Every new self-published author has been there, that moment when you realize that you need to get reviewers to increase your book sales and you don’t have the faintest idea how to make that happen. It’s at this point that we turn to others for help. For those who have a mentor or experienced friend or family member to guide them through the process, that moment is easily resolved. For those of us who don’t have assistance, we turn to the internet and hours of research to find out how to go about getting more reviews.
It isn’t hard. There are literally thousands of bloggers, BookTubers, and podcasters out there who want a free copy of an author’s book and want to review it for you free of charge. Or, if an author is too intimidated to sift through all of that on their own, they can pay a book tour organizer or some other kind of review site to distribute their book to reviewers.
Still yet, many new authors are taken advantaged of by solicitations from “professional book reviewers” who want to charge them for reviewing their book.
Yes, I know. I sound like a hypocrite. I charge people to review their books. But, I am actually a published author. Not just under this pseudonym, but under other names as well. I know what I’m talking about when I review a book. I’m not going to sugar coat it, and I’m going to help a book sell to the audience that actually wants to read it so that the author ends up with less bad reviews over all.
With that stated. I, and every professional author I know, hate being solicited for paid book reviews. That is the reason I don’t solicit for my book reviewing service. The authors who are new and don’t know better may look upon these unsolicited contacts as a good thing. But I’m going to tell you right now, that any business that needs to cold email an author as a lead generation probably isn’t going to be good for a book. Those of us who have been publishing for a while know this. We will avoid you. We will tell our author friends how you annoyed us. Your email will be reported as spam or maybe even as phishing depending on how you word your request.
I posted something to that effect on Twitter not long ago and have experienced a bit of a backlash from some individuals with a sudden influx of unwanted spam emails from “professional reviewers” who were angry about being called out for those habits that authors hate. After marking as “spam” or “phishing” at least one unsolicited “I will professionally review your book for money” email per pay for the last week, I felt that I would save any aspiring professional reviewers the embarrassment of behaving in a way that would hinder their business by sharing a list of do-not-do’s.
I know that with so many people looking for alternative revenue streams during the pandemic, there has been a sudden influx of book reviewers on the scene. Even more unfortunately, they are probably taking all those classes advertised on social media about growing their business, email client list building, and lead generation. They are creating new work habits to build their brand but really just alienating the people who are most likely to give them business with their inappropriate aggressiveness.
So, here’s a list of what new “professional book reviewers” do wrong, so that you can get it right.
1) You cold email someone who has never heard of you. – While this isn’t necessarily the worst thing that you could do, it is bloody annoying. Unless an author offers up their email for contacting them directly, don’t hunt them down and bother them. Well established authors will have have book reviewers already or will make their books available for review. Newer authors will announce when they are looking for reviewers on their blog or social media and will offer free “review copies” of their books to anyone who responds to their call.
2) You don’t provide evidence that you are a professional reviewer in your initial contact. – For the love of sanity, do not do this. If you absolutely have to cold email someone and you want to be taken seriously and not categorized as spam, please, please, please, provide a link to your pricing page and where your reviews are posted. If you aren’t going to charge for the review and just want a free copy of a book to review so that you can maintain your posting schedule with new content, then say so. Say, “I do not charge for reviews” or “I would like to offer to provide an honest review of your book if I can get a review copy from you”. Many authors who need reviewers will be happy to provide this to you. I know I’ve done so on more than one occasion only to see no review happen because of it. We know that reviews are hit and miss, most of the people who have read my books have not left reviews. I’m okay with this because it usually means that they liked the book but couldn’t be bothered to write a review.
3) Claiming to be a “professional reviewer” when you aren’t. – I’m not sure where one goes from being an amateur or hobby reviewer to a professional exactly, but I’m going to put it somewhere around the mark of when people start seeking you out to provide reviews for them and you can make money off of it. Whether it is ad revenue or service fees, I’m just going to count any income you receive. But if you are a freelance reviewer who only reviews on their own blog/social media/website and don’t have a price list page for your services easily searchable and viewable by potential customers and the ability to accept credit or debit card payments over the internet, you are not a “professional book reviewer”. Stating that you are a professional book reviewer in a contact email will not magically make you a professional reviewer. The authors you are emailing will not believe you.
