Book Reviews for Self-Published Authors: A Primer

by | Oct 30, 2017

It’s never been a better time to be a self-published author, and there have never been more book reviewers available to the writer who decides to go indie.

Book reviewers help spread the message about your book by publishing a review to their own network. But if you’re new to publishing, you have to figure out how to get those book reviews that can bring you more readers.

First, Get Your Kit Together

Before you go hunting for reviewers, make sure you’ve got the essentials you’ll need. At the minimum you should have:

  • Either a PDF or an ePub of your book, or both. Include the covers, and also have the cover available as both a high-resolution (300 dpi) and low-resolution (72 dpi) graphics, preferably in JPG format
  • For print books, plenty of copies and mailing supplies. If you’re publishing via print on demand, order enough books to respond to reviewer requests, since you’ll need to add your marketing materials to the package.
  • Press release about the launch of your book. Try to make it sound like a story you would read in the newspaper.
  • Cover letter. This should be a brief introduction to you and your book, but keep it short.
  • Photos of the author. Again, you’ll need both high- and low-resolution images if you’re approaching both print and online reviewers.
  • Author biography. This is a good place to show your qualifications, particularly if you’re a nonfiction author.

There are lots of other things you can put in a press kit or a reviewer package, and you can find more about that here: Media Kits for Indie Authors

How to Find Reviewers

There are literally thousands of book bloggers online, and most of them review books even though they aren’t paid. Nevertheless, many are thoughtful reviewers and good writers, and have a significant following.

There are also reviewers offering paid reviews, and over the years this has become much more acceptable in the indie community. It’s one of the ways we get word out to readers about our books.

Paid reviews might work for completely unknown fiction authors, who have little chance to get exposure when they get started. Otherwise, use free review sources at first, it will be a long time before you run out of them.

Here are some recently updated resources that will help you locate reviewers:

  • Midwest Book Review welcomes self-published books, and their website is bulging with targeted information about book reviews and reviewers.
  • Indie Reader invites authors to submit their books for review, and they have become a trusted source for reviews. The site is run by authors and writers.
  • The Indie Author’s Guide to Free Reviews is an updated article from Publishers Weekly by By Daniel Lefferts and Alex Daniel with lots of excellent resources.
  • Indie View keeps an updated list of hundreds of reviewers.
  • Self-Publishing Review has been reviewing books since 2008 and also has lots of information about book marketing in general as well as an archive of great content.
  • Don’t forget the many reviewers who post on book-oriented sites like Goodreads, where you can also find genre-specific groups, too.
  • Reedsy has built an excellent list of Best Book Review Blogs of 2017. Authors can search by genre and filter out blogs that do not review indie books.
  • The Book Blogger List is another searchable curated list of online reviewers.
  • A recent interview with Jason B. Ladd, How To Get Book Reviews As An Unknown Author, with a great outline of the process of getting reader reviews.
  • For print reviewers, consider the programs run by the Independent Book Publishers Association. These mailings of books for review go to over 3,000 newspaper and magazine editors and reviewers.

There are an almost endless list of blog articles and books on this subject to research, too. Getting reviews is a standard part of book marketing, and you should plan on spending some time doing this for your own book launches.

5 Key Tips for Getting Book Reviews

Now that you have your materials together and access to lots of reviewers, you’re ready to go. Here are my 5 best tips for getting book reviews, whether online or off:

  1. Pick the right reviewers. This is the single most important thing you can do to help your review program. Find out what kind of books the reviewer likes to review, and only select appropriate reviewers. Don’t just spam your contacts or people you know in unrelated fields. I do few book reviews on the blog, but I constantly get pitched by romance novelists, thriller writers, and just about everyone else. Save everyone time and effort by aiming your review requests in the right direction.
  2. Query the reviewers. Check each reviewer’s requirements. Some want you to just send the book, but many ask for a query. Some review e-books, many do not. Conforming to their requirements saves both of you time. Check out this query letter tutorial.
  3. Send the book. In your query make sure to offer both as many versions as you can of the book. You can use a PDF, an ePub or Kindle format, or a print copy. Let the reviewer decide how she wants to receive it.
  4. Follow up. Don’t stalk or harass the reviewer, who is probably doing this in her spare time. But if you haven’t heard anything after a few weeks, follow up to see if they still intend to write the review.
  5. Thank the reviewer. It’s common courtesy, but it also shows you appreciate the time and effort someone else took to help bring your book to the attention of more people. Every reviewer has an audience of some kind, and every audience can create network effects that spread the word about a book that really stands out.

Book reviews can be very effective in spreading the word. Nothing sells books as well as word of mouth, and you can get people talking about your book if you can bring it to their attention. Book reviews will do that for you. Consequently, an aggressive, ongoing book review program is one of the best ways for self-published authors to get attention for their books.

Something to Add?

In addition to the resources mentioned in this article, do you know of others for finding book reviewers, and particularly identifying top reviewers in your field? Any tips to share? Please let us know in the comments.

