by Megan Haskell
In this month of gratitude, I’d like to give thanks for my readers, especially those who have taken the time to leave a review of my books on Amazon. It may seem like a small thing, but reviews are often hard to come by. It’s not every day you find someone willing to publicly share their thoughts (and hopefully their enjoyment) of a book. Though it might only take a minute, the review process can be confusing and maybe even a little nerve-wracking. Sharing your words with the world — who does that, right?
As an author, especially an independent author, it’s my job to make the review process as easy as possible for the reader. Why? Because without my help, many readers would never even think to leave a review, and if they did, they could very easily discard the thought as too difficult. So let’s take a moment to walk through the process.
Find Your Readers
The first big question: how do you find readers willing to review your work?
Existing mailing list:
If you already have a mailing list, the easiest way to start getting reviews is to ask! A simple prompt with a link in your next newsletter can do wonders. But don’t overdo it. Only ask once in awhile, or you might risk annoying your readers and losing subscribers.
Links at the back of the book:
Make sure your ebooks have a prompt and a direct link to review the book wherever it’s listed for sale. I like to include two prompts, one at the beginning of the book, and another at the end. This hopefully gets the reader primed to review while their reading, and then reminds them to actually leave the review after they’ve finished the book.
Offer a free book in exchange for a review:*
Many authors swear by this strategy, myself included.
- Book Bloggers: Research book bloggers who enjoy reading and reviewing books in your genre. One great resource is www.bookbloggerlist.com.
- Reviewer Grabber Tool: If you join The Author Marketing Club, you gain access to the Reviewer Grabber Tool. In my opinion, this tool is worth the cost of at least a one-month membership (and if you join the monthly program, you can cancel any time). With it, you can build a list of people who have reviewed books similar to yours on Amazon. I used the tool to find reviewers for my first novel, which helped me bring in more than fifty reviews. Check out our video with AMC founder Jim Kukral for more information.
- Advanced Reviewers: For the launch of my second novel, I built a separate mailing list for advanced reviewers. These were people who had reviewed my first book and indicated an interest in reading and reviewing the second in the series. I sent them a digital copy a few weeks before launch and they agreed to review the book within the first week that it was available for sale. I got about a dozen reviews in the first three days!
Write a Good Query
When you ask individuals to read and review your book, it’s important to start with a fantastic first impression. It’s a heck of a lot like querying agents. Professionalism is a must.
The email should be well-written, with a hook and zero typos. Seriously. Zero typos. Include a copy of the book cover and the book description.
If you’re querying book bloggers, take the time to review their website. Most will have a page with submission guidelines. Read these guidelines carefully, and follow the instructions exactly. Make sure you address the email to each blogger by name. And be darned sure you spell their name correctly. If you don’t, you’re likely to be rejected out of hand. Yes, it takes a bit of extra time, but it’s worth it if you want strong reviews.
Here’s a sample email that I’ve sent to book bloggers with some success. Obviously, you need to modify the email to fit your book and the blogger you’re querying, but hopefully this gets you started.
Keep a record of everyone you query. I like to include their name, email address, website and submission guidelines (if they’re a blogger), the date I sent the query, their response, and the date of their response.
If you don’t hear back from the reviewer, it’s totally appropriate to send a follow-up within a reasonable amount of time.^ Some book bloggers receive dozens, even hundreds of queries in a day. They might have a backlog of email to sift through before they respond to your request. I like to give two weeks before I send the follow-up.
Keep the follow-up simple, with the previous email included in the string. (In other words, reply to your original email making sure the reviewer is listed in the recipients.) One or two polite sentences to verify that they received the original query is sufficient.
If you’re lucky enough to get a positive response and a request for the book, make sure you respond to their email and send the book within twenty-four hours. It shows the reviewer that you value their time and effort.
Say Thank You
It all comes back to gratitude. Be sure that you thank your reviewersº for their time and feedback. Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts, no matter what they said in the review.
However, if the review is critical, DO NOT try to explain or justify any part of your book. You’re better off saying thank you and leaving it at that. You do not want to hurt your reputation by taking anything personally and being labeled a prima donna…or worse. The reviewer has a right to his or her opinion. Yours no longer matters.
Let me repeat that.
Once the book is published, your opinion no longer matters.
It’s up to the readers to interpret your work. They’ll either appreciate it or they won’t. Nothing you say or do can change that in a positive way. But it sure can ruin your professional reputation.
That said, if I know when a review is posted to the book blogger’s site and it’s positive, I like to visit and comment with a simple “thank you for your time and the wonderful review.” I also share the post on my social media networks, drawing attention to their site and hopefully helping them grow their audience. Give a few minutes of your time to thank them for theirs. It’s worth it.
* Amazon terms and FCC guidelines require disclosure of any compensation received for a review, including a free copy of the book. Most book bloggers are aware of this, but often mailing list subscribers are not. Make sure you tell them to include the following statement on their review: “I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.”
^ Make sure you double check the submission guidelines before sending a follow-up. Some bloggers explicitly state that they won’t respond unless they’re interested in the book. In this case, assume no answer is a negative, not an oversight.
º Only thank the reviewers you previously queried, and DO NOT respond to negative reviews. Do not try to explain, justify, or contradict anything in the review. The last thing you want to do is stir up a pot of trouble by engaging with online trolls. It will only hurt your reputation.
Legend has it, I was born with a book in my hands. Thirty-ish years later, I’m a stay-at-home-mom who prefers a good story over doing the dishes. Only now, I’m building my own fantasy worlds! I’m the author of the Amazon best selling series,The Sanyare Chronicles, and Program Director of O.C. Writers. You can find me on my website at www.meganhaskell.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
*O.C. Writers is a member of Amazon Affiliates. By clicking the book links on this site, the network will earn a small commission from your purchase.