Self-publishing is a great way to get your book into the world. But when you self-publish, you take on all the responsibilities that a traditional publisher usually would, including marketing the book, soliciting reviews, sending out review copies, and generating buzz. (And it’s best to start on these things before your book is published.) So, how do you do find the reviewers to help you get the word out? Well, we’ve got some suggestions for you.
But before we get to that – and before you start to contact reviewers – it’s important to understand how to contact them.
What to do:
1. Do your research.
Only contact reviewers who are interested in reviewing the type of books you have written. (See below for some good places to find the right reviewers.)
2. Read their review policy.
Do they only want e-books, or printed books? What genres are they currently interested in reading? Are they currently accepting new books for review? Check out their rules, and follow them.
3. Write a personalized email to the potential reviewer.
No one likes to get a form letter, or spam. Use a salutation, and their name – not just “Hi” or “Dear reviewer,” but rather, “Dear Jane Smith” or at least “Dear Jane.” If there’s no personal name listed, use their username.
Tell the reviewer who you are, how you found them, a little bit about your book, when it will be published. Tell them that if they’re interested, you’d be glad to send them a copy. Specify what format the book will be in (which ebook format, printed book, or if they will have a choice). Thank them for their time and consideration, and say that you look forward to hearing from them. Then sign it, with your full name.
Don’t forget the subject line, either: emails with the subject “Review Inquiry” or “Review Request” will get a better response as they make it easy to identify what your message is about.
4. Before sending your email, spell-check and proofread.
Errors leave a poor impression and make the reviewer less likely to accept your book. They’ll figure your book is full of typos, too.
5. The ultimate purpose of a review isn’t to please you.
Books with reviews do tend to sell better. However, it’s important to understand that reviewers ultimately aren’t written for the author’s benefit. They’re written for the potential reader to give them enough information so that they can make a purchasing decision.
What not to do:
1. If they do accept the book, don’t expect the reviewer to guarantee a review.
Reviewers don’t accept books they have no intention of reviewing, but sometimes they may not be able to – or wish to – eventually review it. That’s OK. They’re not the only reviewer out there. Move on.
2. Don’t expect, or ask for, a positive review.
No reviewer can promise this. Any reviewer worth approaching has integrity and will always post an honest review, whether one star or five. (As people’s opinions will naturally vary, there’s often something fishy when books have only five-star reviews, anyway.)
3. Don’t ask the reviewer to promise a review to be published on or near a particular date.
(Do feel free to tell the reviewer the date of your book’s publication.) Please understand that most reviewers have a big stack of books to review. Reviews take more time than you might think. The reviewer reads the book – maybe more than once – takes notes, then writes and posts the review. You’re asking them to do at least several hours of work for you, on their own time, for free. And they’re not doing it for money, but rather for the love of books, and of reviewing.
This is why you can’t expect a promise of a review by a certain date (or even at all). It’s understandable that you’re anxious for the reviews to start rolling in, but just hang tight, keep soliciting reviews, and one day you’ll have a bunch of them.
4. Never offer payment for a review.
All an honest reviewer will accept is the book itself. Don’t offer a bribe! Paid reviews are not allowed on any reputable websites and can get the reviewer – and sometimes yourself – in a world of trouble, and banned from review websites.
5. Don’t expect an answer to your query.
I know – that almost seems unreasonable, doesn’t it, not to expect the reviewer to reply. The reason that some don’t reply is that many reviewers – especially popular and highly-ranked ones – get so many review queries that it takes too much time to reply to them all. So, they wind up only replying to those they have an interest in reviewing.
6. If a potential reviewer declines to review your book, take it graciously.
Don’t ask why, try to change their mind, or pester them. Stay on good terms – reply briefly with thanks for their time and consideration. Who knows, perhaps they’ll review your next book.
7. After a review is published, don’t comment on the review.
Not even if you disagree with it. Even if the reviewer says something terribly wrong, even factually wrong. Even if they say it’s the best book they’ve ever read. Or the worst! Commenting can make you look petty, overbearing or argumentative, and can turn potential readers against you, ensuring they never read your book. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Ever. (Here’s why.)
10 places to find reviewers for your books.
OK. Now that you understand how to approach reviewers, how do you find them?
