Book reviews are important for social proof as well as getting marketing opportunities like BookBub placement, for mining quotes for ad copy, and understanding how your author brand is perceived. But how do you get reviews, especially if you're just starting out?
Watch the video below or here on YouTube. You can also read the article and notes below the video.
1. Use a Call to Action at the back of your book
This is the simplest, easiest way to start getting reviews and once you've set it up, you can just forget about it!
Add a simple, short call to action (CTA) on the last page of your book once it is published. Something like, “Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this book, please consider leaving an honest review on your favorite store.”
2. Make your ebook available for free
The more people read your book, the more reviews you will get. Free books generally get more downloads over time, so you are likely to get more reviews.
If you've published your ebook with KDP Select, you'll receive 5 days every period where you can make the ebook free.
If you publish wide, as I do, then you can make your book permafree by pricing to $0 on other stores like Kobo, Apple Books, or Google Play, and then reporting the lower price to Amazon who will (eventually) price match.
My permafree first-in-series, Stone of Fire, is still getting reviews a decade after publication and leads readers into the 11-book series.
Make sure that you have a call-to-action at the back of your book asking for reviews so that you can maximize the potential of free giveaways.
Many new authors are resistant to offering ebooks for free, but if you need reviews, then making your book free for a period is often the quickest way to do it. You could even use a promotional company like Freebooksy, Fussy Librarian or other services to promote the book during the free period in order to get more downloads.
3. Ask your mailing list
A good marketing strategy for every author is to build a mailing list so that you have direct access to your readers. There are plenty of options for author email, but personally, I use and recommend ConvertKit.
Once you have a few readers on your list, ask them for honest reviews of your book/s.
One easy way to do this is to set up a series of automated emails that go out when someone joins your list and include a request for reviews within the sequence.
4. Create an Advance Reader Team
As your email list grows, you can recruit keen readers who want to be on your advance reader team (also known as a Street Team). You can send them your new books before launch and ask them to review on publication.
Importantly, the free book cannot be contingent on a good review. It needs to be their own opinion with nothing offered “in exchange” so you adhere to the Amazon Terms of Service.
To recruit new readers to the team, just send out an email periodically asking for volunteers or include the email as part of your automatic email sequence.
You can give the team a special name, for example, my Advance Readers for J.F.Penn thrillers and dark fantasy are the PennFriends.
Advance Reader teams can be a great support during book launches.
In advance of publication, they often find typos that might have slipped through the cracks during the editorial process. When the book is released, many of the ARC team will leave a review on release day.
You can use a service like BookFunnel to deliver advance copies of the book to your readers. They can watermark your book, so it can't be pirated as easily.
5. Email book bloggers who love your genre
This is a free strategy but it takes some time to research.
There are many blogs that offer book reviews. They usually specialize in specific genres so it's important to do your research and find bloggers who fit your genre and who are accepting books for review. If you are accepted, the blogger will often review on their own site, plus Amazon and GoodReads.
Reedsy, the marketplace for professional cover designers and editors, has a useful list of book bloggers.
You can also find reviewers on Instagram, try following #bookstagram and other tags.
Read each site's review requirements. There's no sense submitting your book to a site that isn't accepting reviews at the time or that only reviews romance if you've written a horror novel. Some are happy to review indie authors, others specifically don't.
These sites often have large To Be Read (TBR) piles, so if they do accept your book there can be a delay between when you send the book to the reviewer and when the review appears.
Pro tip: Personalize your email request. The book blogger will be an expert at detecting whether you've just copied and pasted some generic text into your email. Believe me, I know this from personal experience! Bloggers are people too, so treat them as individuals and do your research into what they will like or find most useful.
6. Find Amazon reviewers through their review profiles
Some book reviewers on Amazon will have their contact information connected to their profile. You can sometimes click on their name and find their review site or email, then you can approach the reviewer to see if they'd be willing to review your book.
This is free but takes some time to research. You need to find books similar to your own and then drill down into the review, and then further into the reviewer's profile to see if their contact information or website address is available.
If you find that information, send a polite and personal email asking if the person would be willing to review your book. Explain that you saw their review of the book that's similar to yours.
7. Use social media to ask for reviews
Choose one or two social media platforms and master them. Don't try to conquer them all at the same time.
Use automated posts with a service like Buffer (you can begin for free) or HootSuite.
Remember to have conversations with your followers. Don't just post about your books.
You could have a regularly scheduled post that asks what your followers are doing on the weekend, or a Throwback Thursday post with a nostalgic picture to get the conversation started.
You could then ask for reviews as part of this regular posting schedule. Remember to include a link to the book's page so it's easy to click through.
8. Find Goodreads Groups that are open to authors
Goodreads, now owned by Amazon, has reader groups organized by genre. Make sure you check the rules as many are for readers only and actively discourage authors from posting, whereas others are designed for reviews and promotions. It's a good strategy to use GoodReads first as a reader and get used to the culture.
Note that GoodReads does have sites for different geographic regions, so reviews can show up in any of those.
You also must have different GoodReads accounts for different pen names, so that can be labor intensive if you write under several different names.
Giveaways on GoodReads used to be free, but now this is a paid service. I've tried the Kindle-only giveaways and didn't find it worth the money.
Most readers who participate in a giveaway on GoodReads want a paperback copy, so you've got the expense of the giveaway itself, plus shipping the book to the winner. (Though you can narrow those countries eligible to enter the giveaway down to ones you're comfortable mailing to, to make the shipping more economic.) I've found that only a small percentage of people who get the giveaway books will review.
9. Ask for reviews in your Facebook Ad comments
If you run Facebook ads for your book/s, you might receive comments below the ads from readers who have bought and/or read your book.
Responding to comments on your Facebook ads is a good way to build community with your readers. And if someone leaves a glowing comment, you can say a sincere thank you and then ask if they'd be willing to leave an honest review for the book.
10. Consider ethical paid services
There are premium, paid, services that will connect your book with interested readers willing to leave reviews. You're paying for the service that connects you with the reviewers, NOT the review itself, so be careful that you choose a legitimate site.
Note: This is NOT the same as paying for book reviews, which is not recommended.
Pro Tip: If your books are published on Kobo Writing Life, you can sometimes apply to have your book offered to NetGalley readers as part of their promotions service.
Net Galley is a premium reader service, most often used by traditional publishers. But occasionally Kobo will offer a promotion in partnership with NetGalley, which you can apply for. I have tried it once and found it skewed toward traditional publishing, but it can be worthwhile for some authors.
Those are some starting points for reviews. All the best with getting yours! Please do leave a comment if you have other ideas or suggestions.