Reviews are essential if you want to get anyone to download your book. However, if no-one is downloading your book there is no-one to review it. Here’s how I tried to break out of that downward spiral of logic without resorting to getting friends or family to post reviews under false names (as some authors have done).
Firstly it is great to have reviews ready to go when your book is first published – I got this completely wrong with the books I have published so far, they were launched with no reviews. Having some reviews when your book is first published seems to be a great boost. I waited until long after they were published to really seek out reviews and I should have started before I published them.
So far I have tried three ways to get reviews: giveaways, email bombardments and review swaps. Giveaways are great but will cost something. I ran mine through Goodreads.com and they only allow you to give away printed copies of your book, not electronic copies. I gave away five copies and got two reviews out of it. This is actually a good hit rate in terms of reviews.
Next I tried email bombardment, this takes much more effort. I went through Amazon reviews of books in the same general genre as mine and looked up the details of reviewers of those books, many had their details hidden but some gave a website or an email address. Then I put together personalised emails to each of these reviewers – this is key, a lot of them will object to a stock email and think this means you don’t really value their reviewing skills. Try to remember, you need to keep them happy as you need their reviews. I sent out around a hundred targeted emails out over the course of a week or two, so far that has gained me one review. Ok, it is a good, honest review from a top Amazon reviewer but it is still a pretty poor hit rate.
The next thing I tried is review swaps. When I recently put my books up for free on Amazon I got a couple of emails offering to swap reviews from other authors – you review my book and I’ll review yours. I put up positive reviews of their works after reading them, they weren’t necessarily my cup of tea but I tried to be positive about them – largely because I felt it was expected. They reciprocated with good reviews for my books, only one problem – I’m not entirely convinced they even read them or that they were the authors themselves. Am I entirely comfortable with this way of getting reviews? No, not really. If I am to do this again the person I am swapping reviews with will need to be very convincing.
There is another route, which I am trying at the moment – going onto discussion boards and essentially offering a free copy of the book in exchange for a review. Whether this works or not is still to be seen.