The Elusive Review…

E.J. Dawson & Mrs Y...

 

 

You may as well admit it.

 

When it comes to wanting a review authors can be like Voldemort, stalking through the Forbidden Forest looking for the elusive unicorn, the magic number of fifty reviews to start spiking on Amazon’s algorithms. Its hard to get them, and there are a host of reasons why; you’re self pub, you just published, you didn’t have your marketing done quite right and if you need help with that please check out my other blog post.

 

But there are other ways than becoming a dark lord to actually get your reviews, and with my today is the lovely Mrs Y, who is appearing on my blog post today to talk about how you can get a review from her.

 

Reviews are important because they help get your book a lot of attention, especially when you can get a few of them, but its important to know some fundamental rules when it comes to reviews that Ive noticed a few authors aren’t clear on. These are rock solid, unbreakable rules. There are few of these when it comes to writing, but if you break these rules on Amazon you can get you whole account suspended or shut down;

 

  • DO NOT REVIEW SWAP: I don’t know how many times I have seen people do this. You do it often enough and you WILL be caught, I’ve seen it happen to people, they lost not only their reviews of other peoples books, but the reviews on THEIR books. They ended up taking their books offline.

 

  • DO NOT BUY “FAKE” REVIEWS: We’ll talk about where you can pay to get a paid & honest review from credible sources, but whatever you do, don’t go to fiverr and buy a fake review, those accounts get caught by Amazon all the time, and you risk the above.

 

  • Friends & Family: This one is especially tricky, because when you are just starting out it’s a good way to get a few reviews in, and they want to support you. The trouble is friends and family know you, they aren’t likely to review a product honestly (which may not be your experience but Amazon don’t care), and then the above applies.

 

Even if your book isn’t listed on Amazon (and for the purpose of marketing your book, it really should be), don’t forget that the other key place for reviews is Goodreads, and if you’re with current (ok, not so current now) events, you’ll know that Amazon own Goodreads now.

 

SO HOW THE HELL DO YOU GET A REVIEW?!?

 

There are a few different methods, but the most important thing to know before you even start asking is that if ANYONE reads your book, please don’t forget they did that. They took the time to read your words, hear your story, and write what they thought about it. Good or bad, they gave you their time. Time is valuable to nearly all of us, we don’t have a lot of it, and when we spend it on you, that’s time we don’t get on our own work, our own family, or our passions.

 

  1. Ask a Reviewer: I give you the FABULOUS Mrs Y!

 

There are people about the place like Mrs Y, who literally have Professional Reader in their job title. If you would like her to read your book, then there are a few different ways to go about it, which she’s given to me, and is accessible through her website.

 

Mrs Y is quite special, in that nearly all her reviews are kind, thoughtful, detailed and extremely helpful to budding authors.

 

She chooses her books based on her Kindle Unlimited subscription, and she uses it specifically to find Indie authors. Amazon then picks up her reading habits to offer more suggestions to her, meaning that its usually the same genre. To diversify, she also watches what’s trending in the Writing Community on Twitter and selects books that appeal.

 

She does not accept ARCs, stating that people used her critique in the place of professional critiques & editors, which is not only hurtful, its unprofessional.

 

Part of the reason reviewers like Mrs Y are so wonderful is that they will read your book end to end, properly, and state very thoroughly all the good parts, and the bad ones too, but more importantly their review is designed not just to help the author, but to give the reader a very clear idea what they are signing up for.

When Mrs Y does give a review, it isn’t just a few paragraphs, she pretty much writes an essay on the book, going into finite detail and allowing both the author and the reader to know clearly and her takeaways from the book. The detail of her reviews is an absolute pleasure and privilege to see, and her attention to the book is nothing short of flattering.

 

 

  1. E. J. Dawson Book Reviews

 

I select books based on whats on my Amazon page but I also offer competitions occasionally for reviews. I base my normal preferences by things I also see trending on Twitter.

