Monday, July 22, 2019

How To Score Book Reviews

In the world of indie publishing, nothing gives you street cred like good book reviews. Maybe your blurb simmers with the wit of Oscar Wilde; maybe your cover art provokes spontaneous tears because it’s Rothko levels of sublime. All that’s no substitute for a real, live reader liking your book — and liking it so much they go out of their to share their excitement with the world. For potential ebook buyers, reviews furnish social proof. They show off how popular and vetted your book is and offer insight into the sort of people who liked it, making would-be readers wonder if they might like it too. You might be tempted at this point to buy praise — or start spamming your book’s Amazon page with adulatory sock-puppets. But there’s no need to take shady shortcuts. Instead, just follow these tips, and you’ll be scoring book reviews the ethical way.

1. Define your audience

You know your book from cover to content — after all, you wrote it. But now it’s time to think about how it comes across to people who weren’t around for the writing process. To get the reviewers you deserve, you have to know your audience — there’s no point hawking Louboutins to a shopper looking for soccer cleats, or tempting a would-be tractor-buyer to drive away with a Corvette instead. You can start working at the level of genre: My book is for sci-fi readers. But your thinking will have to get more fine-grained than that. Try to picture your perfect reader: how old they are, what they do when they’re not nose-deep in your book. Most importantly, try to imagine what else they like to read. This step is arguably the most important part of defining your audience: naming your comp titles — books that read comparably to yours — so that fans of those books can become fans of your books. Think hard about how your project fits into the greater publishing ecosystem, and you’ll be able to fine-tune your target audience, going from “sci-fi fans” to, say, “YA readers interested in works of Afrofuturism with a strong female lead.”

2. Identify the right reviewers — and pitch them

You’ve got a strong sense of your audience. Now it’s time to target the subset of that audience able to furnish you with glowing reviews — the ones who run the book blogs. First, do a sweep through a directory of book reviewer blogs, keeping an eye peeled for those that seem to fit into your niche. Next, think about your comp titles and track down where those books were reviewed. To streamline this process, you can also try submitting to a service like Reedsy Discovery, a book-marketing platform that shops your book out to reviewers for you. Now you’ve got a list of promising reviewers who A) work in your genre and B) have a demonstrated preference for works like yours. At this point, you’re ready to make contact with reviewers and pitch them your book. Make sure to look over each blogger’s policy to make sure you’re contacting them the right way — for instance, not cold-emailing them when they want you to fill out a form. Make sure to customize your pitch for each reviewer — the last thing you want is to sound spammy or boilerplate. Reference their past reviews to demonstrate that they’re more than just a faceless source of free publicity to you, and pull out those comp titles to prove you’ve done your homework on the market.

3 Draw them in with giveaways

Giving your book away for free can be a great way to get more readers lining up for it, trailing reviews in their wake. Luckily, Goodreads makes it easy to list a giveaway, and the data says it pays: according to book marketer Thomas Umstattd, 750 people enter the average Goodreads giveaway, and 45% of the lucky winners end up leaving a review for their prize. By doing a giveaway, you’ll be generating much-needed buzz: even bookworms who don’t win a copy are now more likely to add your book to their bookshelves. If Goodreads isn’t your scene, you can also offer your book through LibraryThing — their Member Giveaway interface gives you a real-time look at exactly how many users are making requests for it. You can also use freebies as reader magnets to, well, draw readers in and start building a fanbase. If you’ve got an entire series in the pipeline, for example, consider making the first installment perma-free in exchange for emails — and be sure to put a note in the back matter asking readers to leave a comment on your book’s Amazon page. Because they didn't have to give up a cent, they’ll be that much more willing to pay you with their time, offering glowing — or at least, honest — reviews.

13 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

Great tips, Lee. Some of those are new to me! Thanks :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent tips! Reviews are so important.

Juneta key said...

Great post. Bookmarked.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

There are a lot of book reviewer databases out there and potentially hundreds of reviewers for one's book. Don't forget the big ones, either, like Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Great tips! Adding it to my notes of all the things I need to be doing.

cleemckenzie said...

Glad that Reedsy came up with a post about book reviews. Writers need that kind of information.

Pat Hatt said...

Some great tips indeed.

Mirka Breen said...

Asking for reviews is so awkward, that, with the exception of my beta readers, I never could do it. Kudos for those who can, and thanks for the how-to^!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee - really helpful and other commenters have added extra ideas ... love the blogging community - cheers Hilary

cleemckenzie said...

@IMirka It is difficult, and I really hate to ask for review myself. I know how busy writers are and how difficult it is to carve out time to do any writing of their own.
@Hilary Glad you found this post of interest. I hope even more readers will add to these tips.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tara Tyler said...

great spot of advice and doable!

thanks!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Awesome tips. Thanks so much, Lee.