Book promotion used to be all about book tours and book reviews in print media. These days the reviews that count are not all in the print media. They’re mostly on online bookstores, especially the Amazon bookstore community.
Amazon has become so powerful that authors will invest scarce resources to get reviewed there. Many authors have false beliefs about what it takes to get an online book review. It’s actually quite simple and straightforward.
As a prolific reviewer and a published author, I have experienced the process and have some tips to share with authors who want to make online reviews a key part of their book promotion.
First, I am horrified to learn that authors pay freelancers and agencies to write reviews for them. This is a huge waste of money. Instead, use your budget to send review copies to the most prolific reviewers in your genre. Read the reviewer’s past reviews to discover his or her tastes. For example, if you have a book on parenting newborn babies, look at other books on this topic. Notice which reviewers seem genuinely interested. They’ll probably be happy to review your book, too.
Anyway, one or two great reviews will not save your book. Even if one or two reviewers think your book ranks up there with War and Peace and the top-selling Stephen King novel, they can’t save your book. It’s the cumulative ratings that create viral marketing for your book.
Do not ask reviewers to write a review based on one chapter or a pdf version of the book. Send a hard copy of the whole book.
Once a reviewer agrees to consider reviewing your book, move on to your next marketing step. Do not hound the reviewer. Most prolific reviewers have backlog of books in the “To Review” pile. Some reviewers will choose not to review a book (especially one from a self-published author or small press) if they don’t like the book. They reason that it’s going nowhere,so why add to the author’s pain?
And you cannot complain about your review. Believe it or not, the most convincing reviews are balanced. The puffy reviews are not taken seriously. Online readers are smart and their authenticity radar is finely-tuned.
Do not spend a lot of money on packaging. Skip the gold wrapping paper, ribbons and glossy flyers. I can’t imagine how they would influence a reviewer.
In fact, the best way to get a handful of 4-star and 5-star reviews is to (drum roll, please!) write a good book. Nothing will compensate for a bad book, even if you somehow convince your friends and family to write glowing reviews. The online book community will pick up vibes from those reviews and you may be worse off. Readers actually complain, “The first 20 reviews look like they came from the author’s mother.”