Five strategies for getting book reviews

By Carol / September 8, 2014 /

Getting book reviews that would be posted on Amazon and Goodreads at launch was one of the marketing strategies I pursued prior to publishing my novel Go Away Home. In April, Iย blogged my intent. Now, I’ll share the results.

Iowa City Public Library blogger reviewed Go Away Home

Library blogger reviewed Go Away Home

The bottom line first – Though I didn’t have a specific number of reviews in mind (which makes it pretty hard to fail), I felt really successful to have 48 reviews averaging 4.7 Stars posted on Amazon in the first month Go Away Home was on sale. On Goodreads, I had 40 reviews averaging 4.5 Stars.

Here’s what I did.

Pitched review copies to historical fiction authors and bloggers. I made 39 direct pitches. From those pitches, I received 17 reviews. Several people took review copies but have yet to post reviews. I’m contacting them with gentle follow-ups – Have they had a chance to read? What did they think?

LibraryThing Giveaway. Following the advice in a blog from The Future of Ink, I made 100 e-copies available. Sixty-five readers took copies. So far, 17 have written reviews, a 26% review rate. Reviews were 4 & 5 stars, and readers readily placed the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. A gentle follow-up email resulted in pleasant conversations with several readers as well as immediate reviews.

Three advantages to the LibraryThing contest. 1) I gave e-copies in .pdf, mobi, and e-pub formats so there was no out-of-pocket cost to this contest. 2) LibraryThing provides reader emails, so it’s easy to contact readers directly. 3) From what I’ve read on other blogs, getting 26% to review a book is excellent.

Goodreads Giveaway. I made 20 paperback copies available in a three-week giveaway that attracted 1,874 entrants and caused more than 600 to mark Go Away Home “To Be Read.” So far, 4 of the 20 have written reviews, a 20% review rate. Reviews ranged from 2 to 5 stars. Some reviewers placed reviews on Amazon.

The big advantage of the Goodreads giveaway was getting my book in front of so many readers. The biggest downside of this giveaway was cost of books and mailing. Three copies were won by readers in Canada, where media mail does not apply. Yikes. Plus, since Goodreads does not provide email addresses, it’s not easy to follow up.

Blog Tour. I signed up for a 15-stop blog tour that yielded 7 reviews – 4 & 5 Stars. In addition two other bloggers shared reviews that same month. All were posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Boldly Ask. I’ve been bold in asking people to post reviews. When readers tell me they enjoyed the book, I ask them if they’d be willing to post a review. With little editing, they can usually post what they’ve written in their emails to the review links I provide.

Has all this effort made a difference? I think so – for two reasons:

  • People comment on all the great reviews I’m getting. So I know they’re reading them. Reviews create enthusiasm and encourage buzz.
  • Amazon has promoted Go Away Home several times in direct-mail emails.

Overall, I’m glad I made the effort. There are many ways to generate reviews. What strategies have you found to be successful?

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  1. Kas Sartori on September 8, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Hi Carol,
    Thanks for this valuable information! 48 reviews is wonderful!

    When I launched my book, I tried giveaways on Goodreads and LibraryThing also and got a very good response. It was close to 50% review rate on Goodreads, but it took quite a while. I’d like to do something else on Goodreads to get the word out, without doing giveaways, because it’s expensive. But the site is the all time largest readers hangout. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

    I never tried private pitches to authors though, or a blog tour. Did you have someone or a website manage your blog tour or did you research readers blogs yourself and send pitches to them? I’d be interested in more detail on that.
    BTW, I’m one of those people who promised to read and review your book but haven’t followed through yet, BUT I will. And that’s a promise! No need for a ‘gentle’ reminder. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 8, 2014 at 6:27 pm

      Hi, Kas, Good for you getting 50% Goodreads reviews. Maybe mine will come in yet. I hope so. Other was I’ve heard (but haven’t tried) to reach Goodreads members is participating in reading discussion groups, ads, and getting listed on some of the lists that members vote on. One thing I wish I could do was nudge all those people who added me to their TBR lists. But I can’t figure out how to reach them – without messaging them one by one. Though maybe that would be worth it. Hmmm.

      I used Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours to manage my blog tour. Amy Bruno did a great job – worth paying not to have to coordinate all those details. Contacting authors and bloggers directly is really time-consuming, but it can pay off. An author friend who writes paranormal YA contacted 30 bloggers a day consistently and wound up booking dozens of them. She tells me there are blogger groups for that genre, which would make it a bit easier.

