Where do you find reviewers, and how many reviews do you need?
I reached out to several categories of reviewers:
1. Mainstream press
I sent outreach e-mails to the book columnists in local newspapers (the Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald). To find their contact information, just look up their reviews in the online newspaper sites. I also sent two copies of my novel to the Midwest Book Review. Results to date: ZERO reviews
2. Book Bloggers
Amanda Hocking’s meteoric rise to face was launched by book bloggers. We’ll see if I get lucky too, but so far I’m not holding my breath. Where do you find book bloggers? I found them on a variety of sites:
- http://indiesfreviewers.wordpress.com (Focused on science fiction)
- http://www.graspingforthewind.com/reviewer-list/ (Focused on science fiction)
The key to success: Be organized. I created an excel file and made lists of the names and addresses of the blogs that are receptive to self-published books in my genre, the e-mail addresses of the blog owner, and noted whether the blog also host author interviews, giveaways, or blog tours, etc. In all, I sent out about 100 requests, and approximately 10 bloggers agreed to accept my novel. As of August 28th, three of the fourteen reviews on Perfection Unleashed were from book bloggers I had contacted through these sites.
You can also connect with bloggers at Book Blogs. I joined Book Blogs after I’d already solicited reviews and did not join for the purpose of finding blogs to review my book. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is very friendly and helpful, and you should be able to quickly find reviewers for your novel.
3. Amazon top reviewers
There is backlash on Amazon against shill and sock puppet reviews. Nevertheless, reviews are important on Amazon. The way to get around the backlash is to hold out for legitimate reviews from Amazon’s top reviewers. I viewed each profile, working my way through twenty or thirty a day. Some of them have e-mail addresses or websites in their profile, and I checked if they accepted books (and in my case specifically, self-published books) Then I reached out to them, via e-mail, to ask if they would be willing to accept my novel in exchange for a review. Once again, I kept a detailed log of contact information.
In general, I found Amazon reviewers more receptive of review requests than even book bloggers. I had a 15% response rate from Amazon reviewers, compared to the 10% rate from book bloggers. Amazon reviewers are eager to boost their rating on Amazon, and it’s always nice to be one of the first reviewers on a new book as it tends to boost their rating. It’s a win, all around. I’ve also found them to be more prompt with their reviews. As of August 28th, six of the fourteen reviews on Perfection Unleashed were from Amazon top reviewers.
My biggest coup was scoring a review from A.Dent, Amazon’s #4 reviewer. His review (the second on my product page) is stamped with his Amazon credentials (Hall of Fame, Top 10 Reviewer, Vine Voice.) Similarly, all of my other reviewers are credible (with reviewer scores in the thousands instead of hundreds of thousands) each with lots of other book reviews to his or her name.
4. Book giveaways
Finally, you can host book giveaways in exchange for a review. I hosted a Giveaway through Goodreads (physical copies only) and another (for e-books) through LibraryThing. I did receive reviews from the two people who received my Goodreads giveaways, though they posted only on Goodreads. For LibraryThing, I offered to give away 25 e-books, but only four people actually downloaded it. Of the four, two of them wrote reviews on Amazon. Based on this very limited sample size, I’d say that if people do receive a book through a giveaway, they do try to write a review for it.
I also signed up for a giveaway through Review the Book. For a $25 fee, you list your book on the site and reviewers can sign up to request it. I’ve had no takers so far, and for that reason, I do not recommend that site. It’s not clear how active it is, or how many reviewers they have. You will find a much larger audience at LibraryThing and Goodreads.
5. Friends and Family
If you go down this route, do yourself a favor and make sure your friends and family are credible reviewers, with a bunch of reviews to their name. Amazon reviewers who have reviewed just one novel or just novels from one author are perceived as shill or sock puppet reviewers.
How many reviews do you need?
A minimum of ten. Why? If you intend to promote your novel through some of the more popular Kindle marketing sites like Digital Book Today and Kindle Book Review, they require a minimum of ten reviews with an average of 4.0 stars. Fifteen reviews are nice. You don’t necessarily need much more than that, especially if your reviews are both credible and solid. Reviews are a one-time push, unlike marketing. Once you have the critical mass of ten to fifteen reviews, check it off your list, and move on. It took me a full month (at least) to get my first ten reviews. Which brings us back to the key lesson in self-publishing. There is no need to be in a damn rush. It’s better to do it right than to do it fast.
NEXT: Read Reviews DOs and DON’Ts