It’s the blessing and the curse of living in an increasingly interconnected world. Finding out what other people think of things is incredibly easy. As a shopper, this is helpful. However, as an independent author, getting people to read and write book reviews is now mandatory if you want to succeed, and finding people to do that honestly can be a huge and time-consuming challenge.
Take this conversation that I started on LinkedIn, for example. I was preparing for the release of my latest book, “The Best is Yet to Come,” and decided to find out what recommendations other authors had for finding reviewers. For those who are budget-poor and time-rich, they provided some great ideas.
In no particular order, here are the some of the best recommendations this group of authors came up with:
1. Work Your Network to Find Book Reviewers
You’ve undoubtedly done beta reading, proofreading, and editing for other people in your writing network. Judy Gill, owner of editsxjudy, says she relies heavily on her network—the people whose books she edits and who edit her work. Why not ask them to do you a favor by reading your book and reviewing it on their own sites or the major sales portals?
Note: It’s typically considered poor form to offer to review books as an exchange. This can put strain on your professional relationships and, if you get found out, it is frowned upon by some booksellers. So, if you ask your network for their feedback, don’t frame it as an exchange.
2. Donate to Organizations that Need Books
Why not donate copies of your books to libraries, hospitals and other places that are always in need of books? James Gilliam, the owner of Gilliam Publications, does this and places a small note on the flyleaf asking readers who enjoyed reading the book to leave a review for it online; he has found success with this method.
3. Use Reviewer Networks
Did you know that there are sites out there where people register to review books? It’s true! Paula Krapf (a social media and content strategist) suggested sites like The IndieView and LibraryThing. These sites were built for the sole purpose of connecting authors with reviewers. Even Amazon has a list of its top reviewers that you can use to find people who might be interested in checking out your book.
Note: It might be a little bit hard to attract the attention of these reviewers, as most of their calendars are pretty packed, but it can’t hurt to put some feelers out. The worst they can do is say “no.” Right? At least you’ll have made contact!
4. Book Clubs
Getting reviews (and hopefully endorsements) from book clubs can be a fantastic boon for your book. Book clubs, like people who review books full-time, get lots of review inquiries from authors. Even very established authors can have a difficult time getting onto a book club’s calendar. You can increase your chances of success here by offering to do a free Q&A either in person or via Skype and by providing a list of book club topics to discuss along.
In the LinkedIn discussion, E.Van Johnson encourages giving the club members free copies of the book and taking note of the comments and feedback they give. It can only help you create a better piece of writing in the end.
5. Giveaway Programs
PMF Johnson and Lauryn April both recommended the Goodreads giveaway program. This is definitely a popular program among authors, publishers, and reviewers alike. You list your book and the number of copies you’re willing to give away, and then the members of Goodreads enter to win one of those copies. It’s a fantastic way to give the book to someone who you know wants it in exchange for getting reviews on Goodreads (and potentially elsewhere if the reader chooses).
Gisela Hausmann, an author and publisher, said that she relies on blogs. The blogosphere is full of people who love to review things in exchange for a free product. Reach out to a few of them and ask if they’d be willing to review your book in exchange for a free copy. Offering extra copies of the book for the blogger to give away to his/her readers goes a long way toward getting a “yes” from the bloggers you contact.
Be sure to tailor your request specifically to the blogger whose time and attention you solicit! Bloggers get tons of review and PR requests, and generic inquiries may be published on the blog and made fun of. That’s the last thing you need.
7. Social Media Contests
People love free stuff. So, it’s not too difficult to get people to request a free copy of your book. The problem is, you don’t want to just give away free copies with no defined benefit to you. So, consider giving away only a limited number of copies and make them prizes for a contest. Ask people to leave a comment on your Facebook post or on your blog or to retweet a specific tweet, or even to leave a review on their favorite book site, and use a third-party program to pick the winner. (For more about this, check out my post on Story Cartel from last week.) The winners get copies of your book, Amazon gift cards or some other really cool prize.
Make sure that you make it clear that all reviewers have a chance at the prize even if the review is less than stellar. Otherwise, you’ll look like you’re paying for good reviews, and that’s a huge no-no!
At the very least, finding volunteer reviewers takes time. If you have a budget, you can purchase reviews on sites like Kirkus as well to supplement what you’re getting from volunteers. If you don’t have a budget yet, work on saving up some cash by following these budgeting tips and incorporating budgeting software into your financial picture. I highly recommend YNAB because of its flexibility, mobility, and great tutorials and support.
While you’re building your budget, offer other opportunities to potential reviewers that require time rather than money, like hosting a one-on-one interview with them, recording a video, etc. If they’re local, set up a meet and greet. You get the idea.
What are your top recommendations for finding volunteers to read your books?
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