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3 Do’s and 3 Do Not’s of Requesting Book Reviews

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could sell thousands of copies of our books just by sharing the raving reviews we received from our family and friends? Can you imagine these gems on the back cover of your book? 

photo by brandijordan

“Best thing she’s written since she scribbled her name in crayon on her bedroom wall.” – Dad

“It was the first book I read that wasn’t required for school, so I guess it was pretty good.” – Brother

“The book was great, but I knew it would be. She’s always been a talented child. Now if only she’d get married and give me some talented grandchildren.”  – Mom

While those are all moving endorsements, unfortunately our families don’t carry enough weight in the writing community to boost our sales with their honest opinions. Instead, we are forced to look elsewhere, to popular bloggers and news outlets whose opinions have value outside our household in order to let our potential readers know that we are every bit as good as we say we are.

But how do we get those reviews? What’s the secret to getting someone to write a review of your book? What hoops do you have to jump through? Who do you have to beg? Where is the key to the secret under world of book reviewers?

Don’t panic, the secret to getting a great book review is in fact very simple. All you have to do is ask!

Well, okay, there are a few guidelines to follow, but we’re going to give you the skinny on those below (dig my usage of 1950’s newspaper slang?). And yes, you need to make sure that your request email or letter is well written, but we’ve got a template created to help you with that as well. Also, you’re an author so you should be able to string together some decent sentences, otherwise you need to find a different hobby.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s request some reviews!

3 Things You Should Definitely Do When Requesting a Book Review

1. Allow 6-8 weeks for a review.

How fast can you read? Can you speed through a 300 page novel in a day? Well, neither can the reviewers. Add that to the fact that they probably have a waiting list of other authors’ books to read and you’re looking at a wait time slightly longer than the average doctor’s visit. But don’t be discouraged, just plan ahead. Get advanced copies to reviewers well before your release date to be sure that you’ve got plenty of time to wait.

photo by epw

2. Offer eBook and paperback options.

Everyone has their preferences, even within the eBook category there are a variety of formats available. Be as flexible as possible in offering all available options to potential reviewers. Though it might be more convenient (and cheaper) for you to provide an eBook copy, the wholesale cost and shipping of a few paperbacks is a worthwhile investment to get a good review. Be prepared for many reviewers to require paperbacks from self-published authors.

3. Include a link to your media kit.

You’ve had a week to become a media kit rock star so I’m going to assume all of you have put together a stunning promotional package. Make sure you upload that amazing media kit to your website so you can provide a link to potential reviewers where they can find more information about you and your title. Please note that I said link, not attach. Attachments are a one-way ticket to someone’s spam folder, and even if not, people are always hesitant to open attachments from strangers for fear of viruses and other unwanted files. Links are safer, always use a link.

3 Things You Should Definitely NOT Do When Requesting a Book Review

1. Make it about you.

Just like writing a press release, your request for a review needs to appeal to the reviewer’s needs, not yours. They don’t care that you really need some glowing reviews to promote your book or that you’re trying to quit your day job and become a full time writer. They have readers to please with reviews of books that they might be interested in reading, so tell them why your book falls in that category. Know what genres they work in and who their target market is and make sure those two things align with your work.

photo by gumuz

2. Have a chip on your shoulder.

People are going to say ugly things about self-publishing. Some reviewers may even refuse to look at your book because it’s self-published. Just like you have your reasons for believing in the power of indie authors, they have their reasons for avoiding them. Don’t take it personally and whatever you do, do not let it carry over into other interactions with potential reviewers. Don’t take a negative tone because you’re already bracing yourself for a rejection. Be kind, conversational and pleasant. Haven’t you ever heard the expression you catch more bees with honey than vinegar?

3. Attach your manuscript if it hasn’t been requested.

Attaching your manuscript to a request for a review would be like taking your children a potential babysitter’s house, ringing the doorbell and leaving them on the front porch. It’s a little forward and intrusive, and frankly a little rude. Additionally, if it’s a big file (they usually are) it can clog up somebody’s inbox or get flagged and sent straight to the purgatory of their spam folder. Either way, it will not earn you brownie points or make anyone more likely to read your book. Just make the offer to provide a copy and let the reviewer be the one to request that you send it over.

