The Holy Grail for self-published authors is to have their novels reviewed on a wide scale by readers from all over the world. When you’re just starting out and have only published one or two works, it can be difficult to get people to read your novels because nobody has ever heard of you (at least yet).
The plan of action is to get people reading your books and raving about them on social networking sites and the marketplaces on which you are selling them, e.g. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu, etc. It is easy to plug your books via Twitter and Facebook, but more difficult to get people to leave reviews after they have purchased and read your novels.
How many times have you purchased a novel – or anything online for that matter – and been asked to leave a review? Amazon follow-up on every purchase made, but how many times have you actually reviewed the product or novel? Sometimes you forget, other times its just laziness. Either way, we’re all guilty of not leaving reviews 100% of the time. But in the case of self-published authors, it can make a huge difference to their sales and reputation as an author.
Why are Reviews so Important?
An author is a brand, and if that brand has a great online reputation that is backed up with great reviews, other people are going to come across them and be influenced by them. Everybody has read a review of a film in a magazine or a product review online and been swayed by something they’ve said, so why would it be any different for novelists?
A recommendation from an avid horror fan who leaves hundreds of book reviews will add substantial authority to your novel, and if you’re publishing on the Amazon KDP, the algorithm is likely to sit up and take notice of the recommendation you’ve received. The more of these you can receive, the further up the rankings you will go, and that is when the big sales – and more reviews – start to come your way.
For a great read on how to boost your sales with reviews on Amazon, click here.
Getting by with a Little Help from Your Friends
After the initial publishing of your novel, it can be a little quiet in the marketplace, unless you have a secret weapon at your disposal. The secret weapon for self-published novels are friends and family. These are the first people who you should be asking for reviews. Firstly because they are likely to leave you good reviews, but also because they are likely to be the first people to read your novels.
If you can get 5-10 solid reviews from friends and family – or more if possible – it will start to have an effect on the overall performance of the novel, because it will pique the interest of other readers who might be prowling the marketplace looking for novels in your genre. If you have written a memoir and your opening reviews are praising your story mechanics, characterisation and humour, it is almost certainly going to catch the eye of memoir fans looking for a good read.
The Ethics and Importance of Authenticity
Obviously you don’t want every review you receive to be from a friend or family member. It is important to strike the balance between authenticity and getting that extra bit of backing from the people who want you to succeed.
Fans of the genre are more likely to purchase your book, but how do you get them to leave a review? Sometimes being proactive is the best way to yield results. For example, Amazon has a list of top reviewers. Why not contact the reviewers who regularly write about novels in your genre and start from there?
One of the best ways to receive a legitimate review from a reader is to contact them directly and thank them for purchasing your novel. Many readers will be blown away by the simple fact that you’ve got in touch to say thanks for purchasing your novel, and now that you’ve opened up a chain of communication, you can ask them to leave a review. If you feel a little uncomfortable about asking flat out for a review, dangle the carrot of incentive in front of them and offer them an advance copy of your next novel for free if they leave you a review. This will massively increase your chances of a review – and a glowing one at that.
In this digital age, the possibilities for interaction and engagement are endless, and with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social channels, you have a unique opportunity to promote your novels and create special offers in order to gain reviews. It can be viewed as bribery, but when the competition is as fierce as it is online, sometimes you have to push a little harder to get ahead.
Are Paid Reviews a Good Idea?
Paid reviews are the grey area of self-publishing, and there are definitely ways to go about receiving reviews that are easier on the wallet and a little more organic (social media being one of them). However, they don’t necessarily convert into reviews, so sometimes paid reviews are a valid option.
The problem with paid reviews is that they can eat a whole in your budget and have no positive effect on your sales or standing in the marketplace whatsoever. A paid review doesn’t necessarily translate into a good review, and if you’ve spent hundreds of dollars obtaining a mediocre to poor review from a trusted and valued reviewer, it could do more harm than good.
If you have a substantial budget at your disposal and 100% confidence in your novel (which you should have), paid reviews can be a good way of getting reviews from a top source. Just don’t put all of your cash into paying for top reviews. Your cash will run out quickly and it could be being used to better effect elsewhere in your marketing efforts.
Luckily, there are non-paid efforts that can work just as well as paying for reviews. Many top bloggers will write reviews on books that have been sent to them, so you could offer to send your book to these bloggers for free. For a comprehensive list of book bloggers, click here.