Book Reviews Do’s and Don’ts– Learning How to Requests Reviews
Just a little over six months ago, when I was releasing my first children’s book, The Adventure of Froblicious the Frog, I realized that some sites only accepted the book for “free promotion” provided it had a certain number of reviews.
At first, I felt relegated, but after a few breaths, I understood where they came from. When a book doesn’t have any reviews or has just a few, that has a subtle but significant meaning for readers and others in the trade.
That fact sank in for me months ago while researching about reviews for my first blog post. According to Consumer Affairs, reviews influence purchasing decisions for 88% of shoppers. And that is no different with books.
Take a look at giants such as Amazon. Although nobody knows exactly how Amazon’s algorithm works, there is one thing publications, book marketers, and promoters know for sure: the number of reviews a book aggregates is factored in for a book to make the bestseller’s list.
The golden questions are:
Where can I get my book reviewed? (I will talk more about that in an upcoming post)
Not only that, but how to be successful reaching out to the right reviewer or review outlet?
Because let’s face it, getting reviews is easier said than done. Getting a book reviewed requires a lot of effort, especially when it comes to reaching out to potential reviewers. And the whole process can be frustrating considering the time one needs to spend on it. I had my fair share of trials, and I sure relate to my fellow indie authors.
Also, having done many reviews myself, there are some patterns from the requester that are completely off-putting for a reviewer. Learning to deal with it may increase your chances of receiving a positive reply.
With that said, I wanted to offer some helpful tips on what you should and should not do when querying a reviewer. Here are the most common book reviews do’s and don’ts:
Read carefully the reviewer specification before contacting.
Reviewers have different specifications regarding replying to and accepting requests for reviews. If you don’t find it clearly anywhere, in the blog for instance, go ahead and send a query briefly explaining about your work and if appropriate, ask how they prefer to receive the material in question.
Be considerate of the others person’s work.
If you contact a blogger, please take the time to peruse her/his site to learn about their requirements and what their work is about. Greet the person. Acknowledging one of their works (reviews) goes a long way.
The same applies for reviewers on Amazon. Amazon’s reviewers critique products in different categories, and some are very specific about what they review. That said, I recommend when messaging them to mention one of their reviews and how that benefits the reader. Most likely you will increase your chance of receiving a reply and getting your book reviewed—provided they accept books.
Send a free copy of your manuscript.
This should be common sense, right? Apparently not, and I will explore this more when I talk about the don’ts.
As a matter of fact, I recommend you to send an Amazon gift copy if the reviewer prefers a digital format (unless otherwise instructed), or a paperback version of your book.
Why? For two reasons, first, if you send a digital copy, it will count toward your sales (in other words, your Amazon rankings). If you get the digital copy with your author distribution discount, you can still make up for that with more—and potentially positive— reviews.
The second reason is many bloggers or Amazon reviewers receive high-priced items, such as electronics, home goods, and beauty products for free for their own personal use in exchange for an honest review.
Reviewers are busy and they need to catch up with the demands. If they have a high volume of reviews to turn in and limited time, which item do you think they will prioritize: the book—which will require more of their time—or the free product?
At least when you send a gift copy or a hardcopy, you show appreciation for their time.
Request for the reviewer to buy your book.
This is a surefire way to flush your chances of having your book reviewed down the drain.
A lot of reviewers and book bloggers review books for the love of reading and without being redundant, for the love of books. And they don’t charge for the service. Many of them work in other professions other than writing or are students who love to talk about their reading experiences. Putting it simply, they don’t require anything else except the book.
In a brief example, once someone contacted me through LinkedIn asking me to review his book, but instead of telling me what the book was about and how readers could benefit from it, he sent me a link to where I could purchase the book to read and review if I was interested. Really?
If this was meant to be a promotional strategy, to say it was ineffective—not to mention inappropriate—is an understatement.
When you ask a reviewer to buy your book to review, not only you are being inconsiderate of the time the person would take to write you a review for free, but you will also come across as being desperate.
Send a message with little to no details
This is another big downer. Again, reviewers receive tons of requests. In order to sort out the ones who interest them, reviewers need to know what your book is about, right?
Also, in most cases, they want to know how the book in question can benefit their readers. This is especially true if you are contacting bloggers and their website is not a book review venue.
Send a message to a reviewer like you are talking to a close friend.
By that, I’m not implying to be unfriendly, but professional instead. In other words, it’s important to use your full name and give links to your website, social media channels, or any other source so that the reviewer can get information about you and your work.
For instance, I have received quite a few requests where the person gave their first name but not their last name. A few others gave me no name at all. On top of that, there were no links for the books or information about them. How am I supposed to send feedback?
Not to mention, people already assume that you know them because you had a quick exchange on social media (more on the next point). And when you even try to search the person’s name on social media, you find nothing because he or she uses a different username.
Assume that the reviewer will accept your book because of a brief exchange on social media.
This complements the previous point.
Nowadays, being engaged in social media is many people’s guilty pleasure. In other instances, social media is a working tool. Regardless of the purpose, whoever jumps on this trend communicates with a myriad of people or large audiences in multiple channels.
For the tweeters around, have you seen some accounts with the message “retweets don’t constitute any type of endorsement”?
The same goes for reviews. It does not mean that because someone liked one of your Instagram or Twitter posts that he or she wants to review your book or other manuscript. A person might have respect and admiration for your work, but the genre in which you write is not his/her cup of tea. This is perfectly normal, and please, don’t take it personally. The reality is that likes don’t imply review endorsement.
Those minimum details can make or break your chances of receiving a response or getting a book thumbs-up from a reviewer.
Because reviews are a crucial part of an author’s marketing strategy, the way to approach them should not be taken for granted. That said, when you nail the book reviews do’s and don’ts, reviewers will be thankful for it and so will your readers.