Sunday, October 20, 2013

Getting Book Reviews: The Methods Award-Winning Authors Use – A Study


One of the biggest challenges facing authors today is on-line marketing and what affects reviews have on their success. Reviews control rankings, impact the buying decision and ultimately sales.

Authors use many methods to get readers to review their books. Predicting the results is a different story. The writer has to be willing to accept the good, the bad and the ugly. Unlike the old days where publishers basically controlled what reviews readers got to see, the on-line world is unpredictable.

So the major question is how do I get reviews and can I control the results? You could say if you want good reviews, write a good book. Unfortunately it isn’t that simple. Just ask an author who has gotten a bad review.

I like a good study with a lot of help from my friends. And I have a group of outstanding, award-winning authors that have my back. Over 50 authors helped me with the study. I will try to summarize the information so you can get something out of this post.

I can hear the music, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, in the background and see Eastwood with a small, black cigar in his mouth.
 

Methods

As you’ll see from this study there are many methods used by authors to get reviews for their books. Let’s listen to what successful authors have to say.

Make a List and keep working it

One of the top methods used by award-winning authors is to develop a list of people who would review their novel. As you’ll see there are a variety of methods used. They develop a target list by using query letters, newsletters, blogs, fans that have reviewed their other books. Then they use the lists during the novel’s launch period. Of course, the list is of reviewers that left favorable reviews.

Author Joanna Penn @thecreativepenn (J. F. Penn) is an Action-Adventure Thriller Author creating the ARKANE thriller series. Also, she is a leading consultant in the book industry. Joanna said:

I get early reviews by giving away review copies to my email list. These are readers who have specifically signed up for my fiction, but of course, the list takes time to grow. I also email readers who reviewed my previous books and offer them a review copy. For my new series, I will be pitching book bloggers directly before release and I'll be offering hard copies prior to launch as well, in an attempt to emulate traditional publishing ARCs and try to build some more buzz. Getting reviews is definitely labor intensive, but can pay off over time. 

Author Amy Metz @authoramymetz is an Author of Mystery & Thrillers as well as a blogger and book editor. Amy added this:

The best way I've found to get reviews for my book is to contact bloggers. The rejection rate is high due to their long TBR piles, but I contacted over one hundred people and had a pretty good response. I've also been very lucky, in that a lot of readers have taken the time to leave reviews on Amazon. I would recommend authors look through the many online blog lists and make a list of blogs that review their particular genre, and then email a query. The query should briefly state who you are and what you are offering for review. Also, make a bullet list of the basic information about your book: title, genre, number of pages, publisher, a brief blurb, the release date, formats in which the book is available, links to a trailer (if available) and your website.

Tracy Hewitt Meyer @tracyhmeyer writes gritty, edgy Young Adult/New Adult fiction and Adult Romance. Tracy said this about lists:

In my experience, the most beneficial way to gather reviews is to send the book out to every single blog review site that reviews your genre. I put together an exhaustive list by researching blogs on twitter. Some reviewers will decline to review your book. Some will say they’ll review it and won’t. Some will review it. Then I tap into other authors and friends. Other authors want reviews too. Offer an exchange-a sort-of “I’ll review yours if you review mine.” And then make sure you review their work.

Bestselling Author L.J. Sellers @LJSellers is the author of the Detective Jackson Mystery/Suspense Series. Also, she is an award-winning journalist. Her response was:

I do both [Buy and Solicit]. In the past, I’ve sent hundreds of emails to bloggers and reviewers asking if they’d like to consider my novels. With every new book, I send out print and ebook review copies to a core list of about 30 reviewers who have read and praised my work. On my blog and in the back of my ebooks, I encourage readers to post reviews…if they enjoy my stories. And more recently, my books have been posted on NetGalley to reach a wider reviewing audience.

Terry Ambrose @suspense_writer is the author of the McKenna Mystery series and a member of Murder, We Wrote. Terry uses his newsletter.

I try not to rely on other authors for reviews unless those authors are also regular book reviewers. I do look for opportunities for blurbs from the well-known authors and have had success in getting reviews through social media and blogs. For my upcoming release of "Kauai Temptations," I've solicited those who receive my newsletter [list] for interest in writing reviews. The response was good...