 

My reviews are posted on my Amazon AU page which is a little irritating for the US (I am really sorry, I’ve tried to have this changed but since Amazon got to AU its impossible), Good reads, and my website here. I have two sub-headings to distinguish books I’ve read that are published by traditional publishers, and those I’ve read by Indie Authors.

 

I will normally base whether or not I buy a book on whether the “Look Inside” feature grabs me. I have to be reading until the end of the third page or have already decided to buy, in order to review it. I do not base my reviews on Indie works on editing (unless its poor), or covers or blurbs.

 

The reason why is that I understand having done this myself that its hard to get covers and blurbs exactly right, and shouldn’t take away a good story. However many readers will judge you for it, and if it is extremely poor no good review is going to help.

 

When I post my review I like to use a critique sandwich; good stuff, bad stuff, great stuff. Not all books are made equal, not all books appeal to every reader. In the event I can’t give a book more than three stars I will leave it, or if I can try to get in touch with the author. There has to be something fundamentally wrong with a book for me to rank it that low. My average ranking is three to four stars, as when I’m reviewing these books I am looking for the story, the characters, and the writers ability to keep me reading.

 

 

You can find lots of people online who have websites where they review books. The best way to speak to these people is to ask once, very politely, (and according to whatever their submission guidelines are), if they will read your book. They often have their own preferences, and can say no if your genre isn’t what they read. This isn’t a free for all, do your research and find out if they read your genre before you ask. If they accept then it’s a good sign, and you should be proud!

 

But then the hard part is that you MUST WALK AWAY. Leave the review in their hands, and be patient.

 

Nobody likes being forced to read a book, (do you remember high school?!), and it takes some people a while to read a book. Leave a reviewer alone once they have accepted your book. For me, asking me where my review is, is nothing short of the height of rudeness. I’ve had this done to me once. I did not review the book.

 

 

  1. Review Services

 

Ah, the other way to pay for reviews and have it be legitimate. This part is tricky, because its hard to find people and be sure that what they are offering still adheres the Amazon T&Cs. This is why we’ve put together a list of services that let you get reviews;

  1. NetGalley: This is an excellent way of getting early reviews of your book before it is published on Amazon. You do need to pay a monthly fee in order to list your book, which can become very pricey over time, but it allows NetGalley reviewers the chance to get a copy (free) and give an honest review. It’s excellent testing ground for your book, especially if you believe its everything it can be. The reviewers aren’t just judging your content, they judge the blurb & cover too.
  2. SPR Reviews: I signed up with them when I first started in 2014 and had an excellent experience. It takes a little time, & there is a fee (starts at $139), but this is a great way to get an honest review of your book, and put it on your Amazon listing to give readers an idea what to expect. They are kind and thoughtful reviewers, and if they run into any serious issues they’ll tell you.
  3. Book Sirens: List your book here for quite a small fee, but if the book garners a lot of attention you can expect that to go up. At a $10 listing fee, there is a $2 charge billed month for anyone who requests your books. They have a 75% review rate, and the reviews are posted on Amazon or Goodreads – you pick.
  4. Booktasters: Mrs Y recommends trying this site to get some reviews in as well, their packages start at $100,
  5. Twitter: You can find several authors willing to review books, but some of them also charge, or don’t necessarily offer reviews per se, as feedback on your book. Some of these include Mark (Proofreader & Reviewer) & Tory (Critique Editor). They will go over their own methods of how they give you feedback, and what’s involved. Not necessarily a review but if your book is falling down they might be a great place to get an idea of what could be wrong.

 

While these services are helpful in getting reviews, they are going to give you an honest review. If your book doesn’t meet their standards they will tell you. They are not services to ensure you get “5 star reviews”, as stated before, this is against Amazon T&Cs. They will however be helpful and insightful reviews/feedback, and are a good way to judge how well your book is going to be received.

