The Journey to a Bestseller: Book Reviews!! (Series #19)

I just realized that I changed the name of this series part way through it. But I think I like it the way it is, so it stays. Pthft. Besides, I already made my hashtag. #Journeytobestseller Lol.

I put myself on another author marketing site this week called AllAuthors. They are pretty darn cool even when you only use their free stuff like me. There is a tool where you can make ads with your books, etc. Of course only the MOST BASIC option is available for the freebie user, but it’s often enough.

Anywho, my point was that on my book’s page on AllAuthors I noticed something interesting. It said I had 21 reviews, but I was only aware of 13 left on Amazon.com after they removed any and all reviews from my barest acquaintances. I’m not one of those people that has a lot of literary support in my life, and I didn’t have friends and family pile in to give me reviews. I lost a good friend who’d given me a great review, but Amazon took it down. That review was all that was left. My own mom waited through years of my begging, ’til I almost had three books out, to leave me her first review. It was up for a week. Does Amazon care how much that one review meant to me? No. Do they care that my mother would never give me a compliment she didn’t mean? Nope. The only public review I’ve ever gotten from my mother on my work and she was actually proud of me. And I earned it. I earned the ones I got from several other acquaintances, too. I don’t give false reviews and I didn’t receive any. It isn’t fair. But… life’s not fair. Welcome to Earth.

But you know what’s really funny? I have reviews on Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk that I didn’t even know about. My poor second book with only three reviews, actually has seven… and the other four are five-star reviews. I wrote to Amazon to see if they would combine my reviews across the sites. I will let you know what happens.

I will admit it. For most of my life, I was one of those people. People who don’t leave reviews unless I had an ultra strong reaction one way or another. They had to earn my review, I’m ashamed to say. I didn’t understand. And I was very careful about not handing out my five stars to just anyone. If the book was really good and I really enjoyed it, I’d probably give it a four, because I reserved fives for the uber special books that I fangirled about. Yes, Hunger Games and Divergent. I even *cough cough* admit to reading Twilight when it was big and tapping my toe to the beat. But I think I even gave those fours next to books like A Wrinkle in Time and Island of the Blue Dolphins.

But I was wrong. Authors don’t want your reviews, they LIVE for them.

Facts about book reviews:

A. It’s the only evidence we have that anyone is reading the freaking book. I mean, even if 100 people buy a copy for their teen or their niece, or their own TBR pile, that doesn’t mean anyone actually READ it. The review proves that it’s getting its pages turned.

B. It’s how books are judged worthy or unworthy. Public opinion. [And now, friends and family don’t count.] If most people like your book, and one of them is like I was, and truly enjoys your book, but doesn’t give you more than four stars out of principle, your score goes down and the next person who comes along says, “Ooh, they didn’t like that very much, did they?” (Why did I say that in a British accent in my head?) The point is, potential readers judge how good the book is from the review. I know this one is a duh, but really think about it. The number you leave influences whether or not someone else spends their time and money on that book.

This is where I went wrong. You aren’t judging this book against every other book you’ve read and calling it worthy or not. You need to look at each book as being a five-piece-pie (or six pieces, or whatever you want). If the story is good, the spelling and grammar are to your liking, the world is well-built, the characters made you think, you couldn’t put it down, you dreamt about it, whatever the pieces of the pie you desire, if all five of them are there, give it five freaking stars. You aren’t saying it’s the best thing you’ve ever read in your life, you aren’t judging it by the book you gave five stars yesterday, you are saying that this book worth someone else’s time and money. That they will enjoy at least five aspects of the story. Make sense?

Authors are desperate now to find reviewers. Luckily, you can still use sites that host giveaways and then turn over to you an email list of people who have signed up to subscribe to your newsletter. Luckily.

No friends, no family, no one you can be connected to, can review your book on Amazon anymore; and if you and another author review for each other, the reviews are both removed. So how are authors supposed to get these reviews?

