual-authors- Many of the readers and visitors to NetGalley are professionals – i.e. editors of major newspapers, journalists and popular book bloggers. It’s quite possible that you could get a request for a copy of your book from an editor of NY Times. However, the feedback from authors is that getting a good review from someone at NetGalley is quite tough and even more disconcerting is the fact that these reviewers most often do not post their reviews on amazon or in their own newspapers but simply on NetGalley which may not be of much use for an author. Unless you have a lot of money to burn, I would think that instead of spending $1000 to list in the hope of attracting the attention of some mainstream freelancer or editor, you might as well send them emails – This costs nothing and you can find their email addresses at the bottom of their reviews.
- NetGalley Co-op: If you are looking for a slightly less expensive way to list on NetGalley you can try one of their co-ops. A NetGalley co-op is a group of independent authors who have teamed up gain the benefits of being a small publisher within NetGalley’s system. Here’s one such co-op: http://www.weapenry.com/netgalley-co-op/ Prices range from $50 for one month listing to more depending on the options you choose.
Tier 2 Book Listing/Email Blast Sites
For a certain fee, these sites list your book and may also send your book to a group of potential readers whose email addresses they have in their database.
- BookSends: https://booksends.com/
- Author Buzz: https://www.authorbuzz.com/
- Bargain Booksy: http://www.bargainbooksy.com/sell-more-books/
- Free Booksy: http://freebooksy.com/
- FreeBooksy ($50 – $100)
- ENT ($35 – $60): http://ereadernewstoday.com/bargain-and-free-book-submissions/
- RobinReads ($30 – $80): https://robinreads.com/genre-divide/
- Many others, just search on Google!
If you don’t want to spend your time getting your book listed on the book promo sites then Ram’s Book Rank site (https://www.book-rank.com/) can help you. For a certain amount of fee, Ram will get your book listed on these sites. The fee includes Ram’s commission plus the cost of listing on each site. Your total fee depends on which sites you want to be listed. Here’s a very valuable feedback from Nicholas Erik who paid $800 to have his book listed on 16 sites through Ram.
Book Reviewers Directories
- Ninja Influencers: https://ninjainfluencers.com
This is one of the best book reviewer’s directories out there. It has a great search and filter capability, so you can find exactly the right set of reviewers (including those who would be willing to cross-post book reviews on amazon). Since the bloggers registered on this site are those who are actively looking for book review requests, you can find the right book reviewer very quickly. This should be your #1 destination if you are looking for book bloggers to review your books.
- The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages: A Directory of 200 Book Bloggers, 40 Blog Tour Organizers and 32 Book Review Businesses Specializing in Indie-Published Books: https://www.amazon.com/Book-Reviewer-Yellow-Pages-Indie-Published-ebook/dp/B077FYH28Y/
- Book Sirens: https://booksirens.com/book-reviewer-directory#
- The Book Blogger List: https://bookbloggerlist.com/
- The Indie View: http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers/
- Reedsy List of Book Bloggers: https://blog.reedsy.com/book-review-blogs/
- Midwest Reviews: http://midwestbookreview.com/links/bookblogs.htm
- Top 25 Sites for Finding Reviewers https://curiosityneverkilledthewriter.com/top-25-sites-for-finding-reviewers-fbad93801320
More Places to Find Book Reviewers
- LibraryThing: http://www.librarything.com
This is not exactly a book reviewers directory but its certainly a place where you can find people who love to read and write. There is a good chance that one of them may review your book if you strike up an online acquaintance. If this seems like a lot of work, then you are probably right.
- Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com
This is another place where reviewers and authors hang out.
- Book Life: http://booklife.com/ This is not exactly a book review directory but rather a book promotion site.
- Local Newspapers: Try reaching out to the local newspaper in your community. You can easily find the email address of the editor through the contact me section. They will be especially open to reviewing your book if you tell them that you live in the same community.
- Mainstream Media: Look for freelance bloggers who write reviews in top newspapers. Their email address is usually right there under their name (or you can find their social media handle). Just a bit of caution – aim to have some good reviews of your book already in before you contact mainstream media.
- Social Media Groups: Find book reviewers related groups on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.
Amazon Book Review Services & Strategies
- The easiest strategy to get amazon reviews is to send a review request to a book blogger and also ask if he/she can cross-post the review on amazon. To make things even more simple, some book reviewers directories (e.g. Ninja Influencers) let you filter and find book reviewers who would be willing to cross-post on amazon.
- Hidden Gems: https://www.hiddengemsbooks.com/author-services/
Hidden Gems will ask you to submit an ARC (advanced review copy) of your book. They will then send emails to a set number of reviewers asking them if they would review your book. The number of people they contact on your behalf (which is obviously proportional to the number of reviews you will eventually end up with) depends on the amount of money you pay them.
- Amazon reviewers: https://www.amazon.com/reviews/top-reviewers
If you have lots of time on your hand, then you can scroll through the list of amazon reviewers and try to find one who is interested in your genre. Then reach out to that person requesting a review. This approach is more taxing than connecting to bloggers on the book reviewers’ directories. It’s also a bit like cold-calling sales, so you have to be prepared for low response rate and mixed reviews. I am not sure if you have any extra benefit from getting a ‘top reviewer’ on amazon to review your book. Do your readers really care that the book review is from a ‘top amazon reviewer?’ In fact, a big worry is that you may end up with a negative review which may do more harm than good. Make sure that you are very comfortable with the review style of the person you are contacting before you send him/her a review request.