 

 

  1. ARC, Giveaways, Goodreads, & Free weekends

 

A great way to get reviews is to offer your book for free. Not permanently, but certainly there are methods to build up hype about your book release or your book in general, to help get reviews.

 

  1. ARC: Advance Reader Copy – this is the option for someone (usually a winner of a Twitter/FB competition) to get early access to your book. They can then review it on Goodreads (if they wish), and you can use their review to help market your book.
  2. Giveaways: You can offer copies of your books over public holiday weekends, celebrations, or even just randomly through your social media platform. Since a reader wins a book for free, it’s a great way to ask them (politely) when they receive it if they wouldn’t mind leaving a review when they are done.
  3. Goodreads: They have a special Goodreads giveaway you can organise directly through the site. I am hesitant to talk about it, they have only recently opened this up to “ebook only” authors who are predominately self published, and I’ve yet to hear good or negative feedback about the experience. Overall I have heard that it can be quite expensive to run a campaign.
  4. Free Weekends: This is simply listing your book for free for a promo weekend. It isn’t a great way to get reviews, but it does help promote your book and allow a lot of readers access to it, hopefully resulting in a review.

 

 

  1. How to Treat Reviewers

 

Be thankful.

 

Someone has just taken the time to read your book, and the least you can do is be polite about it. Bad authors get a reputation for being difficult, and will occasionally be named and shamed if their behavior is truly unacceptable. Most reviewers are too polite to do this, some are not. Some will leave a scathing review of your book, which only hurts everyone. Good authors are often a delight to review for, and will be more likely to be reviewed again & by others if they are a pleasure to engage.

 

Here’s some things you can do to encourage reviewers to read your book;

 

  1. Like the review on Goodreads/Amazon: it shows the reviewer you cared about what they think, but also their status as a reviewer goes up too.
  2. Send a thank you note once you receive a review: they’ve taken the time to write something poignant, especially in the case of Mrs Y, then the least you can do is take the time to say you appreciate them looking at it, perhaps open a dialogue as to a piece they love or a constructive criticism they gave you.
  3. Never be rude: They can delete their review. Some people will change it, and state specifically that you were rude to them, meaning other reviewers will not look at your work if that’s how you treat reviewers.
  4. DO NOT HARASS THEM: I can’t believe I need to reiterate this, and if you are getting bored, I’m sorry, but the LAST thing you do is ask someone if they’ve finished it. This applies to beta reading too. I’m a fast reader, I will devour a two inch thick book in an afternoon if I feel like it, and the story grabs me. Other people can only read for so long at any set time, and we are normally doing this during “relaxation” time which for many of us can be few and far between.

 

 

One of the hardest things isn’t actually editing or publishing or even just writing the damn thing.

 

Its getting reviews, and this is the longest part of the self publishing process. You can do nothing, and sit in anxiety while you wait for answers, as I have done in the past. But these days I like to think of it as giving people a gift, a sliver of my soul, wishing them well of it, and leaving them alone. If they come back to me then I’m flattered, and no matter what they say I listen.

 

You are going to get bad reviews. Not reviews that say: I didn’t get a chance to read it/this wasn’t delivered on time/shit book. These are unhelpful and should for the most part be ignored. The bad reviews I’m talking about is when people pick at flaws in your book. The best way to deal with these is remove yourself and your emotional involvement from the book. Are they saying something that rings true? Is there some nuance of the review that you didn’t even see as a mistake? All of these things are ways to improve upon your writing. Take the feedback and grow from it, don’t make the same mistakes next time.

 

And when you get those glorious good reviews, crack the damn champagne. Having a stranger love your book is the best blessing you can bestow upon any author. Whether its a glowing exploding five star review, or a modest four star with compliments and criticism. Someone has still read, liked, and even loved your books.

 

And isn’t that what you set out to do? Share your story, and don’t be afraid of a big bad review.

 

 

 

 

Book Marketing

I am going to preface this by stating I don’t have all the answers.

