Trying to get readers to write a review is like getting your two-year-old child to take a horrible-tasting medicine, says ALLi member and regular contributor, Giacomo (Jim) Giammatteo. But it is possible and it is worth it. In the first of a three-part series on reviews, he explains how he gets more than twenty reviews a month.
The Process of Getting Reviews
I launched my book in mid April 2012. Since then I have managed to get seven editorial reviews, 77 reviews on Amazon, and another 44 reviews on Goodreads. No matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of reviews (more than 20 per month) so how do you get that many reviews?
I can tell you it’s not by having a big family. I didn't have my wife write one (mostly for fear of what she'd say) and I didn't have either of my sons write a review. A few family members did write reviews—the ones who read the kind of books I write. And guess what, one of those reviews was not a five star. (Yeah, I know. Tough family)
For what it’s worth, here’s the secret—work your butt off and put in a lot of time. Here are my suggestions.
- Your Book—In the back of your book put a statement about how important reviews are, and ask the readers to please leave a review. Don’t ask for a good review, just an honest one.
- Internet—Spend time scouring the internet for sites that review books, and then send out emails asking them to consider your book for a review. There are a lot more sites than you might think. (I am in the process of putting together a comprehensive list of reputable review sites, so check with me in a few weeks if you’re interested.)
- Bloggers—This one is perhaps the most important. Do your research. Find the bloggers who read and review in your genre. Follow their instructions and guidelines. Most of them have their policies posted on the site. Read them. Did I mention, Read the Review Policies?
- Make sure you send your book to reviewers who are interested in your kind of book. I made this mistake, resulting in three of my worst reviews. These reviewers were appalled at the violence and use of language in my book. I don’t blame them; it was my fault. I should have done more checking.
- Giveaways—This is huge. I have done two giveaways on Goodreads and two on LibraryThing in four months. I gave away 13 print books on Goodreads and more than 60 books on LibraryThing. What was huge about it wasn’t the number of reviews the giveaways generated—which wasn’t nearly what I anticipated—but the additional exposure, especially on Goodreads. During the most recent giveaway I had more than 70 people add my book to their TBR shelf. Long term, that will pay off.
- Giveaways—I know I just said this, but now I’m talking a different kind of giveaway. These are personal giveaways and this can pay off in a big way. Talk about your book. Don’t be a pest but, if you see an opportunity, talk about it, and give the book away to anyone you think might enjoy reading it. Especially the kind of people who spread the word. I gave books away to my doctor, dentist, mechanic, a cop. My wife gave them to her hairdresser, friends she has in the sanctuary business. Some of these have paid off big time. One of those connections looks like it will get me an article in the paper.
- Giveaways—What? More giveaways? Yes. Absolutely. Now I’m talking social-media giveaways. If you get in a conversation on Twitter—give your book away. If you’re talking to someone on Facebook or Linked-in—give the book away. G+, Pinterest—give them away. Any chance you get, give a book away. And don’t forget to politely ask for a review. The keyword in this section is conversation. I’m not talking about spamming your book all over Twitter, or mentioning it in every Facebook post. I’m talking about actually engaging people and getting into a conversation with them.
- Bribery—Perhaps the biggest opportunity of all. If a reader writes to you to tell you how much they liked the book, don’t pester them for a review, but offer them your next book free if they leave a review. You’ll get a high percentage of people take you up on this, and the best thing is you can keep the chain moving. If they leave a review on the next book, give them the one after that free.
The Bottom Line
This is not an easy road. I spend more than an hour every day. Yes, every day, doing something related to getting reviews, but in the long run I know it will be worth it. If I can keep going at this rate, I’ll have more than 200 reviews at the end of my first year. Sooner or later that will pay off.
And as far as that nonsense about paid reviews and fake reviews, and all the furore it’s causing, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I don’t care how many good reviews someone pays for, if their writing doesn’t support it, the word will get out. Will they sell some books along the way—sure, they might. They might sell a lot. But at what price?
How much is your integrity worth?
* In the interest of full disclosure, I make a distinction between sites or services that offer to sell you “good reviews” and legitimate sites that do honest reviews, but also offer “expedited” reviews for a fee. These services don’t guarantee positive reviews, and from what I can tell they are reputable. It’s a shame because some of them will likely be tainted with this scandal. I did make use of five of these sites, including Kirkus, to get an “expedited” review when my book was launched.