Christine Nolfi @christinenolfi is the Author of Treasure Me, The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge and Second Chance Grill. Christine has written on our study topic, Reviews. I recommend her book: Reviews Sell Books. Her advice:

1.      Build a review list ready and willing to post reviews.
2.      Send ARC copies to trusted fans.
3.      Simply focus on getting ten reviews for your book…

Brent Hartinger @brenthartinger is the author of The Russel Middlebrook series. The movie version of his novel: Geography Club will be released later in 2013. Brent’s advice:

So first, with everything you do, you need to come across as a total professional: the outreach, the pitch, the cover, and the book itself. Basically, don't give reviewers any chance to reject your book before they review it, because a lot of them will take it.

The single best thing I did when I self-published one novel was NetGalley. It's affordable and (assuming you give yourself a great cover and professional write-up), it will get you access to many, many blogs. When you pair a NetGalley listing with your own blog outreach (or with some of the marketing NetGalley will do for you, for a fee), you can get literally hundreds of blog reviews. I think this is the single best bargain in self-publishing out there, assuming you work it right.

Amazon Best Selling Author Lizzy Stevens @LizzyStevens123 writes Paranormal, Romance and Woman's fiction. Lizzy adds this:

www.manicreaders.com has a review depot. Set up a page with them and then submit your book to all of the review sites at once.
 

Engage Social Media Followers

Another popular method used by authors to get reviews is to WORK their social media crowd.

Awarding-winning Author Paul D. Marks @PaulDMarks is an Author of noir, mysteries, satire & mainstream fiction. Paul starts with this on social media.

I've tried various options, paid ads in various places, trying to get reviewed in everything from major book reviews like the NY Times (hahahaha) to boutique book review blogs, guest blogging, Amazon KDP. 

The things that seemed to work best are social networking and word of mouth.  Sometimes if you lower your price and list the book on the e-book promotional sites that seems to work.  Paid advertising in most places didn't seem to do much, though there were a couple places that gave some good results.  Mostly it seems to be a trial and error thing and hitting markets that want your type of book.

Author Sandy Appleyard @sandyappleyard writes Romantic Suspense Novels. She added this in her spotlight post while discussing the topic: support groups.

Twitter is helpful for getting you through tough times. I recently received a bad review and tweeted about it. A few of my ‘tweople’ chimed in and got the review bumped down so it was less visible. It’s stuff like that that makes social media so worthwhile.

Author Matthew Iden @CrimeRighter is the bestselling author of Crime fiction, suspense, dark humor, fantasy, science fiction and more. He added this in his spotlight post while discussing the topic: Social Media.

To be blunt, once you're past issues of the writing craft, there's nothing more important to a writer's career than taking advantage of social media, and this applies to both traditionally published authors as well as independent authors such as myself. The landscape of the market has changed--if you want to make connections with your readers and reviewers, you must use social media to reach out to them.

A second mistake is sticking with a social media channel that you don't enjoy using or don't understand. For instance, I was a professional web designer and IT manager for years, but I can't wrap my head around Twitter. It's not intuitive to me and I don't use it. It would be a mistake for me to make it my go-to social media channel. But I'm simpatico with Facebook and I love Goodreads, so I spend a lot of time on both and it pays dividends in the form of fantastic contacts, an increase in sales and reviews, and just generally spreading the word about my writing.

 

Book Review Blogs


Seeking reviews from Book Review blogs is another tried and true method. Unfortunately, this is becoming a very crowded place to do business. You must be selective in your inquires to avoid spinning your wheels.

Award-Winning Arleen Alleman @aallemanwrites is the author of the Darcy Farthing Cruise Crime Adventure series. Arleen had this to say:

For my latest release, Alternate Currents, I paid a reasonable fee to a company (Bostick Communications) who sent out press releases to potential book reviewers in their database. I had a good response from this, and I sent out about a dozen paper books and ebooks for review in response to requests. These professional reviewers/bloggers are posting their reviews now and I'm pleased with the result. Also, several bloggers interviewed me instead of, or in addition to, reviewing the book. Bostick tracks and sends updates to me when reviews are posted or mentioned.

This worked better for me than other methods and I don't like paying reviewers directly. I prefer to obtain honest unbiased reviews and I continue to use Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis to generate interest and try to get folks to post reviews.

Best Selling Author M. R. Cornelius @marshacornelius writes post-apocalyptic thrillers. Marsha had this to say:

My best success with book reviews has been through book bloggers. Now days, most of them will accept e-books (as opposed to an actual copy), and they are receptive to author interviews, excerpts, and giveaways as well as reviewing books. I found most bloggers through Twitter. If you have Tweet Adder, you can search for 'book reviewer' in the bio. If you don't use Tweet Adder, you can find reviewers through other authors. I know I'm always posting my books' reviews, so click on the link, and see whose blogging. 

