The first thing to realize, if you don’t already, is book reviews are important. This is true for nonfiction and fiction. Without reviews, sales will remain flat. Also, if you get decent, steady reviews, Amazon pays attention and incorporates this fact into their algorithm. The better your book sells and the more positive (and steady) your book gets reviews the better visibility, which in turn sells more books. It’s a nice cycle.
The second thing to realize is that there is not one single, sure-fire strategy for getting reviews. Authentic, positive book reviews accumulate over time. This means your strategy should be on-going, not simply a pre-launch blitz.
There are services and actions you can take every month to help you get more book reviews, and this long-term approach is exactly how we recommend you go about all of your book marketing efforts. Pace yourself, stay consistent and you will see results.
I’m going to skip over the part where you have to write an engaging, well-researched, well-written book to start with. I will also only mention briefly that you need to know who your ideal readers are (target market), figure out those small pools (vs. the big, wide ocean) and how you have to have two-way communication with your fans since I have already written about these priorities, and I am sure you are on it.
We define blurbs as pier reviews (from other writers or trade publications) that can become part of the metadata, along with the description of the book. These can come from writers you know, Sunbury Press writers (new program coming soon), or authors who you can contact and are willing to review your book and give you a positive blurb. They can also come from big trade publications such as Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews. Traditionally, these blurbs were printed on the back cover or on the first page inside the book. Blurbs were sought after and requested at least six months prior to the publication date, so any that came in, could be included in the printing. This practice brought on printed ARCs (advanced reading copies) or galleys. ARCs were books that were printed before the final edits and cover designs in order to garner those highly sought-after big-name reviews from authors or trade publications. However, with the advent of the Internet and the digital age, this practice is becoming less prevalent and much less effective. ARCs are expensive and often those blurbs sought after the most either don’t come in or are less than stellar. Even if the blurb came in and was positive, consumers are less and less inclined to weigh them any more important than other reader’s reviews. This is why Sunbury Press no longer prints ARCs and when blurbs come in, we simply add them to the book’s metadata. This means that when your books are being considered by bookstores or consumers, they will see the blubs along with the book’s description. If you have the opportunity, or inclination to seek out book blurbs, please do so. When they come in, send them to your editor and they will add them to your metadata. You can always submit books after publication to many trade publications and we’ll add the blurbs when they come in.
I will mention, that some publications require a fee to review your book. This practice is becoming less and less attractive. Again, studies show most consumers no longer give them any more consideration than authentic, positive reader reviews.
Sunbury Press will send electronic copies of your book to any potential reviewers. We can also supply you with a PDF copy of your book for you to send out for review. We do recommend you use caution, sending out PDFs to people you do not know. This is the most common way books get pirated and shared online for free. Sales can suffer if readers can simply download it for free.
NetGalley connects publishers and authors to an enthusiastic community of early influencers who will help their book succeed. Publishers and authors list their titles on NetGalley for members to request, read, and review, and members gain free access to a vast catalog of digital review copies.
We list fiction titles on NetGalley for our authors. It is usually active for about 2 weeks. In that time, readers can download and read an electronic version of your book and leave a review. Sometimes, the book is archived before reviews show up, but that is often okay because posting the review on NetGalley isn’t useful, it’s just nice. The useful part of this service is that the readers have agreed to post their reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. This means that these reviews can come in weeks after the book is no longer available on NetGalley.
We have found that after about two weeks, the number of requests for download to read drops off dramatically, that is why it is archived after two weeks.
If after a month, you still have no reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, we can do one of two things. We can make it live on NetGalley again, hopefully getting more requests. Or we can download the list of readers who requested the book and send that list to you. You are free to thank them for their interest and “gently” remind them to post their review on Amazon or Goodreads. You don’t want to be demanding or pushing or you might get a bad review. ‘book was great, but the author is mean…’ Not what anyone wants.
If you already have an email list and social media following, or a reviewer list handy, let your editor know and they can provide you a link to share your NetGalley campaign with your list. Anyone who clicks on it, can join NetGalley as a reader and request the book for download.
Sunbury Press pays for this service and it has worked well for many years in kick-starting the reviews for our fiction authors. However, NetGalley should never be your only strategy for getting reviews.
For nonfiction, our policy is to send copies to major media or academic organizations that promise to review the book. Cision drives these review requests. It is often best for the authors to ship quickly from their supply of books. We will reimburse with a copy with the next shipment. For more on Cision, see http://sunburypress.com/books-and-the-media/
If you have sold a book, and the buyer has read through the entire tome, they most likely enjoyed it. That is the best time to ask for a review. We recommend including a page at the end of each book that includes the author’s website address and asks for a review. It is also a good idea to ask them to join your email list, so you can let them know about new titles coming soon.
One of the most important reasons to have and grow an email subscriber list is to remind people interested in your books to write a review on either Goodreads or Amazon. This should not be the only thing you are sending out to your subscriber base as I have mentioned in other articles. But putting a note in occasionally or at the end of another article reminding your fans to write a review is not only okay, it is highly recommended.
The most well-known and effective platform to post reviews is on Amazon. However, when suggesting your reviewers post praise for your book, be aware that Amazon is serious about authentic reviews. If they suspect any reviews for your book are from family, friends or even the authors themselves, they will remove them. Here are a couple of things to avoid if you want those raving reviews to remain.
- Be sure reviews don’t come in from the same household. If two reviews come in from Amazon customers whose household address is the same. It is likely to get flagged and both removed.
- Just like address above, two reviewers cannot be customers that use the same payment method on amazon.com.
- Reviews should not roll in too close to the publication date. If 2 minutes after the book is posted on Amazon’s site, three really positive reviews pop up, this looks suspicious. It is best to wait a couple of days.
- Reviewers should not mention your name as if they know you. Amazon wants impartial authentic reviewers.
- When you send a link to your subscriber base requesting reviews, be sure to only include the short link. (ex. https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Squall-Sarah-Jones/dp/1620063131) This is the link for one of Sunbury Press’ titles. If there is extra in the URL bar after this, ignore it and only send this part of the link. The rest is time stamps and extra information that could muddy the waters and cause suspicion on Amazon’s part. Be sure and test all links before you recommend them.
Other Review Services
There are multiple services out there for authors to get reviews. Some are free and some cost money. Some work and others don’t. We recommend you start with NetGalley, your subscriber list and Amazon, and Goodreads, along with the back matter in your book. But if you find a great new service that works for you, great. Please share your success with us and we’ll recommend to our other authors.
Authors should shoot for 30 to 50 reviews for each of their books. It might take you a year to get them, but the quest for reviews should never end.