Resources

How to Get Book Reviews: The Ultimate Manifesto

 

 
Originally published in a slightly different form as How to Get Reviews for Self-Published Books by Writers Digest.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

24 Comments

  1. Ric

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    Reply
  2. Margret Rose

    Thanks for sharing valuable info. This will surely help lots of writers to know how to go about Self-Publishing and increase their revenue.

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  5. Kate Bill

    I don’t think there is any product that can be compared with Instant Self-Publishing Profit because I have bought many such products, there is no one give me what I desire except Raphael’ product [Instant Self-Publishing Profit]. It gives me an excellent result within two days of using it.

    Reply
  6. Rona

    Check out https://usbookreviews.com/, probably has the best team of reviewers, they give thorough, precise and honest reviews. Perfect for indie authors. Good luck guys!

    Reply
  7. Rishabh Puri

    You said right that There are literally thousands of book bloggers online, and most of them review books even though they aren’t paid. Nevertheless, many are thoughtful reviewers and good writers… Thanks!!

    Reply
  8. Margaret Petrov

    Why does every reviewer have to be so specific about genre? What if your book is not entirely one genre or the other? Very frustrating when you’ve written something and nobody wants to even look at it because it doesn’t fit their definition of what “type” of book they want to read.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Great resource, thanks for the link Kate.

      Reply
  9. Rosie Amber

    My best tip is to have a mobi version of your book for reviewers. I run a small review team based in the UK and we no longer use PDFs because there are so many different programmes and many distort the book formatting when you upload to a kindle for reading.
    In my own experience reviewers request a mobi version of a book far more than a PDF or an e-pub.
    A mobi can be created free; Calibre software is highly recommended, or if you self-pub and have access to your KDP you can download a mobi via the ‘preview your book’ option.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Great tip, thanks Rosie.

      Reply
  10. Doris M Heilmann

    .
    Joel, there is LOTS to add to these tips, I have written a whole book about the topic: 111 Tips to Get FREE Book Reviews – which includes 1,200 direct links to reviewers – the largest list ever published.

    Besides the tips from Writers Digest, there are useful chapters, such as:
    – How to Aim for Amazon Top Reviewers
    – Editorial Reviews
    – Advance Review Copies
    – Book Giveaways at Reader Communities to Get Reviews
    – Join GooglePlus Reviewer Communities

    And last but not least: WHY READERS – YOU – SHOULD WRITE REVIEWS
    .
    Thanks for your – always – helpful articles

    Reply
  11. Marieke Mills

    Really great information. I’m not sure yet whether I will or will not take the indie route, but the information here really makes the entire process a bit less daunting.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Marieke, it might be useful no matter which route you take. You can’t count on your publisher to ferret out all the best places for reviews, so any research you do in advance will be helpful one way or the other.

      Reply
  12. Dana Wayne

    Really great information! I’m saving this one!

    Reply
  13. Amelia Griggs

    For number 3 above when you send the book, are there any precautions to take to prevent copyright infringement?

    So far I have had more luck networking with other authors to swap a book (eBook version) via Amazon so it is a legitimate purchase and then the review is posted on Amazon.

    I am cautious to send a PDF unless there is some kind of NDA or that the reader is a trusted source. I did use a group on LinkedIn to send my PDF to two people but that was privately via email. I have been in contact with the two people but it has been a month or two and I don’t have any reviews yet but I am hopeful, however, these reviews would not be on Amazon.

    I am still learning but I would like to do more networking with other authors to try to get more reviews on Amazon which I think is one of the best places people look for reviews.

    Great articles by the way! I will share.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Amelia,

      I’ve never heard of a book reviewer committing copyright infringement, but hey, you never know. Consider the hundreds of books that reviewers receive each year. How likely is it that they are going to take the time and trouble to steal your work. And what would they do with it then? In my opinion there are many other things for indie authors to worry about.

      I agree about PDFs. Most of the piracy I’ve experienced is through PDFs that have been posted on free download sites, so I really restrict using PDFs unless I know the people personally.

      Reply
      • Amelia Griggs

        That’s good to know, Joel. I guess you can never be sure.

        Recently I contacted daily motion dot com due to copyright infringement. I posted a question on one of my FB author groups and others let me know that this has happened to other authors. I guess the best thing we can do is be careful and use only trusted reviewers.

        Thanks for your helpful articles.

        Reply
        • Joel Friedlander

          I’m sorry to hear that, Amelia, but thanks for letting us know.

          Reply
  14. Michael N. Marcus

    In addition to the cited online review possibilities, pay attention to non-review online and print media, especially for nonfiction.

    Lots of special-interest magazines review books on pets, food, travel, politics, cars, cities, etc.

    While the number of general-interest magazines has been decreasing, they still exist and some, including Time review books (sometimes just with a paragraph). The exposure is much greater than a blog can provide.

    Reply
    • Jean Purcell

      A helpful comment.

      Reply

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