Social proof is a bastard.
It has no right to have as much power over our decision-making as it does. But there’s no escaping it. So each time buying something new, we try to find as many strangers’ opinions on it as possible. Even if we find a seemingly ideal offer, we’d be wary to buy if there are 0 reviews.
The same goes for books. Few people want to be the very first to spend money on a new author (Hats down to readers who take that first step. You’re unsung heroes).
Not well-known self-published authors have it particularly rough. It’s super difficult to get the gears of a review machine spinning from ground 0.
Fortunately, the industry has a few ‘secrets’ and proven tips that can help you get your first book reviews
Read along to learn them.
A word of warning on the danger of bad reviews
Nobody is immune to negative reviews. For instance, can you guess which book deserved such an eloquent 2-star critique:
“Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk.
Eat. Sleep. Complain.
Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk.
Reach destination one. Set off with a few more companions.
Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk.
Eat. Sleep. Complain. Fight.
Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk.
Reach destination two. Feast. Rest. Set off again.
Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk.
Row. Row. Row. Row.
Promise of more walking.”?
It’s Lord of the Rings, which further proves how subjective an experience of reading is.
Though negative reviews can be constructive or hilarious, you’d better avoid them.
People’s brains tend to put more weight on negative than on positive.
How to get more positive book reviews?
To prepare your books for positive reviews you should
- Self-edit the book after some time away from the manuscript;
- Submit it for copyediting;
- Submit it for developmental editing;
- Get the feedback from beta readers.
(If you have to do all the editing yourself, we have an article with helpful self-editing tools.)
Besides, another important factor of getting positive reviews is
One of the most effective ways of receiving bad reviews is selling your book to the wrong people.
For example, imagine a person who thought they bought a horror book getting an SF novel instead. False advertising is often the cause of bad reception.
Thus, to market your book more precisely
- Do your target audience research.
- Construct your marketing campaign so the book reaches your target readers.
- Create a blurb that describes your book well.
- Make sure your marketing materials suit your brand and book.
- Be honest. Don’t try to present your book as something that it’s not.
- Make sure that your book cover design suits your book genre and mood. A reader should need but a glance to guess the genre of the book.
If you do marketing properly, your book is more likely to get into the hands of people who’ll love it.
Now, that your book is ready, you can follow the following steps to get your first reviews.
Top 6 ways of getting book reviews
Include a CTA for a book review
A person who’s read and liked your book has more motivation to leave a review. You should include a call to action in the book to maximize the chances of it happening.
It could be something simple but sincere, like
“Thank you for taking this journey with me! If you leave a review in the store of your preference it will help me a lot.”
The book review CTA should have the following elements:
- A prelude, something to establish the connection with a reader.
- Actual CTA; asking for a favor.
- The reason why / how it will help you.
The reason is essential. When you give a reason when asking for a favor, people are more likely to help you.
You can also include CTA for review in your social media and website.
But remember to be subtle about it. If you’re too pushy people will turn away. But, some casual reminders can help a lot.
Important: Amazon kindle ebooks ask readers to leave reviews after they get to the end of the book. So, if you include the CTA somewhere else, you have better chances of getting a review.
Set URLs to review sections
Laziness is an axiom. Especially on the Internet, where every extra click feels like one too many.
So, be sure to include links leading straight to the review section with CTAs for a book review. It’s easy to do on social media or a website. Adding external links in an eBook is trickier.
Put a low price or make your book free
The math is simple here: the lower the price, the more people are likely to get your book and leave the reviews.
If you have the possibility, you can put the price as low as possible for some time and see if it makes the difference.
Unfortunately, you can’t make your book free on all platforms equally easy. For example, on Amazon, you can make your books free for up to 90 days as a part of a promotion program.
Find book bloggers in the genre
There’s a symbiotic relationship between book bloggers and indie authors. The former need content, the second need promo. So, finding bloggers in your genre and pitching your book to them is a great way to get noticed.
Getting their attention and proving that your book is worth their time is tricky. There are no secret ways around this obstacle. You should write the best pitch possible and send it to relevant bloggers.
So to get your book to review bloggers,
- Find the website/users in social media that do reviews
- Check their requirements or previous material to see if your book fits
- Contact them
- Pitch your book
Make your requests personal and sincere. Show that their attention matters to you and that they will enjoy your book.
Keep in mind that even if a reviewer accepts your book, they can share it only on their website. Still, exposure is exposure.
Also, you can see if some of the top Amazon reviewers in the genre have contact data on their profiles. If so, take a shot at writing them and asking for a review.
Ask your peers for a book review
There’s not really such a thing as competition between self-published authors. (Unless you compete with the other author who can crank out more words in a week. In this case, good luck)
Other writers are your allies who understand your struggle. Reaching out to them to offer a review in exchange for a review is a viable strategy.
If you struggle to find self-published peers, check forums of Goodreads, kboards, and subreddits.
Assemble an advance review group
The advance review group is beta readers who should read your book and leave reviews as soon as possible. An efficient ARG can provide a great kickstart for your sales. So getting such a group is a great idea.
That’s tricky advice.
If you have beta readers willing to leave reviews, you’re likely to have achieved some recognition. So for you, getting first reviews isn’t that difficult.
For people starting at ground 0, assembling an advance review group can be out of reach.
Still, there’s no harm in trying. If you have any mail list, you can ask there for people to become your advance reviewers. If you don’t… Well, you can ask relatives, friends, peers, and random people on forums.
Send emails, ask for volunteers, and if you find any, don’t forget to remind them about book reviews from time to time.
Getting started with a new book as a self-published author is hard. Handling book preparation and marketing is overwhelming. It’s even worse when you add thinking about getting reviews. Still, the positive social proof is too valuable to ignore.
The amount of work may seem terrifying. But, dividing it into smaller chunks and dealing with them step by step can bring great results. Follow this guide, and you’ll be more likely to get first positive reviews faster and boost your book sales.
How important reviews are in your opinion?