I plan to do a few promos when I launch The Final Rescue in March (on pre-order now- more to come). However, a few of the better marketing ads require a minimum of ten reviews posted on Amazon to even use their promo. How can you get ten reviews without putting out a really good ad first? It’s cyclical. Well, so far, I’ve sent out twenty-three copies of my third book to beta readers. Hopefully, after they read and critique, they will give me a review. I can’t count on everyone, though. The percentage is actually very low. So I’m scrambling, trying to network and throw some suggestions around with other authors in my genre to come up with some suggestions. I’ll be checking those out this week, let me know if you want a follow up post.

Beware young padawan authors, because the services who are advertising the ability to provide reviewers and their emails, have recently been shot in the foot by Amazon’s new policies. Amazon used to list individuals’ email addresses on their profile pages. You had to take a certain number of steps to make the email public and therefore, authors figured, if you review books and make your email public knowledge, you knowingly open yourself to be requested from. The services used systems to gather the public emails of book reviewers and exchange them for a price. A few reputable companies have admitted that with the new policies, their systems are defunct, and they will no longer take money for it in good conscience. Bravo.

A few have not. I don’t have a list of names, I would have to Google it just like you, but I do know of a few that are still operating despite the change. When questioned on how they are managing to still find the emails, the companies are vague or site that they have existing databases. Really? Isn’t that saying, you can’t use any email, unless it’s one you already had? They must have massive databases of info already. But is that cheating? I don’t know. It’s morally grey. You already have the names, but are you supposed to?

So, I hear you asking, now that you’ve made it sound completely impossible and I don’t trust anyone not to get me removed from Amazon, what can a person possibly do to get reviews?

First of all, if I had THE answer, I’d have more than 21 remaining reviews. Lol. But I do know of a few things that are highly suggested.

1. The first thing is to ask. I know that your cold-calling days of multi-level marketing are flashing through your head as you sweat, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean, ask the people who you know have already read your book. How can you know who that is? Put it at the back of your book. Always put a request in your end matter. Tell them genuinely how you’d like to know what they thought. Sometimes just a prompt is all that someone needs, or a reminder. In the back of books on Kindle devices, if the reader swipes left, Amazon asks them for their review right away. And no better time to get their initial thoughts.

2. Don’t ask your friends and family to all leave you a review for your YA novel, if none of them read YA. If you show up in the feed for someone who reads horror, someone who reads woodworking, someone who does puzzle books, and your grandma who buys cookbooks only, Amazon’s algorithm won’t know where in the heck to promote you. You want YA readers to buy it and review it for other YA readers. It’s better to keep it organic. So have a giveaway. Get creative. Speaking of a history in MML, you can always make up a gift basket with your book trilogy and a bag of bath bombs, chocolate and a candle and raffle the basket off in your kid’s teacher’s lounge for the teachers themselves. Or your spouse’s breakroom, if it’s allowed. Goodreads used to have free giveaways, but now they are $100, and sometimes you just don’t have it. So brainstorm.

This would include the services that give your book away in a grouping and collect emails from people who are interested in winning your book, with the knowledge that they will then be on your mailing list.

3. That’s the next one. Send a request to your mailing list. There are about a million articles online about how to get a newsletter audience. I am one of those people who has an okay number of subscribers, but I never know what to say in my newsletters. I want to give them exclusive content, but I feel like they have a finger over the unsubscribe button, just waiting for me to say the wrong thing and then they’ll push. I guess because every time I post my newsletter I lose a few. That’s normal, though. Don’t beat yourself up. In the beginning, I thought, Guess they didn’t like what I had to say today.

