Market Smart: On the Acquisition of High-Quality Book Reviews

When it comes to book reviews for self-publishing authors, much less the acquisition thereof, authors have to prepare themselves to deal with a moving target. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all understanding, much less solution, for your average self-publishing writer, and there’s no rulebook which states that the best ways to get and give reviews are set in stone.

But first, just in case you’re skeptical of the need to acquire reviews of your book, we must answer the question: why are book reviews important in the first place? First of all, the number of reviews you receive on a website like Amazon, paired with its star rating, leverages a lot of weight on new readers. If all you had to go on was two or three lines of text and a star rating when it came to picking out a new kitchen appliance or nonprofit organization to support, you’d pay a lot of attention to what past customers or supporters had to say, wouldn’t you? A book with no reviews, like a fancy gadget that might just make a mess of your kitchen, is often passed over in favor of a “sure thing” … that is, a book others have already confirmed is excellent. Other factors, such as an eye-catching cover design, may play a role. But reviews simply can’t be ignored as the engine of book sales!

And those first reviews are the hardest to get.

This is where things get complicated. There’s no easy answer to the question of how to acquire those first, most difficult reviews. Or rather, there’s a short answer (any way you can!) but it doesn’t provide much in the way of practical advice. Our suggestion is to start small and build from there. Query book bloggers that you follow, and authors that you admire, and of course your friends and family. They’re your built-in audience, so take advantage of them! Just, you know, not too much. You don’t want your reviews to radiate desperation. While there’s no one single right or wrong way to go about querying for reviews, do keep in mind that reciprocity is an important part of the publishing world, especially the world of self-published authors, who have to build digital communities and networks for themselves. It’s a great idea to offer to review another author’s book in exchange for a review of your own; that way, both authors benefit, not to mention avid readers of indie literature!

There are, of course, other reliable places where book reviewers hang out. Amazon’s top reviewers make up one such group, and the best part is, it’s their job to review new products, and they tend to love it! Some may have specific product and even genre preferences, but you should definitely consider turning to them when you’re looking to build your reviewer base. And don’t forget about Goodreads! Dedicated, socially-connected readers gravitate to Goodreads, even while avid book-buyers will head to Amazon, its parent company. Consider hosting a Goodreads giveaway to bolster both the visibility of your book and the number of reviews! Best of all, Outskirts Press offers services which will set up accounts on both Goodreads and Amazon to make this process a whole lot easier!

The best thing you can do for your self-published book is to keep writing. The more books you write and publish, the more linkages you will build between texts, and the larger your circle of influence will grow. In the long run, your book’s visibility will benefit if you put in a little time here and there, and keep working on new ways to give and gain book reviews and boost your sales numbers!

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