Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Finding Book Reviewers: Three Types of Advanced Reader Copy Sites

Social proof is a complicated matter, regardless of the product you are trying to sell. However, social proof is one of the top factors shoppers take into consideration. After all, most shopping done is not repeat business, but rather first time. This means that we need to not only verify the function of what we are buying, we need to ferret out all the potential problems. It’s only in the completion of that shopping pre-work that we find success. The question then becomes, how can we help assure readers that our book is free of potential problems? The best answer to that is in getting book reviewers to weigh in. How do we get book reviewers to discuss our particular product? We do this through providing advanced reader copies (ARC’s) and setting up a review timeframe.

All of that information is good, but where do we start as authors? We are, by typical definitions, self-deprecating creatures who fear and feast on feedback. We loathe to seek reviews out, but they are so crucial to our practice. We need to get better and we want people to like the stories that we are creating. I’ve found that there are three main types of ARC websites. The first I am going to call “the farms”. The second major arc website are the “contest websites”. The third and final ARC website type is the “Direct Ask” websites. This article will focus on these three types, discuss several tips for working with reviewers, then show a popular video on where to find book reviewers.

Book Reviewer Type 1: The Farms

Before I get into these individual websites, why do I call this category ‘the farms’. The reason for this is simple: the more work you put in, the more relationships your grow, the more ‘review fruit’ you will yield. A lot of these websites are not instant solutions, but rather building reviewer audiences slowly. If a reviewer liked your book, they might want to review your next one. Get enough of those people and every time you ask you can score a bunch of reviews. Now I am going to name the names here (after all I want this article to be as useful as possible):

Book Sprout

This is my first go-to website when I am looking for book reviewers. Why do I go to this little known website? It is because it doesn’t cost anything to get the reviews and it is a fairly quick process. That being said, I can only expect to get 2-3 reviews per book. That’s not a lot of yield, but it does produce something. In addition, they do all the reminder emails to potential book reviewers. That takes a lot of work out of the process.

Hidden Gems / Book Sirens

I was signed up for this one, but haven’t had a chance to go through with it. The premise of this one is that you pay for each potential reviewer. This is one of the more popular locations, and it’s price tag/long delay in getting a spot is well known. I did find one fantasy author that got 26 reviews from them, out of 30 review requests. Another website that might be similar to Hidden Gems is Book Sirens. I haven’t posted a book there yet, but I look forward to trying out this website soon.

Your Mailing List

This isn’t a specific website, but rather a method that is wonderful to employ. If you’ve built up a fan base through a mailing list, why not ask the mailing list if there are any ARC readers? This can yield not only a small team of people ready to review your work, but they are pre-dispositioned to like what you have. After all, they joined your mailing list to learn more. There is a lot of work to building a good team of reviewers from your mailing list, but if done properly, they can be a first stop.

BookFunnel / StoryOrigin

These two websites can be used for a lot of things. You can use it to build your mailing list, as a sales platform, and to help find book reviewers. It can also be a great place to lead people who buy your book from your website. StoryOrigin even has a number of audiobook tools to use as well. That being said, I haven’t used either of these sites to help build my reviewer audience, but I could easily see that working well there.


This can be really expensive and difficult to use. The only way that I’ve gained access is to pay for the co-op access. That is, find a group where you can have access to NetGalley for a fee. That being said, I’ve never had much luck with NetGalley. When I’ve broken down the cost per review, it just wasn’t worth it to me.

Book Reviewer Type 2: Contests

These are less along the lines of building a reviewer audience. Instead, this strategy focuses on giving gifts and hoping for a review. As you can imagine, this strategy might help with a one time increase in “book buzz” but it won’t build upon itself. I would suggest working with the “farm” category websites as a regular part of your reviewer strategy. I would then use contests and direct asks to help boost your efforts. For example, if you are trying to get a bunch of reviews on a first book in a series, it might be good to work through contests and direct asks. However, if it’s book 7 in the series, it might be best to work through the farm category of websites. So which websites are in the “contest category”?


This is one where if people add your book into their to read lists, they may win a physical copy of your book. Once they do, it’s hoped that they will read the work, and then publish the review. Goodreads is known for being more critical of books, which can lead to brutally honest reviews. However, many Goodreads ARC readers will post to Amazon and other locations as well. I’ve had some mixed success with this approach. The biggest downside is that sending a physical book to people is time consuming and expensive. It might be worth doing on the first in a series, but not a series that is well established.