Talk Back

What’s your experience with requesting reviews? Do you have tips to offer your fellow indies? Let us know in the comments!

  • great article! love the tips!

  • Maryan Pelland

    Good advice! One more never do – offer to pay for a review! That is just so damned tacky.

    • Amen to that, Maryan! That is extremely tacky and disingenuous. A definite addition to the “Do Not” list!

    • mattmchugh

      “One more never do – offer to pay for a review!”

      Publishers do it routinely.  Paid celebrity blurbs.  Features in owned magazines.  Fees to professional organizations.  Not to mention all sorts of tit-for-tat cooperatives.  Just to put in perspective what you’re up against as an indie competing for reader attention with media conglomerates.  While I would not advocate directly paying reviewers, I point out that whatever ethical or artistic qualms you may have as an individual sharing your work are not shared by corporations promoting product.

  • One of the elements of reviews you didn’t mention was how to target reviewers to query.  It’s extremely time consuming, but I’ve gotten a good positive response rate by carefully targeting reviewers who review in my genre.  I’ve done this by looking at comparable books on amazon and clicking through to see the profiles of reviewers AND by spending days looking through the amazon top 1000 reviewers list, looking for reviewers who use tags that match my genre.

    Definitely worth it to get a higher response rate of appropriate reviewers.

    And amen to everything else you wrote here. 

    • Great tips, Lisa! We’ll definitely write some guides on targeting reviewers in the future :-)

  • Anne R. Allen

    Great tips. It’s not just review blogs that get clueless requests. I’ve written a post on how to query for guest blogpost spots on my blog this week. It’s amazing how the worst offenders seem to be professional publicists. Do you find that too? 

    • Oh, absolutely. In fact, we just had to write up some guest posting guidelines to try to weed some of those link-farmy types out.

  • Ed Drury

    Nice short list of easy to understand do’s and don’ts. Thanks!

  • Also please don’t assume a reviewer will buy your book. The same goes for book two in your series even if a reviewer thought number one merited five stars. Reviewers work for you, so don’t make them pay. I assure you, I may think about buying, but I may never get around to it.

    Don’t you want a positive review of your book as soon as possible? Isn’t that worth losing the possibility of a profit? Other writers will gladly place a freebie as the next in the reviewer’s stack, and your reviewer won’t be caught up for Book Three’s release.

    Do ask about guest posts and interviews if their site does not specify.

    Do thank them and help them spread the word about their review on social media sites, etc. This creates a wonderful reciprocal relationship and creates big fans with clout.

    Do check out what books the reviewer liked to make sure your book is a fit.

    • Definitely, Wren — all very good advice, especially not assuming that the reviewer will buy your book. It’s worth putting together an ARC for sure!

  • AnnabelSmith

    This is a helpful article. I think it can also be helpful to ask non-professional reviewers to review your book for sites like Amazon and Goodreads. I just had a debut novelist ask me for a review by sending me a message on Goodreads. He had taken the time to see what kind of books I like to read and which I review positively and thought I would be a good fit to review his book. This worked for me – I said yes. And I will probably ask him to reciprocate with my book. I understand it is not the same as a published review by a repected name, but it can help and is a good way for indie authors to help each other.

    • Excellent advice, Annabel. We’re all about indies helping each other out, especially if you’ve taken the time to make sure your book is a good fit!

  • Great article, thanks! I’m also looking at the media kit you mentioned…I’ve seen these on various authors’ websites, but have always been wary of making one. With my book looming on the horizon, I guess it’s time to bite the bullet. :) Thanks to Lisa for those tips in the comments as well!

    • Good luck putting together your media kit, Adriana. Don’t stress too much — you can always add/revise it as you find out what your particular audience is looking for!

  • Thank you so much for taking the time out to share great tips and resources for us writers.

  • Jessica Linn Evans

    Thank you! Very helpful.

  • Great article and advice. Enjoyed the tips in the comments as well. Thank you!

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