More than likely, my email reminded them they needed to clean out their inbox and anything not grabbing them by the… um, throat… got cut. It’s not personal, even though it desperately feels like it. When you sign up for a newsletter to get a free thing, do you expect to get any value out of it? No, me either. Sometimes, I’m pleasantly surprised, though. And that’s what you want to do. Surprise them with your personality, your wit, your writing chops, whatever you advertise, whomever you are as an author and what persona you want to portray. then go to town with it. And when you are the subscriber, and your inbox is full of blogs and newsletters, you keep the ones you like best, and let go of the others. Do you have malicious feelings about an author when you let their boring newsletter go? No. Of course not. Maybe a little relief. So be the newsletter that they want to keep. And when they like you, and trust you, show them your work, and ask them to tell you what they think.

I’ve heard people say not to tell them how they can help you, but tell them what value you have to offer the reader. I think it depends on what age group you write for. If your target audience is older, you may have a better chance with the humanitarian approach, but if you are marketing to teens, you probably want to change your tactic to show what’s in it for them.

4. The other thing I do is join sites, join groups, join anyone who has readers that review. KBR, YABC, Marketingforauthors.com, Marketing for Writers, Onlinebookclub.org, Authorsxp.com, Bargainbooksy, Reader’s Favorite, Booklife.com, Goodreads, try them all. (Come find me and friend me, I eventually friend back. And if you can’t find me on a cool site, invite me.) Sometimes you have to pay for reviews, which, like I said, is sketchy now, but many sites offer one free review, or the opportunity to apply for one free review. Send to all those. In fact, if you know of any sites that give reviews, please list them in the comments for everyone.

If you are going to pay for anything for your book, I suggest you splurge on: cover, editing, and getting an email audience first. Do I need to splurge on a cover if I’m traditionally published? That depends on who the publisher is and what their covers look like. Some small publishers give you an offer, but they don’t have the most attractive covers. If you really want to go with them, there is generally an option to have your own cover made. But whether you are self-published or with a small publisher, take the time to learn about covers, cover design, and the purpose of a book cover, so you know when you see a good cover… or not.

The editing must be done. I don’t care if you’re self publishing, or querying, you need to have the book edited first. Agents are looking for a book that is one revision away from being published. If they look at your book and see at least three more rounds of edits, they may ask for an R&R (revise and resubmit), or they may just pass. Depends on how strongly they feel and how much work is needed. Do you want to take the chance? When you get a no from an agent for one book, that’s it. That’s your one shot. And if you don’t land an agent you still have to edit the book before you decide to either submit to more agents or self-publish. There are people on Fiverr.com who will edit your book for $5 and up. Obviously people are not making their living off of their Fiverr jobs, but every pair of eyes with a red pen helps. Use your beta readers. The point is, don’t rely on yourself and come out with a book that shows it.

Finally, I suggest you use services like Booksweeps, which is personally my favorite and currently under construction, to gain an audience. The way it works is: you pay a modest ($35-$50) fee and the company puts your books with others of your genre and compiles them into a big giveaway. You share the news and publicize the event on your end, and they give you premade ads to share, with your cover and the others together. It’s really classy. Then, after the time is up, the service sends you two or three emails to send a free copy of your book as they’ve won the giveaway. In a few days you receive a file with the emails of all the people who were interested in winning your book. They signed up with the knowledge that they will be on your mailing list, so you don’t have to feel uncomfortable at all when addressing them. Get a mail service and make a landing page. Then on your own website and email signature, add that link. My first giveaway with Booksweeps earned me 449 email subscribers. I was ecstatic. And then Ryan Zee is adding lots of new marketing features this month.

We will get to ads in marketing another day. The thing is, authors don’t share this advice with each other. They don’t share what works or what’s getting them leads. Because we are all mistakenly believing that we are competing. I mean, our books are, but we are not. What about love your neighbor? You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours? The older help the younger, the mature teach the green? I am out to shed light on the publishing business so it’s not so scary, not such a mystery. Feel free to ask me any questions you’d like.

If I can help you, I’m happy to. But if you really want to help me?

Just leave me:

PLEASE and Thank You!

~jenn

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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