With the advent of Gutenberg’s printing press in 1440, books became the world’s first ever social media message machine. 600 years later, books still matter. They convey the aura of knowledge hard won and, if you are an expert in anything, the calling card of a book with your name on it still commands respect.
Now with the ease of online and on-demand publishing, the ability to showcase your expertise through the medium of the book is easier than ever. If you haven’t yet published a book, you are at least writing it or thinking about writing it.
But, as an author, your work is not over when you’ve finished writing the book. Now you have to market it, which is a whole other world of expertise you must acquire. Now you must become an “authorpreneur”—a professional “noisemaker,” hawker, and word-oil salesman of the very creations you have labored over for years. (And you thought that just writing a book was hard.)
And where to do you begin this new marathon of marketing? The simplest place to begin is with reviews from people you know. (Getting reviews from people you don’t know is another universe of hurt.) I know. It’s not exactly sexy and digitally whirl-windy but reviews are ultimately what sells your book—besides writing a good book.
In this day and age, reviews reign supreme. Look at Yelp. Look at TripAdvisor. Google? Of course. And the granddaddy of them all—Amazon. If you have published, written, or are thinking about writing a book, you must get reviews. They are a writer’s bread and butter. Maybe more like air and water.
But trying to get friends, relatives, loved-ones, wives, spouses, or significant anyone’s to write a review for your book is like pulling teeth. Actually, in my book quest to get reviews from people, I think it would be easier to pull teeth . . .
One of my best friends in the whole world is also the greatest salesman for my book, The Legacy Letters. He carries a copy with him everywhere he goes and he’s not afraid to tell the world to buy a copy and review it. Not so long ago, we were out fishing when we ran into one of his friends he hadn’t seen in a few years. After a few minutes of catching up and like clockwork, he pulls out a copy my book, hidden away in his coat, and gently proceeds to badger, coerce, and convince them into buying a copy and reviewing it. That’s a true fish story with a book ending. But for all the multitudes of books he has sold on my behalf—and with every review he’s snagged for me—he still hasn’t written a review of his own. Now it’s become a running joke . . . at least on my end.
After years of pursuing the holy grail of how to get people to do book reviews, I’ve discovered there is no holy grail. You have to ask/plead/beg/extort/bribe everyone you know to give you a review. And then you have to keep asking/pleading/begging/extorting/bribing everyone again and again and again to actually do the review they’ve promised you. Even with a 5-time award winning book such as The Legacy Letters (which I thought would be self-selling), I still have to pursue reviews like a full-time job.
So how do I do it? Here are few tricks, hacks, and gambits I stumbled across in my long and determined pursuit of the ever-elusive book review:
The 10,000 Pound Book in the Room is Amazon—For better or worse, Amazon is king, queen, and jack for reviews. Yes, there are others but you’re in the belly of the book beast and you need to tame it. Amazon is where everyone starts to look for your reviews. And that’s where you need to concentrate all your review-getting super powers.
A Mom’s Love & Keep It Short—Start with your Mom. Why? Because if it’s your first zombie love story, it’s a no brainer (pun slightly intended) that your Mom will review it. She loves you. And that’s the first review you can count on. After that, ask all your closest friends to do a review. And I mean close. Trust me, they will still take their sweet time doing it. The trick: Tell them to keep it short. No more than 2 lines.
People think of writing, and especially writing a review, as work. Tell them it will only take 4 minutes and give them an example of what to write. “Best zombie love story I’ve read in ages.”
Line ‘em Up Early & Start the “Tip” Jar—Even though you may not have finished your book, please start lining up your early reviews early. Get a promise and make a list. If you are independently publishing your book, you want these reviews up on Amazon before your publication date. These reviews need to be actual long reviews (5 to 6 lines) filled with constructive emotional and factual response. (Yes, I know I said to keep the reviews short, but you need some long ones too.) Amazon needs to know your book is wanted even before it officially is ready to purchase. Piano players and waitresses know the secret to getting tips is putting money in the tip jar before they start work. Early reviews are the tip jar to your early success.
