You may remember Rayne Hall from my author feature. Or, you may have met her on Twitter, her preferred medium. She has literally written the book on the best ways to use Twitter – it’s called “Twitter for Writers” and is part of her celebrated Writer’s Craft series.
About a month ago, she had a terribly flattering suggestion for me. She told me she was writing a new book, this time on getting book reviews. She then asked me for a guest chapter. Naturally, I was happy to oblige, and the book was published a few days ago.
You can find out more about the book below, read what I thought of it, and read the first draft of my contribution (the final proof was somewhat altered).
Getting Book Reviews: Easy, Ethical Strategies for Authors
Reviews help sell books.
When browsing online for their next read, most readers are drawn to the books with many reviews. More and more readers glance at what other readers have to say about a book before they hit the ‘buy now’ button. The more people have read and liked the book, the more they want to experience it for themselves. This is a known psychological factor called ‘social evidence’, and it plays a big role in purchasing decisions.
The more reviews your book has, the better, especially if they are genuine, personal, thoughtful and positive. Reviews can multiply your sales and catapult your book to the top of bestseller lists – but how do you get them?
Perhaps you’re a new author and can’t get those crucial early reviews to start the train rolling. Maybe you’re a seasoned author and your books have garnered reviews, but but not as many as you need to break out. Or perhaps you’ve gone the corporate publishing route, and find that your publisher’s publicist isn’t getting your book the attention it needs.
This book shows you many proven strategies to get the reviews your book deserves. Instead of urging you to labour through tedious, spirit-draining procedures, I’ll reveal quick, fun, empowering tricks.
All my suggestions are legitimate and ethical. In this book you won’t find methods for manipulating, faking and cheating. Strengthen your readers’ bond with you, don’t sabotage it.
Most of the methods I suggest are free, although some incur expenses. You will definitely need to spend time. You can apply them all these techniques, or cherry-pick the ones you like now and keep the rest for another time or a different book.
At the end of most chapters, I’m sharing mistakes I made and learnt from. They all seemed a good idea at the time.
The book is available on Amazon for $0.99.
As always, Rayne has some practical, down-to-Earth advice to offer. From giveaways to review agencies (yes, they exist – which was news to me), she has tried all the ways I could think of to gain reviews – and some that hadn’t occurred to me. She doesn’t shy away from sharing both her successes and mistakes, which means I spent a lot of time nodding with sympathy. And some time cringing over past mistakes I’ve made.
Furthermore, she never strays from the straight and narrow. More importantly, she explains clearly what the pitfalls of doing so entail – and what happened when she did stray.
She also has some practical advice on things like how to write a cover letter, a sample email to send to reviewers and tips on sending your book after a giveaway.
For me, the best part was Chapter 19 – funny negative reviews – whence these gems:
This book is too long. I had to spend many hours reading it. I’m busy and have other things to do.
The character of Queen Matilda is not believable.”
(There’s no Queen Matilda in the book)
The women in this story are not as obedient as the Bible says women were in those days.
The vampires in this book aren’t like Edward Cullen. Most of them totally creep me out.
There is also an excerpt of Rayne’s book, “Why does my book not sell? 20 simple fixes.”
As a contributor to the book, I received a free copy with no obligation to post a review. And yet, I have. Which means that Rayne’s suggestion work 😉
Back in 1995, I was serving my two-year military service in a naval base in Athens. We were a small unit—maybe 200 men. One day, MPs picked up one of us. Someone I’d just had lunch with the previous day. Turns out he was a serial killer, who had ritualistically murdered two women and was searching for his next victim.
That was pretty bloody scary.
And yet, it’s a close second to putting my books out there for the world to read and review.
A friend likens the experience to running naked in the middle of town, shouting, “Wee, look at me!” And yet, that’s what we do every time we publish a new book or post a new article.
It does get easier with time. That first scathing review hurts. It stays in your head for days. Weeks. Even months. But eventually you learn to move on, and focus on the positive ones. Then, someone will tell you how your words touched them. Your spirits will soar for a while. The world will smile again.
Reviews can be the greatest and scariest thing on Earth—at once. In fact, I can only think of a single thing even scarier than them: having no reviews.
That’s when you start thinking, “did everyone hate it, but were too polite to say anything?” And you consider buying reviews off Fiverr or any other place you can think of.
If that’s the case, please, don’t. Amazon has started suing people offering reviews for sale, but that’s not the reason why you shouldn’t do it. In truth, reviews are pretty simple, once you have built a platform. In other words, when you have started interacting with readers and writers.
You can use any social medium for that. Twitter is a great one, and Rayne has written pretty much the book on how to use it properly. Personally, I prefer my blog, nicholasrossis.me. That is where I announce giveaways, and offer free books to anyone willing to review. This has played a big part in my books having hundreds of reviews in total.
