Face it, if you’re an independent author (aka “self-publisher”), it can be hard to get your book reviewed. You can jump through the hurdles of book bloggers, you can send away copy after copy to places that say they review indie books, and you can contact local media to ask for a bit of coverage as a local author.
You can also turn in circles on the carpet and then bang your head on the wall. The results will be about the same: a headache and a dizzying sense of wasted time.
Trying to convince any reviewer – even one of the non-snobby few who do review self-published books – that your book is not a hack job full of editing errors and poor formatting underneath a horrendously rendered bit of cover art and is therefore worthy of reviewing is difficult. I won’t say impossible, but you are on an uphill battle with a slew of other books being tossed at you as you try to gain a handhold on a reviewer’s densely scheduled mountain.
But You NEED Reviews.
Okay, if you can get your book into libraries and bookstores, you may win readers’ attention with a great cover and decent blurb. After all, browsing is how I find the majority of what I read.
However, when shopping online, people will look at your reviews. Online shoppers have time to research and will often decide how they want to spend their money based on what that research has uncovered. A good cover and blurb may snag some attention, but reviews can tip the balance between someone clicking “Add to Cart” and deciding “I’ll go play Candy Crush now.”
So how do you get reviews if no one will review your book?
Make Use of Goodreads
Goodreads is an interesting little social media platform where you can tell everyone about what you’re reading, offer up reviews, and join discussions based on what you’ve enjoyed reading. It’s also a great place to build an author platform and get reviews.
I’m not going to go into detail about how to set up an author page on Goodreads (if you really want me to, I will in a later post). I will however tell you the most reliable way I’ve found of getting reviews and even gaining a few fans:
The Goodreads Giveaway
To start, I’m going to say off the bat that I don’t give my work away for free on a regular basis. Some people swear by the free days on KDP (or similar) for boosting their “sales” but I’ve never found this much use – plus, I’ve worked hard on my book, putting it up for free smacks of devaluing the effort my exhausted little brain has put in to make my book ready for the public.
Still, the Goodreads Giveaway allows me a controlled way to give my book away in exchange for reviews. Think about it, if you’re asking a newspaper or other type of book reviewer to review your book, they aren’t going to rush out and buy a copy – you must supply them with one. So, the Goodreads Giveaway to me, is no different than sending my book out to random reviewers…except for the fact that (unlike those pesky professional book reviewers) I actually earn a fair number of reviews from folks on Goodreads.
How to Get Those Reviews
Warning! When seeking reviews you must always be polite, gracious and professional. No whining about bad reviews, no spamming, and no harassing people who haven’t read and reviewed the book! Above all: Don’t be the jerk that makes other indie authors look bad.
Supplies Needed: You will need print copies of your book you are willing to mail out, you need electronic formats of your book (epub, mobi and PDF), you need an email account, and you need to be set up as a Goodreads’ author.
The Steps to Earning Accolades:
- Set up a giveaway for a print copy of your book. You can give away as many copies as you like, but I stick to one copy at a time. Each campaign can run as long as you like (I aim for three weeks). Keep in mind, you can run a giveaway for the same book several times. I prefer to run two to four shorter campaigns with a single book for more exposure.
- As people enter they can opt to add your book to their To-Read shelf or they can just enter the giveaway. Focus on the people who add your book to their To-Read shelf since this shows they may actually be interested in your work, not just a chance to win something.
- Through Goodreads, message the people who have added the book to their To-Read shelf asking them if they would like a copy of your book as an e-book in exchange for an honest review (you can see examples of the message I send below). They will need to give you their email address since you can’t send attachments via Goodreads. Note: You can do a bit of vetting here, if you like. If you see someone who has been on Goodreads for four years and has only done a couple reviews, you can probably assume they’re not going to review your book.
- As people respond, send them an e-book via email. Always be very polite and gracious, make sure they know how much you appreciate the time they are taking to read and review your book. I also like to send a message via Goodreads letting them know the file should be in their email inbox (just in case their email accidentally sends your book to the vortex of the Spam folder).
- If you like, you can thank people who have reviewed you. I prefer to “like” their review, because it feels much less intrusive. Never email someone who has given you a bad review to complain or ask why. Accept the review and move on.
- When the campaign ends, be sure to send out the print copy of your book. Goodreads gets very angry if you don’t. Then, start a new campaign, if you want.
- You can get as aggressive as you like with promoting your campaign. Announce it on social media, on your website, on your t-shirt. Just don’t get aggressive with your readers. Some people will accept the e-book and never review it. Get over it; you should never contact them to insist on their review.
- Bask in the favorable reviews as they come in.
Would you or have you conducted a Goodreads Giveaway to gain reviews? How did it go? Any other advice to add?
And please remember, reviews are the lifeblood for most authors. Try to review or rate each book you read.
Initial Goodreads message
Subject: A free copy of BOOK TITLE, if you’re interested
Body: Thank you so much for adding BOOK TITLE to your To-Read shelf.
As part of the book’s launch, I’m offering select people an electronic copy of the book in exchange for an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other book review site that you like. Reviews help other buyers decide whether or not to purchase a book, so you’d be doing me a great favor.
If interested, please respond with the email address you’d like the file sent to. I promise I will never share your address with anyone. My preferred way to send the book is as a PDF file, but if you need a different format, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Oh, and if you’ve entered to win the book through the Goodreads Giveaway, don’t worry, accepting the e-book in no way affects your entry for the print copy.
Thanks so much for your interest,
If they accept the offer I then send this email along with the attached file (most will tell you what file type they need, I’ve used PDF as an example)…
Subject: Your PDF of BOOK TITLE
Body: Hi PERSON’S NAME,
Thanks so much for your interest! Attached is your copy of BOOK TITLE – I’ve sent you a PDF file (if you need another format, please let me know). Please keep in mind that this file is an Advanced Reader Copy and may contain some minor copy-editing and/or formatting issues that will be resolved before the book is officially launched to the public.
There’s no rush, but once you do get a chance to read the book, I’d love to hear what you think. You can contact me either through this email address or simply leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon (or wherever appeals to you).
Again, huge thanks and I hope you enjoy this SUPER SHORT DESCRIPTION OF YOUR BOOK (my example: “new version of the Hercules’s myths.”).
Happy reading, YOUR NAME