How to Get Book Reviews (in 5 Smart Steps)
Imagine the day of your book launch. You’re sitting in front of your computer, picturing all the five-star book reviews that will soon be yours… but then the days pass, and no reviews come.
Not to be overdramatic, but getting enough book reviews could just make or break your book. Reviews don't directly sell books nor affect Amazon algorithms — but they are one of the three main factors (along with the cover and the blurb) that make a reader click that “Purchase” button. Having lots of reviews can also enable you to get the promotions that your book needs to succeed. For instance, you’ll need at least 20 reviews before you can even dream of getting a Featured Deal on Bookbub.
That said, you might have already noticed the Catch-22: to get your first few sales, you’ll already need to be displaying reviews. How do you get the chicken before you’ve got the egg (or vice versa)?
Enter book bloggers, who are going to be your new best friends. In this post, we ask our top Reedsy publicists for their best tips when it comes to securing book reviews from book blogs — and we break the whole procedure down into five simple steps below.
Step 1: Identify your audience
Start early. If you can, plan your book review campaign 4-6 months in advance of your publication date. If you want your book reviews to be in place by publication, you’ll need to give all book reviewers sufficient time to write the review in the first place.
Now, using the 5 W’s of Storytelling, we’ll start with the first question you should be asking yourself: who? “A 5-star book review is wonderful, but ultimately you want to sell copies of your book, so you need to think strategically about which media outlets to target and who reads them,” says book publicist Hannah Hargrave.
Kick off by asking yourself these questions:
- Who reads in my genre?
- What magazines, websites, forums, or blogs they frequent? Where will they find reviews of your book that will make them want to buy it?
In this stage, publicist Jessica Glenn recommends building a questionnaire. “Most, if not all, publicists and publishers send authors a very long questionnaire to fill out when they start their marketing plan,” she says. “That's so we can dig into any useful piece of bio, community, or regional info to figure out who and why people will be interested in you as an author.” Ideally, your answers to these questions will then direct you to your target audience.
While you’re thinking about your audience, consider which books are your comparative titles (books that are similar to yours and share the same general readership). “I recommend at least 15 comparable books. You want ones that aren’t more than five years old and a mix of big-sellers and independent books with positive reviews,” says Jessica. “There are many first-time authors who balk at this, saying there is no true comp for their book — but dig deep and start reading.”
Why are comparable titles so important? Well, they can act as a compass, pointing you towards a ready-made audience that enjoys books in the same mold as yours. You’ll see why this may be relevant in our next step, in which you need to find book blogs to contact. Speaking of which...
Step 2: Locate book blogs that match your specifications
Now that you’ve got a sense of who you’re targeting, start searching for the book blogs that’ll provide the best exposure. We recommend using our directory of 200+ book review blogs to give yourself a running start, but feel free to do your own additional research!
First things first: when you’re digging into these blogs, check to see that the site is current (did they publish a post in the past couple of weeks?), and that the site is currently open to queries.
Then make a note of the following:
- Genre. "Be very mindful of a publication’s particular audience and target market when pitching for review. If their readership is science-fiction — do not pitch a commercial crime novel,” says publicist Hannah Cooper. It’s counterproductive, and will only waste your time and the reviewer’s time.
- Traffic. High-traffic book review blogs might seem like your highest priorities, but this isn’t necessarily true. “Don't shy away from the smaller blogs,” says publicist Beverly Bambury. “They can sometimes foster a real sense of community and starting off small is just fine. In fact, many of the bigger venues may not even accept self-published work for review.”
If you remember the comparable titles you found in our previous step, now’s the time to brush them off. “Once you have your 15-or-so comps, you can research where each book was reviewed,” says Jessica. “With luck, you will find at least 5 to 10 reviews per book which will give you many more outlets to investigate further.”
Of course, as an author, you might be wondering, “How can I begin to find all the places where a given book was reviewed?” Don’t forget the power of the biggest engine of all: Google! Conduct a search on Google and input [Book title] + book review, [Book title] + review, or [Book title] + Q&A to scout out previous reviews for any given title. Another advanced tip to give you a boost: subscribe to a "Mention" account and set up Google alerts to know every time a comp author gets reviewed or mentioned somewhere.