 

There is a lot of information out there that doesn’t tell you certain things, like signing up with certain marketing companies doesn’t work unless you write their genre, or your book isn’t ready, or you write a series. And most of all as an indie author, I made a lot of mistakes I am hoping to show you how to avoid.

 

Here is what I have learned, and I know its worked because I have sold books. Not recently but when I release and follow this plan its worked very well for me, and I’ve done it 3 times now for 2 novellas and one book, that sold a thousand copies in its opening month.

 

Here is what I have learned about marketing my book to get that kind of response, and its simple, and stupid, but I learned a lot of this the hard way.

 

  1. Is your book ready?

 

No really.  Yes its been edited, yes its been gone over a million times by you and your editor, and a few beta readers, but is it *really* ready? I made the mistake all three times of rushing to my publishing goals rather than the book goals. I’ve backed off the last year to get it right, and I’ll still have made mistakes. One book I 100% thought was ready I haven’t published because it needs a rewrite, even though it got good feedback. I can just feel it. This is also the reason why trad published books take so friggin long to come out. They write, edit, rewrite, re-edit, copy edit, beta read, review, polish, re-beta, test, review, edit, polish… on and on until it is flawless.

Look at your book and ask if you’ve given it the same kind of love. You might not be able to do all of that, but you can do a lot of it. I recommend GOOD creative critics and beta readers, and Pro-Writing Aid, even if you do have an editor. We all miss stuff.

 

  1. Covers

 

This irks me a lot. There is nothing worse than looking at a really good book and people with terribly covers saying “But the cover shouldn’t matter! You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!”

 

Why not? You do it. You aren’t going to touch a book with a terrible cover, you aren’t even going to read the blurb. But here is the thing I do get. Finding people to do good covers at a price that don’t look like something out of a high school project is hard. Fiverr covers tend to be very hit and miss, and more miss, or you can spend close to $300US to get a good photoshop one.

 

There are two solutions here: Finding decently priced cover designers who sell predesigned covers at lower rates, & Gimp.

 

The first, I can recommend Violeta’s current page and her Christmas giveaway. She’s a kind person, and her prices are very reasonable. There are others out there, but you have to know who to go for yourself.

 

If you are going to use Gimp I can tell you two things; its frustrating but worth it. I recently ran into very tight financial situation because we are trying to buy a house and just couldn’t afford a cover artist. I have spent a lot of time looking at covers in my genre, and ended up designing my own, which is the last one below.

 

 

 

No, isn’t as good, but it does at least fit with the theme, and it wasn’t too hard after I followed a lot of tutorials. The most important thing about this though, is to be absolutely sure that the images you are using are fine for ebook commercial use. That is NOT a can of worms you want to mess with.

 

  1. Blurb

 

This is the other way you are going to hook your reader after your cover has engaged attention as it’s a LOT harder than it looks. I am happy to help rewrite blurbs but I’ve found these simple rules work:

 

  • Limit of 150 words (180 for fantasy)
  • Hook first and last
  • Read the top 20 blurbs of your genre for flow and feel

 

There really isn’t much more to it than this, but it is important. Also get feedback for posting, say it aloud, review and polish. Its your first impression for your audience.

 

  1. Pick your Price

 

This may sound easy but its getting much harder. You don’t want to make your book too much but you want to be sure its not free. The trouble is that people are assuming the content isn’t very good if its only 99c, but how else to break into reader groups if you don’t make it as affordable as possible?

This is where promos come in handy, and you can get a lot of downloads for a free weekend, but you are better off advertising a more expensive book for a 99c weekend and then running a series of promos.

Check what everyone else is advertising in the top 100, and don’t forget to lower your pre-order price and up it when it goes live to what you  want it to be.

 

  1. Get your platforms in order

 

Website, Facebook, Twitter. You should have all three and while its hard to maintain them all, its worth it for exposure. If you’re struggling for content look at what other people are posting and offering. What are you talking about? How are you helping? There are numerous articles about how to create engaging content, but most of all you’ve got to work out what works for you.

