So you’ve published your book or collection of poetry. You’ve poured your heart and soul into it and did the work to put it out there in the world. Now what?
An integral part of growing your following as a creative is building an audience that will read your work and share it with their network. Those initial readers can create a ripple effect and have a profound effect on your success. But more than just a one-to-one word of mouth recommendation from your second cousin twice removed, having those contacts (and professional book critics) pen a book review in an online platform is a critical avenue to grow that audience.
Let’s talk about what a true book review is and how to successfully get them for your published work.
What kind of book reviews are there?
Before prepping the components of a strong review request campaign, it’s important to understand the types of reviews and how you can leverage them in growing your audience.
One of the major milestones for a creative is seeing a review of their work online. A review is feedback from a reader that wants to share their thoughts on your work, and either recommend or dissuade other potential readers from purchasing your book.
Reviews can have a significant impact on the sales of your work, so it’s important to take them seriously, and prioritize getting as many reviews as possible. Many websites that allow reviews also use an algorithm to provide recommendations for readers based on reviews, so if you get several positive reviews, this could increase your visibility.
When you publish your work, you should expect that organic unprompted reviews will come in, but they may be sporadic and not contain the glowing praise you’re looking for. Typically, these reviews come from people who purchase your book, and you’re likely to find these organic reviews on the same site they purchased your work. Reviews on Amazon come from “verified purchasers” to ensure that they’re valid reviews but be mindful that not all sites have this protection.
Requested reviews come when an author requests that friends, family, the media, book reviewers, and related industry insiders post a review about their work. Getting solid reviews from reputable publications is a critical piece of growing your following as an author and are the reason it’s worth it to invest time and effort into crafting a review campaign. In these instances, professional reviewers will typically post their feedback on their own website or publication. We’ll get into the specifics on how to pitch them later.
If you’re able to invest, paid reviews are another avenue to collect reviews. The benefit of going this route is being able to ensure published reviews, which when you’re a new author can make a significant difference. Kirkus is one platform that offers paid review opportunities. IndieReader is another great option that’s run by fellow creatives.
How to create a great review request campaign
A good review request campaign usually has a mix of all three. You should send potential reviewers a copy after you approve the printed version, before it goes live. To do this, you’d send out author copies along with either a press kit or an outreach letter. These printed copies are technically called Advanced Review Copies (ARCs), and they’d have “not for resale” written on them. More on that later.
But what are book reviews, really?
Now that you understand the types of reviews out there, let’s get more in-depth about what a book review is (and isn’t).
Essentially, a book review is meant to be either a “buy this” or “buyer beware” signal for other readers, and a feedback loop for the author to implement in the continuous improvement of their craft. Some elements you’d find in a strong book review, as recommended by Christina Ward, include:
- Components of your collection they felt were powerful or enjoyed
- An overview of the work and what it includes (please no spoilers!)
- How this book resonated with them or made them feel
- Who they feel a good audience for this book would be
- References to work or writers that may be similar
- Whether or not the book is worth purchasing
And here are some things that they aren’t:
- The only method you have for promoting your work or brand as a creative
- An overflowing love letter to the author that was clearly written by someone that knows you personally
- A detailed overview of every plot point or major moment in your work (again, please no spoilers!)
- An advertisement for your work, that was a total copy-paste job you sent to your work colleague, when you asked them to review your book
- A forum for complaints about unrelated topics or attacks against an author
Here’s an example of a great review:
Annnddd here’s a bad (and largely irrelevant) review:
There are a million shades of grey between an amazing review and a terrible one, but the main thing to remember is that a book review should be helpful for those considering your work, on if it will be worth the investment of their time and money.
A note about safe practices for book reviews…
While every platform is different in their rules and requirements, it’s important to be mindful, especially when asking your own network to review your work, that there are parameters Amazon follows when it comes to reviews.
According to a notice Kasey Change received from Amazon, the company will suppress and ban reviewers for reasons including:
- Wording on their account or review that indicate a personal or paid relationship with the author or seller of the book they’re reviewing (this is where careful and honest wording comes into play)
- If the platform discovers the review was given in exchange for compensation (stick to clearly paid sites like Kirkus to avoid this)
The components of a strong review request campaign…
Now let’s get into the pieces of launching a strong book review request campaign.
The time for launching a campaign like this is several weeks (or even months) before the launch of your collection. As soon as you can get your ARCs generated, whether they’re digital or physical, you’ll want to have your list of reviewers in place so you can send out the requests.
You want reviewers to have enough time to read your work and formulate their review.
Continue to request reviews from loved ones or follow up with review requests you made with industry professionals but having a strong set of reviews that get released as soon as your book is launched will help capitalize on the new release buzz and help promote strong sales. Those reviews should also be a part of your post-launch marketing activities
Relying on scraps of paper with a list of your reviewers scribbled on them or endless email threads to keep track of your campaign? Consider keeping a spreadsheet of who you’re asking to review your collection, with their contact information, when you sent the request, any responses you’ve received, and a link if they publish a review. This will be useful for your post-launch marketing and will also be important to keep track of existing relationships that you can leverage for subsequent book releases.
