We already discussed writing reviews, and now it's time for a topic that might be even more important to indie writers: getting reviews. Be willing to devote time to it, because reviews will help you as a writer in multiple ways.
How to Get Reviews
I feel confident in saying all indie writers want to get reviews from readers. Good reviews can add a certain appeal to your book, and they make it plain to book shoppers that someone, someday, read your book and felt strongly enough about it to write a review. People want what other people like; that's just human nature. Having reviews can increase your sales and make your book look more interesting to readers. Now, all you've got to do is go out and get some.
- Publish your book. If you want to get reviews, it helps to publish your book in multiple places. If you're using Amazon's KDP Select program, you actually don't have this option -- but you can still list your book at Goodreads. A social media site devoted to book readers, Goodreads can be a wonderful source of reviews for your work. The more places you can list your book, the more people will find it -- and that means more reviews.
- Find reviewers. I know, easier said than done. But once you know how to find reviewers, you'll always have the skill -- which is good, because you'll need it again and again. The indie writer's greatest resource is book blogs. Use your favorite search engine, and start seeking them out. There are lots of different ways to search. Look for blogs that cater to indie writers, blogs that cater to books within your genre, and blogs that discuss books and book reviews in general. Make a list of bookmarks for all the viable-looking blogs you find, and search their resource pages to find links to other book blogs.
- Ask properly. Once you find potential book reviewers, don't just flood them with free books and emails. Take the time to look around the blog and read some of the reviews. Look at the review policy to make sure your book meets all the right criteria. Then, and only then, write a brief email to the book reviewer. Introduce yourself and your book in one sentence or less. When asking for the review, tell the reviewer why you want them to review your work. Does it fit in with the other books on their blog? Do you like something about this reviewer's specific style? Be succinct. Close the email with the blurb for your book, your relevant links and any other brief information you would like to include. Do not send them a free book; wait for them to ask you if they are interested.
- Promote it. If you're looking for reviews and reviewers, say so. Tweet about it, blog about it, announce it on Facebook. You can't possibly find every available reviewer through an Internet search, and you never know who's out there looking for new reading material.
- Encourage it. Want readers to review your book? Tell them so. Include an "About the Author" at the end of your book, and invite readers to share their opinion of your work by reviewing it. Some readers simply don't think of giving reviews. Why can't you be the one to put the thought in their heads?
My own personal beliefs on reviews have evolved -- quickly, I might add. I have a lot of thoughts on review trades that others don't agree with, but to each their own. My opinion on the subject of trading reviews is this: don't do it. I'm going to tell you why.
Indie writers are exactly like traditional writers in every single respect, without all the polish. Some indie writers are fantastic, with a strong command of editing skills, grammar and punctuation. But some indie writers are unbelievably bad at same. The moment you agree to a review trade with an indie that you don't know and never have read, you're more or less jumping off a cliff. Will you land on a pillowy-soft, fantastic book that cradles you gently in its pages...or into a pile of shite?
You have no way of knowing, and therein lies the problem with review trades. Here's a review rule I live by: don't ever commit. No one should have to clench their jaw, screw their courage to the sticking place and force themselves to waste time reading a book they positively hate in every single way. I've been there, and it's not fun. You do a review trade, you commit, you open the door up for regret and eye-rolling that could last for days, even weeks. You can attempt to save yourself some pain by reading samples, working with only trusted indies and sticking to strict guidelines (I, for example, will not read your book if it isn't justified the right way. No more exceptions).
Paying for Reviews
Lots of writers have lots of strong opinions about paid reviews. One of the more well-known is Kirkus, who by my book charges exorbitant and astronomical rates for their reviews. But a Kirkus review does carry a certain cachet, and some indie authors may have plenty of money to spend. Every business and every brand name is expected to spend money on marketing, and no indie can ever get the whole thing done completely for free (because, at the very least, you'll have to pay for a copyright). So if you want to spend your money on reviews, spend it on reviews. It is, after all, your money.
There are no bad reviews if you're an indie writer. First of all, no matter what the review says you should sit back and bask in the glow of your computer screen regardless of anything. Why? Because you just moved someone with your writing -- and isn't that what you wanted? You actually motivated someone to write down their thoughts, you got them thinking, and you wrote something they remembered long enough to sign onto a website, at least. In today's world, that's no small achievement.
Second of all, any advice you get from any reader is valuable. Take every single comment seriously, no matter how it stings, because this one reader could be thinking something similar to dozens of other readers. You want to know what all your readers think, but in lieu of hunting them through cyberspace you've got to rely on the ones who feel strongly enough to comment. If you see a negative comment, think of it as a challenge. Here's something you can improve upon in this book, or the next book, or tomorrow when you sit down to write a new chapter.