We all know how important book reviews are. Hell, any review has value. When you’re going to spend a lot of money on a TV, car, a large appliance, or if you want to see if a piece of clothing is made correctly and fits the way it should, the first thing you do as a consumer is look at the reviews. As often as I look at reviews to weigh whether or not a purchase is worth it, I rarely, if ever, leave a review on a product, including books. If I read a non-fiction book I have particularly enjoyed or I thought it was helpful for what I bought it for, I may leave a review, but more than likely, I’ll recommend it on Twitter or on this blog first. As an indie author, leaving reviews is a touchy subject, and when it comes to peers, it seems if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say it at all. Because if you leave a so-so or bad review, that’s opening the door for your peers to retaliate. Not everyone can take constructive criticism and there’s no point in self-sabotage when you run into someone like that. (And trust me, you will.)
But as an author and publisher of my own books, I know how important reviews can be and simply telling an author to put together an ARC team is one of those non-answers that drive me crazy. Yes, put together a review team. Duh. But how, exactly, do you do that?
I think a statistic that floats around is for every 100 sales count on one review coming from those sales. It’s less than that, I think, if you’re giving books away. From a Google search and people blogging about their own experiences, the numbers seem to depend on genre, if you already have an audience, etc. The unpredictability of the market doesn’t help. When you think a book will hit just right and it sinks no matter how much marketing you do, or a book you never thought would have one sale shoots to the top of the charts.
I never look at my reviews–I already know my ego and self-esteem are too fragile to read them, and like I said above, there are nasty people out there who love nothing more than to try to take their grievances out on you for expressing an opinion. Unfortunately, you can’t stop the bitter and jealous people from trying to get their licks in, and the best thing you can do there is write a good book and market it to the best of your ability as there is no greater revenge than success despite their attempts to hold you back.
Anyway, I didn’t try to get any reviews beforehand for Captivated by Her or Addicted to Her when I published my duet over the summer. That was my mistake and now their buy-pages look empty months after release. A kind woman and a troll gave star ratings for Captivated and I’m thinking of doing a promotion on that book soon just to find readers and bump up sales hoping that more ratings and/or reviews will cancel out the jerk who wanted to hurt me.
It’s tough to find reviewers who will give you time for free, and I turned to Booksprout for Rescue Me. I paid for the lowest package ($9.00/month) and gave away 23/25 copies. The founder of BookSprout said somewhere (I’m in so many groups, I apologize for the lack of citation) that they weeded out the reviewers who only wanted free books, and that persuaded me to give them a try.
I don’t want to insult any of the reviewers, so if you want to go to Rescue Me’s product page and take a look, the ones from Booksprout are labeled as such by the reviewer at the bottom of the review. Out of the 23 I gave away, 17 reviewed mostly on Amazon, though a couple found it on Goodreads and reviewed there too. (Now there’s a lava pit that’s not worth jumping into.) Can I say the quality is better than when I used them in the past (when they were free)? Not sure. Sometimes we have take our expectations down a notch, and I’m guessing that’s why Amazon started the star-only rating in the first place: to encourage readers to quickly rate the book as they must think that’s better than nothing. Professional book reviewers have a formula they follow when they write a review. Quick synopsis, their likes and dislikes. You can tell from perusing reviews of your favorite books on Goodreads that sometimes the people who write the reviews need just as much time as they did to actually read the book.
Not every review can be as in-depth as one that reads like a book report, and sometimes we take what we can get.
But one of the biggest questions indies ask is, how can we get reviews? These days the only way to get reviews is to put together an ARC team which can take years of nurturing and publishing regularly, sell a lot of books and hope for the best, or paying for them. Paying sounds shady but with everything pay to play these days (ads, beta reading, sensitivity reading, editing, formatting, etc) it’s really not a surprise that the only way to get reviews (especially just when you’re publishing) is to pay for them.
There are reputable review services out there. I’m not talking about the crappy ones that approach you through an unwanted DM on Instagram, or even the review-for-a-review offers from other indies. I’ve been asked to read and review and it’s nice I can honestly say I don’t review books. It’s too dangerous to say how you really feel about a book, and even if you have guidelines where you don’t review less than a three-star book, you have to keep close to your vest who you are reading at the time or there are plenty of hurt feelings down the road. (I take care of a lot of this by not promoting my books on Twitter or volunteering whom I’m reading, if I am.)
Here are some review services that I know about, but the only one I’ve used is BookSprout.
“Booksprout was started because of how time consuming it was for authors to manage their review team. Since then, it’s grown into a fantastic community of authors and readers focused on reviewing great books. Our goal is to create products that speed up or automate the non-writing tasks that every self-published author must do in order to be successful.”
