Book reviews are a powerful tool in your marketing kit. With thousands of books published every year, getting book reviews can be difficult, even for commercially published books. For a self-published writer, the chances of getting them can look daunting. With some persistence and creativity, you can get book reviews that will help you sell your novel or nonfiction book.
Why You Need Book Reviews
A book review has only one purpose: To help an undecided reader determine whether they should buy your book. For that reason, you want honest book reviews that give the reader some clue about what your book is all about.
Most readers know specifically what they’re looking for when they walk into a bookstore or shop online. They filter out the many available titles, glance at the covers, and narrow in on the reviews.
All Feedback Is Useful
That doesn’t mean the book reviews all have to be five-star raves. In fact, that might look suspicious to a discerning reader.
What matters to a potential buyer is whether they would personally be interested in reading your book, and even a negative review can be helpful in this way. For instance, say you’ve written a book in which you take a stand on a controversial issue. Someone who disagrees with your stance may give you a poor review because of that disagreement.
Another reader who holds the same viewpoint that you do will take this as a good sign. Here’s another example: A reader who describes your novel as “overly sentimental” may spark the interest of a reader looking for a warm, emotional read.
On the other hand, a string of negative book reviews that denigrate your writing abilities won’t help you sell many copies. Look for a good balance, and don’t worry about negative reviews. Worry about the substance of those book reviews and how it might affect potential buyers.
Start with a Marketing Package
Every new book needs a marketing package that includes:
- A full-color copy of your book’s cover
- An “about the author” bio
- A press release announcing its publication
Use this package when you contact potential reviewers. Once you start getting book reviews, include excerpts of them in the package.
Be Prepared to Give Away Copies
One of the realities you must face as a self-published author is that to get book reviews, you’ve got to give away copies of your book. These are known as ARC (advance reader copies). Note that most reviewers prefer actual printed books over digital ones. They want to see the book, carry it around, and read it at their leisure.
This is one of the costs of marketing that every self-published author faces. Some authors specifically set aside several printed copies to give out as review copies. Whether you can give away 10, 100, or more copies depends on your budget and your marketing goals. Review copies are a good return on your investment, however, as the resulting book reviews will have a strong influence on potential buyers.
Reach Out to Reviewers
Some blogs and websites specialize in book reviews. They’re a good place to get reviewed. Unfortunately, they are also inundated with new books and review requests. Get creative about reaching smaller bloggers and review sites where the editors don’t get as many requests.
Some websites specialize in topics related to your fiction book, for instance, a website for travelers might be interested in a romance novel whose plot includes frequent travel to exotic locations. Others specialize in the topic of your nonfiction book, whether it’s a history, biography, how-to, or self-help. If you’ve written a book on easy tips for increasing mindfulness, reach out to yoga or meditation websites. They frequently feature articles on holistic health, including mindfulness, and may welcome a new book to review.
The key is to be creative when thinking about potential reviewers. Search for bloggers, review sites, and other online spots where the focus is not necessarily on books, but where readers may be interested in a book on a particular subject. Ask the main editor or writer if they’d consider reviewing yours.
Stay Close to Home
Your local newspapers may be more receptive to a book by a local independent author than the big-name news outlets. Find online and print sources of news close to home, and be sure you contact as many as possible with advance copies.
Many authors want reviews posted on Amazon. However, people can only leave reviews on Amazon if they spend a minimum of $50 on products each year—and that includes books. If your potential reviewers haven’t done that, they may be barred from leaving reviews.
If you know people who are regular book buyers on the platform, contact them and ask them to review your book in exchange for a copy.
What is your social media presence like? If you have a blog, Instagram page, YouTube channel, or other social media account, contact your followers. Let them know you’re writing a book ahead of time and would appreciate getting some book reviews. If you’ve spent time building a solid following and have a good email list, use them to your advantage.
Once you have some reviews, you can use snippets from them to advertise your book. Make the reviews part of your marketing package.
Pay for Book Reviews
If you’ve run out of places to send your books, consider hiring professionals to do them. You can hire freelance book reviewers or ghostwriters who will read your book and post a review of it on their site.
There are also paid review sites where you can submit books for reviews that will be read by book lovers all over.
Midwest Book Reviews gives priority to small publishers and self-published authors. The cost to review your book is $50. To submit a book for review, you must send two copies of the book, a cover letter, and a press release about your book.
It takes about 6 weeks for the Midwest Book Reviews team to assign a book to one of its reviewers. Please note that even if you send the books and pay the fee, there is no guarantee that your book will get a review.
Self-Publishing Review is a website that brings together readers and writers of independently published books. It is a premier source of reviews for self-published authors. The site offers review services that promise to review your book and distribute it to editorial review sites. The rates range from $99 for a professional review up to $329 for a full review, social media postings, and author interview.
Get a Starred Review—If You Can
Kirkus is a highly respected source of book reviews. Getting a starred Kirkus review is prestigious. And yes, Kirkus will review independently published books—for a price. If you have money in your budget, you may want to buy a review from Kirkus. Currently, the price for a 250-word review of one book starts at $450. Kirkus offers other review services from $599 and up.
One question you may have: If you pay for a review from a site like Kirkus, is it guaranteed to be positive? Kirkus states that it can’t guarantee this because it is known for fairness and impartiality. As the site says:
“No matter the outcome, you will have the option of keeping the review private and simply using the assessment as feedback to improve your craft. Otherwise, you can publish the review and use it to market your book to consumers or to catch the attention of a literary agent or publisher.”
Get More Sales with Book Reviews
The right reviews can mean the difference between success and failure when it’s time to sell your book. Before you print your book, learn about the difference that a professional printer can make. To produce a high-quality book that you’ll be proud to share with reviewers, start with the experts at Dazzle Printing.