For some reason, only about 1 to 2% of book readers leave reviews on Amazon and other book sales channels. With my latest book How to Create Your Website: For Writers and Other Clueless Souls, for instance, the situation was even worse. While the book is selling well and I sold 400 copies in the first month, not a single one of these readers left a review! Not one! What the heck?!
Besides getting no sales, few things are more frustrating for a writer than getting no reviews. If your book gets no feedback even though you included a call to action at the end of it and asked your readers and followers to please leave a review, the only options you are left with are:
A. find and ask book bloggers whether they'd be interested in reviewing your book
B. pay for the review services that connects you with book reviewers in return for a fee.
You read that right - the latter option means that you'll have to pay to get some reviews.
The readers are not making things easy
Unless you have a new release, it's much harder to sell a book that didn't get a single review. It doesn't matter how good or bad the book is; people will be suspicious and unsure whether to buy it unless at least some of the readers already rated it. If you want to get sales, you need reviews.
Writers don't have it easy and for those of us who have to publish on a shoestring, the lack of reviews is a major problem. Since getting them is hard, this adds to the total cost of self-publishing and makes it less likely that we will make any profit despite all the efforts we invested in writing and self-publishing our books.
If you are a reader, posting reviews is a great way of showing appreciation for writers and their work. We are often selling books for less than a few bucks and our royalties are low. By caring enough to leave a short and simple review, you can help us save the money we'd otherwise be forced to spend on review services.
Sales channels are not making it easy either
Amazon and other platforms have certain rules in place that make things even harder. Many platforms delete reviews if the reviewer didn't purchase the book there. And while Amazon won't do that, it does have a requirement. Only those who have spent over $50 on the platform in the last year are allowed to post reviews. And then there are also geographic limitations to who can post where.
Amazon might also delete the reviews if it suspects they are fake. While you can thus offer your book for free to reviewers, you are not allowed to pay or offer any incentives in return for a review. The only thing you can pay for are fees to the services that connect you with book reviewers, but neither the service nor you should ever pay the reviewers for posting reviews.
Book bloggers - the free option
Contacting book bloggers who might be willing to review your book is a good option. Book bloggers often have a large following and when they share a review of your book, this boosts the sales. You don't have to pay for that, which is great for writers on a budget.
On the other hand, though, this option is also time-consuming. The more followers the blogger has, the more requests they receive and the longer their waiting line. Most of them will likely never even respond to your query. Also, it takes time to find the ones that might be interested in the kind of books you write.
How to find the right blogger? Start with free lists published on sites such as BookSirens and Reedsy blog.
BookSirens' free list
BookSirens is a paid review service but it also offers a free directory of bloggers you can contact at no cost. I found a blogger who posted a review on Amazon and Goodreads that way, so I can recommend it. For less popular genres, though, the list is somewhat limited.
Reedsy's book blogger list - with a word of caution
Reedsy blog created another list of book review blogs. Depending on the genre, you might be able to find a good option there but that will depend. I, for instance, couldn't find anything suitable for my latest how-to book there.
Avoid the sites that charge steep fees for reviews.The Indie Reader, listed on Reedsy as The Indie Bookshelve, for instance, charges from $147 for 3 reviews to $490 for 10. Also, some of the reviewers only review print copies, and some charge high reading fees ($50) for ebooks. I recommend avoiding these too.
Reedsy doesn't let you filter the results, though, so you'll have to go through a lot of listings to maybe find what you need. Or not.
Review sites - on a budget options
Uploading your book to professional book review sites will take less time and expose your book to numerous readers, but is never free. I included two affordable options that might be worth giving a try.
NetGalley through BooksGoSocial - an affordable option
NetGalley is one of the most renown book review services. It's used by traditional publishers, the standards are high (make sure you book meets them), and it's expensive. There, however, is a cheaper way of getting your book reviewed there. While listing on NetGalley costs from $450 to $849, you can get that for a fraction of the price if you go through BooksGoSocial.
BooksGoSocial Net Galley option starts at $79 and I was able to negotiate an additional 40% discount for my readers and followers, so click the link to this offer and use the coupon code netgalleymk at the checkout. This will get you a one-month listing on NetGalley for less than $50.
There are many benefits to using NetGalley. To begin with, it's used by librarians and bookstore owners who are constantly on the lookout for new books. If they notice yours, they might order yours and/or recommend it to others.
Another good thing is that the users can vote whether they like your book's cover or not, and that kind of feedback is useful.
The readers can also give you private feedback. They can, for instance, use this option to explain why they didn't post a review. You will also get emails of everyone who downloaded your book so that you'll be able to contact them after the campaign and prompt them to post a review.
One of the major downsides of posting on NetGalley through BooksGoSocial is the lack of vetting. If you go directly, you'll be able to check and approve or decline each download request to avoid freeloaders and readers with no track record of reviews. If you publish through BooksGoSocial, though, they'll accept all requests.
Another downside is that only about 10% or even less of those who download you book also post a review. And they might not even post reviews on Amazon, which is where you need them most. When I tried it, I got some reviews on Amazon, some on Goodreads and some on NetGallery but it took a while for that to happen.
Another option is BookSirens. This costs $10 per book listing and $2 per each download of your book. This, however, doesn't mean that the download will necessarily translate into a review. BookSirens state their average review rate is 75%.
This means that, on average, 75% of those who downloaded a book also post a review.
The downside of BookSirens is that they don't accept every submitted book, so you might not even be able to use this service.
Whichever of these options you choose, don't expect miracles and a ton of reviews. That's likely not going to happen and even less so if you self-published on a budget.