New authors need to find readers who will leave Amazon reviews, but if you’re a new author, how do you do that? Your friends may not understand why authors live and die by the quantity and quality of Amazon reviews. And, certainly, as a new author, you can’t be expected to have the name recognition of a Diana Gabaldon or an email list of rabid fans.
Authors who are brand new to publishing soon discover that the marketplace is flooded by new authors and new books. Readers are discerning. They want “social proof” that a book is worth their investment of time. Reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble lend this kind of social proof. That’s why it’s essential for authors to take an active part in getting reviews.
The Friends-and-Family Approach to Amazon and Goodreads Reviews
Five years ago a new author could send out an email to friends and family and expect that a small percentage would buy the book. A smaller fraction would leave a review. Then, said author would be mystified as to why their supposed “supporters” didn’t follow through.
Amy Collins posts transcriptions of her Free Advice Friday sessions at https://amysadvice.com, and she is a terrific resource for authors. She’s generous with her advice and always up to date on what’s happening in the book industry. As you can see from her video, the old strategy of relying on friends to post Amazon reviews is not going to work as effectively as it once did. The key to success right now is to find reviewers who have no traceable connection to you.
Luckily, Amazon is not the only game in town. There are other places where the number and quality of reviews has the potential to help you find readers. Goodreads, the largest online book club in the world, is a community that offers a lot of potential to indie authors.
Of course, I wanted folks to leave reviews on Amazon, but even more, I wanted them to leave reviews on Goodreads. To make life easy for my erstwhile supporters, I created a step-by-step handout with screenshots to walk people through Goodreads’ posting procedure. If you’d like the handout, you can download it here.
Booksprout as a Tool to Get Goodreads and Amazon Reviews
If you are a new author without an email list, you may have to give away a certain number books in order to create that all important “social proof.” https://Booksprout.co is a free tool that allows you to upload your book to a database of avid readers. You must be able to upload an electronic file (.mobi, .pdf, or .epub). Ideally, this would all happen before your book goes live on Amazon, but if your book is already published, then Booksprout gives you the option of putting in links for Amazon, Goodreads, and the like.
In my opinion, the best way to use Booksprout is to use their reader base to help you find typos in Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of your book. You can also recruit your favorite reviewers to help with your next book launch.
Bookfunnel Can Help Authors Who Want to Sell Direct to Readers
Another site, https://Bookfunnel.com, can sidestep Amazon completely. Its signup portal has two options. One is for readers, and the other is for authors. The idea is that Bookfunnel will connect the two. If you intend to upload a book, make sure you enter through the “author” portal.
Both Bookfunnel and Booksprout allow you to do cross promotions with other authors, and this is a great way to build up an email list. In a cross-promotion I ran with another author, I found a fifty percent success rate. In exchange for a downloadable copy of my chapbook, The Rug Bazaar, I collected 250 email addresses.
Readers’ Favorite Posts Reviews to Goodreads and Barnes and Noble
Following the first review, an author can also “gift” a book through Amazon by buying the book from Amazon and then uploading the “gift” link to Readers’ Favorite. That allows Amazon to see the review as a verified purchase, and those reviews will then be allowed by Amazon.
Choosy Bookworm’s Readers Post to Amazon and Goodreads
For most authors the issue of “discoverability” is a hurdle. How is your book supposed to be “discoverable” in that vast Amazonia ocean? Choosy’s Read and Review program has found readers who are more than willing to read and review books by self-published authors or authors published by independent presses. Their posting policy conforms to Amazon’s terms of service, so you will get reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. In addition to these benefits, they also have a marketing service that, for a small fee, emails info about your book to potential readers.
In a previous post, I’ve written about getting reviews, but since then, the landscape has changed. Bookbub, which used to be easier to get into, is now more difficult, more expensive, and may not be cost-effective for authors in certain genres.
I’d love to know what’s working for you right now. Please share your info in the comments.
Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, a short story collection, and THE RUG BAZAAR, a chapbook. Her books and stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, a Readers’ Favorites Gold Medal for Drama, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and many others. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State, and when not reading or writing books, she loves to walk on the beach and explore National Parks.