“We help readers of influence discover and recommend new books to their audiences. If you are a librarian, bookseller, educator, reviewer, blogger or in the media, get started right now by signing in or joining for free. Welcome!”
“The Hidden Gems ARC program sends your novel to our list of reviewers, doing our best to match your type/genre of book with readers that are most likely to enjoy it. We constantly do our best to clean our list, removing readers that typically ask for books but do not leave reviews and as such, we have an industry leading review rate of over 80%. This means that if we send your book out to 100 reviewers, on average you may end up with more than 80 reviews!“
“We offer two different types of book reviews: editorial and reader. The editorial reviews come from IndieReader’s team of journalists, librarians and writers. The reviews are objective and truthful and appear in print with your consent. Once approved, reviews of your book are published on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieReader’s blog. If your book earns four- to five-star reviews, the review will also be featured on Huffington Post.”
Publisher’s Weekly/BookLife (Editorial Review)
“Both Publishers Weekly and BookLife Reviews treat self-published books as professional publications and hold them to professional standards. Before you submit your book, use BookLife’s free self-evaluations to help you make your book the best it can be. (These are for informational purposes only, and do not determine your review eligibility.) The best way to increase your odds of receiving a Publishers Weekly review, or of being reviewed positively, is to make sure your book is up to professional standards.”
Kirkus Reviews (Editorial Review)
“As an unpublished or self-published author, it can be a relentless struggle to attract a significant amount of attention to your book or manuscript. By purchasing a Kirkus indie review, authors can have the opportunity to build some name recognition and get noticed by agents, publishers and other industry influencers. Kirkus has been an industry-trusted source for honest and accessible reviews since 1933 and has helped countless authors build credibility in the publishing realm ever since. Browse through some of our author success stories, and get a glimpse of what exactly an indie review from Kirkus can do for you.
Our indie reviews are written by qualified professionals, such as librarians, nationally published journalists, creative executives and more. While we do not guarantee positive reviews, unfavorable reviews can be taken as valuable feedback for improvements and ultimately do not have to be published on our site.”
BookSirens (Book Bloggers)
“The book blog sites listed in our directory are vetted for quality: they are active, have clear review policies, and usually have a good following on social media. In fact, the ~1000 book blogs in our catalog have a cumulative following of over 1,000,000 readers. The most popular book review sites in our catalog have between 10,000 and 70,000 followers.
Many of these sites not only review books but also accept guest posts, do cover reveals, and participate in blog tours. While the top book blogs tend be YA book review blogs and romance book review blogs, we also feature less common genres like travel book review blogs, business book review blogs, comic book blogs, and paranormal book blogs.”
Book Reviewer Yellow Pages (Book Bloggers)
“Published since 2009, The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages helps authors find book reviewers for indie and self-published books, and provides trusted advice for contacting them. It is the only comprehensive resource available in book format.
It is published by PartnerPress, a provider of publishing and imprint management services for authors and businesses. Together with AuthorImprints and BookReviewerYellowPages.com, it is part of Sellbox Inc., founded in 2002 by David Wogahn.
David Wogahn became editor and publisher in 2017. He previously wrote the foreword for the sixth edition, and contributed the guide to producing quality books included in the seventh edition.
We are members of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).”
What I”m hoping for using Booksprout is to cultivate a group of reviewers who like my books and will leave a review every time. Like any other platform, you have to use it consistently, meaning, you have to publish consistently. After a few books, maybe they’ll sign up for my newsletter and become part of my fan base that will also buy books. The only thing about BookSprout’s pay to play action is that I don’t see away to pause my subscription if I don’t have a book release that month. I pay for only one book a month, which is a bummer because under the free version, when I was ready to publish my small-town holiday series, I put them all up at once. I can’t do that now, so I’m not sure what that means for the trilogy I want to publish in January. I’m not going to bump up my plan, and I don’t know what it would do to my account if I canceled between books. I don’t want to delete my profile and have to start all over again–that’s no way to build a team of reviewers.
I’m a bit happier than before, and it seems as though the readers who reviewed Rescue Me actually did read it. I wouldn’t put my books on BookSprout while they are in KU, so that leaves my duet in the cold, but like I said, hopefully a couple of promos will get them to move. I’ve always had decent luck giving my books away, and while read-through drop is to be expected, I don’t think my series experienced any more than normal so I have decent hopes this time around.
I don’t have much else. This is a great thread by Zoe York on Twitter about getting reviews. Have a great week, and Happy Halloween!