5-Star Mystery Author R.S. Guthrie @rsguthrie writes Mystery & Thrillers, essays, and short stories. He added this:

The books need reviews; it’s one of the first things anyone (including me) notices, right next to the book. Amazon also uses the number of reviews in their algorithms on whether they are going to “help” promote your books.

Setting your book at free for a few days and buying a BookBub ad (depending on genre), will get you at least tens of thousands of downloads from mostly real readers not what I can call Kindle Hoarders (which the free-listing sites attract). They download EVERYTHING free and will likely never read your book. It’s been proven that about 1% of readers write reviews. That sounds about right to me.

I’m told there are review blogs out there by the hundreds and they are a great way to get book reviews. Research them. Make sure they read your genre.

Author John A. Heldt @johnheldt writes Romance and  Historical Fiction novels. John had this to say:

I've taken mostly one approach in getting reviews: I contact bloggers who are most likely to enjoy my works. I read their review policies and pay attention not only to the genres they prefer but also to their turnaround times, TBR lists, and how they've reviewed similar novels. When I learn that a blogger likes one of my books, I immediately invite him or her to read and review the others. The result has been hundreds of mostly positive reviews and even a few helpful critical reviews. I've found bloggers to be indispensable in introducing my works to new audiences. They're fabulous.

Free is good


Giveaways are another popular method to obtain book reviews. Everyone likes a good read for free. Readers need to follow up with a review which sometimes doesn’t happen in practice.

Experienced Author Rachelle Ayala @AyalaRachelle is an author and an industry blogger. Rachelle said this about freebies:

The most successful way for me to get reviews is to give away books. I've given away over 70,000 copies of each of my books by running free promos on Amazon and Smashwords [which gets percolated to all of the other sites]. I also give away books to bloggers and at Goodreads. It's true that I gather a few negative reviews in the process, but I believe it presents a fair and equitable representation of my books to the general public.

Number 1 Amazon Bestselling Author Diane Capri @DianeCapri is the author of  The Hunt for Reacher series. Diane added:

I've only had one significant experience with giving away free books on a mass scale. A few months ago, Wattpad featured my book Due Justice along with books from several other indie authors in a promotion called "Wattpad Loves A Mystery." Because Due Justice was free on Wattpad for that month, we also ran it free on KOBO, iTunes, and Amazon. The number of reader reviews on the book skyrocketed. Readers joined my mailing list and wrote to me and friended me on social media and read more of my books. The experience was astonishing.

Award-Winning Author Jinx Schwartz @jinxschwartz is the author of the Hetta Coffey series. Jinx added this:

Free books garner reviews...not always good ones, but that's the risk you take. I review other author's books and they mine. I am all over the charts for garnering reviews and am not above begging.

Author Alan Orloff @alanorloff is an Agatha-nominated mystery writer. He added this in his spotlight post while discussing the topic: Free Books.

Over the course of five days in the first quarter of this year, I gave away about 47,000 downloads of FIRST TIME KILLER. After the promotions, I did get a modest bump in sales and a ton of reviews. On the other hand, I recently gave away about 4500 copies of THE TASTE and didn’t see much change in sales afterward. So, who knows?

Dave Folsom @davefolsombooks is a Mystery & Thrillers author based in the Northwest.

I've had the best response by providing free reading copies to individuals, support groups and other authors.

P. C. Zick @PCZick (Patricia Zick) is an award-winning writer for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction. Patricia discusses this method:

Hands down, the best (as in most honest) reviews come from the folks who have downloaded my books during the KDP free days. They trickle in, but my book Live from the Road was released May 2012 and I just did two days of KDP free days. I've since received five more reviews. 

Reviews sell books, no doubt. However, I've found that doing my blog and tweeting through Triberr about other folks' blogs, brings me the most attention, and when that happens, readers buy my books and the reviews come. No sense in pushing the river.

Pre-Launch Activity

Some of the veteran authors who are from the traditional world grew up with Advance Read Copies. They know there is an advantage in getting a head start on the audience.