My Dog Ate My Webpage & Screenshots are Your New “Bookcrumbs” —Oh, the beautiful excuses you will hear about why someone has not done a review for you. The trick: Help your reviewers out every way you know how! Most people have no clue where to start reviewing on Amazon. MAKE IT EASY! Create a step-by-step list with screenshot pictures of how to do a review on Amazon. Trust me, people love the screenshot pictures! Then you can either print it out, send it by e-mail, phone, telepathically, or by donkey. You’ve just made it ten times more likely that you’ll get someone to review your book because they see how easy it is to do.
Barter, Barter, Barter—Fellow authors are usually the best for trading reviews. Just be blunt. Ask for a review in exchange for a review. 62% of the time you’ll actually get a review from another author. But when I’m not hustling fellow authors to do reviews, I return to the real world where I’ve mowed lawns, watched babies, edited papers, fixed TV’s—you name it and I’ve probably done it in exchange for a review. It’s a funny way of shaming people into doing a review for you. If you do something for someone, they feel obligated to return the favor. That’s just life and it’s great for getting reviews.
To Buy or Not Buy Reviews—That is Not the Question—Speaking at various author conferences on how to market books, I get asked this question all the time. Here’s the down low and dirty on buying reviews on sites like Fiverr. You can. But usually the reviews are grammatically not exactly correct and even worse syntactically (meaning it doesn’t even read like a proper English sentence). What you get is a sloppy review that Amazon doesn’t even believe in and then takes down. Yup, they can do that. Get enough of those type of reviews and Amazon will take down your book page.
How to Ask for a Good Review by Not Asking—We all want five-star reviews. Who doesn’t? But you can’t exactly ask for people to give you five stars (well, you can, but even that can backfire). The Trick? It’s simple and all in the wording. Here’s what I say: “If you have enjoyed your copy of The Legacy Letters, I would love for you to write a very short review of it on Amazon. Just a couple of lines will help me out and then I can feed my kids again . . .” The key is in the “enjoy.” The implication is that if you didn’t enjoy the book, please don’t review it. Most people get it. Most . . .
Why Zombie Romance Readers Don’t Like Pipe-Smoking Travel Adventure Mystery Books—One of the biggest mistakes I see with many authors is their desire to sell their book to the entire world. Your audience is not the world. You want more people to review your book? Then sell it to the people who want to read it.
Don’t spend your time, money, and resources trying to get a romance reader to read—AND REVIEW—your sci-fi espionage mystery thriller. Because when you find your audience, they will love you for finding them. They will become your greatest advertising. They will believe in your book –and you—before anyone else. And guess what? They will love to do reviews for you. They are the proverbial low-hanging fruit that will just drop in your hands. Remember, your audience, for your type of book is just looking for a new voice to give them what they love already.
Why Bad Reviews are Good—I love my reviews. They are genuine, heartfelt and powerful. Combined with my reviews from The Huffington Post and other national media sources, they move people to buy the book. But the bad reviews are really bad, and they really help me. Because, bad reviews are usually written by people who should not be reading your book in the first place. My best bad review, “Just not my type of read.” Really? That’s why you don’t want to give your book to just anyone to review. Make sure they like your genre of book and make sure you’ve written a good book. Then the reviews will write themselves. For better or worse, you need a couple of bad reviews to make the good ones even better.
The Big Secret—More is Not Always Merrier—Amazon loves reviews. But they love reviews from customers that have bought a book. That’s right. Whether it be digital or hardback, the review will become a “verified purchase,” which makes Amazon ooze with love. The trick to making your review stick? If you buy a hardcover or paperback copy, give it four or five days before you review. If it’s a Kindle version, make sure you scroll through the pages. (Amazon knows how many pages you’ve actually read (yes, it’s creepy but that’s the digital reading world we live in now). So, make sure you’ve read some or all of the book before you review it. And yes, the more reviews you have, the better. It’s a quantity and quality game with Amazon.
Author writing with support from Farrow Communications.