- Instead of worrying about getting a ‘top reviewer’ to review your book, simply visit other books on amazon in your genre and check out the people who have reviewed those books. Then visit their profile to see if they have any contact information – if so, you can send them a review request for your own book.
- Uncarved: https://www.fiverr.com/uncarved This seller on Fiverr has a list of emails of potential reviewers. For a certain price the seller would send emails to people on her list asking them to review your book.
- Your New Books: https://www.yournewbooks.com/
For a set price they will email a free copy of your book to readers on their mailing list.
- One of the easiest ways to get amazon reviews is to include a request on the last page of your book asking the reader to put in a review.
How to Deal with Negative Book Reviews
“If you give up at the first rejection or the first bad review, you will never make it in publishing.”– Jane Yolen
The best way to deal with negative book reviews is to take steps to not get them! Let’s see how you can avoid getting bad reviews.
The most effective way to deal with negative book reviews is to avoid them. How do you avoid bad book reviews? In your review request message to bloggers, mention that you would welcome their honest reviews – however if their review is less than 4 or 5 stars, you request them not to post their review and simply let you know privately. There is nothing wrong with this request – this is the process major book review sites (e.g. Kirkus) follow – so there is no reason for individual bloggers to not agree. If someone writes back objecting to this request, then simply write back to that blogger asking him or her to forget your review request.
One more way to avoid negative book reviews is to set the correct expectations for the reader. Even as you need to make your book description to sound attractive, it important to keep it honest. Make sure you clearly spell out for whom the book is, and the genre of the book. It’s unlikely that someone will give you a bad review if your book meets the expectations set in the book description.
People often give bad reviews not because the actual book content was bad – but because they didn’t like the ‘surround-sound.’. This means that apart from terrible content, the rest of the things also didn’t exactly shine. The cover was poorly done, there were grammatical errors, formatting was horrible, and the book was structured such that the reader got a headache trying to follow the author’s line of thought. Finally, to add icing to the cake, the table of content simply had chapter numbers instead of chapter titles, making it difficult to navigate. Would you expect a positive review? Self-publishing doesn’t mean amateurish. Nor does it mean low-quality. Focus on getting the different aspects of the book (e.g. cover, formatting) to be high quality, and the readers may forgive many things.
Ok. Suppose, the worst happens. Your avoidance strategy fails, and you end up with a bad review. How do you deal with it?
A very effective strategy for dealing with bad reviews is to have a large number of great reviews. Then a one-off bad review will not affect your overall amazon star rating, and that single bad reviewer will be ignored by book buyers. Focus on getting more 5-star reviews. What does one or two or even ten bad reviews matter if you have fifty 5-star reviews! This is why we say that start with aiming to have at least 10 great reviews as a safety net. If you get more than two or three negative reviews, then you can try to further increase your positive review number to marginalize the bad reviews.
In dealing with bad book reviews on amazon it is best to not respond to them as the author.
What if you start seeing a large number of bad reviews?
If you are getting a very large number of bad reviews it is time to sit up and take notice. Are all the bad reviewers focusing on the same two or three things? Can you improve those things in your book and come out with a revised edition?
We conclude the discussion about negative book reviews with this quote: “If a reviewer is beating me up, I just say, ‘Oh well, my writing is not to his or her taste.’ And that’s as far as it goes. Because I will simultaneously read a review where somebody says, ‘Oh my God, I had so much fun reading this book and I learned so much.’” – Dan Brown
How I Got Ten Great Amazon Reviews in One Week
My goal was to reach 10 great reviews on Amazon quickly.
The Challenges I Faced
To garner some free reviews, I first tried to google ‘book review blogs’ and also tried contacting folks who do free reviews in exchange for free copies of books. I enrolled for KDP Select free download program and sent out a mail to bloggers inviting them to download my book and leave reviews on amazon.
My experience with this strategy wasn’t very good. First of all, people who review books for free weren’t at all responsive, since reviewing was after all a “hobby” for them. Most of them don’t have the time (or don’t feel the obligation) to respond back to confirm or reject a review request. I certainly can’t blame them since they are doing it for free anyways. One thing perhaps I might add here is that free review isn’t actually free, since reviewers do get a complimentary copy of the book to read.
Through the KDP Select free download, I did manage to get my book downloaded by some people. However, I got very few reviews this way too. Anything you provide free isn’t valued and I as beginner author didn’t have the time to collect large list of email addresses of prospective readers who are interested in my genre.
Eventually I did manage to get a couple of reviews through the free downloads, but these were not very positive. This is because many people who downloaded my book for free, weren’t really interested in my book and downloaded it just because it was a freebie.
What Worked for Me in Getting Great Amazon Reviews
Instead of continuing to reach out to a large number of uninterested people, I decided to refocus my efforts to a smaller set of dedicated reviewers. I contacted a few sites (e.g. zavesti.com) who arranged to get my book reviewed for a fee. Since these sites take my money they have an obligation to respond and deliver whatever they promise within a timeframe. These sites take the burden of finding, contacting and chasing the reviewers to make sure that your review is indeed published on time and on the places, you want. In addition to the book review sites I also checked some reviewers on Book Reviewers Directories (e.g. ninjaInfluencers.com) who also responded with thoughtful reviews.
A concerted effort with a bit of money spent helped me reach my goal of 10 reviews within 7 days.
Self-publishing is really entrepreneurship.
With the joy of freedom comes the extra bit of work needed to promote yourself. In this post I have shared a comprehensive – and complete list – of both free and paid resources a self-published author today has at his or her fingertips.
I hope this post helps you in your book promotion efforts! If I have missed something please feel free to send a mail via zavesti.com contact page. If you found this post useful please share it with your other author friends.