Award winning, best-selling author Katherine Logan @KathyLLogan is the author of the Celtic Brooch Time-Travel Series. Katherine said this:

With my second book, I contacted Twitter followers who had tweeted that they loved THE RUBY BROOCH. I asked them if they would like to beta read the sequel THE LAST MACKLENNA. They all said they would love to read the story.  Not only did they catch typos, but they wrote reviews that were ready to be posted on Amazon as soon as the book went live.

Successful Award-winning Author Donna Fasano @DonnaFaz writes Sweet Romance novels. Donna gives us her take:

In a perfect world, I think I would have done things differently. I would have taken the time to build my social network and introduce myself to book reviewers and bloggers before publishing my first Indie book. I'd have 'done it right' by stirring up a little anticipation before launching that first book.
 

Just Ask

Another method which is sometimes overlooked is to ask everyone you trust to read your book and write a review. Some authors miss this opportunity. It sounds simple and it is.

Chrissy Anderson @AskChrissy writes Chick Lit, Romance, Humor And Comedy novels. Chrissy said this:

My method for getting reviews is simple- Every time a new person *LIKES* my facebook page, I post a message directly to them on my page thanking them for *LIKING* me and I ask for them to leave a review on Amazon (I provide the link making it as easy as possible for them) and tell them I’ll look for the review the next day.  The acknowledgment and the call-to-action usually results in a speedy AND good review. 

Also, because of the true life love triangle storyline of The List Trilogy, I get a lot of personal emails from women asking me for advice.  I’m quick to reply and I always ask if they’ve left a review on amazon.  I constantly reiterating that I rely on reviews for sales and that I’m grateful for the time and effort it takes to leave one.

B&N Humor Bestseller Author Caroline Fardig @carolinefardig writes Mystery, Romance and Chick Lit. Caroline added this:

At public engagements, such as book clubs or meetings, I request that people take a moment to review my book after reading it.  I also urge my readers to leave reviews as well.  If someone mentions to me that they enjoyed my book, I ask them if they have a little time to post a short review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Sales are also a good way to get reviews—when more people buy your book, the greater the chance that one of them will leave a review.  I have had great success with all of the methods I listed above. 

Award-winning Author Rayne Hall @RayneHall is a Fantasy and Horror Fiction author and editor. Rayne gave us her take:

The best source of reviews are genuine readers who enjoyed the book. When fans tweet or email me to say how much they liked the book, I ask "Would you consider writing a review?" and most are happy too.

I also find reviewers among my Twitter followers. "Would anyone like to review my bestselling book Writing Fight Scenes? Free e-book for reviewers." or "I'm looking for reviewers for my novel Storm Dancer. Free ebook or paperback available." - or “I want to get 40 Amazon reviews for Thirty Scary Tales. So far I have 12. Can you help me?”

Author Otis G. Sanders @alwaysn4everlov is a non-Fiction author and a professional photographer specializing in personal stories. Otis had this to add:

My method(s) for getting book reviews is simply asking, although I may have to ask many times, I find it works pretty well. I've found that the people that purchase my book are the best to ask for a review.  Thus far I only have about 28 reviews in my Amazon book store, but those reviews are from people who were excited about the fact my book was in print because it filled a need for those who purchased it.  I've also given away copies of my book and asked for reviews.  As far as reviews are concerned it's a numbers game, everyone that reads or purchases my book is not going to write a review, I expect that but that doesn't keep me from asking each and every person that purchases my book to write a review. 

Author Leti Del Mar @leti_delmar is an indie author. She writes Romance, Mystery & Thrillers and Young Adult novels. She blogs about the craft of writing and indie books.

Book reviews are important.  Sure it feels great to hear when other people like what you have written and honestly, a 5 star review will put me on cloud nine all day. Yet reviews mean so much more than a congratulatory pat on the back.

Ask Book Bloggers. Use the Book Blogger Directories in the Resource section of this book to find bloggers who specialize in your genre or target audience and follow their submissions guidelines. Pay special attention to their review policies to make sure you adhere to what they want.  A word of caution, only expect a small number of the reviewers actually to respond. That is just the nature of the beast. You might want to start with the smaller bloggers since they are more likely to respond. It helps if you are already a follower on their site and have made a presence for yourself by commenting regularly, like I already told you to. I have had good results with the smaller and newer bloggers. I asked, and they said yes! Sometimes, they have posted a review within the week!

Group Hug


Using Writer Support Groups is another method used to get good reviews. Reader and Writer Groups like WLC and IAN plus other author’s groups and friends that support you.

