Imagine you are traveling and looking for a nice hotel. You have a choice between two that look promising.
One has 100 stars, receives some glowing reviews on its site, and even has reviews on Google Maps.
The other hotel looks nice from the pictures, but it doesn’t have a website, and you don’t know anyone who’s been.
You know very little about the amenities, and there is only one review.
Your only guideline comes from the very basic description on a third-party website that popped up when you Googled hotels.
Which hotel are you going to choose?
Books work in a similar way.
Book reviews are just as critical as book sales in the publishing world. They provide social proof that helps the right readers find and purchase your book.
Although our focus is on Self-Publishing, this is also true for traditionally published authors. Like with social media, publishers want to see if your book has an audience, a demand, and what you do to build awareness. Book reviews can help with that.
The best way to garner book reviews for your book is to start at least 4-6 months (closer to six months) before the book releases. If you are a traditionally published author, your publisher will likely handle this by sending your book out for early reviews. If you are a self-published author, you can do the same.
Recruiting beta readers is one of the most common methods. A beta reader is someone who reads a book before it is published in order to point out errors and make suggestions for improvements, usually without being paid. In essence, they serve as a test reader.
You want to recruit people who read within your book’s genre. Be careful only recruiting family and friends. You want people to read your book who will be honest and unbiased.
Give your readers instructions on what you expect from them. Let them know they will receive a free copy of the unfinished book and that you’d like them to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads when it is released. If you want to use their feedback on graphics for social media, say that.
A beta reader acts as a proofreader, your last line of defense before sending the book out into the world.
But, careful not to allow beta readers to change your story. While they can offer suggestions for improvements, a beta reader is not and should not replace an editor. While they can point out obvious typos, they should be looking at the big picture. What’s working? What feels weak? What makes sense in your head but doesn’t translate to the page?
You can find beta readers (paid and not paid) within your social circle (start with your email list or blog followers) on Fiverr, Reedsy, and Upwork to name a few.
What the heck is a book blogger?
A book blogger is a blogger who reads and reviews books because they love it! Most book bloggers do this for free, and others (like me) charge a fee. Like most bloggers, I used to review books for free. However, book bloggers receive tons of requests, which can become overwhelming. My list grew significantly after I had reviewed more than 30 books, been highlighted on Reedsy and Kindlepreneur, and established myself as an active, professional reviewer. Either I would stop reviewing books or charge a fee and limit my time. I chose the latter.
As you dig into book review blogs, check on these three things first:
- Is the site active? Has the blogger published a post within the last month or so?
- Do they have a policy with instructions on how to apply for a review? Submitting your book according to this policy is imperative if you want to be noticed.
- Do they charge for reviews, and if so, how much? You want to be prepared for any fees (this should be part of your book marketing strategy).
- Are they currently accepting queries? If they’re closed at the moment, it could be months before you hear back from them — if at all.
For more on how to look for book bloggers, check out Shayla Raquel’s post here.
ARC Review Services
Recruiting readers can be like pulling teeth. Thankfully, there are paid options. Beta Readers and ARC are sometimes used interchangeably. Short for Advanced Readers Copy ARC is an early version of the book sent to readers to review before the book is released. There are several paid ARC services (such as Booksiren, Bookfunnel), but they can get pricey. Still, if you have a few coins saved, Google ARC Review Services to choose which fits your budget.
Amazon Early Review Program
The Amazon Early Reviewer Program is Amazon’s internal launch program that incentivizes customers who have already purchased a product to leave a review.
Now, Amazon. You told us we aren’t allowed to incentivize reviews and post to your site. It’s okay when you do it. It’s a problem when we do it.
Anywho, here’s what you need to know about the program from Jungle Scout:
- The Amazon Early Reviewer program allows a seller to submit one of their product SKUs (stock keeping unit) to be promoted by Amazon for review by a specific, pre-vetted reviewer.
- The program costs $60 per SKU. However, you aren’t charged until you get one review or one year has passed, whichever comes first.
- The product should receive between 1-5 reviews from reviewers who have been handpicked by Amazon.
- Reviewers are chosen for the program because they have “no history of abusive or dishonest reviews” and they meet all of Amazon’s “eligibility criteria.”
- Once program reviewers leave feedback, Amazon marks the review with an orange badge that reads “Early Reviewer Program.”
I have never participated in this program, but it is an option. If you know more about this or have used it, let me know!
Ask for the review at the back of the book!
Add a short, direct request for the reader to leave a review after they are finished reading as the last page of the book. Something simple like: “I’d love to hear your opinion about this book! Please consider leaving an honest review on the platform of your choice.” Something like that.
Additionally, if someone in your network has read your book, you may send them an email asking for their review. Direct requests are sometimes more effective than mass emails asking for volunteers. It seems thoughtful and personal.
So, how many beta readers, book bloggers, and early reviews should I strive for?
As many as you are able, but I would strive for at least 10-20 Amazon reviews within the first two months after your book release date. That shows your book has traction with real readers. You can also share those reviews (as stated) on social media graphics as social proof.
Be sure that you inform your beta readers/book bloggers to post their early reviews to the book’s Amazon page when it drops.