Guest Post: Obtaining Reviews by Reena Jacobs

Guest Post by Reena Jacobs

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I come across quite a few indie authors with low sales. Let’s face it, low sales are the norm; big success is the rarity. In the end, majority of us remain in dismal obscurity. Even so, there are low cost methods authors can use to give their books a little publicity – reviews being one of them.

One of the first things I tend to notice when I hit an author with low sales are the lack of reviews. I’ve yet to find a book with an abundance of reviews and doing poorly. Some might say, of course high selling books have lots of reviews; they’re selling books like crazy. No book sales, no reviews. No reviews, no books sales.

People! This is not a catch-22 situation. You don’t have to have book sales to obtain reviews. In fact, your work doesn’t even have to be available to the public in order to start earning those reviews.

Ever hear of Advance Reading Copies (ARCs)?

ARCs are not just for authors who go the traditional route. I started distributing ARCs for my latest release (I Loved You First) about a week before publication. Why an ARC and not the final version?

Here’s the thing about ARCs. They don’t have to be perfect. Now I’m not talking about sending your first draft. The ARC I sent had received outside editing and a read through by me. However, I knew it needed at least one more read through, plus I had a few copyright issues in the air which needed to be settled before releasing it to the public. For the most part, the ARC was pretty solid.

If you’re confident in the quality of your work, but aren’t quite ready for publication, I highly recommend sending ARCs to reviewers. But remember, don’t send crap. Reviewers will still call you on your typos, poor grammar, misused words, and other errors.

So, you’ve got an ARC or final version.

Now What?

Well, you can continue to wait for folks to find your works and review them. This method might work for established authors, but I doubt it’ll work for many debut authors or those with negligible fan bases. If you want those reviews, you’re going to have to go and get them, my friend. And I don’t mean sitting behind your blog asking folks, “if you’re interested in reviewing my work, send me an email.” You can try that (I certainly have), but that’s not enough.

Remember your querying days? Researching agents, following submission guidelines, and sending out letters. Welcome back to the grind. Great thing about sending queries to reviewers is the success rate is far greater than seeking representation from an agent.

A few notes. Don’t send queries arbitrarily or in a mass email. Use the same care in picking out reviewers as you would an agent. Just as agents only represent certain genres, reviewers only read certain genres.

Research is beneficial

I came across more than a few dormant review sites. It doesn’t make sense to put together a review packet for an individual who isn’t serious about reviewing your work. Some of the things I look for:

  • Review Policy – Starting here is a given. Not all reviewers have them. I’ll be honest, if I don’t find a review policy or verbiage giving me a clue to their likes and dislikes, I’ll often bypass the review site.
  • Number of followers – It’s great to get a reviewer with a huge following. After all, the point of a review is to get some publicity. However, reviewers with smaller followings have pros also. For one, their reading lists may be shorter, which means they may be more willing to commit to a review and do one sooner than later. When you’re looking at the number of followers, don’t discount the little gals (or guys), especially when taking the next point into account.
  • Where they post their reviews – Their blog only? Goodreads? Retail sites? The more places, the more publicity. For me, this is huge, particularly if the review is posted on a retail site. If I hit a blog with few followers, but the review policy indicates the review gets posted in places other than just the blog/website, I tend to be more favorable to putting a review packet together.
  • Post consistency – This goes along with dormant sites. If the site is dead (most recent post is a month or so ago), I move to the next blog. How often a blogger posts is important also. Large gaps between posts gives me the impression the blogger isn’t serious about blogging. And if the blogger isn’t serious, chances are, folks aren’t serious about checking in either.
  • Accepted formats – I prefer to send out digital copies due to the costs associated with print. And with so many reviewers accepting eCopies and even preferring them in some cases, digital is the way to go (at least for me and my purse).
  • Excludes indie authors – Some reviewers don’t accept self-published works. Simple response to that is to move on to the next reviewer. Trust me; there is no shortage of indie reviewers, so don’t sweat it.
  • ARC versus Final – Can I send out an ARC? Some reviewers will take into account the ARC isn’t the final version. Others won’t. Make sure whichever version you send is the one you’re comfortable with them reviewing. Don’t be surprised if a reviewer rips your work apart because you sent a less than satisfactory version.
  • Time line – Many reviewers have reading lists a mile long. A 3-4 month wait isn’t unusual. If you know your release date, consider making arrangements early. Don’t dismiss the reviewers who take a bit longer. Early reviews are great, but latter reviews can act like a revival.
  • Other Features – Does the reviewer participate in blog tours, interviews, giveaways, or other events? If so, make your availability known at the time of submission. If your work is accepted for review, be sure to put in a reminder in your response.

