Challenges Authors Face in Getting Reviews for Their Books

Today’s guest post is by Sarah Robinson.

Let’s get real here.

Most authors are shocked to find out how much time they have to spend marketing their book.

If you’re a self-published author, I’m sure you know what I mean. After all, you got into writing because you love to write, right? Why is it necessary to spend so much time getting publicity for your book?

The answer is simple.

We are living in an economy that has too much content. Books, blog posts, podcasts, memes—the list goes on and on. There is too much content for any of us to consume. Even if your book is in a small niche genre, there are probably hundreds of competitors vying for a reader’s attention.

The rise of self-publishing democratized access for aspiring authors. That is an undeniably a “Good Thing.” But it also created an attention scarcity problem. Right now, the most valuable thing on the Internet is one uninterrupted minute of someone’s time.

What does this all mean? Even if you write the most incredible book in the world, you’ll still need to spend a good amount of time putting it in front of potential readers and getting their feedback and reviews.

The Motivations of an Author

Because most authors do not have a marketing background, they often take the exact wrong approach to getting reviews for their books. They will falsely assume that any review is a good review and turn to strategies that seek to maximize the total number of reviews over the value of one high-quality review.

Why do authors make these mistakes? Answering this question requires us to dig into the motivations of an author.

What outcomes do authors want?

Obviously, they want more reviews for their book. But it doesn’t stop here. We have to ask the question: Why are they trying to get reviews for their book?

The logical answer is to increase their book’s ranking on Amazon. But even this does not fully answer the question.

Why do they want to increase their book’s ranking on Amazon? To sell more copies of their book.

But again, it doesn’t stop here! Why does an author want to sell more copies of their book?

Here is where we get to the final answer.

They either want to make more money or gain more publicity for themselves (or both).

Making money or gaining publicity is the ultimate motivation for most authors. Keep this in mind when we analyze how authors try to get reviews.

The Motivations of a Reader

Now we have to look at the motivation and desires of the other side of the market: the readers.

What outcome does a reader want when they sit down and crack open a book?

We don’t have to go too far to come up with an answer: they want to have a pleasurable experience reading a book that is interesting to them.

More often than not, they want a book that will stimulate their emotions and imagination or educate them on a topic that they enjoy.

When we compare the motivations of a reader to the motivations of an author, it’s easy to see that there is a mismatch of goals here. Authors are incentivized to do whatever they can to get more reviews, and readers want to have an enjoyable experience reading a book.

How Authors (Typically) Try to Get Reviews

As you read through this section, ask yourself if you’ve tried any of the following methods. Then ask yourself how successful these methods were.

Did they get you to your goals? If not, you need to consider using a different strategy the next time you promote your book.

Friends and Family

First, authors (especially new authors) tend to start with their family and friends. This can appear to be a good way to kick off the launch of a book because family and friends are more motivated to help you out of the goodness of their heart. They’ll often do whatever you ask them to do.

Many authors stop at the family and friends step. They get 5-10 reviews from family and friends and then assume that the book will then skyrocket to the top of Amazon and become a best seller. But, of course, that meager number of reviews isn’t going to propel a book to the top of the lists.

“Review Trading”

Authors that move past the friends and family phase turn to their colleagues for reviews. There are hundreds of review-trading websites and Facebook groups out there that facilitate authors purchasing one another’s books and writing in-depth reviews.

This strategy gets them more reviews, but it doesn’t tap into the audience that an author wants to reach. The authors they’re trading reviews with are usually not interested in the topic of their book—they’re reviewing the book to get a review themselves. It’s a transactional relationship.

This is also not allowed by Amazon, and you’d be treading in dangerous waters by doing this.

Cold Emailing

Another strategy that authors turn to is emailing people they do not know and asking them for reviews. They might target an influencer in their industry or a popular author in their genre, hoping to get a blurb or shout-out for their book.

Not only is this strategy unlikely to work, it’s also not calibrated to the desires of these people.

Imagine for a second that you are a popular author. You’ve sold tens of thousands of copies of your books, and you have a small following online. You wake up in the morning and check your email. A lesser-known author has written you and is asking for a review.

Then you scroll down your inbox and see 25 more of the same request from other authors. How likely are you to answer these emails?

Book Review Services

At this point, more serious authors turn to professional book review services or freelancers.

If they go the freelancer route, they’ll typically pay an hourly rate in exchange for the freelancer’s time and expertise. Typically, a freelancer will guarantee a certain number of reviews.

If they go the book review service route, they’ll typically pay a flat fee for a certain number of reviews. The issue with the service route is that almost all services provide fake reviews.

Most of these services have access to hundreds or even thousands of Amazon accounts. They will log in, purchase, and review the book on one of these fake accounts.

Not only does this not align with the long-term goals of an author, it also is a bad strategy overall. Amazon is well aware of this strategy and is cracking down on authors that are seeking to game the system by purchasing fake reviews.

So, what’s an author to do? Aren’t there any services out there that offer a legitimate way to reach targeted readers and reviewers?

Fortunately, yes. Few services out there pair the motivations of authors and readers together—something BookRazor does.

How BookRazor Works

The elegance of the BookRazor service is in its simplicity. When you purchase a BookRazor package, their team gets to work collecting a list of every person that has reviewed the most popular books in your genre.

Then, they filter down and hand-select the most responsive reviewers, toss them into a spreadsheet, and send it over to you.

You can then create a simple email template and send it to all of the people on the list, filling in relevant information, such as their name, the book they reviewed, and any custom introduction you design.

BookRazor gives you a list of people who have already reviewed a book in your genre. These are people who are potentially in the target reader market for your book as well! If you reach out to them and offer them a free digital or paperback version of the book, they’re almost guaranteed to read it.

