By Rob Watts
As an author, I can tell you from personal experience just how tiresome it can be to convince people who’ve read my books to take a few moments and share their thoughts with other potential readers about what they thought of my work. After all, positive reviews on Amazon and GoodReads carry an enormous amount of value and as far as some authors are concerned, a positive book review is worth more to them than the monetary return. No one knows the frustration of a low turnout of reviews more than myself. I personally know the number of print books that I’ve sold in five years—over a thousand—because the majority of my books have been sold at author events and through my website, so it baffles me as to why more people haven’t left reviews. Perhaps I’ve just answered my own question. When people purchase anything on Amazon, they are asked to share their thoughts on the products they’ve purchased. But If my monthly royalties for Kindle ebooks are indeed accurate, then people simply aren’t bothering to take the time to leave a review. I get it—people are busy with their lives, they don’t want to feel obligated to think of things to say about the book (it’s work having to write a review) and there are greater obligations in life than critiquing my story. You know what? I’ve stopped worrying about it. The time and energy it takes to generate additional reviews is unavailing and I should just be happy with the reviews—and royalties, that I’ve organically generated over time. The sliver of free time I get after all my responsibilities are met aren’t going to be consumed with fruitless labors.
But let’s say that you’re not content with my way of thinking. You want more (hopefully positive) reviews for your book, and you want to do more to get people to share their thoughts on it. Well, there are a few reputable ways to go about it. Do you have friends or acquaintances who too are authors? Trading your works in exchange for an honest review of each other’s book is a rather painless effort. You could also sign up for a blog tour where your work will be offered up to influential bloggers in your genre. If you belong to a writers group or a book club, your fellow attendees might be gracious to review your book. If you’re willing to pay some money, there is always NetGalley—a site where book reviewers can read your books prior to publication. You aren’t paying for reviews at NetGalley. You are paying an access fee which allows you to submit your work to interested reviewers. Don’t assume that every reviewer will write a glowing review. While they probably won’t destroy your work, professional book reviewers have a tendency to be painfully honest, so be prepared to receive a truthful analysis.
Here is what you DON’T want to do!
- Don’t pay people to write glowing book reviews. Fake book reviews are frowned upon.
- Don’t guilt people into reviewing your book by complaining on your social media.
- Don’t write your own reviews using a phony account.
- Don’t use gimmicks or hokey contests to make people write book reviews.
- Don’t beg people to write a review. Just—don’t.
Okay, but let’s say that you are going to beg people to review your book. Notice I used the word “people” and not readers. There’s a world of difference between a reader who reviews your work and a person that you convinced to review your book. If you’re going to convince someone to review your book, here are some details that you should arm them with before hitting the “Write a Review” button on Amazon.
- Make sure if your mom or another relative reviews your book, that there’s no trace of nepotism in the review. If your last name is Jarvis and the handle of the reviewer’s last name too is Jarvis, that five star review probably won’t look too convincing. It’s also best to refrain from referencing any personal relationship with the author (i.e. friends, cousins, neighbors, co-workers, etc..)
- Inform your friend who’s reviewing your book that it’s best not to say things like, “this is the first book I’ve read in ten years and I couldn’t put it down.” People tend to trust a reviewer who has a track record of reading quality books. Not someone who decided—out of the blue, to read your book after a ten year hiatus.
- It’s probably best not to say something like, “This is the best book I’ve read this year” and not have any other reviews of books on their Amazon reviewer account. This immediately tells the person reading the review that the reviewer is simply a friend or family member who has written a positive book review—as a favor.
- If you the author are published in an anthology, be sure to inform your reviewer that it’s best not to name drop you, and you alone, out of the entire collection of authors. If they are going to highlight you and your work in the review, at least have them say a few kind words about a few other authors. Authors who are part of a collection of work tend to frown upon reviews that praise just one author—and in turn, they frown upon THAT author.
- You really shouldn’t tell people that even just a few words in a review is good enough. Reviews such as, “I really liked it” or “You’ll really enjoy this book” only encourage subpar efforts and it contributes to the rapid dumbing down of our society. A lot of self-published authors are convinced that as long as the review is marked 4 or 5 stars, then it really doesn’t matter what the review says. It should matter. A reviewer doesn’t have to write a novel-length review, but a paragraph explaining what they liked and/or didn’t like about the book will definitely suffice. After all, you the author would want to know what your readers liked and disliked about your work. So would potential customers.
Visit me at RobWattsOnline.com