Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The challenge of getting reviews

Since I started pursuing writing back in 2011 . . . well, I actually started pursuing it back in 1979, but got really serious about it in . . . and that's all another story.  But since 2011, I've learned a lot.

One thing I've learned about this self-publishing game is that reviews are important.  You naturally want good reviews.  They help sell your books, blog book reviews can help introduce you to a new audience, and so many amazon reviews can be required for advertising on some sites.  The value of good reviews to an author is undisputed.

The trick is getting those reviews.  How do you go about it?

Well, I don't have any pat list of answers for you on how to get those reviews.  When I do, I'll share it here in this blog.  Right now, I'm still figuring it all out myself.  But, I have identified 2 problems in getting reviews.  And maybe by identifying these 2 problems, it will help with getting reviews to begin with.

Problem no. 1 - blog book reviewers who are open for requests
Getting a well known, or followed, book blogger to review your book is always good.  But finding one that is open to review requests is more challenging.  For book review bloggers, getting books to read and review is easy.  There are tons of authors out there wanting you to review their book.  Plus there are sites like Story Cartel and NetGalley, where they can get books to review.  So many book review blogs, when you check their submission requests, you will find that they are closed to review requests.

So you just have to keep checking until you find someone who is open for requests.

I know something about this because I've been running my own book review blog for about a year or two now.  I choose not to close to review requests.  But also, I'm piled up with books to read.

Problem no. 2 - Ordinary readers don't usually write reviews
I've seen writers put a book on a free promo, and then comment about how it hasn't helped much with the number of reviews they have.  Well, this is something I just recently learned from an article I read, and a post I did on facebook.

Ordinary readers don't write and post reviews.  They just don't.

But then, if you think about it, it makes sense that they wouldn't.  It's just not something they're used to doing.  To explain this, we need to go back to book selling in the late 20th century.  Back in the day of physical only books, before ebooks arrived on the scene.

You got your books from a bookstore.  Or maybe you bought a used book at a flea market or a yard sale.  Or maybe someone gave you a book.  Or maybe you traded books with someone.

In bookstores, there were displays, and the books on shelves by genre.  You browsed and roamed around, picked your books, paid for them, and were off on your way.

When you finished reading a book, you did one of the latter things mentioned above, or you just put it on a shelf.  Then you moved on to your next book.  There was no internet, no goodreads, no amazon ebook store.

Ordinary readers didn't review the books they read.  Professional writers that worked for magazines or newspapers did that.  But not your ordinary readers.  And we're talking about the 1990s when things were this way.

So this deal of ordinary readers posting reviews of books on sites like Goodreads and Amazon and such are a fairly new practice.  I mean, it's not a practice that's 30 or more years old.  Desktop computers only started appearing in homes and businesses in the 1980s, late 1970s at the earliest.  So the common use of computers in the home is well under 50 years.  It's really only 30 to 40 years old.

With the advent of self-publishing and ebooks, writers find themselves facing a whole new landscape in the publishing industry.  We're all still figuring it out.  And it's a whole new landscape for readers too.

So right now, getting reviews on your book can be a very challenging, daunting process; and everyone is still figuring this whole thing out.  But isn't it all exciting!

Share your tips and experiences with the challenge of getting reviews in the comments.


  1. I went through pages of Amazon reviews for two books similar to mine (Jurassic Park and The Mist) until I found reviewers who had posted their emails.

    I sent them all a note inviting them to read The Dinosaur Four. It was a lot of work, but I got some great reviews out of the process.


    1. Thanks for the tip Geoff. :) It's good to hear from someone who has tried it and found it worked.