Best-Selling Author Claude Bouchard @ceebee308 writes Mystery & Thrillers novels in the Vigilante Series. Claude had this to say:

I will point out the following: When I released Femme Fatale earlier this year, I had been invited to participate in a group book launch. FF was available for Kindle a few days before the official group launch date so I informed fifteen people I knew were impatiently waiting for it. All fifteen downloaded the book the same day and on the official launch date, a handful of reviews had already been posted, though unsolicited.

NYT and USA Today Best Selling Author Melody Anne @authmelodyanne is the author of many Romance and Young Adult novels. Melody speaks up for her support groups:

I have great support groups with some fabulous authors like Ruth Cardello, Kathleen Brooks, Sandra Marton, Lynn Raye Harris, Terri Marie, Jennifer Probst, and so many more that I can't name them all. These authors are amazing and supportive and we are there for each other. It's so fun when conferences come and I get to finally see them in person after talking for 6 months online. :) 

Author David Lawlor @LawlorDavid is a Historical Fiction Writer. David said this:

I tend to use book bloggers and my writing support group as ways to get my reviews. Of course, I do get other people who are kind enough to buy the books and review them but the best method, for me, are those I just mentioned. It does a long wait before bloggers get back with their reviews - they are snowed under with requests -  but, for the most part, they usually come through with one in the end.

I have made contact with several book lovers and writers though social media, who have also given me reviews, which is great. I would never consider paying for reviews. It doesn't sit right with me.

Author M.R. Mathias @DahgMahn is an award-winning self-published Fantasy Writer. He is noted for his epic fantasy novels and his prolific social network marketing activity. Mike said this:

When I first got into self-publishing, I went through Goodreads reviewers looking by similar genre books, for reviewers that had over a thousand followers.  I asked several of them if they would review The Sword and the Dragon, and The Royal Dragoneers. Many said yes, as many said no, and even more didn't respond. But by having reviewers with over 1,000 followers being my goal, those reviews I did get, had reach.

I am also a member of the Independent Author Network, Author's Den, and I have grown sizable twitter followings of writers and readers and movie fans. For a long time there was an author's review exchange at a few nook and kindle boards, and they shut it down because we all were a bit overly critical of each other, but it helped.

Just like I say in my publishing help book, The First Ten Steps, If you are your own publisher then it is ALL up to you. It is a full time job I do besides maintaining four fantasy series, and the projects I am working on now.

Award winning independent published Author Dawn Greenfield Ireland @dawnireland is the creator of the Hot Chocolate series and two very popular non-fiction books. Dawn weight on this:

The first reviews I received on my novel Hot Chocolate were, of course, by friends, my critique group members, and family members. Then more reviews came in from the virtual book tour then regular readers.

Veteran Author Susan Oleksiw is the bestselling author of the Mellingham series and the Anita Ray mysteries.

First, I have one or two friends who are regular reviewers for weekly newspapers, and I always send them an ARC. 

Second, I know a number of writers in non-mystery fields, and I often ask them to review a book and post a review on Goodreads or Amazon.

Paid Reviews/Professional


There are paid reviews and there are paid reviews. It is all about controlling the process. Some authors refuse to pay for reviews and others rely on them.

International Bestselling Author Ashley Fontainne @ashleyfontainne writes the Eviscerating the Snake series--intense thrillers that will make you reconsider plotting revenge!

In the past, all of my books were enrolled in the KDP program and the results of my "freebie" days and my opinion on the program can be found here:

I had great success with Book Bub (twice) with Accountable to None and Number Seventy-Five. BookGorilla--not so much.

With the upcoming release of my new novel, The Lie, I am going a different route. I have signed up for a few blog tours.

Author Ron Fritsch @RonFritsch is a self-published Historical Fiction Writer. Ron added this:

Apart from a few reader reviews I didn't solicit, I've gotten the most thoughtful and favorable reviews for my three novels (I'll publish my fourth in October) by paying for honest professional reviews from reputable reviewing agencies. I've also entered my books in honest and reputable literary awards competitions and won a number of medals. Except for one favorable review of my first novel that included a major spoiler, I can't complain about any of the reviews my books have received.

Book Tours

The consensus is book tours give authors a lot of exposure. More award-winning authors weight in on this method.

