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So, it’s January 2020! Whatever your plans for the year I hope you see them through, including those of you that have decided to make this the year you sit down and write that book that’s been rattling around in your head for a while. However, once written and published, either traditionally or as an indie author, the next hurdle for most writers is drumming up interest in your book and generating honest reviews. In fact, “how can I get more reviews for my novel” is one of the frequently asked questions put to me by newbie authors. As the current published author of just three novels, I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I have learned a few things during my writing journey, which I’m more than happy to share with you.
However, before we begin, the first rule of thumb is to remember that lots of reviews don’t necessarily equate to lots of sales, but they can help, and here’s why.
Reviews help build your credibility and integrity and encourage new readers to try your books. Plus, reading reviews of your own work can help you as a writer, hone your skills by giving you a better understanding of what your readers are looking for – answering questions like, what readers enjoyed about your work? What they think is missing? And what they connected with? Which does a lot to help you understand your audience.
So for those of you just starting out, here are my top tips.
Build like-minded friendships. Before you even think about approaching anyone to review your book, I strongly recommend you join the reading, writing and blogging community online. Twitter is a good place to interact with the book world – try using, or searching various hashtags like #writingcommunity #BookReview #booklove #bookbloggers #FridayThoughts #FridayFollow and #FridayReads. Facebook too, is a great place to find lots of fab groups where readers, writers and reviewers can all interact together (see some my recommend groups below). Just be aware though, each group has a different set of rules (and some do not permit random self-promotion posts) so please be sure to read the group rules of each one you join. This gives you the opportunity to build friendships with readers, writers and reviewers and eventually reach out to those you think might be interested in reading and reviewing your book(s).
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Author Joanne Harris suggests that writers should:
“Engage with the book community. It’s not a question of “us and them”: many of us are readers, authors and bloggers all at the same time”.
Book Bloggers. Reviews by Book Bloggers can be extremely influential. Again, I refer to Joanne Harris, and number one on her list of #TenThingsAboutBookBloggers – which she tweeted last year:
“Over the past ten years, book bloggers have gradually overtaken print reviewers when it comes to informing readers about books. That’s because bloggers are passionate readers, with no editorial agenda to push.”
However, not all Book Bloggers review all types of books. Most prefer to read and review the genre they like best. So if you do reach out to book bloggers, PLEASE read their review policy beforehand. Book Bloggers are inundated with requests, so I cannot stress how important it is to do this! Click here to read editor Emma Mitchell’s useful guide on how to approach Book Bloggers. You’d also do well to remember that bloggers don’t get paid for reviews, therefore, as Joanne Harris suggests (above) they also have no agenda. If a blogger does agree to read an ARC of your book, it is in exchange for an honest review, which is no guarantee it will be a glowing one. Joanne Harris suggests:
“By all means thank a blogger for a good review. But don’t argue over a bad one, even if you think it’s unfair”.
Book Bloggers don’t owe authors good reviews.
Book Blog Tours. I’m a huge fan of Book Blog Tours. My publisher, Matthew Smith, at Urbane Publications kindly arranged the Book Blog Tour for my third novel, Time Will Tell, with the lovely Kelly at Love Books Group Tours. They’re also a great idea if you don’t feel confident enough to approach individual reviewers or book bloggers yourself.
However, I do feel it’s important for writers to get grips with the true value of Blog Tours, which doesn’t necessarily equate to more book sales.
In 2016, author and blogger Barb Drozdowich wrote a post for ALLI (Alliance of Independent Authors) here, mainly in response to some of the negative comments she kept hearing from authors who were clearly disappointed with the results of their Blog Tours, particularly those that couldn’t see a relatable rise in book sales. Barb wrote, “let’s be clear right up front: BOOK BLOG TOURS DON’T SELL BOOKS”.
Ok, fine, you might be saying if you’re reading this, why should I invest in one then?
Well, let me tell you.
A Book Blog Tour is about social interaction. A virtual meet and greet version, if you will, of some of the (real life) author/blogger meet ups I’ve attended. It’s the coming together of a group of likeminded individuals with the aim of sharing information about books.
Going back to Barb Drozdowich’s post, she quotes Aimee, a blogger who arranges blog tours:
“I know when you think ‘Book Tour’ most authors immediately think ‘book sales’ but it’s not true. I always try to tell my authors that book tours don’t sell books, they get people talking about your book, which in turn may help sales at some point but really it’s about getting you as the author and your book out into the interwebs to be found!”
Which is true, readers are always looking for new recommendations from sources they trust. So, while a Book Blog Tour may not result in an immediate spike in book sales, as Sandra Poirier Smith points out here in her Bookbub guest post, Tips on Using Blog Tours for Book Marketing, “a nod from a book blogger with an avid fan base in your genre is pure gold”.
You will, of course, be charged a fee if you ask someone to arrange a Book Blog Tour for you (see my list of Book Blog Tour organisers below) however, it’s also important to remember that the book bloggers that take part in these tours (many of whom have full time jobs and busy family lives) don’t get paid – they do it for one reason, and one reason only – the sheer love of books. So always be polite, and don’t forget to say thanks.
ARC Groups. Crime writer, Tony Forder suggests that “forming your own ARC (Advance Reader Copy) group on Facebook works well. If you can get 30-40 interested readers who will provide an honest review on Amazon in exchange for the ARC, then it can really give you an early boost. Amazon, of course, are notorious for changing their rules and how they apply them, so sometimes reviews won’t be accepted for reasons Amazon will not reveal, so you tend to need more readers in your ARC group than you might think. All you need to do is create a locked group on Facebook and invite people, explaining how it works”.
Others: I haven’t actually tried all of these myself (so there may be some pitfalls) but some of my writing buddies suggest taking a look at the following to help generate reviews:
Good luck. I hope this helps.
Some of my recommended Facebook groups:
The Fiction Café Book Club
THE Book Club (TBC)
Chick Lit and Prosecco (Chat Group)
Writers authors and readers
Women Writers, Women’s Books
Good Housekeeping Book Room
Crime Fiction Addict
Book Blog Tour Organisers:
Kelly Lacey – Love Books Group Tours
Anne Cater – RandomThings Tours
Rachel Gilbey – Rachel’s Random Resources
Emma Welton – Damppebbles
Sarah Hardy – Book On The Bright Side