4) Using bogus emails. – I was recently contacted by someone offering to review my book whose email address was less than credible. Most of the “professional book reviewers” who contact me are sketchy at the least and possibly dangerous tricks for identity theft. If your email doesn’t clearly show who you are or your affiliation with a book review website/blog/vlog/podcast then you are likely not getting contacted back.
5) Not having a set reviewing standard for every book you review. – A professional reviewer has set standards they work to reach with every product they produce. It is quantifiable, it is reproducible, it is reliable. When you start getting individuals seeking you out for reviews, it’s not just going to be those lazy advertising agents and promoters who are trying to get free publicity out of you for the authors who paid them for advertising and publicity, and the real clients who aren’t just looking for a free ride will seek you out because you produce an honest, thorough, deep dive into the nitty gritty of their book with all the good and the bad laid bare for future readers to see. Those clients are going to appreciate everything you say honestly because it will help the right readers find their books and keep people who won’t like their books from reading those books and leaving bad reviews. If you need help setting a standard for your reviews you can always contact me from the contact page and I can try to help you. I can add you to my list of book reviewers and you will get copies of free books from authors looking for reviews. If you want to join my Authors4Bloggers list, you will even get paid when you review books I’ve been paid to review.
6) You don’t have any content on your site. – Lots of authors will gladly give away a copy of their book to someone who will provide a review on the off chance that a potential customer will see the review and then buy their book. However, every few people will consider paying money for a book review to a site that has no reviews yet. So, before you start charging, write up or record some reviews. They don’t have to be new books, just review any books you’ve previously read using your standard review format. Then post those reviews. Post them one at a time or post a bunch at once. It’s up to you.
7) You don’t have social media. – It’s going to take months, maybe as long as a year (depending on how SEO savvy you are) for every search engine to reliably pull up your site in searches if you are starting out brand new online. Even then, most book review sites won’t show up on the first page or even the first ten pages of an internet search. Unless you want to shell out money for advertising, then social media will likely be the best place to find new customers.
8) Your personal and professional online personas are not separated. – It’s just better to not have personal stuff mixed with your professional stuff on your social media and web page. I have a separate social media for my author pseudonym, my reviewing business, and my personal interactions. I want zero crossover.
9) The content on your review site has nothing to do with reviews. – Yes, I know, much of the content on my review site has little to do with review. That’s because I started charging for reviews as a means of keeping other authors and their publicity agents from bugging me about reviewing books for them. This is a case of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do. Can you make money reviewing books on a site not related to book reviews. Sure you can. But there might not be as many people looking for you in that case.
10) You accept every book no matter the genre. – If you don’t like a genre, odds are you aren’t going to give a good or honest review of a book. Don’t sacrifice your budding business by taking on a book that is going to make you hate reading. A lack of genre discrimination is almost always the sign of a reviewer who is not a professional reviewer since very few people indiscriminately like each and every genre of entertainment. Be picky. There are enough books and new authors out there to satisfy your need for customers without alienating the people who come along. Being honest about what you can and can’t deliver will make genuine customers respect you more as you will seem more professional. And that professionalism will make you stick in their mind next time they or one of their friends is looking for reviewers.
Now that I’m done
ranting educating all you new pandemic book reviewers out there, I’ll just hop on down off this soapbox. I hope that what I’ve said makes sense and helps you in your quest for book review glory. Good luck and good fortune in your endeavors.
One last piece of advice I’d like to share.
Don’t sign up for a book review tour that doesn’t pay you. There are many, many book review tour companies out there. Most of them will not pay you. Some of them will pay in gift certificates (which usually requires multiple reviews for one small certificate) or raffle entries to giveaways (the more places you post your review the more raffle entries you get). This is a copout. Your blog will cost you money and time. What you gain in “exposure” is not equivalent to what you put out in effort and resources (I know this from experience). This is why I have refused to use a book tour company to promote my own book, because I haven’t found one that pays the reviewers a portion of the fee I would pay for the tour.
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