1. Amazon’s “Meet Our Authors” Forum
Amazon has a “Meet Our Authors” forum where you can introduce yourself, and also ask for reviews. There are various genre-specific threads too.
(Tip: Don’t post to the Amazon “Top Reviewers Forum” – it’s only for reviewers to talk about the act of reviewing, not for authors asking for reviews. Authors don’t get a good reception there, to put it lightly. Believe me, I hang out there sometimes and have seen things get ugly, fast.)
2. Amazon’s Top Reviewers
Amazon ranks its reviewers according to a variety of criteria and publishes the list. You can go through the list to look for those reviewers who review books in your genre. It will take some time. Those reviewers who include an email address or website in their profile are usually open to being contacted regarding potential reviews. (Some are not.) Before emailing, read their reviews of books in your genre. Pay close attention to any review guidelines which are included in the reviewer’s profile.
TheCreativePenn has a great blog post on getting Amazon reviewers to review your book.
3. Peruse the Amazon book pages
Check out other books similar to yours, and see who’s reviewed them. Look on these reviewers’ profiles to see if they’re open to review offers, as described above. If so, contact them.
4. LibraryThing & Goodreads
On LibraryThing, people catalog, review, and discuss books. The site also functions as a social networking site and is a great place for authors to connect with potential readers. There are lots of things you can do to get the word out about your book here. One of them is to find reviewers.
LibraryThing offers the “Member Giveaway” – where you can give out your own books. Ebooks and printed books are equally welcome. You set a number of available books to offer, and people will enter a drawing to win them. Usually there are more people who sign up than available books, so there is a drawing at the end of the giveaway period.
Though those who receive your books are not required to review your book, you can let it be known that you hope they do. LibraryThing reviewers can post their reviews on that site, but some often post their reviews elsewhere, such as Amazon.com and Goodreads.
Goodreads is similar to LibraryThing, but bigger. Only publishers can give away books for free there, but you can still find potential reviewers through their groups, some of which are dedicated to connecting authors with reviewers. (Use the group search box to find them.) Before posting review opportunities, be sure to check that the rules of the particular group allow it.
5. Social networking sites
Search for people who review your genre of book on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites, and start making connections. Much has been written elsewhere on how to connect with people on these sites, so that’s all I’ll say about it here.
Turn to Google to find bloggers who review books similar to yours. Try various searches such as the name of your genre (e.g. YA, poetry, American history, vampire fiction) followed by one of these phrases: book blog, book blogger, book reviews, book review blog, book review blogger. Try various combinations and think of some of your own, investigate the results, and you’re bound to come up with some good ones.
7. Services which connect authors and reviewers
There are quite a lot of specialized websites which will make your book available to reviewers. Here are a few we know of:
The Bookbag. Publishes book reviews on their site, with links to the books on Amazon.
Author Marketing Club. Submit your digital books for review, and announce your Amazon free download days. Free.
4226 Spruce St. Makes it easy for authors of Kindle books to connect with Amazon reviewers. Free.
8. Reviewer directories and lists
The Book Blogger List. A categorized directory of book reviewers, organized by genre, which makes it easy to locate potential reviewers for your book. Free.
Book Reviewer Yellow Pages (formerly Step By Step Self Publishing). Offers an online directory of book reviewers. It’s free, but they also offer paid Kindle and paperback versions.
List of literary / poetry review publications (many print-based)
9. Ask other authors
Ask other authors you’re acquainted with – either on or offline – who reviewed their book, and who they think you should get in touch with. Most authors are very willing to share their experiences and recommendations. When writing to a reviewer, be sure mention that your fellow author recommended that you contact them.
10. Look close to home & offline
There are plenty of local, offline sources for reviews, too:
- local daily or weekly newspapers
- school newspapers
- organization and company newsletters
- contact local indie bookstores to see if they know of any local reviewers
11. (yeah, forget 10 – we’re turning this baby all the way up to 11!)
The Indie View
The Indie View has a great list of reviewers in a number of genres. They also spotlight reviews and authors. Check it out.
don’t forget us
You know, if your book is arts-related nonfiction, or has anything to do with the Beat Generation, you might check out our very own review policy. We don’t accept many books for review – but you never know until you try! We also sometimes publish author interviews and book excerpts.
That’s all for now. If you have suggestions about getting reviews, please leave a comment. And stay tuned for more articles about promoting your self-published books!