How important are reviews?
The short answer to this questions is VERY. As a writer, it’s great to know what your readers think, but as a buyer of books and a reader, it is often a critical part of the decision making process. Get a high level of good reviews, and people believe that your book is worth buying. No reviews, and they may just wait a while.
But you’re a new author! You’ve just published your book, and you have no reviews (except, perhaps, for one from your mum!). What can you do about it? Once your book is selling, the reviews will come - but it seems like a vicious circle, doesn’t it? People won’t buy if there are no reviews, and if people don’t buy, you won’t get any reviews.
There is only one answer, and that is put in a bit of hard work and find people to review your book for you. There are literally thousands of websites and blogs where people offer to review books (I read somewhere that there are 15 million book blogs - I can’t actually verify this fact!). The trick is in finding the sites that will review your type of book. And you don’t have to pay for reviews, although there are some sites that offer reviews in return for money. But it really isn’t necessary, so don’t panic if you don’t have a marketing budget.
There are three phases to this activity.
PHASE 1 - Prepare a really good review request document
This is one of the most important pieces of paper you will ever create, so make it look good. The worst review request that I ever received was an email that said :
Name of book (hyperlinked to Amazon)
Name of author
That was it. So anything that I wanted to know about the book in order to decide if it was one that I felt qualified to review or in fact wanted to review, I had to find out for myself. I asked for more information, and I got no response. I think this is extremely rude.
Then there are the written requests that are full of typos, with no thought to formatting or the ease of reading by the reviewer. I already have an opinion of this author before I start to read!
So the first thing you need to do is to put together a professional document - you only have to do it once, with maybe a few amendments as things change. If you have the facilities to save it as a PDF, that’s even better, but if not it’s best saved as a .doc file, rather than .docx to avoid having to resend if somebody can’t open it.
Here’s what you need to tell the reviewer.
Name of book
Image of the cover
About the author
Book details, to include : genre, word count, ISBN or ASIN, where to buy it - with links
Your details, to include : email address, Twitter handle, website, Facebook, blog, etc. - all with links
Additional information: extracts from any existing reviews, number of stars, any interviews you may have done (with links) - anything that might be of interest to the reviewer.
Here’s what my review request looks like:
I know that this may be hard to read, but if you click here, it will open up a PDF.
I’m not suggesting that this is the best, or the only format - but hopefully it will provide some ideas. And I do know that on more than one occasion I have been accepted by reviewers who were ‘closed for reviews’ simply because it looks professional and they assumed before starting that my book would be good.
I also use the same document when I am requesting an interview on a blog.
PHASE 2 : finding the reviewers
This is the bit that takes the time, but Google is pretty impressive at finding this sort of information! And I recently came across an incredibly helpful author who has produced a huge list of sites where reviews are offered. He has very kindly put the list on his website at http://www.gregscowen.com/2012/02/a-few-indie-book-reviewers/ - I’m sure he’d be happy if you check out his book whilst visiting the site too! He deserves some kudos for offering all his hard work to the rest of the indie author population!
But don’t just send requests to anybody and everybody. Most of these people have quite strict submission guidelines - they will be clear about the genres that they are interested in, and about the way in which they operate. Although I am very clear about what I read and review, it doesn’t seem to stop people sending me just anything - whether it’s appropriate or not. So check what the reviewer has to say, and if you like the look of them, then construct a carefully worded email, and accompany that with your review request.
Your email should be brief - all the information is in your review request document and you don’t need to repeat it. You simply need to say where you found their details, how much you would like them to review your book, and that you have attached a formal review request for their consideration.
You can end this by saying that should they decide to review your book, you would be happy to send them a mobi, epub, paperback - whatever formats you have. Some will be very specific in their requirements. For example, I say that I will accept mobi versions. So if somebody offers me a Word document or a PDF, that’s just another email that I have to send saying “no”.
It’s very important that you keep a note of people that you’ve asked to review your book. They don’t want to receive a second request - and you need to follow it up if you don’t get a response. If it comes to that (which is rarely the case) you simply need to say that you requested a review, and wondered if they have considered it. Give them a week or so to decide - don’t follow it up the next day.
PHASE 3 - sending the book
This sounds like the easy bit - but there are a few things that can be irritating to reviewers. If they are only going to review on Amazon, then it’s not an issue. They should already have the link via your PDF (make sure they are active links!). But if they want to post a review on their blog, you need to have a little pack of materials to send to them.
As soon as they inform you that they would like to review your book, you need to send them :
- an email to say “thank you” and to explain what you are attaching
- an attached copy of the book in whatever format they have requested, or you have agreed (unless, of course, it’s a paperback)
- a photo of you
- a jpeg of your book cover
- a list of links to where people can buy the book
- a list of your online contacts - twitter, website, blog etc.
Explain in the email that you don’t know what - if any - additional information they require, but you have sent them everything that you think they may need. What you are doing, in fact, is making it easy for them when the time comes to write your review. If you have only sent the book, they have to do all the work by cutting and pasting from Amazon. If they don’t feel like it, they may write the review, but without an image of the book cover, without links to where to buy the book, and without any way really of turning this review into a potential sales channel.
There is, of course, a phase 4. It’s called sitting and waiting. It could be months - literally - before you hear back. It’s not a good idea to chase! I personally wouldn’t mind being chased after, say, two months. But not before. Some reviewers wouldn’t like it even then, and I have never chased a review.
And then - when the review is posted - the last thing you have to do is write and say thank you. Even if you hate the review, you still need to say thank you.
But it’s worth the effort. Enjoy it - you get to meet some really good people and if they like your book, they will talk about it. And that’s what you want.
Rachel Abbott is the author of “Only the Innocent” - currently the number one book in the UK Kindle Store. As an indie author herself, she is now blogging and writing guest posts about her experience, with the intention of helping other indie authors to maximize their chance of success.