When I first published my award-winning children’s book, Runaway Smile, I wanted to generate a lot of reviews in as short a time as possible. So, I posted all of its pages as images on my blog (it’s a short book). I finished that blog post with the following:
If you enjoyed my book, I would really appreciate an Amazon review! If you really liked it, then please share with your friends – or even get a copy for you or the wee ones in your life on Amazon or Createspace 🙂
I got some 30 reviews within a month.
I regularly use giveaways and free days to promote my books. Part of the reason why they generate a lot of reviews is this little prompt that I include at the end of all of my books:
Thank you for taking the time to read my book! If you enjoyed it, please consider telling your friends or posting a short review. Word of mouth is an author’s best friend and much appreciated.
This is the very last thing people read before shutting the book. I’m convinced it has helped me greatly in my quest for reviews.
Finally, a word of warning: asking your friends for reviews is one thing. Asking strangers, is just plain wrong. So, whatever you do, the one thing that will not generate you any reviews is an automatic response to your followers asking them to read and review your work.
First, congrats on your guest chapter! Putting effort into getting reviews was one of the most nerve-wracking parts of publishing my first story on Amazon. Especially that period between when I sent out requests and when I received the feedback from reviewers. The anticipation is almost killer.
I definitely agree with the comparison your friend drew between publishing and running around naked and vulnerable. Especially when you receive those negative reviews. What I’ve come to realize is that despite those critiques, I still believe in my ability to tell a story. I also believe in my ability to grow a thicker skin and learn from the criticism that I receive. Since writing is my dream, obstacles like those are relative molehills that I shouldn’t let keep me from pursuing my passion. Thanks for the great post!
Well said! 🙂
I haven’t had the experience yet (because I haven’t published anything yet) but I think getting review must be tough.
I often review the books I read, nearly always review (even if only with a few hundreds words) books from friends. I know people who tell me, “I don’t do reviews, I don’t have time”, which really unnerves me. How do you expect that someone will want to review your book if you “don’t have time” to review theirs? That’s also very unrespectful of your fellow writers, in my opinion.
Uhm… I have a mind to have a look at Rayne’s Twitter book. Twitter is my favourite social media, but I don’t think I’m using it at its full potencialities. Always happy to hear advice 😉
First of all, thank you for reviewing 🙂
Second, I’d just like to point out that Rayne’s book is great, but aimed at authors.
Right. What do you think I am? 😉
Lol – apologies. I meant it might be more useful to those who have published their work. On second thought, however, I realize that’s not really the case, as you want an established fan base before you actually publish. So, please ignore my previous comment 🙂
LOL! That’s excactly what I’m trying to do, establish a base before I publish. I think that’s really the hardest part of promoting a book.
Or at least, I hope. If there are harder parts at promoting… I’m in trouble…
I could answer that, but that would be telling 😉
Great post and tips! 🙂
So glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Great blog post, Nicholas. I just purchased the book because of its focus on ethical strategies for getting reviews.
Great! I hope you find it useful 🙂
I don’t use twitter either but I have Rayne Hall’s book. Must get around to reading it.
Great post, Nicholas. 🙂
Thank you! 🙂
Great post Nicholas. I must admit I don’t use twitter much I’m not sure if its a medium that really markets books. Maybe I ‘m wrong and I should use it more. The book looks like it could answer my doubts.
Rayne’s book on Twitter offers some great ideas on that 🙂
I thought the negative reviews were very funny, and typical of so many like them.
I want to hear more about that serial killer you had lunch with though!
Best wishes, Pete.
I remember mentioning it in Philippa’s interview (https://involution-odyssey.com/2015/08/28/behind-the-face-of-nicholas-rossis/).
As part of my military service (compulsory in Greece), I served a year in a navy base. I met there a sailor who turned out to be a serial killer. MPs arrested him on my watch. You can imagine how shocked we all were when we found out – none of us had any idea.
There has to be a book in there somewhere! Thanks, Nicholas.
Lol – absolutely, but not in my genre. Perhaps I should ask Sue Coletta 🙂
Great advice, Nicholas. Rayne’s book sounds like a good investment, especially since you found some tips in there…I figure you already know everything. 🙂 😀
Aw, you! Actually, I did pick a few new ones. Which surprised me, to be honest 😀
What’s an automatic response? Do you mean a DM on Twitter? If so, I hate those! Anyone who tells me to buy/download and review their book immediately goes on my Never To Read list. Unless, of course, they actually know me. Friends are an entirely different ballgame.
I have Rayne’s Twitter book, and love it. I’ll have to check this out too.
Well, it can be a DM or an automatic tweet. Whatever the format, it’s considered rude 🙂
I agree, Sue. Automated responses show disrespect to followers. Those people are not worth following. And if it’s an author, they also show a disrespect for readers. I reckon that an author who disrespects readers, and who isn’t able to write genuine tweets worth reading, isn’t able to write genuine books worth reading. 🙂
I don’t actually keep a never-to-read list – that would be thousands long, and I can’t be bothered. But I certainly won’t click the URLs to check out those books.
