great book reviews

How to Get Great Book Reviews

Ann O'Brien

May 26, 2022

Writing a book comes with more than just creating characters and an appealing plot line. Authors that self-publish their books have one key element left to focus on once their book has been sent off to the printers: to get their book into the hands of readers. While authors who work with big publishing companies may have a marketing team helping to bring attention to their work, self-published authors have a variety of ways to help their work get noticed, most notably through great book reviews. Let’s take a look at book reviews, why they are important, and how you can help your self-published book get reviewed.

Before You Get Book Reviews

The process of garnering reviews for your book is multi-step and self-published authors should begin thinking about their reviewing strategy as early as possible. But before you hand off your book to be reviewed, be sure to make sure it looks as polished as possible with a few early steps.

1. Content and Copy Editing

The content of your book should be checked over by someone you trust. For some authors, that means a professional editor should be used to tell you where revisions should be made. The next step is to secure a good copyeditor who can look over your book for style, formatting, and other errors like spelling and punctuation. You don’t want a potential reviewer to downgrade your book because of copywriting errors if at all possible.

2. Locating Your Book: ISBN and Genre

Potential readers should easily be able to find your book, so make sure that you secure an ISBN for your book. This universally accepted number will give instant access to your book title by retailers, online booksellers, and libraries. The ISBN number (and barcode) usually goes on the back cover of the book prior to final printing. In addition to the ISBN, be sure to choose the correct genre for your book. The genre will help booksellers and reviewers categorize your book on the shelf and ultimately will help readers find your work. Incorrect genre typing can confuse readers and lead to poor or unrepresentative book reviews.

3. Set Up Accounts on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound

These massive online retailers are where many readers buy their books, so having an author page linking the book, your author bio, and ultimately reviews the book receives will help to generate sales and build your credibility as an author. Set up a vendor account with Barnes & Noble to get started, a Seller Account with Amazon and an Affiliate Account with IndieBound.

Decide What Types of Reviews You Want

Book reviews can occur in three basic ways: crowd-sourced reviews, professional reviews, and paid book site reviews.

Key Term: ARC An Advanced Reader Copy or ARC is an early copy of a book printed specifically for review purposes. Authors who choose to have their book reviewed professionally or by a book review site may run a small number of books prior to the final publication of their book to send to reviewers. If reviews are excellent or outstanding, some authors even choose to use blurbs from the early reviews on the cover of their book, on their social media, or in other marketing of their new book. While an additional cost for a self-published author, using an ARC-based strategy can lead to more book sales when interest and excitement are built around the early reviews.

Crowd Sourced Reviews

One of the easiest ways to establish your book’s presence is by having friends, family, coworkers, or other acquaintances read your book and post a review on a public site like Goodreads or Amazon. While positive reviews are not guaranteed in crowdsourced reviews, authors are likely to be able to encourage readers to write reviews for the book based on their relationships, friendships, or other personal connection to the author. Peer or crowd-sourced reviews are excellent to have for any author but are especially within reach of a new writer. Many readers peruse these reviews written by regular people and authors can even use them to call attention to their book’s successes on social media or author websites (“Over 200 five-star reviews on Goodreads”).

Professional Reviews

Professional reviewers and established book-centered businesses and individuals are both types of professional reviews that authors can seek out for their self-published books. Authors can send out ARCs to magazines, booksellers, indie stores, websites, newspapers, or other authors in hopes of having their work reviewed. In addition, authors can reach out to influential book reviewers to see if they would be interested in reviewing a new book.

Reviews from Book Review Sites

The third review strategy involves paying a book review site to review your book. Many writers may not initially want to pay for reviews but many paid sites also have a rating system built into their reviews. When a fantastic book comes through their site, the book becomes eligible to earn a spot on their regular social media or email blasts that often catch the eye of larger publishing houses.

Are All Reviews Positive?

Every reader will formulate their own opinion of the book so positive reviews are not guaranteed by any reviewer. Crowdsourced reviews most likely will be positive, however, at least at first since many of the readers are friends, family, coworkers, or others who have an association with the writer in some way. But once the book begins to gain momentum and a wider readership, the reviews will be written without any bias toward a relationship with the author. Professional reviews will be honest and will give you real feedback on the book and the writing. But if you go the route of paying for a review from a book review site, usually authors will have the choice to make the review public or keep negative or unflattering reviews private. For a new author, having the opportunity to see an experienced reviewer’s opinion without worrying about others being influenced by a potentially negative review may be worth the investment.

Are Book Reviews the Best Marketing Strategy?

In a nutshell, yes, but they are not the only way to market your book. Book lovers do like to find new books through reading reviews by real readers or on trusted websites. So getting your book read and reviewed by as many people early on is one of the most reliable ways to get the word out about your work and build a fanbase for your book. Many self-published authors rely on book reviews but they also use other marketing strategies to help readers find their book like:

  • Social Media Campaigns – With the proliferation of social media platforms, authors with any kind of published work often turn to coordinated social media marketing. By securing a profile that supports their book title in some way, authors create posts about their book or topic and direct attention to their work. Many post small snippets of the book, character descriptions, or even a quick video capturing something compelling about the book or topic to garner interest. Authors can also follow other authors, related groups, or organizations and topics of interest that might coincide with the book’s topics or genre to increase interactions with potential fans and readers. Social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are all great places to also link up positive reviews for followers to read and potentially may lead to greater book sales.
  • Author Websites – Many authors create a website for themselves or even a book. Linked to social media platforms, a website can be a valuable tool for self-published authors since outside traffic can be directed to the site for not only content related to the book but also a link to purchase the book as well.

Bringing Your Story To Life

For authors, working with a respected online company like Publishing Xpress can help by providing excellent quality support and guidance through the sometimes-tricky pathway to self-publication. Publishing Xpress suggests using a free template to create the book formatting is a great way for an aspiring author to bring their story to life without struggling with making the structure of the book look good.

Authors can also seek out help with their cover design. Your book’s cover should grab the reader’s attention and represent the story accurately so potential readers will pick up the book to check it out. So with help from a professional designer at Publishing Xpress, authors can focus on the writing instead of the art or design. Authors who decide to use ARCs in their reviewing strategies can also find out exactly how much an early printing of a minimum number of books will cost to help them make the best choices in this early printing of their book.

After submitting a book for printing, authors can focus on creating a book review strategy, crafting marketing plans, and setting up social media and author websites in anticipation of the book’s release. And soon, authors will be able to get their books into the hands of readers and potential reviewers when their self-published book arrives printed and bound beautifully, bringing their literary dreams to life.

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