Monday, October 29, 2018

Guest EC Murray: How to Get the Reviews You Want - Ethically

Several months before publishing my memoir, A Long Way from Paris, information flooded my in-box about reviews: businesses selling reviews, authors begging for them, aspiring writers searching for hints on how to get them.  This is what I’ve learned in the years since then.

Tip one: write the best book you can. Write a book which resonates with readers. Write a book that will make readers go out of their way to say, “I loved your book.” Then, you can move forward with a few strategies.
Recognize “review” has many meanings: reviews in newspapers, blogs, and journals vary tremendously from reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Initially, I sent my manuscript to KIRKUS and Book life (a wing of Publishers Weekly) for paid reviews which authors can publish or forget, depending on how positive they are. In my case, both provided stunning reviews.
About nine months later, which was three months before publication with a hybrid press, I reached out to acclaimed authors with whom I was acquainted. I showed them the KIRKUS review and asked if I could send them a copy of my manuscript and, “if you like it, would you mind writing a blurb?” A blurb is another slant on “reviews,” which can appear on your back cover, on the first page, and on your Website. If these authors responded affirmatively, I asked if they would like a hard copy or digital edition.  Most wanted a hard copy. I then put paper clips around sections which I thought would be most applicable.

For example, Langdon Cook, winner of the Washington state book award, writes about outdoors and mushrooms, so I cordoned off the section on mushroom hunting. It may be that he liked the whole book, but if he was too busy, at least he’d read what was most relevant to him. For Carlene Cross, author of Fleeing Fundamentalism, I sectioned off the chapters relating to my spiritual connection with nature. For Theo Nestor, my memoir teacher, I selected areas where I struggled with my personal growth. I sent the whole manuscript to each author, since often times, they became hooked and wanted to read the full manuscript.
Additionally, I wrote to newspaper reviewers, quoted positive reviews I’d received, and asked if they’d like to receive my book and write a review. Most reviewers wanted a print version of my book. I never, ever sent my book to anyone before asking if they’d like to read it. By the time of my book launch, I had several positive reviews printed in newspapers which I could also use on my Amazon page as “editorial reviews.”
In contemporary writer’s parlance, however, “review” often refers to Amazon and Goodreads reviews. As an early writer, I scoffed that writers paid so much attention to Amazon reviews. Then, I asked people how they decided what to read. Some people chose library recommendations. Many readers heard about a book from a friend or radio interview, then went straight to Amazon and Goodreads to read reviews. Having positive reviews, and a lot of them, can make or break your sales.
There’s a general, overarching way to get reviews. That is, make your book available on Bookbub, Net Galley, Goodreads give-a-way, Kindle free giveaway, and Kindle countdown. Those may be good starting points, but I offer a word of caution. You may get some doozy reviews. One friend received a two star review because “It’s in present tense. I hate reading books in present tense.”
There are, however, better ways to get Amazon reviews. I wrote on the last page of my book, “I’d love to hear from readers. My e-mail address is” If they e-mailed me, I then asked if they’d be willing to write –NOT a review on Amazon, but a COMMENT. What’s the difference? Your average reader is intimidated by the word “review.” “I can’t write a review! I’m not qualified! I wouldn’t know what to say.”
Here’s where I help. If someone emailed me to say they like my book, I write them back, addressing the story they’ve told me. There’s usually a personal story (my son was a heroin addict; I was in southern France during the war; I love goats) which surfaces as a result of reading A Long Way from Paris. Then, I ask if they would do me a favor. Would you mind writing a sentence in the review section of my Amazon listing? I paste a link to the review section of my Amazon listing. I say, “Your comment could be just what you’ve written to me” –I quote their e-mail—“or it could be as as simple as ‘I enjoyed this book because ______’” Or, I might give them an example of a “review” that’s already on Amazon.

By reaching out to the readers who I like my book, I’m accruing positive reviews. If someone says, “I read your book,” but doesn’t say they liked it, I don’t ask for a review, or a comment. My goal is to reach as many readers as possible, but my preference is to get comments, or reviews, from people who liked my story. By using the word “comment on” rather than “review,” and by providing a link, readers are far more eager and willing to write a positive review on Amazon and Goodreads.

E.C. Murray, teaches writing at Seattle Central College and is the founder of The Writers Connection.
Her memoir, A Long Way from Paris, was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year.
View of Mt. Rainier (home area of EC Murray and The Writers Connection)

You can find her on social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and her Website.


Pat Hatt said...

That is a really good tip indeed. Comment is so much more relaxed that review and won't freak some out.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Write a comment - clever way to word it. Thanks, I will remember that.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I hate asking for reviews. Comment does make it feel less pushy. Good idea!

Tonja Drecker said...

'Comments' does sound much easier and relaxed. Thanks for the tip!

Tyrean Martinson said...

I agree with everyone so far. I think comment-writing is far less daunting than review-writing.

Sharon Himsl said...

Good to know. Thanks!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Sometimes you just have to ask for those reviews.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

What a terrific tip! You're absolutely right about a lot of people being intimidated at the prospect of writing a review, but ANYONE can make a comment. Thanks for the new perspective!

Juneta key said...

Great tips and insight. I'd have never thought of some of that.

J.L. Campbell said...

Great advice. The word 'review' does intimidate some readers.

Denise Channing said...

Personally, I DNF books written in present tense. ;)

Seriously though, LibraryThing has an early reviewer program that is both ethical and effective.

Liesbet said...

Very helpful and refreshing advice. I've bookmarked it for the time I am ready to address "reviews". And, I'm still baffled at the time between you finishing your book (and being able to send it out to be read and reviewed) and the time it was actually released. Phew, we writers need a LOT of time!

BTW: your photo of Mt. Rainier reminds me of Mt. Hood which we had the privilege of staring at for a few days during our last RV adventure. :-)

Jemi Fraser said...

The power of vocabulary choices - comment is great!