The Indie Files, Part Seven: The Review Game

When it comes to marketing, there’s a couple of different aspects, but the biggest and most important by far is reviews. Reviews sell your book for you. Yes, even negative reviews.

Now, I know how to write a review. But that’s about it. Strange, considering I’m a reviewer, isn’t it? I find my books a few different ways – through Goodreads, recommendations from other reviewers or friends, or books that look interesting on NetGalley or Edelweiss. Sometimes I respond to tweets (that’s how I used to get Samhain books for review). It’s rare that an author will approach me directly for a review.

So how the hell do you get them?

There’s a couple ways to go about it. If your book is published through a traditional or digital first publisher, your book might end up on NetGalley or Edelweiss for reviewers to grab. Both sites are e-galley sites – a place where uncorrected proofs are distributed to garner reviews. As a reviewer, I have accounts with both sites, but getting approved for titles varies from publisher to publisher. Some will only approve you if you have a high hit count or number of blog followers; others don’t discriminate. I know a couple of reviewers who are Goodreads/Amazon reviewers only (they don’t have blogs or review for other sites), so you see a little bit of everything. NetGalley and Edelweiss are free for reviewers.

They are not free for authors and publishers.

I don’t know about Edelweiss, but I know that NetGalley offers indie books for review. It does cost money, and I think it can be a little pricey. It’s not something I’ve looked into at this point, because there are other ways to get your books in the hands of reviewers. One thing you can do, though, is “rent” a spot from someone who has already paid whatever fee to NetGalley and post your book for a length of time. There are co-ops you can join to shave some bucks off the cost, too. While I utilize these sites all the time as a reviewer, they’re not my go-to for indie books.

Another option are read-to-review (R2R) groups. These exist on Facebook and Goodreads (and there might be some Yahoo! loops, too, but again, haven’t looked). The idea behind an R2R is, well, read to review. Pretty simple, huh? You offer up so many copies of your book for review and people grab them and post reviews on Goodreads or other sites. Some groups are good about policing – they try to keep track of who hasn’t posted a review of a requested book and gently nudge the person to do so. Sometimes these are finished copies, sometimes they’re uncorrected proofs. A lot of times the people in these groups are regular old readers, not bloggers. Don’t discount these people, though! Frankly, any review is a great thing to have.

Then there’s the bloggers. Ah, the blogs. There are tons of review blogs out there. Some see higher traffic than others. When Entangled put together the blog tour for One Night in Buenos Aires, there were review sites I’d never heard of. Which brings up another point, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Blogs and other review sites usually have review policies posted. Read these carefully, dammit. Take some time and go through the reviews on the site to make sure it’s a good fit. If you’re seeing a ton of YA reviews, chances are your thriller isn’t going to get a review. If you decide to submit a title for review, follow their instructions. Night Owl reviews requests PDF copies and that the book is available on Amazon, for instance.

Now, as I said earlier, I’ve only had a few authors approach me directly for a review, but they’re always accompanied by what I think of as the reviewer version of a query letter. Basically, you want to tell them about the book, who you are, and why you think their site would be a good fit for your book. Let the reviewer know what formats you have available (print, PDF, epub, mobi), and wait for a response.

How the hell do you find these reviewers in the first place?

I asked Jen Frederick how she found reviewers. Her response was to comb places like Goodreads and look for reviews of books similar to what she wrote and contact the reviewers directly. She said to expect maybe a quarter of them to respond, so it’s a good idea to have a decent sized list to increase the number of blogs/reviewers who’d post a review.

I found a shortcut recently to finding blogs – blog tour promoters. They’ll often have a list of blog/review site stops posted for books. Search for titles that are similar to yours and see what blogs hosted a spot on the tour.

And that brings me to my next point – blog tours. There’s been some back and forth over the effectiveness of blog tours and whether they actually sell books, but one thing people can agree on is visibility. If you’re a newer author with a small (or non-existent) reader base, or just want to expand your readership, blog tours are a good option. Not all stops on the tour will post a review. Some will post a spotlight, some might do an interview or a giveaway. Do your research when it comes to blog tour promoters. Not all of them are created equal. Some that I’ve heard good things about are Xpresso Book Tours, Tasty Book Tours, and The Book Enthusiast. These cost money, which is why research is so important. You’ve probably seen review and cover reveal posts here sponsored by The Rock Stars of Romance – while not a promoter in the same sense that the others are, they do tours as well. The catch? You have to be “signed” with them as a rock star first. After that, you’re golden; they’ll promote all your future work.

I remembered hearing that Chloe Neill found success with bloggers by befriending them first. She’d comment on other review posts and interact with the reviewers without promoting her book. So when it came time to ask for reviews, they remembered her – and they liked her.

To that end, I follow a number of reviewers on Twitter and I’ve friended them on Goodreads*. I’ve got a growing list of blogs I try to stop at every couple days to see what they’re up to and comment on, but I’m not always successful. I forget, or they haven’t posted anything I’m interested in. We’ll see how things shake out when the time comes for Fracture reviews.

Last, you can contact reviewers who have reviewed your previous books. I’m on Kit Rocha’s reviewer list (which is, literally, a list, you can sign up for it), and I get an email from Jen Frederick every time she’s got a new book coming out. As a reviewer myself, I’ve gotten repeat requests from a few authors when they’ve had subsequent books available. It seems like it’d be a great way to keep the conversation going after the first review is done, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to take advantage of it.

There you have it. Book reviews. I’m probably missing some things, and there might be things I got wrong, so, as usual, treat this as your jump off point for your own research. Happy hunting!

*I get friend requests from other authors, usually newer ones, on a regular basis on Goodreads. I almost always turn them down. If you’re friending people on Goodreads, don’t friend other authors! Search out prolific readers and book bloggers – those are the people you want on your friends lists. Unless, of course, the author is actually your friend. Then friend away 🙂

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