Where the heck are the reviewers?

I hit two spots when it comes to reviews. First, because I’m an indie author, is Simon Royle’s list of indie reviewers. The list isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a great start. All the individuals on the list review indie work for free. However, some on the list have guidelines so strict, it’s difficult for an indie author to get a yes. For example, some only review indie works they’ve previously reviewed/read in the past. So that’s something to keep in mind.

My second stop is the Book Blogger Directory. I love this place. The bloggers are categorized, and the database is HUGE. Indie authors do have to pick through since there are no indicators as to whether a blogger accepts indie work or not, at least not at the time of this post.

As a side note, Alex at Electrifying Reviews started an awesome campaign for indie authors. Definitely keep an eye out for the button. The comments could serve as a nice starting point.

The bottom line

Using the methods above, I found plenty of reviewers willing to take a peek at I Loved You First, enough that I managed to fill a month and a 1/2 long blog tour. I’m not going to pretend like my sales are all that grand, because they’re not (at least not yet <wink> <wink>). And if we get to the truth of it, I’m not all that great at marketing either. But I will tell you, reviewers are out there waiting to pounce on a good read. If you don’t tell them your book is available, who will?


About Reena:

Reena Jacobs is just your typical writer who loves to see her words in print. As an avid reader, she’s known to hoard books and begs her husband regularly for “just one more purchase.” Her home life is filled with days chasing her preschooler and nights harassing her husband. Between it all, she squeezes in time for writing and growling at the dog. You can find Reena on Ramblings of an Amateur Writer, Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Nobles, and Smashwords.

10 Comments

  1. I’ve already been scared of reviewers as opposed to casual readers because I always thought they were more critical. The first time I got an unsolicited review from a reviewer on her blog, it was very favorable, so I probably shouldn’t have feared them so much. LOL

    It seems that the NUMBER of reviews matter more than how many stars a book has when it comes to sales. Most readers are skeptical when a book has only good reviews, I think. But if a lot of people have reviewed it, whether good or bad, it seems to boost sales. At least that’s been true in the case of my books.

    1. Um, I should proofread my comments. That should have been “always” instead of “already”. LOL

    2. Reena Jacobs says:

      I know what you mean Lauralynn.

      One thing which surprised me when looking through review policies were the number of reviewers who would rather forgo writing a review than posting an unfavorable one. There are a few snarky reviewers out there, but most seem to take the authors’ feelings into mind even if the work doesn’t work for them.

      My least favorable review from a blogger put my book in a light which made it shine. 🙂

      I’ve also noticed the same phenomenon in regards to the number of reviews compared to the number of individuals willing to take a chance on the book. I look at the sales of one works and think, “Why would what to download THAT. It has lots one-star reviews and so short that if you blink, you’ll miss the story. Why not try that one. The reviews are all great, and it’s a better bang for your buck.”

      🙂 Guess I just don’t understand the market.

  2. draco says:

    Reviews are good especially those who are made by real critiques of the field. However, reviews or just a simple comment from readers are as good. Feedback from real people (readers of your publication) is good publicity.

  3. Barb says:

    Or, if you’re on Goodreads, you can join the group Creative Reviews and see if somebody would like to read and review your book. I’ve joined 6 groups on Goodreads so far, and this one seems to be the most indie-author-friendly… although they’re all very busy and it might take some time before the actual review, but at least you’ll have made new friends! 🙂

  4. Reena Jacobs says:

    I agree, Draco. The background of a reviewer provides flavor. I know as a writer, it’s difficult for me to take off the critiquing hat sometimes when reading.

    I love Goodreads, Barb. Perhaps you can share the link to your Creative Reviews link.

    1. Barb says:

      here’s the group link: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/46156.Creative_Reviews
      Feel free to “friend” me as well – don’t bother the question (dunno how to take it out, LOL), just say you came from here! 😉

  5. DM says:

    Very important information! Thank you for writing this blog. I have thought about using reviewers. After this, I know I should.

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