I never bothered going out of my way for reviews until very recently. After all, I was using keywords for optimization, and if people liked the books, they would doubtlessly write reviews for them. Right? Who even reads reviews anyway, except for the authors?
I was far off the mark. Over the past few months, I’ve learned that not only are reviews a good thing to have, but they’re crucial. They can make the difference between being a “real” writer and being vanity press. Reviews prove to the world that more people than just your mom think that you have what it takes, that your work really is entertaining, enlightening, and engaging. After all, how many times have you taken a book more seriously simply because of a few blurbs on the cover that said it was brilliant? I’ve done it quite a bit, and it changes my own thoughts.
So reviews can talk others into reading your books, and they can give you something to show to friends and family who doubt your serious ability, and yourself when you need something to encourage your writing efforts. But what about the dark side of reviews? The one or two star “I-hated-this-book-because-it-was-so-horrible-how-could-this-author-be-so-bad-do-not-buy-this” reviews? That can kill any chance you might have had. Is it a worthwhile risk?
Submitting my novella Automaton to reviewers was the absolute most terrifying thing I’ve ever done as a writer. Even more terrifying than sending my work to publishers. Getting rejected by a publisher is one thing–the company didn’t want to take a risk on its readers not liking you. But there’s nothing at stake for a reviewer. She can give you the thumbs down with a single click and a short blurb on Amazon, and her job is over.
Well, that risk isn’t nearly as big as you might think. No, your book will not appeal to everyone. But reviewers are busy people. They often have mountains of books to read and are hesitant about accepting anything new. . . unless they think they’ll like it. If a reviewer decides to review your book at all, he or she most likely already plans to leave a positive review. Otherwise he wouldn’t bother.
I couldn’t believe the first response I heard from someone who had read Automaton. She said it was amazing. She loved the characters, she loved the story and the Steampunk atmosphere. She couldn’t wait to post her five-star review on opening day. I didn’t see that coming at all, but now I could know with some certainty that yes, my writing was fun for somebody to read–and it is now all the more worth writing.
So how do you get reviews? Well, you can pay. Lots of services will offer detailed reviews with a big brand name attached that you can choose to have posted wherever you want. But they’re expensive, and probably not a good option if you’re just starting out. Kindle Book Review
is one fun site that allows you to review a random other member’s book for someone else to review yours. Personally I love that service, but last I checked you could only do it once.
Then there are independent reviewers. There are directories like bookbloggerlist.com that list more bloggers than you could dare submit to, and you can pick and choose the ones that would most likely take an interest in your novel. Send the ones you like an email with the basic book information: title, author name, genre, publishing house (if any), blurb, and formats available. Keep track of everyone you contact, and if they respond, they will likely be interested in giving a review!
A final note: it’s never too late to get more reviews for a book, and it’s a good idea to start submitting to reviewers as soon as you have a steady draft to send. Be prepared to spend a lot of time submitting, but know that it is absolutely worth the publicity. I’ve gotten hundreds of people interested in Automaton who otherwise wouldn’t have known about it, and when the next few books come out in the series, I’ll now have a much more established audience waiting for it!