If they read it, and they already have shown a pattern of reviewing books on Amazon, then it stands to reason that they are likely to review the book as well. You can also prod them to review the book with a follow-up email sequence.

However, be careful not to incentivize them to review the book, because Amazon has cracked down on incentivized product reviews in a huge way over the last few months.

Improve Your Book Review Process

Now that you have a thorough understanding of why authors typically fail when getting reviews for their book, you can adjust your strategy for your next launch.

Whether you conduct the review process manually by yourself or use a service like BookRazor, you now have a deeper understanding of both your motivations as an author and the motivations of your potential readers. You can marry these motivations together and drastically increase the chance that readers will review your book.

Not only will you get more reviews, but the reviews will come from people who are actually in the market to read your book. The reviews you get will be more relevant, and you’ll also have a shot at starting the word of mouth engine for your book, which is the best type of marketing you can get.

[Note: I asked BookRazor to write me this guest post. I recently used their services and have been emailing reviewers and finding many interested in reading and reviewing my book. It still takes time and work, but a targeted approach like this makes a world of sense. —C. S. Lakin]

Sarah Robinson is a passionate writer and advocate for donating stories to the less fortunate. She currently works for BookRazor.com, and enjoys visiting book signing events whenever she can.

10 Responses to “Challenges Authors Face in Getting Reviews for Their Books”

  1. Christine June 1, 2017 at 10:05 am #

    Thank you so much for this informative article!

    I knew about the family & friends reviews and review-exchangers but I’ve still often wondered why a book I find so obviously in serious need of editing can draw so many, “This book is awesome!” reviews. Your description of review services finally explains this. Personally, when I read online reviews, I tend to disbelieve the gushy ones.

    BookRazor sounds like a good deal for those who seek impartial reviews and don’t want to do all that homework themselves.

    A question I’ve had over the past few years: if you’ve read a book and find it poorly plotted, incredible, or badly edited, is it best to forget about leaving a review? Does BookRazor avoid recruiting reviewers who might give a negative review?

    • cslakin June 1, 2017 at 10:14 am #

      Bookrazor’s tool doesn’t look at the actual reviews. It grabs the emails of those who’ve reviewed similar books. Once you get the list of reviewers, you could take the time, if desired, to look at their review of the book, but that’s up to you. They don’t “recruit” reviewers, they just drill into Amazon data and pull out reviewer emails. Make sense?

      As far as you personally leaving negative reviews. That’s up to you. I think leaving a helpful and honest review is usually the best course, if you’re so inclined.

      • Sarah June 1, 2017 at 2:26 pm #

        Hi Christine,

        That’s a great question.

        Because our process for finding the contact information of qualified, potential reviewers is entirely manual, we are able to filter and include/exclude potential contacts based on a number of criteria.

        For example, one of the things we check for is to see if each reviewer has a strong history of leaving positive reviews. If they have a bunch of 1-3 star reviews under their belt, we don’t include them in our custom list to you.

        While we can’t guarantee that each review garnered from our tailored list will be positive (that’s really what an honest review is), we do try our hardest to give you the best possible chance of receiving one.

        However, as an author, I’d personally welcome the criticism as input on how to better my writing. I believe in calling a spade a spade.

        • cslakin June 1, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

          Thanks for clarifying that for me too, Sarah!

  2. Christine June 1, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    I feel that a review can be positive, something good can usually be said, even if you have to say, “this book seriously needs editing.” I’m with you on the learning part; if I leave a review I think in terms of how the author can improve their craft.

    And again, here’s another question.I’ve seen reviews that look like this (usually for books that look a bit the same):
    “I think this is a really great book with lots of suspince and fast action I couldn’t figure out who did it until the end. Im looking foreward to reading the next book in the seres cause the author is such a great writer.”

    I suppose you weed out reviewers with poor spelling & grammar. Can/should writers delete or edit reviews?

    • Sarah June 1, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

      If you’re talking in general, I personally wouldn’t do so without permission from whomever left the review. While I’d personally prefer proper punctuation and grammar (I feel this lends a certain degree of reliability to the review itself) to be used, I also understand that it is the Internet.

      If you’re asking about the reviews obtained through our service, we don’t have control over any of that. The reviews you receive are straight from the reviewers themselves, and their relationship is with you, the author.

      I think that’s one of the unsung benefits of having a list of reviewers to contact, though. You can develop relationships with each, and they in turn become individuals you can rely on for feedback and reviews for all future book releases of yours.

  3. Virginia King June 13, 2017 at 12:17 am #

    Hi C.S. & Sarah, I’m an author with an interest in what Book Razor offers, but Book Razor and its service has become a hot topic of discussion in a private FB group of authors & book bloggers that I belong to. Some bloggers have expressed concern that by collecting reviewers’ email addresses and sending them to a third party for a fee, Book Razor may be in breach of data protection laws. Without giving away your trade secrets, are you able to give me a response about the ethics of what you do, to take back to the group? There are a lot of authors in the group who have shown interest in the experience of one author who’s using your service, but the bloggers have chimed in with concerns. Thanks.

    • cslakin June 14, 2017 at 8:43 am #

      Like a virtual assistant, Bookrazor does the leg work of collecting visible, accessible email addresses that are shown online at Amazon. I can pay a VA to do this or pay them to do the same thing. I don’t see a difference, do you? I’m interested in hearing what the problem is if the data is out there for everyone to see.

      • Virginia King June 23, 2017 at 2:48 am #

        Thanks for this response. I agree and will take it back to the book bloggers.

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