Award-winning Author Mohana Rajakumar @moha_doha is an author based in Qatar. She has a PhD and has been involved in various foundations supporting young writers. Mohana starts with this:

Giveaways/Book Tours/Contests: This is the option I have found most useful in promoting my books. You pay a small administrative fee, relative to the size of the tour, for the organizer's time which is different from buying a review. What you are buying is a chance to audition for reviewers so they can see if they want to read your book. I would recommend review only tours. Blurbs or cover reveals don't have the same impact. People love contests as they love to win prizes or free books.
 

Other Methods

Cherry Picking x Publishers

Traditional Publishers always marketed reviews to promote novels. Today small presses try to control what readers see but on-line reviews change this once controlled substance.

Internationally known author of art-related historical fiction Susan Vreeland (susan@svreeland.com) is a New York Times bestselling author of Clara and Mr. Tiffany and more. Susan comment is echoed by several other Spotlight authors:

With the publishing industry expecting authors to do more and more promotion on their own, the results of your article will provide useful information to many. Certainly it will be useful to me as I venture out next year into the world of social media and blogs. I'm not able to contribute to this article because my publisher, Random House, took care of promotion.

Amazon Qualified Reviewers ( KDP – Vine)


Amazon gives authors a good shot at reviews by qualified reviewers through their KDP program. The results from these reviewers will be more consistent than the normal reader.

Award-winning Author Susanne Lakin @CSLakin is the author of the seven-book fantasy series The Gates of Heaven. Also, Susanne is a freelance copyeditor and writing coach. Susanne comments on KDP:

The traditional way to get reviews is to mail our advance reader copies to reviewers and request them to read and review. That’s the model that’s been in place for decades.

When doing free days on Amazon KDP Select, which sometimes results in tens of thousands of free downloads, I will get a lot of reviews resulting from that. Often, and I’ve heard many other authors say the same, those who get free books will write lots of 1- and 2-star reviews. Mostly because they are reading books for free in genres they never read and would never buy, so they already don’t “like” the book before they start. If you hate romance, why download a romance novel, read the first three chapters and grimace, then write a scathing 1-star review? But that’s very common and the risk a writer takes when doing free days via Select.

Author John F. Hanley@jf_hanley is a Historical Fiction and Young Adult Author. He hails from the UK. He added this in his spotlight post while discussing the topic: Free Books. John discusses Amazon Vine program:

The only books I gave away were to non-author friends on the understanding that they would write reviews in return. Most of them did oblige but few of them had any experience of or skill in reviewing though their 5 star ratings were helpful. My publisher persuaded me to use the Amazon Vine program which did produce some excellent well written reviews. They also distributed review copies through their database and to other sources I suggested. I do read about other authors' experience of giveaways but I'm not sure there is any real relationship between free copies and ultimate sales.

Uncertain returns


Authors seeking reviewers should beware of what they wish for. You could get the good, the bad and the ugly.

Sparkle Abbey @sparkleabbey - Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter, Two Bestselling Mystery Authors writing under the name Sparkle Abbey. They commented on their methods and the results:

Overall results have been good though we still struggle with making that connection. We've been very lucky in that our readers are very loyal and love to help spread the word. As far as reviews go, you take the good with the bad. There are many different types of books out there and we realize our books may not be everyone's cup of tea. Because we're avid readers ourselves, we know readers will sort through the good and the bad and come up with their own opinions. Reviews are important but they're only one part of what influences a reader to choose a book.

Or course, that said, good reviews are simply the best. We've been known to call each other and/or get a little teary when a reader has posted a great review that makes it clear they totally "got" the story we were trying to tell. When you write for publication, you put your heart out there. So it's beyond wonderful when someone takes the time to write a review and let you know they loved your work. 

Let the reviews fall where they may


Some authors just do nothing. They rely on their reading audience to supply the reviews. This is a dangerous. In a previous study, I researched one of the top young authors who was taking her genre by storm. She again had a best seller. She had hundreds of reviews. Her star-ranking was just above 3 with over 100 one-star and two-star reviews. Go figure.

Best-Selling Author Claude Bouchard @ceebee308 writes Mystery & Thrillers novels in the Vigilante Series. Claude had this to say.

On the subject of reviews, I've never solicited them with one exception. I had happened upon Tiffany Harkleroad's book review blog and had sent her a copy of Vigilante. As it turned out, her review became, and still is, the most helpful one for Vigilante on Amazon. Past that, I've always let reviews come as they will.

Annamaria Bazzi @AMBazzi is a Mystery & Fantasy Writer and is noted for her White Swans series. Annamaria is like many authors today. She lets the reviews just come natural.