Blog Tours

I believe this is one of my most hated options, because there are a lot of scammers in this space. Scammers will build a network of “blogs” and then charge authors to post to these black holes. They are not all bad, but this area does require a fair amount of research before you invest. The way these blog tours work is that you submit answers to questions, or a small article, and they post it to their blog. They then have a “you can win this book” contest running at the bottom. If you win the contest, you are expected to leave a review. Again, I don’t like how many scammers are in this space so I tend to avoid it.

Book Reviewer Type 3: Direct Asks

This method is the most direct and can yield amazing results. The only problem is the time it takes. If you have a lot of time to spend, or you are trying to launch a series, these are great methods. Some of these are talked about a lot, plus I haven’t tried them out, so I am unsure of their success rates.

Amazon Top Reviewers

In this strategy, you surf through your competitors Amazon listings. You pick out those top reviewers who enjoy your category of book. You then reach out to them asking for a book review. I haven’t tried this method out, but it could go either way. I could see these reviewers getting lots of requests, so they ignore most of them. I could also see these reviewers helping bring their own audience with them. This may or may not be a wonderful method. I simply haven’t tried this out.

Book Blog Websites

This is similar to the Amazon Top Reviewers, but instead you are using Google to find popular locations. The idea behind this is to find small pockets of potential audience and lead them toward your book. Many of these book blog websites will post the review to both their website and Amazon. That being said, you need to make sure that it is a reputable website, and not just a ghost town/scam website. Make sure to check their online authority score and Google PageRank score.


This method is where you put ads on a variety of platforms asking for review exchange. There are a lot of places on Facebook that can do this. I’ve found a lot of places on Facebook are review for review, which I believe Amazon hates. You can serve ads to try and get ARC reviewers, but I am not sure how well that works. Again, this can take a fair amount of time to perfect, as you narrow down your audience more and more. The goal being to find a small subset of people who want to review your specific work in a category. This can be a good place to spend time working, if you plan to market the book on the platform after you launch. Knowing your audience is key to success in selling.

Three Tips and Tricks When Dealing with Reviewers

Getting people willing to review your work isn’t enough. Instead you need to be able to move that into actual reviews. There are three ways to help make sure you get the most reward for your efforts.

Tip #1: Know Your Audience

Everyone likes a slightly different flavor of book. If you ask someone who loves non-fiction to work through a fantasy book… they may hate it. That can lead to them either giving the book a bad review, or not leaving a review at all. Part of the trick in finding good reviewers is finding reviewers interested your specific book flavor. You can find your audience by look through your competition’s listings and seeing where they are posted online. You can also pull information from your mailing list. Finally, you can look to the hero of your story. Often times, people will subjectively write their target audience member as the hero of the story. A young adult novel may feature a teenager breaking free of their parents. A thriller may feature a hero with a family and is targeted towards those going mid-life adventures. The goal with knowing your audience is to get the most reward for your effort.

Tip #2: Always Follow-up (Twice)

Getting someone to commit to reading/reviewing your work is not enough. You need them to be actively involved. Life always has a lot going, so that involvement can waver as well. I try to do two rounds of review reminders. Shortly before the date the review is due, I send them a message reminding them the review is due soon. After the due date, I wait a week or two. If I see they haven’t reviewed, I send a polite message asking them if they had trouble. They may have some sort of technical issue when posting the review. This helps remind them to finish up on the review process. Doing this follow-up can turn a lot of potential reviews into actual reviews.

Tip #3: Never Argue / Respond to Reviews

This is one of the most difficult things to do. People can read your work and hate it. They then post criticism that feels untrue or resentful to the work you’ve put in. However, the best strategy is to not engage. Why is that? Because when you see the author being petty, it is an “anti-sales” event. People often view the author as ‘cool’ until proven otherwise. People are used to having both positive and negative reviews. The best method to respond to these critical responses is to simply keep writing better and better. Never portray a petty and angry author if you can help it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

StoryOrigin versus BookFunnel when Building a Mailing List

These two services provide similar functions, but often to different levels of success. I’ve spent the last year and half marketing the same books on both services. The idea was to build my mailing list as much as possible. In addition, I wanted to have a mailing list that interacted with my work as much as possible. After all, it doesn’t make any sense to build a list of freebie seekers if they never intend to buy books or work with your offers. Let’s break this service competition into three rounds: type of users, value for money, and speed of list growth. Please remember: Your mileage may vary! Some books are wild successes and others wild failures.

