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How to Get Reviews for Self-Published Books

Categories: Build a Platform & Start Blogging, Building Readership, Marketing & Self-Promotion, Self Publishing, Self-Publishing.

Today’s guest post is by Joel Friedlander, one of the most informative people I know on the topic of self-publishing a book. Go visit his blog, or follow him on Twitter.

It’s never been a better time to be a self-published author, and there have never been more book reviewers available to the writer who decides to go indie.

Book reviewers help spread the message about your book by publishing a review to their own network. But if you’re new to publishing, you have to figure out how to get those book reviews that can bring you more readers.

First, Get Your Kit Together
Before you go hunting for reviewers, make sure you’ve got the essentials you’ll need. At the minimum you should have:

  • Complete PDF of your book. Either include the covers if you can, or have the cover available as a JPG
  • Print copies and mailing supplies. If you’re publishing via print on demand, order in enough books to respond to reviewer requests.
  • Press release about the launch of your book. Try to make it sound like a story you would read in the newspaper.
  • Cover letter. This should be a brief introduction to you and your book, but keep it short.
  • Photos of the book and author. You’ll need high- and low-resolution images if you’re approaching both print and online reviewers.
  • Author bio. This is a good place to show your qualifications, particularly if you’re a nonfiction author.

How to Find Reviewers
There are literally thousands of book bloggers online, and most of them review books even though they aren’t paid. Nevertheless, many are thoughtful reviewers and good writers, and have a significant following.

There are also reviewers offering paid reviews. I avoid these, since there isn’t any good reason to pay for a review that I can think of. Some review services offer free reviews and another level of service if you pay. My opinion is that there are better ways to spend your money, and plenty of free reviewers, so at least when you start, explore those first.

Here are some places to look for reviews:

  • Midwest Book Review welcomes self-published books, and their website is a wealth of information on reviews.
  • Indie Reader, a new website, invites authors to submit their books for review, and they have published over 150 reviews on their site already.
  • Self-Publishing Review allows reviewers to post book reviews, and members (just an opt-in) can post to the site.
  • Book Blogs, a site for book bloggers, has over 1,500 bloggers who say they review books. It’s a good place to explore.

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5 Key Tips for Getting Book Reviews
So you’ve got your materials together, you’ve got access to lots of reviewers, you’re ready to go. Here are my 5 best tips for getting book reviews:

  1. Pick the right reviewers. This is the single most important thing you can do to help your review program. Find out what kind of books the reviewer likes to review, and only select appropriate reviewers.
  2. Query the reviewers. Check each reviewer’s requirements. Some want you to just send the book, but many ask for a query. Some review e-books, many do not. Conforming to their requirements saves both of you time.
  3. Send the book. In your query make sure to offer both versions of the book, the PDF and the print copy, or both.
  4. Follow up. Don’t stalk or harass the reviewer, who is probably doing this in her spare time. But if you haven’t heard anything after a few weeks, follow up to see if they still intend to write the review.
  5. Thank the reviewer. It’s common courtesy, but it also shows you appreciate the time and effort someone else took to help bring your book to the attention of more people.

Book reviews can be very effective in spreading the word about a good book. Nothing sells books as well as word of mouth, and you can get people talking about your book if you can bring it to their notice. Book reviews will do that for you.

Additional Resources

Joel Friedlander is the proprietor of Marin Bookworks in San Rafael, California, a publishing services company where he’s helped launch many self-publishers. He blogs about book design, writing and self-publishing at www.TheBookDesigner.com. Joel is also the author of the newly-published A Self-Publisher’s Companion: Expert Advice for Authors Who Want to Publish.

Do you know of other resources for finding book reviewers? Any tips to share? Please share in the comments!

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79 Responses to How to Get Reviews for Self-Published Books

  1. i_love_tofu says:

    I’ve used easybookreviews.com a few times. If you are willing to review other books in return it is a guaranteed way to get some (honest) reviews.

