Do You Really Need to Get More Book Reviews? | IBR Book Marketing Series (Part 4)
by Joe Walters
Everyone is telling you to get more book reviews.
It’s the key to book marketing, they say.
It’s everything, baby, they say.
How will book-buyers know you’re awesome if other people aren’t telling them?
I’ve been working in book marketing for 5+ years now (because apparently I’m getting older?), so I’ve had a lot of opportunities to work with books and authors. Hundreds for sure; thousands, maybe. That’s a lot of authors.
And sometimes, to my disappointment, those authors don’t actively pursue book reviews. So when a browser views their book online, they are met with the question, has anyone ever bought this book before?
And that’s not even talking about the other kinds of book reviews: from publicity platforms to social media influencers to authors and experts in your book’s niche.
How can you make sure book lovers are hitting the purchase button instead of hesitating?
The answer, as you might expect, is to get more book reviews. But when can you stop? When can you relax? When can you move away from pursuing book reviews and just get to work on writing your next book?
All this brain power, time power, and pitching power you’re spending trying to get reviews—it can feel like you are either: a) not getting results, or b.) not getting the right kind of results.
What are the right kind of results for indie authors?
Sales. Page reads on Kindle Unlimited. People spending their time reading a thing you care deeply about.
Unless the book is about being a social media influencer, it is NOT about the amount of likes on your IG. It is the exposure that all those likes get you—in the hopes of visiting your profile, clicking your book link, and buying it. Or becoming a fan of how awesome you are with a follow—and to later buy and read your book.
So why should you get more book reviews? To convert browsers into buyers.
If your Amazon page has 3,000 ratings and reviews, it looks impressive. It looks like people are reading and buying your book. If those reviews keep going up during the duration of your book’s publication, it means readers are reading it currently. This is great.
So, in the case of consumer reviews, the answer is yes, you should keep trying to get more book reviews. They are important. They help.
I have been a book marketer at Sunbury Press, Paper Raven Books, and Inkwater Press. I have been talking to indie authors—whom I consider as small press and self-published authors—about using their time and money in book marketing wisely.
How much time should I spend trying to get more book reviews?
How much time do you have? You can spend so much time marketing your book that you completely bypass what all this is about: writing books that you love.
So, first, slow down.
Then, look earnestly at how much time you have available per week—and don’t let it hinge on your writing time. (Remember, nothing sells books like writing more books).
Third, spend that much time pursuing reviews per week.
Book marketing takes actual literal time. And all those social media follows and posts and likes and comments that you’re clocking in for, just know that they’re not the only thing you should be doing with your marketing time.
Now, let’s complete the task: get more book reviews.
This includes getting book blurbs, media reviews, and consumer reviews on Amazon & Goodreads. When indie authors ask the question, “How do I get more book reviews?” they’re talking about three different types of reviews:
- Book blurbs (or editorial reviews)
- Consumer reviews (Amazon & Goodreads)
- Media & trade book reviews (like Publishers Weekly, the New York Times, and your friendly neighborhood Independent Book Review)
So let’s tackle one at a time.
1. What are book blurbs and how do you get them?
First, let’s define it with a little help from this post: “blurbs are short book reviews written by authors or experts in the book’s field. They are used by authors & publishers on their marketing material.”
This means that you ask Stephen King if he would ever so kindly take the time out of his day to read your book and write a few nice things about it. You would then use those King quotes to put on your book cover, your social media graphics, your Amazon “Editorial Reviews Section,” and other places.
Now when browsers see that quote from that reputable human being, they feel like they trust that this book is actually good in the sea of books that are…well…not.
So let’s ask the next logical question: Do I really need to get book blurbs?
Well…I’d recommend it! Like testimonials for a business, they increase the validity of your product. “This relevant person or professional company said, ‘[this],’ and I trust them, so I can at least believe that the pros in the book’s niche are enjoying it.”
Everything you do as an indie author to make your book appear professionally and appealingly helps it in the long run. It may not seem like it makes direct sales the way that a social media post or newsletter does, but these book reviews are doing work each time a new browser visits your book’s product page.
When I get book submissions for IBR, I look at a variety of things. One of them is that if someone like Clint Smith has said something nice about it, I think the book might be worth paying my reviewers to review it. It could get good traction for my website and help my audience of readers believe that IBR can be a source of great indie books.
But blurbs are not the only type of book review that you should pursue as indie author.
So give yourself some time in a hypothetical week for blurb pitching, yes. Even use this blog post to inform how to get book blurbs. What’s nice is, after you have a few blurbs, you can relax a bit. It doesn’t hurt to get blurbs later on, but if you’ve got 3-5 before or on launch day, you can move on to the next review pursuit.
2. How do you get book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads?
If a browser visits your book’s product page, sees that at a lot of people have read it and (fingers crossed) enjoyed it, then you’re in good shape.
If a browser visits your product page again, at some point after their initial visit, and the review count is higher—there’s another point of validity (and buzz)! People are reading it currently. For them, this might even pop up in a real-life conversation, so it’s yet another reason to hit the buy button.
Getting book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads is important.
You can get more book reviews on these sites in a variety of ways, including:
- Build a launch team (or similarly, “street team”) to read your book before it comes out. They can be made up of readers you know and those who will want to support you the most when it comes out.
- Just make sure those readers aren’t all in the same house, or in some instances, share your last name, or Amazon might remove that review.
- Request a review on your newsletter. Don’t do this too much, but I think once or twice per book (at the exact right time) could be both beneficial and not too pushy.
- Find people who are reading books on social media, build an organic relationship with them by engaging with their content, and then asking (appropriately, kindly, patiently, personally) if they would like to read your book in exchange for an honest review. You can share your book with them by offering your book on free promotion through your publisher’s KDP account, using a program like BookFunnel, or directly sharing a digital or physical copy with them.