Round 1: Type of Users

As mentioned in the introductory paragraph, having a person’s email address doesn’t mean much if it’s a burner email. If they don’t intend to regularly check their email, open your specific offer, and take you up on those offers… what is the point of having a mailing list? You want people to regularly enjoy your work. I use MailChimp and keep my lists very clean. I also send out emails twice a month and built my emails on a lot of best practices. So… what did I achieve? With my StoryOrigin list, I average a 52% open rate, 14.8% click rate, and 2.3% unsubscribe rate. My best campaigns have a 26% click rate, while my worst have around 12% click rate. All of that is pretty impressive, but let’s also look at my BookFunnel users. Those campaigns have an average of a 56.6% open rate, 15.7% click rate, and 3.2% unsubscribe rate. My best campaigns have a 23% click rate and my worst have a 11% click rate. So what is the synopsis for these two different sources? I would say that BookFunnel users are more engaged, but that also translates to unsubscribing as well. Both sources draw from a similar pool of people, so you will often have the same people from both services.

Winner: Barely a Tie

Round 2: Value for Money

This is a really tricky one to gauge, as different authors want different things. For example, StoryOrigin has word counters on it while BookFunnel does a great job of eBook delivery. However, I am going to toss out any feature that is not central to building the mailing list. They both start out at $100 per year. At first glance, BookFunnel has some downsides comparatively to StoryOrigin. For example, BookFunnel restricts you to 5000 downloads a month, while StoryOrigin has unlimited. The truth is, though, that you will probably not hit this limit while trying to build a mailing list. BookFunnel’s 5000 may as well be called unlimited. There are two things though that make StoryOrigin a clear winner from a value perspective. First off, that $100/yr includes integration with your mailing service. Not having to regularly import users makes life a lot easier. In addition, StoryOrigin includes a newsletter swap option. These are 1 for 1 book recommendation exchanges (I’ll promote your mailing list builder if you recommend my mailing list builder). These can be great because they help boost your mailing list speed during the later parts of the month. Often times, monthly group campaigns start slowing towards the end of the month. You can keep things going well by adding in some of these direct newsletter swaps.

Winner: Clearly StoryOrigin

Round 3: Speed of List Growth

We’ve dug into the audience participation and what it will cost to get that. The final component, and often most hard to measure, is how fast your list grows. As I mentioned in the introduction, I’ve spent the last year and a half promoting the same books on both platforms. What I didn’t mention is that I kept these platform promotions equal. For example, if I was doing three group promotions on BookFunnel, I would also do three group promotions on StoryOrigin. I also kept them the same type of list building campaigns and tried to match the same size of group promotions. What did I find? While both of these services pull from a similar pool of people, BookFunnel was the first to move into this market area. As such, they captured more “market share”. That means there are simply more people using BookFunnel then there are using StoryOrigin. What difference did this make in building a mailing list? My StoryOrigin user base would grow at 70% the rate of my BookFunnel user base. That means for every 10 users I got through BookFunnel, I would gain 7 users through StoryOrigin.

Winner: Clearly BookFunnel

Summation: Based on these three rounds, it may be easy to come to the conclusion that it is a tie. However, my preference is strongly StoryOrigin. Why is that? Their innovation and access is much better. For BookFunnel, you have to pay a lot extra to gain access to anyone for support questions. StoryOrigin’s creator sends you direct emails and interacts with you directly. You don’t have to pay any extra for that. In addition, StoryOrigin is constantly adding new features. I don’t remember the last time BookFunnel added a feature. Finally, StoryOrigin recently launched their subscription model. Up until recently, they were completely free. When they launched their subscription model, they had a 30% off coupon that will last the life of my membership. That means that instead of paying $100 I pay $70 a year. They already won the value argument, but this completely seals the deal for me. I also really love the 1 for 1 trades, as they can include Amazon affiliate codes. That means another revenue source for me. I don’t make a lot (few bucks each email) but that helps offset the $70 per year I paid. All that being said, if I were running my own eBook store, I would probably select BookFunnel. I believe they have a better delivery system, though I haven’t tried it out. Plus, more people are going to be familiar with their delivery system, since they moved into the market first.

Bonus Tip: In my review above, I mentioned that StoryOrigin has 1 for 1 trades. That’s where you recommend their individual book for your individual book. StoryOrigin has a system built around this that is absolutely amazing! It is so amazing because it gives you a sneak peek into another author’s mailing list. In addition, you can see the success of those campaigns! When you are improving your methods, why not emulate those lists that work the best? With StoryOrigin I can see when a fellow author is going to send a campaign, how well that campaign did (down to an individual book level), and even see a copy of those campaigns. I can see if they have a large list that is poorly maintained or a small list that is extremely active. That means, when I trade a 1 for 1 recommendation, I can trade it with someone who has a similar track record as me. In addition, if I notice someone is doing absolutely amazing, I can copy their recipe for success! While I am not sure if StoryOrigin intended this use, it makes a huge world of difference. I can also gauge how well my list is doing versus all my competitors, since both are verified. (Hint: I am doing pretty good at the moment)


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