Today, we’re talking about a hot topic. One that will always been hot. It’s been hot so long it doesn’t know how to get cool.
More specifically—how to get them. In the Facebook group Indie Parent Life (what, you’re not a member? Remedy that here.) I asked what kind of content the Indies in there wanted to see. Promotion was high on that list. When someone niched it down to ‘How Do I Find Reviewers?’ I knew I had a winner. Why?
Because there are three things I want to talk about today.
- How do I get reviews?
- Are reviews important?
- How do I deal with them when I have them?
How Do I Get Reviews?
There are a few ways to go about this.
Book Bloggers. This may come down do you cold-emailing them with a very well-sculpted pitch letter. Or reaching out to them on social media. Or finding a friend that knows someone who runs a book blog and have them connect you. A few suggestions here: do your homework first. Follow their blog. Tweet their reviews. Thumbs up their posts. Make yourself seen a week or so before, then send your email. It’s amazing how far a little attention goes.
Net Galley. I’ve promoted several books on NetGalley in the past. My first one was wildly successful. The rest have been abysmal. But hey! I tried.
Book exchanges. Find some other authors that need reviews and ask them to swap. Read and review theirs. A lot of indies do this to get going. It’s time consuming, but when you need to get out of the hole of only having 2 reviews, it can at least get you into the double digits.
Goodreads. There are a lot of book groups and lists and other things on Goodreads. I know some authors have had varied success with getting into those. (Some of my books have been featured without me even knowing it, and it seems to help traction, but I rarely log into Goodreads except to add a new book. More on that below.)
Ask your fans. This can be tricky, because you don’t want to be annoying, and I would never suggest asking more than once. Also, be cool. If a fan emails you and says, “I loved your book! Thank you so much for writing it!” don’t respond right away with, “Can you leave a review?” Ask them some questions, get to know them (they’ll love it, seriously) and then just ask them to help you out after you’ve made it about them a little bit. No one likes a diva.
Start a Street Team. Street teams are basically your super fans. They can definitely include your Mom, your neighbor, or your weird cousin while you’re getting traction. Especially in the beginning, pull some of your best friends in to help you out. These are people you can rely on to write reviews, share on social media, and get the word out. Before a book launch, be sure to follow up and just ask if they were able to put out their review.
Put it in the back matter. The end of my books all include little snippets that say, “Hey, if you liked it, I’d love it if you read a review.” I can’t give you any hard data because I don’t track my reviews, but I do believe it’s helped.
Are Reviews Important?
Reviews are absolutely important as a marketing tool. It’s a handy little star that readers can look at and say, “Oh. I get it. X number of people liked it this much.” It’s a way of verifying that a book is worth spending money on. In a slushy book world like we have, that can be very helpful. Especially if your books score on the higher end. It’s almost like being “vetted”.
When aren’t they important? When they affect your motivation and confidence. Trust me, I’ve been there, done that with tough reviews. I’ve shed a few bitter tears over the fact that people kind of turn into monsters. They think it’s their right to say whatever they want (which it kind of is) and the digital age provides a level on anonymity that’s frightening. It’s easy to forget that a human exists behind that book they just shredded.
In the book Playing Big by Tara Mohr, she states a revolutionary new idea: Feedback doesn’t tell you anything about you; it tells you only about the person giving the feedback.
For example, someone critiques your short story as boring. Well, that means they probably like something with action. Sometime says your book didn’t grab them? Then they didn’t relate to your characters.
But I implore you to keep this in mind: reviews come from biased people with big opinions and the need to express them. Which is great. It’s awesome. It’s part of a healthy economy. But they shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all of your opinion of yourself. It’s something you take, note down with your business brain, and explore later. Remember? Opinions are about the people giving them. Not really about you.
This leads to our next section.
How Do I Deal With Them When I Have Them?
Crappy reviews really, really suck. But sometimes they tell us the truth.
1. I would never suggest that you dive face first into a single review and take it entirely to heart. HOWEVER—If you see a trend in your reviews—like maybe everyone is mentioning that the ending fell really flat for them—then it may be time to take a step back and re-evaluate. Or talk to the professional editors at Quill Pen Editorial. They’ll definitely help you out.
2. Feel your feelz. It sucks. It hurts. They don’t get you. They totally missed the point of the story, and they probably eat toads. Let it all out however you have to. (When I get the ones that really strike deep, I cry and cuddle my dogs and call my best friends to have them tell me that person is an idiot. Oh, and I eat way too much chocolate.)
3. Learn to separate your feeling of rejection from business. If you’re convinced you need to read all your reviews, try to teach yourself the art as seeing it as something other than your book child. It helps. It takes practice (and brutal editors help with this too) but it’s something you can learn to do.
4. The best advice I ever had on reviews came from Ted Dekker. I met him at a writing conference in Tennessee and asked him about bad reviews and how he dealt with them. I had just released my first novel, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, and the following novella, The Isadora Interviews. I’d had a few less-than-favorable reviews that really hit me in the heart.
“Don’t put your eyes on them.”
Absurd, I thought. That is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard.
Except . . . it wasn’t.
At that time, I considered reviews to be kind of an editorial warning to me of all my flaws that I needed to fix ASAP—and they can be that. But the truth is I had already built in a great line of defense and by turning to reviews was really just leaning into sand. My team? Solid beta readers I trusted. Multiple editors. Readers that genuinely loved it. So I did what Ted said. I stopped logging into Goodreads. Stopped looking at my Amazon reviews (or ranking for that matter) and just kept going.
You know what? It’s been really freeing. 11 books later, I still never check.
5. Remember: you can’t please everyone. You really can’t, and trying to is just going to make it so someone else doesn’t like you. I remind myself I didn’t go into writing for mass approval. I did it because I love influencing peoples lives for the better. And in fantasy, I can eat whatever the heck I want.
How do you deal with bad reviews?