Isabella asked Michael J. Sullivan:

Dear Michael, my friends Mara Brewer and Roman S!delnik are the beginning writers. They have written a couple of books like "Softman" and others genres are fantasy, adventures, detectives. They are your fans and so am I. Could you write a review of "Softman" or advice somebody who could do this. Grateful in advance. Sincerely your, Isabella

Michael J. Sullivan Hey Isabella,
Sorry it's taken so long to answer this question...I've been trying to "dole them out in small dosages" and yours happened to come in at a time when there was a flood.

I'm glad your friends are writing, and I know first hand how difficult it is to get people to review books. Unfortunately my "reading queue" is very full at this time. One of the things about becoming a writer, is other author's publicists are always sending you review copies to read/blurb. I wish I had time to read every book people wanted my opinions on, but there just isn't enough time in the day to do that and write...Heck there isn't enough time in the day even if I didn't write.

But...I can give them some advice on how to get others to review the books. So here goes.

Let's start with some basic information:

Reviews are a good way of establishing credibility of a work. In fact, I don't think an author should spend a huge amount of time "promoting" a book until you get at least double digit (10+) reviews on Amazon and preferably 15+.

Venues to Concentrate on
I personally care most about Amazon and goodreads. Amazon because they are the 800 pound gorilla and goodreads because, well it's an awesome site first and foremost, but it's also easy to find people who should like the type of book you write. There’s not enough time in the day to “do it all” so the venues I neglect is Barnes and Noble and ibookstore. To be honest I don’t even know what my numbers are on those sites.

Paid Reviews
I’m opposed to paid reviews. There are a few reasons for this.
The “good ones” are expensive (Kirkus $425 for standard, $575 for advanced), that’s a lot of money for one review.

No matter how much they claim to be “unbiased” readers it’s hard not to divorce from your mind that he who pays the piper gets to call the tune

Another reason: Paid reviews reek of desperation
There was a book I was remotely interested in because of a “good review” by a site I wasn’t familiar with – so I clicked through and found out that it was a paid review site and it made me lose all interest in the book. I just don’t think the risk of alienation is worth the small benefit to get one review.

Review Trading
From time to time a new writer will come up with what they think is a great idea…review trading. It sounds like the perfect synergistic relationship to help each other out but it’s a potential land mine and I really recommend not doing this. Consider the following: What if the other person's book sucks? Then what do you do? You don't want to "go on record" singing praises and then look like a fool. What if they don't like your book and give you a bad review? Do you give them a crappy review back?

To give an "honest" review you have to read their book and that is time best spent writing other books. What if they don't post a review?(Perhaps because they didn’t like it and didn’t want to say bad things) then you end up with nothing.

If your book only has a few reviews, and a reader digs a little bit, will they suspect somethings a foot? Yes…and they’ll be vocal about it. You don’t want any possibility of “impropriety” when it comes to reviews. I’m all for supporting one another as writers. So if you read someone’s book and you like it…by all means review it. They might notice and do the same for you, just don’t make a “formal” arrangement.

Sock Puppets, Friends and Family
It should go without saying that padding reviews with fake accounts or cajoling your friends and family to post reviews just isn’t a good idea. I know when you are starting out the desire for reviews can drive you to do irrational things. But again, you don’t want to provide any fodder for people to discount the validity of reviews. If a friend feels compelled to write a review (or if you see someone who you know post something) you might even contact them and ask them to make a disclaimer.
Something like: NOTE: For the record Michael is a member of my critique group and I initially read the book to support his writing, that being said, I really enjoyed this story and my comments are not based on my personal relationship with him.

It’s a very sad and disappointing fact that most of my family, and many of my friends have never read my books. This includes: my mother, my brother and sister, my wife’s sister, and two of our three children. In fact in our entire “direct” family only one daughter has read the books (and they were written to get her to read!) So I always find it interesting when people see a bunch of high reviews and write that it must be “all friends and family posting.”

The point of a review is to provide credibility. As I mentioned before you have to avoid even the appearance of impropriety so you should never artificially pad reviews.

So now that I’ve told you what you can’t do…how do you get reviews. There are many ways to do this:

Is a perfect site because it is easy to find people that should be perfect fits for your books and as such will review the book well. You should:
Find a book that is similar to yours

Go on goodreads and find people with high ranked reviews for that book
PM them that you have a book like that which you think they may enjoy and that you'll give them a free copy with no strings attached...your "hope" is that they will like it enough to post a review but you don't "expect" anything

Reassure them that you want "honesty" (actually getting some positive and negative reviews is generally better than all positive reviews as people find it more "credible"

Some of the top reviewers on Amazon list their email addresses (or websites where you can find their addresses) so they are easy to reach. These people are voracious readers and as such they provide some good credibility. For instance Harriet Klausner (#1 Amazon reviewer) is often used in marketing materials, “A great read” – Harriet Klausner #1 Amazon reviewer. You can find a list of top reviewers here[1] . Also don’t rule out “the little guys” do the same thing that you do with goodreads. Find a book similar to yours and then look at the high ranked reviews and see if they post a website or email address.

I credit much of the success at getting the word out about my books to goodreads and bloggers. I actually wrote a whole post on just how to “woo” reviewers so I’ll just repost it here[2] .

No one will speak more passionately about your books than a fan. They already love you and want nothing more than your success so why not help them help you. Many fans post reviews, but to the vast majority it never occurs to them. If you make a subtle nudge they jump to the occasion, “Of course, I’ll leave a review…I can’t believe I didn’t think of that myself,” they reply.

When I find a fan, I try to reach out personally and… * Thank them for their support * Ask them if I can write back when I have a new book out (permission based marketing – a whole topic in and of itself) * And politely ask them to write a review if they haven’t already.
I write each request personally, and modify it based on context – for instance if responding to an email. I never cut and paste but most of the requests sound something like this….

“Thank you so much for all your kind words, it really means a lot to me. If it’s not too much of an imposition, I would really appreciate it if you took a few minutes to post a comment or two on goodreads or Amazon about the book. It doesn’t have to be a full out review, just a few sentences about what you liked (or didn’t…all I ask for is honesty) would really be a great help. There are many readers who won’t give a new author a try unless they see a fair amount of third-party validations so by doing this you might help to convince those on the fence to give the books a try.”
Anytime you find a new fan (on a forum, through email, by fanning you on goodreads) it’s common courtesy to thank them for their support. Also…when someone posts a nice review on goodreads, I might ask them to repost on Amazon.

Don't get obnoxious about it, if they don't post a review don't go back and prod them for one. They are already a fan, don't risk that relationship for the sake of a review...some people just aren't comfortable doing so. Fans are to be cherished, never risk alienating them.

Well that’s about all I can think about on the subject of reviews. I hope it is of some help, Bottom line, with so many “legitimate” ways to get reviews, if you put a little work into it, in no time you’ll have a nice stack of reviews yourself.

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