We all need reviews, and finding a platform that can deliver for a low cost or free is like a goldmine to an author. Reviews are social proof our books are good. They show potential readers that others have enjoyed it. They help us create ads either by being able to pull out the review itself for a graphic, or using keywords in all the reviews for our ad keywords.
For an example, here’s the graphic I made in Canva for Bookbub:
There’s a lot of controversy around reviews. Some indie writers/readers insist on leaving poor reviews when reading books to “warn” other readers what a piece of crap it is.
I’d written blog posts about that before, and it’s one reason why I don’t promo my books on Twitter. Writer Twitter is full of people who think they write better than you and they are not shy letting you know about it.
There is even a review of Don’t Run Away by someone I gave a free copy to with a Starbucks gift card. I was getting rid of author copies that had a significant typo in it. Two years later her review pops up on Goodreads. Three stars, and her review starts “This normally isn’t my genre…”
I know they say that a mix of reviews is actually better for your book, but those kinds of reviews I can do without.
You’re probably in the same situation I am. You need reviews beyond family and friends, and the odd Twitter person who wants more than anything to say something bad about your book.
Real, helpful reviews are hard to come by. A reader’s first thought usually isn’t to leave a review of a book unless they were blown away. All they care about is what they’re going to read next.
I’m a member of quite a few groups on Facebook, and one group was talking about Booksprout. I always thought Booksprout was a tool to deliver books and arcs to readers from a list you provided, but Booksprout actually provides their own reader list. You can give away up to twenty arcs with the free option, fifty with one tier option, or unlimited with the second tier option.
Anyway, 20 out of 20 arcs were claimed for Don’t Run Away in 13 of 20 arcs were claimed for The Years Between Us.
You can choose how long to give your readers to read the book before a review is due, and I gave my readers a couple of months, just to be realistic. Then the reviews near that date started rolling in. Around this time, I was having huge doubts about being wide, and I gave my readers a few extra days to leave a review before deleting the arcs. I put my books back into KU because the quality of the reviews wasn’t worth waiting for. Meaning, I didn’t get all twenty for Don’t Run Away, and I didn’t get all thirteen for The Years Between Us.
The reviewers who did review my books gave them favorable stars, and maybe that’s all that matters to you. But the actual review was just a quick summary of the book. And I don’t mean one or two reviewers did that—most of them did it. At the end of each review was the sentence, “I was given a free copy of this book through books proud in exchange for an honest review.”
Here’s a sample:
I mean, that’s not a bad thing. Honest transparency. But too many of those on all your books make you look like you’re buying reviews—which is exactly what you’re doing, free service or not.
I didn’t keep an eye on my reviews, and this one popped at me while taking screenshots:
There are people on there who read the books, it seems, not just skim them. And I thank this reviewer from the bottom of my heart to see she got what I was trying to do with The Years Between Us.
But overall, the quality of the reviews may not matter to you. If your book has zero you’re trying to gain some traction, you might think a review is a review, even a cardboard-sounding one. And that would be your choice.
I’m not against using Booksprout in the future. Put your arc out there ahead of time, have reviewers leave the review on the day the paperback comes out, wait a week for the reviews to populate, delete your arcs from Booksprout, and then announce your Kindle version is live. You’ll already have reviews for your book. (Thank you to Jami Albright for this release tip. One I’m going to try for the first book in my new series coming this winter.)
I don’t know if you really need to pull your arcs, but I prefer not to give Amazon a reason to give me the stinkeye.
If you have a book that doesn’t have many, if any reviews, give Booksprout a try. You never know if it will work for you.
What are some other ways to get reviews?
- Write a good book first. Most readers prefer to review good books. Give them thought-provoking material, or give them a good laugh, or information that will change their lives. The product always comes first.
- Ask. Authors are terrible at asking. Put a request in your back matter. If you enjoyed this book, please leave a review. That’s it. Don’t squish it in there with other calls to action. If you want reviews, ask, and leave it at that.
- If you have the cash, use a service like NetGalley. Make sure the services reputable otherwise you’re wasting money. You can take a look at my review of the Happy Book Reviews service here.
- Create an arc team. This can take some time, but it might be worth it in the long run. Start a Facebook group of readers in your genre and ask them to review your book when it comes out. Building a team can take a long time and lot of work.
- Start a newsletter. Build a newsletter following. Your fans will be the first in line to buy and review your book.
Not all reviews are created equal. I have more reviews on Goodreads than I do on Amazon. Maybe readers are more comfortable leaving reviews there, or maybe that’s their preferred platform because they feel they can be more honest. (Or just leaving a star review, something Amazon won’t let reviewers do.) Whatever the reason, a review is a review, so we should celebrate when our readers take the time to tell us what they think.
Let me know your experience with Booksprout, or if you think you’ll give it a try!