To have a chance at selling your book on amazon or online, you need reviews. Lots of them. And if you’re like me, you hate pushing all your friends and family to review your work (is it really fair to ask them?) and leave comments. So most authors do this:
1) Search online for book reviews, indie book reviewers, self-published book reviews, how to get book reviews, etc.
2) Email or contact those reviewers asking them to take a look at their books and comment.
Here’s why that doesn’t work. First of all – those few sites that offer reviews are probably swamped with hundreds, or thousands of book review requests. They may not get to yours. If they do – most of those sites are PR1 or maybe PR2 (I’ve checked) and I’m willing to bet that the majority of people who found those sites were looking for someone to review their book, rather than searching for recommendations of books to buy and read. Does the review do you any good? (Yes…if you convince them to post on amazon. More on that later).
Here’s a better way to get reviews – while avoiding “book review websites”.
1) Find bloggers (or websites, but blogs are easier) who are in some way related to your book, or who may like your book, or who have reviewed other books in a similar genre, with a Page Rank of three or more. You can use “google blogs” to search for them. Be creative! If your book is set in LA, write to bloggers in LA or LA tourism sites. If your main character is a lawyer, contact lawyer blogs. If your character is a witch, write to wicca blogs, etc. Find some basis of connection.
Why PR3? Once a blog hits PR4 they receive a lot of advertising requests, free books, etc. PR3 is low enough that they won’t be totally swamped, and might actually respond favorably. But if they do post, their link to your site will be more valuable (and their review will rank higher).
2) How to ask for the review: Tell them who you are, that you’re looking for creative ways to promote your book, and ask politely if they’d be interested in receiving a free copy. If they like it – no strings attached – you’d appreciate a review or comment on Amazon.
Getting your book reviewed is an important step in getting the word out that you’ve recently published a book. Most writers focus most of their attention on the content and leave the other stuff to their support staff. But now it is easier than ever to do the little things, and completely streamline the process and your abilities. Being able to make book covers and get reviews from many different places and people make this the best time ever for publishing your own work by yourself.
What NOT to do: A few months ago I sent out about 1000 emails – the emails were long, had lengthy descriptions of my book reviews, and several links. I got very few responses – because it seemed a lot like spam. So don’t do that! Make your emails short and punchy. Make them personal. By the way, I like the term “Indie author” more than “self-published.” You can even use it to your advantage. Here’s a sample:
Dear _____, I found your site searching for blogs about _____. I’ve recently written a book about (very short description – your one sentence book plug) and (reason your book is related somehow to this blog). I’m an indie author and am looking for creative ways to promote my book. I noticed you (like, do, support, etc…show them that you’ve looked over their blog and actually know something about them). I think you might enjoy reading it, so I’d like to send you a copy. You can check out the details on this page: (link to your page….with lots of details, description). If you give me your mailing address I can ship one to you. There’s also a PDF review copy here (another link).
There’s no obligation of course, but if you like it I’d appreciate a short review or post on your blog, or an amazon comment.
Don’t make it too formal. Make it casual and personal, like you’re writing to a friend, not a stranger. If you only have kindle and no print file, you can send them to a link that has several ebook options available, including PDF … however, you should have a print copy. I print and ship mine directly from createspace… it’s pretty cheap and very easy. Most people prefer a book and if you actually send them one, they are much more likely to comment or do a writeup. (If you find a site you really want to be on – dig around and try to find their mailing address. Send them a copy first and say “I’ve already sent you a copy, hope you like it!”) In general, you don’t want to ask them to do you any favors. You want to do THEM a favor first, without expecting anything back. Send them a book because they might enjoy it, not so that they can promote you (why should they?)
Getting reviews is a numbers game. Big publishers send out a minimum of about 500 review copies. While most self-pubbed authors can’t afford that, what we can do is send out 10 or 20 book to perfectly chosen niche-blogs, while at the same time directing hundreds of other blogs (by email) towards our online digital copy (yes, you should have copies of your book available for free in different formats on your website, and you should let people know they can read them for free and that you’d appreciate a review).
In the beginning of the game, it isn’t about profit – so don’t worry about it. In the beginning, it’s about getting buzz. You need comments. You need support. After you have that – THEN you can worry about selling. But without it, why should anyone buy from you?
PS) If your book is not professionally edited, if your spelling and grammar stinks, if you have a homemade cover that looks like crap, then your campaign to get reviews won’t work. You are asking people to put their own integrity and reputation on the line – it doesn’t matter if your writing is amazing; they will feel embarrassed if they recommend a poor quality product, and you shouldn’t ask them to.
Derek Murphy is the author of Jesus Potter Harry Christ.