I haven't had much luck with reviews. When I first queried websites that said they review books I got no responses from the website owners except for two DelSheree from The Edible Bookshelf and Judy Shafer from voracious reader responded.

I keep querying blogs that review books, but all I ever get is no responses or sorry I'm too swamped at the moment and am not taking any new requests. I've found out quickly that no reviews mean no sales...

So now I've changed my marketing strategies. Kendika, the mc of white swans now has her own Facebook page and website... she has more traffic than my blog and she's been up and running for only one month :)

Author Mike Wells @MikeWellsAuthor is an American bestselling author including Lust, Money & Murder and Passion, Power & Sin series. Mike said this:

At first I was sending free e-copies to book bloggers, but now I have enough readers where I can simply publish the book on Amazon, iBooks, B&N, etc., simultaneously, and get a steady flow of reviews from readers.

Author Erik Christian @SimplyAfterDark writes about his troubled life and how he survived. He follows his writings with an award-winning blog and over 43K followers on twitter. Erik added:

I have not asked for reviews from anyone and “Dear Dad” has received 4 and 5 stars reviews based on merit itself. I believe that if a book is truly good it will speak for itself.

Book Sales


Award-Winning and Pushcart-Prize nominated author Gary Ponzo @AuthorPonzo is the author of the series of thrillers. Gary gives us his take:

James, I’ve tried all of the methods mentioned, but honestly the best way to get a review is to sell more books, either with a free promo or some kind of ad.  The ratio of reviews to books sold is probably around 250—to 1.  For every 250 books you sell you’ll probably get a review.  And that number could be low.  Maybe it’s close to 500-1.  But the best advice I could give is: keep writing, keep promoting and don’t be too focused on the reviews.  They’ll come with time.  I sometimes think they’re overrated anyway.  Have you seen the reviews on some of the most popular books on the NY Times bestseller list?  It can be very ugly. Those are my two cents.

Reading groups


Award-Winning Author Judith Marshall @whipsandjingles is the author of Women's Fiction novels. Judith uses reading groups:

When I was looking for reviews for my novel, “Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever,” I searched for online reading groups that included my target audience (baby boomer women.) Among others, I found a Facebook group entitled “Book Junkies” and based on some of the posts, I posted a blurb about the book and requested reviews. Within 48 hours, I had two offers. Both readers posted 5-star reviews on Amazon. It pays to research where your target market hangs out.
 

Samples are good

Some authors use short story to stir interest in their full novels to build their reader base and then go for the review.

Author Christine London @ChristineLondon is the author of Spicy Romance novels. Christine added this:

I offer a free copy of one of my short stories to sample and review. Goodreads give-aways are supposed to be quite effective. I plan on trying that with my first print self-pub.

Blog tours I have not found very effective. My small press has some folks that review and they are open to help colleagues. My Romance Writers of America Colleagues tend to review fellow RWA member's works too.

Sandwich boards


Best-Selling Author Helen Hanson @HelenHanson writes Mystery & Thrillers and Suspense novels.

Eventually, I found bloggers who might be interested in my geeky thrillers, and I pitched queries their way. Lately, I’m branching out with giveaways, direct appeal via my newsletter, and, as time allows, standing on the corner wearing sandwich board. I don’t have lots of reviews, so I suspect, there are better methods out there.

Bad and Ugly Reviews


The reasons for bad reviews were many. Here is a list of what we found. What category does your not-so-good reviews fall into?

1.      Bad Book – They had no solution for this.
2.      Poor Editing – This is completely in your control.
3.      Book Hoarders – If they review, it won’t be good.
4.      Other Bad review reasons – These will get you to pull your hair out.
       a.       English structure by English Authors
       b.      Not what they wanted. – Not their cup of tea.
       c.       Sex talk – You mean they didn’t see this coming.
       d.      Not interested in subject
       e.       Didn’t agree with the point of view

Hints

So if you’re still with me, let’s try to summarize what our award-winning authors had to say.

1.      Start seeking reviews early in the process before release.
2.      Use Review bloggers and Industry bloggers who will get your name out there.
3.      You Need Reviews - Just ask for them.
4.      Have patience. It takes a while to gain traction.
5.      First 10 reviews are the most important
6.      Make the reader/reviewers feel special

Results


Here is a summary of the results from our great group of authors. What do author get out of reviews, especially good ones?
 
