Wednesday, December 23, 2020

1.5 years of using Booksprout for Amazon Book Reviews

Booksprout is a website that helps manage advanced reader copies (arcs). The main advantage of this website is the community it brings along with it. That drives an important discussion that will be highlighted in this article. That conversation is what is the size of the community and how effective is it?

We’ll break this down into four main sections:

  • What is Booksprout
  • How big is this pool
  • How many readers turn into Amazon book reviews
  • Can it be super-charged

Before we begin, I’ve used 7 books with the free version of this service. Most of my books have been complete short story (10k words) in the fantasy genre, that use Fiverr to help with cover design. Many things may factor in your mileage: genre, book length, cover, and more.

What is Booksprout?

Booksprout is one of many services that helps provide stories to readers before they are published. You start by uploading the cover, some category information, the book description, and the complete book in the three major formats (epub, PDF, and MOBI). Once you have the book uploaded, you create an ARC. You can choose to make this private, and be specific on where you want to see the review. I always have kept it public and I choose Amazon only. The biggest thing to select here is when it will be published (also known as when you want to see the reviews). You can post an already published book and just set the review date for one or two weeks in the future.What will happen after you post the ARC is that readers that follow you on Booksprout will get an alert, I believe through their email. They can pick up a copy of your ARC after getting that alert. In addition, readers in the community will grab copies of it. This is the biggest benefit of BookSprout, in my humble opinion. No advertisements are needed to get this going, but your results may be lower without marketing. After you have a small group of advanced readers, they will be sent three more emails. The first is a “reviews due soon” alert, the second is “ready for review” alert, and the final email is a “follow-up” alert. This is the second biggest draw of any advanced reader copy service. Automatic emails do help provide better results than simply expecting people to remember. That being said, it might be best to also add your own follow-up into this mix. You do get the full email address of each reviewer. One thing of note, Booksprout doesn’t want you using this email address. They just provide this so you can reference to your own ARC reviewer lists.

On a different note, if you (for some unfathomable reason) don’t have a mailing list, you can ask people to subscribe to your author page on Booksprout. However, I would recommend against this, as it makes more sense to have your own mailing list. You should be the one cultivating your own list of people and telling them of books coming out. I am a firm believer that giving Amazon, Booksprout, or anyone else control of your mailing list is never as good as keeping control yourself. I suppose the one exception to that is if you absolutely hate mailing lists and keeping people updated on them. That’s leaving money on the table, but every author’s journey is different.

How big is the Booksprout pool?

So Booksprout has been out since around August of 2015. However, I don’t think it really adapted into the service we see today until 2017. That being said, it doesn’t really feel like it’s actively being developed. The service feels the same as it did when I subscribed a year and a half ago (May 2019 – writing this in December 2020). I know they are still developing it, because I got an email on November 24th that readers can now search for ARCs by genre. That seems like a very basic/needed update that should have been done a long time ago. I looked in my email and I’ve received a total of three emails over a year and a half, and only one of them about an update to the website. The support section is fairly basic and I am having a lot of difficulty trying to find information on one of the mentioned upgrades with a paid membership “Featured Community ARCs”. I can’t seem to find any information on the web about this either. So, it’s not moving very fast towards growth. All of this doesn’t address the current size of the book pool.

My genre is fantasy. I can use the service and see how many books need advanced reading completed. Once their due date is passed, they would be removed from this list. As of the writing of this, there are 553 ARCs currently available. Romance makes up 360 ARCs. The second most popular is erotica with 69 ARCs. My genre, fantasy, has 59 ARCs available. 42 ARCs are for teens/young readers. There are 31 ARCs that are action adventure. 28 ARCs are for thrillers. About 25 ARCs are mystery. Science fiction is about 21 ARCs. If you are doing the math here, you come up with over 553. Please note that books can be multiple genres. For example, you can have a thriller aimed at teens/young readers. Another example would be a science fiction tale with plenty of action and adventure. I’ve broken these genre’s down so you can see the size of the available options to the readers.

How many of these readers turn into Amazon Reviewers?

This is one where your mileage is going to vary. I’ve posted seven books over the last year and a half. I have done NO marketing on this service. These were all fantasy short stories that were complete (no cliff hangers). All the covers came from Fiverr for about $17 each. So, on average my books were requested… 3-4 times. Of those 3-4 separate requests, they led to an average of 2 Amazon reviews each. You might be wondering, how does that compare against traditional organic reviews. While this is completely anecdotal and is different for every book, one common statistic is that for every 200 books you sell you get one organic review. For some people that number might be one review for every 500 sales, another person it might be one for every 100 sales. Let’s hold to that average: one for every 200 books. To get the same effect from Amazon, as you do from Booksprout (2 reviews) you would have to sell 400 books. Here is the kicker: An average self published book will only sell 250 copies in its entire life. An average traditionally published book will sell 3000 copies in its lifetime. While 1-2 reviews may not seem like a lot, they can add a massive amount of credibility to your book. As with everything, your author journey is going to be different than everyone else. If you focus effort on the right fulcrum, the levers will help move in your favor.

Can this be super-charged

I absolutely believe that this can be supercharged, if done in the right way. I think the best way is to do this via your own mailing list. What makes this interesting is that you can do a test in addition to this marketing. For example, you can segment your mailing list into two chunks. The first chunk is sent just the cover asking for an ARC review. Once they hop to the website, they see both the cover and book description. The other chunk of your mailing list may have just the book description without the cover. If you notice a lot of people sign up via the cover list, instead of the book description… that maybe somewhat normal. (Covers are the main sales tactic of books) However, if you have a lot of people jump into the book ARC via the description link, and not the cover link, that means your cover may need some work.

You can also work on advertising this Booksprout link via your social media accounts. This might be a great way to gain a foothold with new readers you wouldn’t normally reach. For me, this hasn’t worked well. I prefer to use a service better designed for this, such as Storyorigin or BookFunnel. (I use both those services) These places give readers free books if they sign up to your mailing list. These are amazing services because you can curate and modify your mailing list as you desire.

My Synopsis:

Booksprout is well worth using. I never expect to get a massive surge of reviews, but even just 1-2 can help my book stand out a little bit. My own personal opinion is to use your own mailing list to help build reviews (segmenting and then following up with them yourself). That takes time and energy. I can’t guarantee that it will be time and energy well spent, but from what I’ve experienced, mailing lists are the best marketing tool for any author. Well, that and spending buckets of money on market research. However, few of us how lots of excess money to spend on research which may just reveal that your book isn’t marketable. My opinion has always been to fail quickly and move on, at least at the beginning of my author career.


I’ve used NetGalley as well and I believe that Booksprout is better than they are for ease of use. However, NetGalley allows more reaching out to potential reviewers. You don’t need NetGalley to reach out to potential reviewers though. My advice is to build your own set of reviewers via your mailing list. (Mailing list segmentation can be a powerful thing)

Video about book review services, like Booksprout:


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