Tap into existing networks
Have you ever heard the phrase, “the best customer is the one you currently have?” That sentiment rings true for marketing as well. Think about who you have in your network that would appreciate your work and your genre. Be creative! It doesn’t just have to be immediate family and friends. Think about former college classmates, writing groups you’re in, professional colleagues, and similar individuals. The worst thing they can say is no, and every review counts for new authors.
Have a clear and compelling ask
Whenever you’re asking someone to do something for you, it’s a good rule of thumb to be clear with what you’re asking for and make it easy as possible for them to complete. The same applies when asking for book reviews. It’s ill advised to write a word-for-word review that they can copy and paste into a review platform; instead give them the list of the components of a good review above and other relevant information that will help them in writing the review. If there’s a deadline, make sure to let them know when you make the initial request. Don’t be afraid to follow up as appropriate.
Employ proper etiquette
Don’t forget to use basic etiquette, especially when communicating with professional book reviewers**.** Include their name in the request email and a note about you liking their work or appreciating their consideration. Don’t send your ARC in digital form in the initial email. Many email platforms discard emails with attachments or the receiver may mark it as spam. It’s also important to keep track of your ARCs circulating to make sure they’re not being publicly released before your work has been formally released. And make sure that they like the genre of your work! You’re unlikely to get a positive outcome sending romantic sonnets to a gothic horror literary figure.
Be willing to invest in paid reviews
Spending money on reviews before the book sales have started rolling in can seem like a gamble, but it can pay dividends in making sure that the immediate post-release sales are strong. We mentioned some paid services (more below) that allow newbie offerings to get their name out there that are worth considering. Even if these reviews don’t directly relate to sales, they can add to your SEO, web presence, and in establishing credibility as a creative.
Say thank you and share
After your release, when the reviews start getting published, make sure to thank those that wrote them for you. Maintaining those relationships is important for your future work. Whether it’s a screenshot turned into a social media graphic or direct URL, share the reviews on your website and social media platforms to leverage them!
Wondering how to ask for a review from a professional book reviewer or the media? Swipe our template below, inspired by Button Tapper’s template, and use it for your review request campaign! Don’t forget to include relevant press materials or your media kit if sending to the media.
My name is [NAME] and I’m an [AUTHOR/CREATIVE/POET], publishing my work, [BOOK TITLE], a [GENRE] that [ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY].
The release for my work is [DATE]. I admire your work in the [GENRE OR CATEGORY] space and found your contact information via [INFORMATION SOURCE]. I felt you would enjoy my work, are you currently accepting titles for review?
If you are currently accepting submissions and this sounds like work that would be of interest, I would be happy to send you an ARC in the format of your choice.
I appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you.
List of Reviewers
Ready to craft your contact list and get started? Check our list of book reviewers, bloggers, publications, and paid review platforms!
- Melanie Rockett’s Book Reviewers Directory
- Indies Today Book Reviewer Directory
- Poets&Writers Book Reviewer Directory
- Ashia Ajani
- Joseph Awujoola
- Katie Berta
- Amandine Brodeur
- Risa Denenberg
- Kylie Gellatly
- Cosimo Giovine
- Amorak Huey
- Samantha Kolber
- Angelo Mao
- Carolyn Oliver
- Jennifer Saunders
- Sarah Tinsley
- Book Sirens Directory
- Toby A. Smith
- Book Riot
- Artisan Book Reviews
- Book Reporter
- Fresh Fiction
- Lovely Loveday
- Shelf Awareness
- Ana’s Attic Book Blog
- The Indie View Directory
- Story Cartel
- Book Blogger List Directory
Publications that publish unsolicited reviews
- The Rumpus
- Asheville Poetry Review
- Bone Bouquet
- Poetry Center San Jose
- The Carolina Quarterly
- Cold Mountain Review
- The Florida Review
- Hiram Poetry Review
- Keyhole Press
- The Literary Review
- The Los Angeles Review
- Louisiana Literature
- Main Street Rag
- Southeast Review
- Sugar House Review
- Weave Magazine
- The Adroit Journal
- Avatar Review
- American Poetry Journal
- Glint Literary Journal
- Poets Quarterly
- 32 Poems
- Atticus Review
Paid review platforms
When releasing your work (whether it’s the first time or the 40th time) it can be daunting and asking for reviews may make you feel vulnerable. Remember that it can never hurt to ask and that book reviews can make a huge difference in the growth of your readership and book sales. By being prepared, organized, and persistent, you can get some amazing reviews on platforms like Amazon, GoodReads, book blogs, and in literary publications.
Want to send out your ARCs to book reviewers, bloggers, and more? We can help you with that, but you can also check out THIS BLOG for ideas. Our self-publishing guide also has advice on how to get reviews and blurbs. You can download it HERE.