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):
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.
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.