Guest Post: Obtaining Reviews by Reena Jacobs

Guest Post by Reena Jacobs

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I come across quite a few indie authors with low sales. Let’s face it, low sales are the norm; big success is the rarity. In the end, majority of us remain in dismal obscurity. Even so, there are low cost methods authors can use to give their books a little publicity – reviews being one of them.

One of the first things I tend to notice when I hit an author with low sales are the lack of reviews. I’ve yet to find a book with an abundance of reviews and doing poorly. Some might say, of course high selling books have lots of reviews; they’re selling books like crazy. No book sales, no reviews. No reviews, no books sales.

People! This is not a catch-22 situation. You don’t have to have book sales to obtain reviews. In fact, your work doesn’t even have to be available to the public in order to start earning those reviews.

Ever hear of Advance Reading Copies (ARCs)?

ARCs are not just for authors who go the traditional route. I started distributing ARCs for my latest release (I Loved You First) about a week before publication. Why an ARC and not the final version?

Here’s the thing about ARCs. They don’t have to be perfect. Now I’m not talking about sending your first draft. The ARC I sent had received outside editing and a read through by me. However, I knew it needed at least one more read through, plus I had a few copyright issues in the air which needed to be settled before releasing it to the public. For the most part, the ARC was pretty solid.

If you’re confident in the quality of your work, but aren’t quite ready for publication, I highly recommend sending ARCs to reviewers. But remember, don’t send crap. Reviewers will still call you on your typos, poor grammar, misused words, and other errors.

So, you’ve got an ARC or final version.

Now What?

Well, you can continue to wait for folks to find your works and review them. This method might work for established authors, but I doubt it’ll work for many debut authors or those with negligible fan bases. If you want those reviews, you’re going to have to go and get them, my friend. And I don’t mean sitting behind your blog asking folks, “if you’re interested in reviewing my work, send me an email.” You can try that (I certainly have), but that’s not enough.

Remember your querying days? Researching agents, following submission guidelines, and sending out letters. Welcome back to the grind. Great thing about sending queries to reviewers is the success rate is far greater than seeking representation from an agent.

A few notes. Don’t send queries arbitrarily or in a mass email. Use the same care in picking out reviewers as you would an agent. Just as agents only represent certain genres, reviewers only read certain genres.

Research is beneficial

I came across more than a few dormant review sites. It doesn’t make sense to put together a review packet for an individual who isn’t serious about reviewing your work. Some of the things I look for:

  • Review Policy – Starting here is a given. Not all reviewers have them. I’ll be honest, if I don’t find a review policy or verbiage giving me a clue to their likes and dislikes, I’ll often bypass the review site.
  • Number of followers – It’s great to get a reviewer with a huge following. After all, the point of a review is to get some publicity. However, reviewers with smaller followings have pros also. For one, their reading lists may be shorter, which means they may be more willing to commit to a review and do one sooner than later. When you’re looking at the number of followers, don’t discount the little gals (or guys), especially when taking the next point into account.
  • Where they post their reviews – Their blog only? Goodreads? Retail sites? The more places, the more publicity. For me, this is huge, particularly if the review is posted on a retail site. If I hit a blog with few followers, but the review policy indicates the review gets posted in places other than just the blog/website, I tend to be more favorable to putting a review packet together.
  • Post consistency – This goes along with dormant sites. If the site is dead (most recent post is a month or so ago), I move to the next blog. How often a blogger posts is important also. Large gaps between posts gives me the impression the blogger isn’t serious about blogging. And if the blogger isn’t serious, chances are, folks aren’t serious about checking in either.
  • Accepted formats – I prefer to send out digital copies due to the costs associated with print. And with so many reviewers accepting eCopies and even preferring them in some cases, digital is the way to go (at least for me and my purse).
  • Excludes indie authors – Some reviewers don’t accept self-published works. Simple response to that is to move on to the next reviewer. Trust me; there is no shortage of indie reviewers, so don’t sweat it.
  • ARC versus Final – Can I send out an ARC? Some reviewers will take into account the ARC isn’t the final version. Others won’t. Make sure whichever version you send is the one you’re comfortable with them reviewing. Don’t be surprised if a reviewer rips your work apart because you sent a less than satisfactory version.
  • Time line – Many reviewers have reading lists a mile long. A 3-4 month wait isn’t unusual. If you know your release date, consider making arrangements early. Don’t dismiss the reviewers who take a bit longer. Early reviews are great, but latter reviews can act like a revival.
  • Other Features – Does the reviewer participate in blog tours, interviews, giveaways, or other events? If so, make your availability known at the time of submission. If your work is accepted for review, be sure to put in a reminder in your response.

Where the heck are the reviewers?

I hit two spots when it comes to reviews. First, because I’m an indie author, is Simon Royle’s list of indie reviewers. The list isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a great start. All the individuals on the list review indie work for free. However, some on the list have guidelines so strict, it’s difficult for an indie author to get a yes. For example, some only review indie works they’ve previously reviewed/read in the past. So that’s something to keep in mind.

My second stop is the Book Blogger Directory. I love this place. The bloggers are categorized, and the database is HUGE. Indie authors do have to pick through since there are no indicators as to whether a blogger accepts indie work or not, at least not at the time of this post.

As a side note, Alex at Electrifying Reviews started an awesome campaign for indie authors. Definitely keep an eye out for the button. The comments could serve as a nice starting point.

The bottom line

Using the methods above, I found plenty of reviewers willing to take a peek at I Loved You First, enough that I managed to fill a month and a 1/2 long blog tour. I’m not going to pretend like my sales are all that grand, because they’re not (at least not yet <wink> <wink>). And if we get to the truth of it, I’m not all that great at marketing either. But I will tell you, reviewers are out there waiting to pounce on a good read. If you don’t tell them your book is available, who will?


About Reena:

Reena Jacobs is just your typical writer who loves to see her words in print. As an avid reader, she’s known to hoard books and begs her husband regularly for “just one more purchase.” Her home life is filled with days chasing her preschooler and nights harassing her husband. Between it all, she squeezes in time for writing and growling at the dog. You can find Reena on Ramblings of an Amateur Writer, Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Nobles, and Smashwords.

When to Reply to Reviews

Books
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It’s a pretty established rule in the world that you shouldn’t respond to negative reviews, but as Lauralynn Elliott asked, what about good reviews? Should you thank the reviewer?

I was curios what everyone else thought about this. I think if it’s a review site, or someone you asked specifically to review your book, then you should drop by and thank them even if the review isn’t great because they took the time to read and write at your request.

But what if it’s a random review somewhere else? Have you ever looked someone up to thank them or offer them a coupon for another book? Or have you just commented back? If so how did it go? Inquiring minds want to know.

How NOT to React to a Bad Review

There have been many posts about how to deal with a bad review, how to pick up and move past it. But what, oh what do you do after you’ve gone off the deep end?

http://booksandpals.blogspot.com/2011/03/greek-seaman-jacqueline-howett.html

The review is not a great one, (as in not great for the book) the backbone of the argument is that she uploaded the wrong copy, one with typos and errors, and then reuploaded the correct one and that the reviewer, Al, did not redownload the new version.

Whether he did or not, the author’s conduct is absolutely ludicrous! From comments like “The book is out there doing well without your comments. My first book is great! and I intend to promote now without your ball…I want this review removed or its just considered abuse.” to “You are a big rat and a snake with poisenous venom.” and the most eloquent “%$#@ off”, I think Jacqueline Howett has demonstrated a definite what NOT to do when you get a bad review!

I have to say, this is one book I won’t be reading, not based on the review, but on her conduct. Ye-ouch.