I don’t keep an actual list, either, Rayne. You’re right; it would be never-ending! Imagine? LOL
You sound like Gibbs and his rules 😉
Sound advice Nicholas and an excellent piece by you.
Thank you so much, David! Hugs 🙂
Very informative post. Though I’m still wrapping my head around the Queen Matilda thing. Never figured out how those things happen. Then again, I got a review that mentioned batteries or something. I’ve noticed a lot of automatic review requests on Facebook and Twitter. It’s made me scared to befriend other authors because it sometimes leads to me having to explain why I can’t drop everything to read/review their book. Wonder how often that tactic works.
Lol – batteries?? 😀
Nowadays, I just ignore auto messages.
I’m guessing he was reviewing something else and accidentally put it on mine. I ignore them too.
Then again, my only 1* review was complaining about giants in Schism. There are no giants in any of my books. I assume she just skimmed and saw a line describing a First as “the biggest man he had ever seen”, then jumping to the conclusion this man was a giant. Her never reading didn’t stop her from tearing the book to shreds in every Amazon shop, from India to Japan. Weird that someone went to all that trouble for me… 🙂
Weird. I’ve seen that before and always wonder what drives a person to go on such a tear. Especially if they mention stuff that didn’t happen in the book.
Giants? Hmm. Normally I would guess that she confused your book with a different one, or accidentally posted the review in the wrong place. But if she did it on several review sites, it suggests that this is someone with a personal grudge against you. Perhaps you didn’t vote for her poodle in the Cutest Pet contest. 😀
Lol – I suspect someone I picked a fight with over at LinkedIn when she said all Indie work is crap, no exceptions. I now leave those people alone with their prejudices.
That happens a lot, actually. I’ve received negative reviews complaining about a cancelled event and a faulty garlic press.
Amazon refuses to move those reviews to the products where they belong.
I never understood why they won’t fix those. Seems like no-brainers. Sorry, but I’m chuckling about somebody reviewing a garlic press on a book.
Ha ha – the faulty garlic press is the funniest one I’ve heard yet 😀
As a noob in the world of writing reviews, when I just wrote my review for “Runaway Smile”, I clicked on the bar to get more info about writing a good review on that page. The following text popped up:
“Here are some tips for writing great reviews: • Do explain why you liked or disliked it.
• Do compare to similar products or services and share how long you’ve used this product.
• Do identify specific attributes (e.g. comfort & fit of a shirt or the battery life of a camera) and whether they met your expectations.
• Don’t describe your seller or shipping experience (you can do that at amazon.com/feedback).
• Don’t include promotional content of any kind or reviews written in exchange for compensation.
To see the full guidelines for writing reviews on Amazon, go here.”
I guess that explains in some way why books get reviews for batteries and garlic presses, 😛
Makes sense to me. 😀 Are those guidelines still around? Looks like they’d only work in the days of the 20 word minimum.
Haha, indeed they are, as I found and copy/pasted them this morning! To me it seems that the advise is a bit out of place on a book review page and Amazon should look into adjusting the text appropriately!
I just hope my review was helpful and satisfactory for Nicolas and his audience, and will further refrain from saying anything cheeky about “the hand that is hopefully going to feed me soon…” 😉
It was a wonderful review, and I can’t thank you enough for making my day 🙂
Your welcome 😉
Ha ha – yes, that must be it 😀
Thank you so much for reviewing Smile!! You’re a star 🙂
People who ask for a review the moment you follow them deserve to be ignored. But if you’ve followed an author for a while and enjoyed reading their tweets, then there’s a good chance that you’d enjoy their books, too. If they ask, consider saying yes to get the book free. 🙂
I try to do that, but I’ll admit that I always try to buy the book. Being a very slow reader, I’m not a good source for reviews. So I figure the least I can do is buy the book.
Great article, as usual. A lot to think about. Thanks, Nicholas.
So glad you thought so. Thank you 🙂
Great blog, Nicholas. I love Rayne’s books and found the ones I have read really interesting. Congratulations on your contribution to her latest book. I’m sure it will be a best seller!
Let’s hope so. It deserves to 🙂
That would be nice. 🙂
Hi Helen, I find the first few reviews are the toughest to get. After a while, it gets easier. I’ve found a few strategies and they really work. (Without begging, buying or faking.) I just wish I had known those strategies when I first started indie publishing, it would have saved me a lot of stress.
Good review, Nicholas. I have several of Rayne’s books. This looks like another winner. Her books are very clear and thorough in the advice given. Thank you for this information. 🙂 — Suzanne J
I agree on all points! Thank you 🙂
Thank you! 🙂
Well done, Nicholas! I have another of Rayne’s books which I’ve found very helpful – this looks like another one to add to my collection. Reviews are tough to get and always very much appreciated, that’s for sure 🙂
You bet! Thank you 🙂