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Book reviews are critical for sales. They provide social proof and help a reader decide whether to try your book or not. There are lots of ways you can increase your chances of reviews and in today's podcast, I discuss them with Dana Lynn Smith, the Savvy Book Marketer.
***In the intro, I mention that I am now a full-time author-entrepreneur.
Dana Lynn Smith, The Savvy Book Marketer has 16 years of publishing experience and a degree in marketing. She helps authors and indie publishers learn how to sell more books through her how-to guides, blog, newsletter, and private coaching. Dana is the author of several book marketing guides, including How to Get Your Book Reviewed.
In the podcast, we discuss:
- How do people find books these days and how do book reviews fit into the way people stumble upon books these days. Reviews are also the best way to discover what books are a good fit for them. There are still a lot of traditional ways to find books but increasingly online sales are driving book sales and reviews are critical for that. The more places the book gets reviewed online, the more opportunity people have to discover it.
- Professional reviews vs. consumer reviews (‘normal' people). There's a place for both critical reviews and also the more personal opinions and social proof from readers which are more testimonials, rather than full length reviews. For non-fiction in particular, people are deciding which book to buy out of competing options. There is research that shows Amazon reviews increase sales of specific books and also the sales on the site in general, which is why they stress reviews. I comment on how it seems that reviews affect the Amazon algorithms (not that we know for sure, as this is a secret!).
- AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action – a marketing adage that relates to reviews. People might find you on twitter or something, and then become interested, but the review will turn desire into action and buying behaviour.
- On sending out physical copies for review vs ebooks. Many reviewers are happy to accept ebooks now, but you could also offer the print book if it is required. Definitely check the submission guidelines. For your most important endorsements and reviews, send a physical package which is harder to ignore than email.
- Tips on pitch etiquette. On my book review blog, MysteryThriller.tv I get a lot of terrible submissions. Bad book covers are also a pet hate of mine because I want my site to look good so I need a good cover. Again, read the submission guidelines and ensure you fit the requirements. Don't waste anyone's time. Send an email with a query first. You are competing with other books so be professional. Don't be pushy or aggressive as they are doing you a favor if you want them to read your book.
- On finding book bloggers to submit to. There are thousands of these out there and most of them review fiction. Look at where your competitors are getting their books reviewed. Researching under book blogs based on genres. At each blog you visit, check the sidebar or links or blogroll as they may have links to other blogs you can check. You will come up with quite a large list and it's worth checking on Alexa.com for their ranking – which indicates their traffic. This will help you narrow down the list (the lower the number the better).
- On Goodreads, Shelfari and LibraryThing and other book networking sites. These sites are a good opportunity for authors to network with readers. You can also give away copies of your book on Goodreads. Personally, I wanted to get attention from readers and a way to do this is by writing reviews myself. Is there book review karma of sorts? Write more reviews and get more reviews 🙂 Also, your name and your profile will be included. On Amazon, your signature can include your book name (as mine does on Amazon). It's ok to swap book reviews with other authors but make it clear there is no obligation for review.
- Giving review copies to your list is great IF they are a list specifically for your fiction. We discuss using your existing fan base to boost review numbers. You can also ask people who have sent you fan mail to add a review onto Amazon or other book sites. We also discuss Barnes & Noble vs Amazon for book reviews.
- Putting the best of your review comments into your Product Description can be a good idea
- Build your list of fans by adding a signup page to the back of your first book.
- When reviews go wrong. What to do about negative reviews and how should authors react to them. Yes, it can be upsetting but it's important not to take it personally. Not all books are for all people. That's just the way it is. Don't attack reviewers either. Don't give negative stuff any attention or you will fuel the fire and get burnt, which can hurt your reputation. You can also take the reviews as valuable feedback. Lots of bestselling books have a lot of negative reviews. It's not the end of the world! I personally won't review a book I don't like – if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. But that's just me 🙂
You can find Dana at her blog, on the Savvy Book Marketer and also on twitter @bookmarketer
Dana Lynn Smith says
Joanna, thanks for hosting me on your podcast – we had a great discussion about book reviews!
Austin Briggs says
Great stuff, complete and well presented. Thank you!
I especially like your mention of the Library Thing and Shelfari. Many writers completely neglect these sites (I’m one of such writers).