  2. Sophiachocolate says:

    I have used Pacific Book Review and also Hollywood Book Reviews for all of my book reviews and book publicity and have always been very pleased with the service they provide. They also have a national book awards contest. I would highly recommend them anytime. Hope this information is helpful.
    Pacific Book Review:
    http://pacificbookreview.com/

    Hollywood Book Reviews:
    http://www.hollywoodbookreviews.com/

    Pacific Book Awards Contest:
    http://pacificbookreview.com/Pacific-Book-Awards—Contest.php

  3. Yeah another free book reviews site here check out Free Book Reviews

  4. @Judy thanks, I’m looking forward to hosting you, too.
    @George, as Jane says, you don’t need to worry too much about piracy among reviewers. I’ve seen some PDFs that were watermarked, with a faint but discernable image in the background to notify others who it belongs to and to discourage people from copying.
    @Steven, it’s so important to make sure you are submitting to reviewers who are actually interested in your genre. SciFi is still pretty popular, so you may need to do more research, or try to find print reviewers.
    @Wendy, thanks for the suggestion. I wondered about making an ePub file available to reviewers, I may do that myself.

  5. @Judy thanks, I’m looking forward to hosting you, too.
    @George, as Jane says, you don’t need to worry too much about piracy among reviewers. I’ve seen some PDFs that were watermarked, with a faint but discernable image in the background to notify others who it belongs to and to discourage people from copying.
    @Steven, it’s so important to make sure you are submitting to reviewers who are actually interested in your genre. SciFi is still pretty popular, so you may need to do more research, or try to find print reviewers.
    @Wendy, thanks for the suggestion. I wondered about making an ePub file available to reviewers, I may do that myself.

  6. @George – Yes, in general, there’s no need to worry about sending PDFs to reviewers. However, you can add some protections that would be acceptable. E.g., you could make the PDFs password-protected, you can make the PDF so the text cannot by copied or pasted, you can make the document expire on a certain date, etc.

  7. Wendy says:

    This is an awesome post!

    As a YA book blogger, I have one suggestion. In this post you mention having both print and pdf versions to give the reviewer. As someone who reads my books primarily on Kindle, I would recommend (and profoundly appreciate) either a .epub or .mobi file. Yes, a .pdf can be read on an e-reader, but the quality of the file is far less superior than an .epub file.

  8. Hi Jane and Joel!
    Interesting post.
    I have had little luck in finding reviewers for my sci-fi thrillers. Maybe due to the genre? I have only one displayed on the home page of my website. Too many, especially "Amazon reviews," just reduce to "I liked this book" or "I didn’t like this book." (Of course, Amazon just counts the positives and negatives anyway, so maybe this is what they really want.)
    One "reviewing service" not on your list is Norm Goldman’s Bookpleasures.com. I am a reviewer for Norm and I receive no fees for my reviews. If the author so wishes, my Bookpleasures review also appears on Amazon (same review, so these are substantially longer than the usual Amazon review) and/or my website. This keeps the review honest, but an author receiving a bad review can restrict it to Bookpleasures.
    The problem with finding a reviewer for a POD or self-published book is the same problem with finding reviewers–most reviewers (myself included) pick and choose the books they want to review. This immediately biases the sampling since reviewers are less likely to explore genres they don’t like or works by authors they don’t know. For example, I’m not into vampires and werewolves, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good books about them that deserve a good review. This bias is true for all authors outside of the N.Y. Times best-selling club, of course, but I think it’s exacerbated for self-publishers.
    I try to emphasize POD in my reviews, but I haven’t had much luck in finding someone to return the favor. Reviews lead to readers. It’s not clear what leads to reviewers.
    Take care…
    r/Steve

  9. Amy Edelman says:

    Thanks for the mention, Joel!

  10. George Maxwell says:

    Great article. Thank you. I am new to writing so I have a question. Is it safe to send PDF versions of your eBook to relatively unknown reviewers?

  11. Yasmin Selena Butt says:

    Thank you for the piece, this answered a lot of questions of etiquette for me, especially with do you send the book & press release unsolicited or do you send a query first nature!

  12. Perry says:

    Thanks,this is great advice.

  13. First and most basic tip, of course, is spell check!! That should "how to self-publish" and not "hoe to self-publish", although in my defence "hoe" is the Afrikaans spelling of "how." :)

  14. Joel’s blog is awesome! I’ve learnt an incredible amount about self-publishing from his regular and detailed posts, and I’m so looking forward to having the privilege of guest posting on his blog later this year. For anyone wanting to learn hoe to self-publish professionally, Joel’s book & blog are a must.

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