 

KEY POINT: Do a lot of research on what tags to use and when, check trending tags, reach out and grow your circle.

 

 

So now that’s the basics sorted, how to get it actually out there?

  1. Books Go Social

 

I owe an awful lot to what I know about self publishing to Books Go Social Facebook groups. They offer a lot of entry level stuff that is super helpful they have a dedicated and friendly team, all under the wonderful Laurence O’Bryan and his thoughtfulness. There are a lot of media groups out there, but I generally found that just being part of the community they created and engaging some of their services was a great introduction to self publishing on a marketing level. You can also ask questions, get feedback on blurbs and covers, they offer a helpful service to upgrade your cover at a good price, and generally it’s a great learning field.

 

Here is the thing though, not every part of them is for you. Its great for books that are one off’s but not for series, but series are hard to market when the whole thing isn’t out. If you sign up to their Netgalley offers make sure to get a couple of months worth as while it is worth it, you need a couple of months, because people read slowly, take their time, and you need it to still be there for them.

 

They also have reviewing sections which are great for getting (NOT SWAPPING) reviews.

 

  1. Reviews

 

Apparently you are supposed to get a magical unicorn that farts rainbows at 30 reviews. I heard recently that Amazon had upped it to 50, which doesn’t surprise me giving the amount of services that sell reviews (do NOT  do this, ever, or swap, its against T&Cs).

 

giphy

 

So how to get reviews?

 

ARCs, Goodread giveaways, groups like BGS, Netgally, competitions for free copies on your social media sites. You have to work at it, its hard, and don’t expect everyone to give you a review, you quite often wont get one.

 

But you can ask, just don’t be pushy about it.

 

 

  1. Author Support Services

 

 

There are a lot of great services out there, but here are two I have used frequently in the past.

 

Alliance of Independent Authors is a great source of up to date clear information about what’s happening in the market. I am not a member, but will be next year.

 

You will see their members floating around and not only do I love these people I’ve seen them monitor and watch situations where people are buying reviews, faking popularity and other such great services that spoil it for the rest of us.

 

The best thing about them was that they had a complete list of safe websites to get promos from. It was absolutely golden, because it did 2 things. It helped you find good websites to advertise on, and which ones were dodgy as all get out.

 

The other cool one is Authors Unlimited and this very helpful and concise article about getting going.

 

  1. Promotions

 

This is the *HARDEST* sell (puns totally intended) because you have to spend money. After all the work you’ve done spending money seems like a complete pocket suck of the precious money you have for book selling. If you want your book out there though, it doesn’t hurt.

 

You basically need to plan months in advance for a promo weekend, book in with hosts of email services that for small fees will list or discounted (99c) or free book on their weekend newsletter. This is THE way to advertise for romance. It also gives you time to rack up the reviews.

 

There is also the magical BookBub deals, but I won’t go into it, because that isn’t for beginners. You need to have been doing this a while to get one, and they are VERY expensive.

 

 

  1. Books… write a lot of books.

 

A self published author who writes full time recently offered to answer questions. And I asked her how she does it full time, what was the kicker?

 

A book EVERY 3 to 4 months.

 

That is a lot of time, and so we return to point one of polish, review, edit, revise.

One book is never going to be enough all by itself. I know a lot of traditionally published authors turning to self pubbing for the books that their agents or publishers didn’t like the sound of, and they already have the reading base because of their traditionally published books.

 

So no matter how ready you think you are, you might not be. And that’s OK. This is a long game, and if you are here to make a lot of money then you aren’t my kind of writer. If you are telling stories you are doing what you love, even if its just a hobby for now, and if you want to get self published, you need to get to a point where you can release every 3 to 4 months, and you can’t do that if you stop writing.

 

So what are you going to do?

 

A writer's mind is never emptyInside rage demons, devils, and doubts

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