A couple of days ago a fellow author dropped me a note saying that my books are getting reviewed on those sites, but my “homepage” there looks bad – no book covers, no info, etc.
I didn’t even know I had a “homepage” there.
And GoodReads… a goldmine for reviews!
Joanna Penn says
I think we should have mentioned as well that Amazon owns Shelfari so it shouldn’t be ignored, even though Goodreads is the bigger site.
Dana Lynn Smith says
Thanks so much Austin. You make a great point – some of these sites automatically create a page for published books, and it’s definitely a good idea to check out your pages and make sure they do a good job of promoting the books.
I wish you much success with your own books!
Elizabeth Ann West says
Thanks for all of the great tips on reviews! I just released my book, and phew! It’s work to get all of the metadata setup on the various sites and make it match. I claimed my Amazon Author Central profile (talk about making a bread crumb trail for an author to make an author profile), and by accidentally using a different email than I used to sign up for Amazon’s KDP, I LOST my title in my KDP dashboard! I figured it out, I had to sign in with a different email, but I nearly cried….
I am just scratching the surface of Goodreads, and have joined a couple of groups. One I joined is genre readers looking to expand since my book is a blending of two genres. It’s really easy to forget you aren’t going to build a marketing empire in a day, and you just have to put a little time in each day.
James W. Lewis says
Great list. Reviews are definitely important. I know of several people who’ve bought my books based on reviews alone.
Doug Lance says
Bonus tip: You can giveaway books on LibraryThing too!
Dana Lynn Smith says
Thanks James, that’s great to hear. Doug, thanks for your note. Both Goodreads and LibraryThing let authors post a specific number of review copies to give away and I highly recommend it.
Dana Lynn Smith says
Elizabeth, thanks for your note. Amazon certainly doesn’t make it easy to figure out how to take advantage of their promotional tools, which is one reason I also wrote a book on that topic. I’m glad you got it figured out! Book promotion is a lot of work and I always advise authors to prioritize and then take some action every day. I wish you much success with the new book.
Dee for D.I. Telbat says
Hi Joanna and Dana,
Great interview! I took notes and now have the book so I am going to be digging into it. It is so packed full of great helps and tips on this very important topic!
I’m excited about the info Dana gave about Goodreads and LibraryThing having programs to give away review copies! When you say “review” copies, can these just be the finished book in PDF format? Will these copies have everything in them that a final Kindle copy would have in them, for instance? (front matter, back matter, etc)
I really liked your idea, Joanna, of putting a link at the end of the first book to sign up for the second book. I am adding that link today in our soon-to-be-published Christian suspense!
Thanks so much to both of you for sharing so much helpful info!
Dana Lynn Smith says
Dee, the giveaways rules on GoodReads state that they don’t allow ebooks – it has to be a printed book. LibraryThing may have a similar rule. Thanks for bringing up this important point.
Scott Marlowe says
Great show! I especially like the Q&A on Amazon vs. B&N. I get next to nothing from B&N, Smashwords, Scribd in terms of sales and reviews. The reviews I have gotten are all on Amazon.
Dana Lynn Smith says
Scott, I’m so glad you enjoyed the interview! We do tend to focus on Amazon because the vast majority of online book sales and reviews come from Amazon. But it never hurts to add your B&N and Smashwords links to any review requests that you send out. Some people do have accounts on multiple sites. Good luck with your book!
Amazon seems to only allow you to review a book if you bought that book from your Amazon account. So if you send free review copies of your book to readers and ask them to review it on Amazon, they’ll be prevented from doing that because they didn’t buy the book from their Amazon account. I just tried to do a review of a book I had bought elsewhere so I can support the author and was prevented by Amazon. What’s your advice on this?
I have reviewed close to 100 titles that I didn’t buy on Amazon, so I’m not sure what your problem is. However, I think that you must have purchased at least one title before Amazon will let you post reviews. So if your friends are not Amazon customers, no, they won’t be able to post a review. But to open an account and post reviews, all they need to do is provide credit card details, an email address, then purchase a free Kindle book.
Or you could ‘gift’ them a Kindle version (you just need their email address), then it shows up as an Amazon Verified Purchase when they review.