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How to Build Reader Reviews as a Self-Published Author

March 8, 2021
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The hardest struggle as a self-published author is the collection of reader reviews. Finding those readers who are willing to review is like finding a needle in a haystack… unless you use the right methods. Most people just need an incentive, but that doesn’t mean you offer an incentive since that can be against many of the terms and conditions of sales platforms.

So how do we get reviews?

Build and Utilize Your Newsletter.

Every self-published author should build a marketing platform. That platform needs to utilize email marketing. By far, email marketing is the most productive aspect of an author platform because those readers are already fans of your work.

That means they are interested in your writing. When you launch a book, they are the most likely to purchase that book.

To gather reviews, just ask them. Ask your readers if they’ve read your book and would leave an honest review, good or bad, on the platform you’re collecting reviews for. If you have multiple platforms, be sure to include each one.

Your fans will respond.

Laptop on a desk

Give Readers an Incentive to Review Your Book

An incentive does not mean you are directly giving them something in return for the review. You should never pay for reviews.

You might give them a free book in exchange for an honest review. Just keep in mind that not everyone will give you a review. Some just want the free book. My original launch team had seventy members. Of those members, a handful reviewed my first book and only one left a review on my third book. Most downloaded the book, just looking for a free read since there was no accountability.

That launch team has been dissolved in favor of other, more accountable methods.

Free books work with the right readers—readers willing to review your books.

Run a Contest to Review Your Book

This one is tricky. You can run a contest for readers to win a gift card, signed book, or other prize, but everyone must be eligible to enter the contest regardless of leaving a review.

Here’s the neat trick.

If you ask readers to click a link in your newsletter to enter the contest, you can use newsletter statistics to figure out who clicked the link. All readers have to do to enter is click the link. The link then takes them to your direct review page on a sales platform.

Nine times out of ten, those who’ve read your book will immediately leave a review because they are prompted. This method allows everyone to enter the contest. You are tracking link clicks, not actual reviews.

Self-Publishing Resources Series

Use a Review Service

There are a number of review services. I’ve used NetGalley which can get expensive unless you go through a third-party like BooksGoSocial.

Booksprout has been my best performer for reviews. It allows readers to download a free book in exchange for reviews. The caveat is that Booksprout enforces accountability. If a reader doesn’t review, they are flagged as a pirate and blocked from further book downloads on the system. This fixes the issue of offering a free book and never gaining a review.

There are a number of review services out there. My number one piece of advice when choosing them is to never pay for reviews. No service should say you are paying for X number of reviews. That’s against sales policies. Services may guarantee a minimum number of reviews, but you should never pay for exactly one, two, or ten. You should never pay for guaranteed star ratings or positive feedback. Those aren’t honest reviews and will get your book banned from sales providers.

I’ll try more review services over time and let you know which platforms work for me.

Use a Reader Magnet

A reader magnet is often a page in the front and/or back of your book where readers can download a free item in exchange for signing up to your email list. It’s a method of creating a newsletter with active fans. I use free copies of my short stories as my reader magnets. With my nonfiction series, it’s a sample of the first two books. With my author series, it’s resources I create for free.

You can do the same with reviews. Create a page with a link to your website and ask the reader to review your book. On your website, include links to each service where they can review it.

It’s a passive form of gaining reviews, but it works—especially for print books. Take a look at my review page for The Fae(ry) Experiences.

Dog raising paw like it's asking a question

Finally, the Easiest Way Is to Ask for Reviews.

There are a few other methods to gain reviews. Those listed are the easiest and most productive in my experience. Some require utilizing paid services. Others require having a knowledge of book formatting or asking your formatter to include a reader magnet. If you don’t have a newsletter with fans signed up, those methods won’t work.

There’s an easier way.

Just ask.

Ask for reviews. It really is that simple. When you meet a reader, ask them to review your book. Better yet, hand them a card with your information so they remember. If someone praises your book on social media, respond with a thank you and ask if they’ll review it on your sales platform. When a reader emails you—and they will sooner or later—ask them to leave their feedback on your review pages.

It’s that easy. And it’s the most effective, working almost 100% of the time when you are talking with a loyal fan. Fans want you to succeed. They are more than happy to help you. Utilize that fan base by asking them to review your books.

Always Experiment

My philosophy is to always experiment and try something new. If you hear of another valid way to review books, let me know. During the pre-launch of Revenge of the Brownie, I tested Booksprout for the first time. Now it will be part of my launch list.

Moving forward with my next book, I’ll add another service, another technique, to build reviews. Each successful technique you add increases the number of reviews you can achieve. Even if they only give you one or two reviews, it’s better than none.

Always experiment. Talk with other authors, traditional and self-published, and learn what works for them. It might work for you too.

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March 8, 2021
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Category:

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