      We all have Leaning Tower of Pisa size TBR lists, Kas. I’ll be happy you read my book whenever you get to it. We’ll consider this the gentle reminder ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Michelle on September 10, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Hi Carol –
    Wow, great info. I’ve never tried the Library Things. I’ve had a blog tour around my release date where reviewers read and rated the book on different blog sites. Goodreads was another place that really helped. In addition to that I researched blogs on my own that had to do with my “theme” in my books and approached bloggers. Some had large followings, read my book and endorsed it at their site. That was huge.
    Recently, I’ve shipped my book to geocachers, (because it’s a geocaching mystery), and asked them to read, review, and place my novel in a cache site in their state. I’ve marked the book as a trackable and given it a goal–to travel to all 50 states. The book is bringing child-abuse awareness to the US and Canada. Some books have traveled over 5000 miles. Others have been to six states already. It’s helped my sales and also brought notice to my book. I did this a month ago, so it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for one book to make it to all 50 states.
    Thanks for sharing what’s worked for you!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 10, 2014 at 9:00 am

      Michelle – What a great idea to connect with geocaching readers who review and help your book “Cache a Predator” travel to every state. This is an idea that really has legs (pun intended). And it seems to be working since you already have 123 reviews.
      Also, good job seeking out reviewers who connect to your theme of child abuse. I contacted historical fiction bloggers for my book and now am branching out to YA and women’s fiction bloggers. We’ll see how that goes. Your comment lets me reinforce a point I should have noted in my post – targeting bloggers who are interested in your topic is the way to go. Random contacts waste the author’s time and annoys the bloggers.
      Thanks for commenting. Best of luck. I’d love to know when your book hits all 50 states. I’m sure it will.

  3. Shirley Hershey Showalter on September 10, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Love this post, Carol. I’m amazed at how many reviews you’ve gotten and how fast! Congrats. This is hard work but probably as efficient as possible.

    One item I would add is that bookmarks in each copy you sell when you give talks can be a good marketing opportunity. I borrowed Sonia Marsh’s gentle request language reminding readers that they can help the author, publisher, and other readers by placing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

    I enjoy your posts that share your marketing strategies with others. Thank you so much.

    Between Amazon and Goodreads (where my publisher did two giveaways) my memoir Blush has now accumulated 123 ratings and 81 reviews averaging about 4.5 stars in both places. If I had read this helpful post, I might have had more. For example, I never heard of LibraryThing.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 10, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Thanks for bringing up the bookmark idea, Shirley. I’d heard that Sonia was doing that – and now you, too. My bookmarks have promotional copy on both sides, so adding that language – at least in this print run – isn’t possible. The idea fits into the category of “boldly asking.” My guess is that most readers just don’t think of doing a review. I’ve added wording at the end of both the print and e-book versions of my book urging readers to do a review. It’s hard to track whether such a strategy generates more reviews. Perhaps over time. You’re doing a great job getting reviews for Blush.

      I’m glad you like these marketing posts. I’ve learned everything I know from others; these posts are my way of paying their help forward.

      Looking forward to seeing you next month in Iowa City for our book talk at Prairie Lights.

  4. Carol Bodensteiner on September 12, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Ann Lee Miller responded to this post via email and okay’d my posting her comment here. I wanted everyone to be aware of her point about contacting Goodreads’ giveaway winners. It’s important and frankly, I’d forgotten. Here’s what she said:
    Great post. I’ve done everything you’ve done except Library Thing. Also, for reminding me that I need to ask for reviews after THE END in my books. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the tips, sweetie! And thanks, Shirley, for the bookmark suggestion.

    I’ve run several Goodread contests and this appears in each communication from Goodreads, “Please refrain from contacting the winners via private message, as it may risk your account getting marked as spam.” So, they don’t want us gently reminding anyone! I wonder if dropping a card in the mail would be permissible? I’m seriously considering it. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Ann Lee Miller
    I feel lucky I my account wasn’t tagged as spam. Whew. Thanks, Ann.

  5. Pat on September 22, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Thanks for all the great ideas, Carol. I only wish I had your insights when I first started the writer’s journey. I am so glad that we connected even if it is long distance. I wish I had a private tutor to help navigate social media. Library Thing looks great, but I am still struggling to figure out how Goodreads works.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 22, 2014 at 11:18 am

      We’re all learning as we go, Pat. With the publishing world changing as quickly as it is, there’s plenty to keep learning. My guess is your wish for a private tutor regarding social media is true for many of us. I frequently wish I could find someone to handle all of it for me, but alas, personal involvement seems necessary. One site where I’ve found useful tutorials and helpful author advice is World Literary Cafe. Good luck with your promotional efforts.

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