Why do authors pay for book review programs? I have been reading on Publishers Weekly (USA) about authors opting for paid-at-source book reviews, like Kirkus, IndieReader, BlueInk Review, and others. While assuredness of a newsletter promo and reviews can seem like water to a parched author, it comes with a cost. And not just the $149 to $500 they charge per time, which is quite substantial.
Besides the monetary risk, there is the risk it’s a one-off event. You still might not get reviewers’ email addresses as the review companies try to protect their reviewers’ privacy. That means no future promotion.
If you do get their email addresses, then please ask gently for a review – and do not connect to them on social media first. Some authors might try to send the ePub, but you know, many people cannot work out how to open it without the benefit of their Kindle reader app.
It is imperative that you protect this list of potential Advance Reader emails, because these people are going to come in very handy.
Use a Street Team
What about people who know you? These genuine helpers can form part of your ‘street team’, or advance reader copy (ARC) team. You can either offer your ebook for 99c on Amazon or send a PDF directly to them, for free. You might want to remove the ability to print it though.
Although I was terminally shy at first, because of my networking, I now have a nice list of 420 connections on LinkedIn to ask for endorsements or to notify of a giveaway on Goodreads. Plus Goodreads forums is an ideal place to recruit your street team/ARCs as its chock-full of book lovers.
Remember though, we can’t ask for Amazon reviews from LinkedIn 1st connections because now Amazon is disallowing an author’s social connections to give reviews — whether they bought the book or not.
The Problem of Asking Strangers
Even though I had fairly regular buyers in the first 3 months of launching Create Your New Life of Abundance and How to Start a Freelance Business, there were no reader reviews, which is a common problem. The library copies generally don’t prompt reviews either.
The workaround for this suggested by Mike Kowitz in his book, Smart Marketing for Indie Authors, is to quickly publish a second book and have a page summarising past books within its back matter. But for the first one, he says you’ll have to rely on the Street Team of friends/family who are not connected to you on socials. You may also prompt the review on your own blog posts. I noticed that at least one of his reviews were from a paid reviewer (or at least a pro reviewer) and the others were reading very real.
So, while book reviews are crucial for social proof to better sell your book to others searching for that topic… there are many catches with getting them.
Sometimes it pays to join up with someone who has a bigger email list than you for launch promotions. Think up creative ideas to reward new reader-reviewers. Cute stickers, daily planner printables (letter size PDFs), quote posters, and other low-cost items could be just the thing. Since we are not allowed to pay for the reviews listed at Amazon or Goodreads, and a gift is just a thank you card in physical form.
Always keep your personal return-on-investment in mind when planning book promotions.
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