1.      Increase in Sales
2.      Word of mouth increases between readers
3.      Raise Author’s profile, giving added exposure and increased attention
4.      Acceptance by Ad groups and Amazon, who uses their ranking system to promote books
5.      Gain Merit about your works
6.      Access to a wider audience of readers in your genre
7.      Increase your following on-line
8.      Positive feedback to reinforce your own ego
9.      You are looking for honest opinions
10.  Author validation for your reading audience and groups that will solicit  for you
11.  Book Hoarders – Something for nothing – No intend on reading

Conclusion

Well there you have it; Reviews, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The number of average-stars is what shines in most cases. You need to do your homework but you must start now. If you learned anything here you must realize there are no silver bullets.

Mark Coker from Smashwords has done studies about the influence of reviews on the buying process. He found that only 7% of readers use reviews to make the buy decision.

I can still hear the music in the background and see Eastwood with his small cigar. Remember On-line reviews are forever.
 

Follow me:

Follow Me on Twitter: @jimhbs
Or EMAIL at: jim@jamesmoushon.com
View my website: James Moushon – Mystery Writer
Or visit my blog: The eBook Author Corner
Take a look at my Author’s blog: HBS Author’s Spotlight
Or my Mystery blog: HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

Check out the Jonathon Stone Mystery Novels:
Black Mountain Secrets

Coming Soon: another Jonathon Stone Mystery
Game Of Fire

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Leti Del Mar book: How To Self-Publish: A Do-It-Yourself Approach

Christine Nolfi @christinenolfi book: Reviews Sell Books

Joel Friedlander posts: Should Authors Pay for Book Reviews?


M. R. Mathias book: The First Ten Steps


21 comments:

  1. Thanks, James, for including me in this comprehensive look at reviews. There are some great ideas here.

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  2. You've done it again James! This article is amazing and I can't thank you enough. You've provided me with several new ways to generate reviews. This is a tough biz and we need all the help we can get. I'm happy to help right back! Contact me ANYTIME for an interview or feedback for future subjects. Always a pleasure to work with you

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  3. WOW! You've collected such a great resource here, James. Thanks for including me and for all of your hard work!

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  4. Great information! I must keep this one handy to help me.

    But the copy editor in me wants to point out:

    "The writer has to be willing to **except** the good, the bad and the ugly" -- unless you're playing on excluding the good, the bad, and the ugly, I think you mean **ACCEPT** them as part of the whole writing gig.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sort of thing is so much better well served when you do it in private and allow the author to fix the error. No disrespect to you, Jesse, but the saying goes: EVERYONE ALIVE makes typos. Only assholes point them out publicly.
      (Not my saying.) :-)

      Delete
  5. This is an amazing resource! Thanks to all the authors who contributed tips. bobbi chukran

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  6. Thanks for your comments. This is an important topic for all authors in our changing environment. Seek out other people who write about the task of getting reviews. There is a lot of good information out there.

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  7. james, thanks for including me in you fabulou study. it's always good to find out what other authors do for reviews.

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  8. This is a very comprehensive blog about reviews. I will retweet it even though number 4 under hints should be 'Have patience' not "Have patient."

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  9. James, thanks for compiling this. And thanks for including me. You are so supportive of Indie authors, and we appreciate you!

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  10. Wow! Thanks so much for your work. This article is just what I've been looking for.

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  11. Forgive me for these late thanks for including me in your study and article, James. I've been spending every free moment on the final proofreading of my fourth and final book in my series. When I'm done, I'll send it out to the same reputable reviewing sites and awards contests where my previous books did well. And then I intend to heavily market the series, using the reviews and awards I've landed. We'll see what happens.

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  12. Thanks Ron. So you got a list and you'll be checking it twice, I bet. Remember when you release give me a shout and I will showcase the book on the HBS Author's Spotlight.

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  13. Thank you. This was very helpful. glad to be another follower.

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  14. Thank you, James. Your dedication to helping authors on the road to success is amazing. In my comments, I mentioned Triberr, I also belong to WLC's tweet team and I think that's an amazing way to use twitter as well. Thanks again, and happy holiday season.

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  15. James, thank you for the great stuff you have put up. Well written; useful tips. God bless.
    Ignatius (Fernandez).

    ReplyDelete
  16. wow, there is a lot of great tips here. I'm going to have to bookmark this and come back again for another read. Thanks for sharing this.

    ReplyDelete
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  18. Thanks for this great resource. I'm glad I found this site and to be another follower.

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