- Obviously be careful who you send those .pdf copies too though. Digital book pirates exist, and some readers will request a physical copy without leaving a review. I’m a big proponent of sending books to people who say they want to read it—because, plot twist, I like the concept of people reading my words—but you’ll need money in your budget for other things too, so you can’t do it all willy-nilly.
- Giveaways on blogs, promo sites, and Goodreads. Are they guaranteed to result in reviews? No way! But it definitely increases your chances.
- Leaving a page in the back of the book that kindly, gently, personably asks if your reader would leave a review for you. If it’s an eBook and the book’s already published, it’s especially helpful to add a clickable “leave a review at [this Amazon link]” on one of the last pages of the book. That way, they don’t even have to leave their eReader to do it.
- Mention at your book event how awesome it would be if people who have read it would share their thoughts in a review online somewhere. That you’d love to see it.
- When people tell you that they’ve read your book, you may even feel comfortable asking if they’d be willing to leave a review on one of those sites, but you also might not because that could exceed your awkwardness quotient greatly.
So, consider your question answered. Getting book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads is important, but it’s not the only review-pursuit you should be doing.
There are book blurbs (already talked about), consumer reviews (just talked about), and, lastly, media or trade reviews.
3. How do you get media or trade book reviews?
Reviews in media outlets could expand your audience.
As of [x moment in your publication journey], you have a set number of followers on social media and subscribers of your email newsletter. When you post stuff, you hope that this content is shared to a wider audience via social media, but for the most part, your content is being seen (and sometimes shared) by the same people.
So how do you reach Johnny Tucson—that dude who loves your exact kind of book in Arizona—the guy who does not know you exist?
Well, which media platforms do you think he’s engaging with?
Maybe he’s a reader of the New Yorker. Of Bass Pro magazine. Of Independent Book Review because he loves to read and support cool-ass indie authors. Or maybe he listens to a certain podcast, watches a specific YouTube channel for your kind of people. He might not be in your bubble now, but after a review or feature in a media platform that he follows, he might find his way over to you.
So is it important to be featured in a media outlet? You betcha.
So there you have it. Your answer.
It’s important to get book reviews in a variety of places.
That’s the problem with book marketing. Each one of these things is worth doing, but you might not have the time to do all of them.
So first, just breathe. Know that you are one human and you need time for writing and family and friends and tv and nature and Skittles and all the other important things in life, so set aside some time to try to get book reviews and actually do it.
Send pitch letters to get book blurbs, consumer reviews, and media features. If you feel like you’ll never have time again, keep in mind that you can allot some money in your budget to pay for sponsored or editorial book reviews. You CANNOT pay reviewers to leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but you CAN pay someone to do the pitching work of getting them.
If you need to spend all or most of your marketing budget on contest fees, sending books to people, funding events, advertising, and supporting your favorite indie bookstores—then maybe buying sponsored reviews is not for you. Maybe instead, you put in extra time pitching reviewers and trying to hit your goals of increasing validity.
If I get more book reviews in magazines, blogs, and newspapers, will it really increase my sales?
Sometimes! You might get a feature that does nothing, honestly. This is a thing that happens. You can’t know what it’s going to do until we actually get there. And it will work for some books, while not working at all (or considerably less so) for others.
If you feel like you’ve spent too much time on getting reviews and not enough time on other aspects of book marketing, well I got good news for ya!
You can stop. You can take a break. You can do the other thing. Don’t spend your time doing a thing you don’t want to do. It’ll reflect in your ability to do the job effectively. Your free time is up to you, and book marketing—unless you are doing it as your profession like a guy named me—will take place during your free time.
So treat it like it.
How many book reviews is enough book reviews? When can I stop?
Hard and fast numbers don’t exist here, but that’s mostly because the hope would be that the number is always climbing on its own. Word of mouth has spread enough, and that review request at the back of your book is working enough so that you no longer have to pitch for them. But again, you don’t know the number, which may or may not be helpful.
So I’m going to do it. I’m going to tell you, however flimsy and circumstantial they are.
If we’re talking about consumer reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, you have my permission to chill out at number 100. I still want them to increase for sure, but it’s time to allot the marketing time you usually use to get these book reviews and try to do something else, like book promotion & advertising.
If we’re talking about blurbs, I am happy with 5. But if you meet a famous writer who wants to blurb your book, definitely take them up on that.
If we’re talking about media reviews, you can take a pause on pitching about 1 year after launch. Again, I want you to get all of the publicity you can, so keep an eye out and pitch when you see the right fit for you, but it’s true that some companies would prefer the book have a “why-now” reason for featuring the book, so pitching them may not do any good.
And perhaps the most important reason to get more book reviews?
It has nothing to do with book marketing.
You can learn from your reviews. Real humans are reading your book. If multiple people are saying similar things, then hey, maybe that means something. Maybe that really is your strength in writing, or maybe you really could improve in that aspect.
In the end, if you are trying to sell books and increase Kindle Unlimited page reads, I’d definitely recommend you get book more reviews. You should NOT have 0 or 1 or 2 book reviews. But if you have 300 and you’re tired, please stop. Take a sip of water. Do your best to get more book reviews, but don’t get too lost in it.
What do you think? Do you need to get more book reviews?
About the Author
Joe Walters is the founder and editor-in-chief of Independent Book Review. He has been a book marketer for Sunbury Press, Paper Raven Books, and Inkwater Press. When he’ i not doing editorial, promoting, or reviewing work, he’s working on his novel and trusting the process. Find him @joewalters13 on Twitter.
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