Once you’re armed with a bundle of suitable book review blogs, you arrive at the third critical step in this process: the pitch.
Step 3: Prepare to pitch
Pitching a book reviewer is pretty straightforward. The two rules of thumb are:
- Individualize the pitch, and
- Keep it simple, stupid.
However, before we get to our publicists’ actionable tips on pitching, there’s one more critical step that you need to make sure you do…
Read the review policy
Before you pitch the blog, read the blogger’s review policy. Some blogs will have a form to fill out; others might ask you to email them directly. Others might not even welcome queries from self-published authors. Whatever’s in their book review policy, make sure that you follow it to the T.
“There are two main benefits to reading and following the review policies closely,” says Beverly. “First, you show the reviewer that you respect and appreciate them when you follow their instructions. This is important when asking someone to do you a favor. Second, you may find that even if the site is closed for book review queries that it's open to publicity queries where you might be able to place an excerpt or do a Q&A or occasional blog post. You'll never know if you don't take the time to read the review policy first.”
Tips on pitching
Now that you’re clear on what the blogger wants, you can start pitching them with confidence.
“Never send out bulk pitches. When you pitch each outlet individually, specifically write that you read their positive book review of your comp and what that comp title was.” — Jessica Glenn
“The people you're asking to review your work are very busy and get tons of email every day, so a short, concise note is probably going to get the response. Include your title, publisher, date of release, and genre in the first paragraph. Then you might want to include the cover copy or a brief description of the book. Finally, be direct and ask for what you want. If you want a review, ask for it! If you want an excerpt placed, ask for that.” — Beverly Bambury
“All reviewers want the opportunity to discover the next 'big thing,’ particularly with fiction, so make them feel as though they have the opportunity to be the first to get the word out. Demonstrate an awareness of the blogger’s preferences — for instance, that you have taken the consideration to read their previous reviews and taken note of what they enjoy — to encourage the blogger to respond favorably to you.” — Hannah Cooper
In short, if you can get a reviewer to think, “Oh, if I enjoyed that book, I’ll enjoy this one, too,” or, “Ah, this person’s done the research to know that I’m a good fit for their book,” then you’re already that many steps closer to getting your book read and reviewed.
Step 4: Send out your book
This is the step before the moment of truth. Again, return to the book blogger’s review policy to ensure that you’re acting in accordance with their preferences. Some book bloggers might prefer digital copies of manuscripts. Others might want the physical ARC. It all depends on the individual.
Before sending out your book to reviewers and introducing it into the wider world, make sure that you’ve formatted it correctly. After all, you want the presentation of your content to match the quality! Keep in mind that fewer bloggers these days will require you to send in a physical proof. In fact, the majority of book bloggers now prefer digital copies of your manuscript — in which case, you may want to check out Instafreebie or Bookfunnel, both of which make it easy to generate individual ARC download links that you can send to the reviewers.
We recommend keeping a spreadsheet of your progress. Use it to keep track of which blogs you’ve submitted your book to, which blogs responded, and which blogs you’ve yet to submit your book to.
Pro-tip: If you’re searching for a good book production tool to make your book, the Reedsy Book Editor can format and convert your manuscript into professional ePub and print-ready files in a matter of seconds.
Step 5: Follow-up
A while has passed since you queried a book blog, and so far… silence. Crickets everywhere. What do you do then?
Keep calm, and follow Hannah Hargrave’s advice: “Don't bother reviewers for an answer daily. I will usually chase again after a week has passed. If I really believe that a book deserves a book review with that publication, I will then call them directly. If you receive a decline response, or no-one responds to your third chase-up, I would assume this means they are not interested. Any further follow-ups, or aggressive requests as to why your book’s not being reviewed, will not be viewed kindly. Be polite and friendly at all times.”
However, that’s the worst-case scenario. Best-case scenario, the blogger responds favorably and you’ve bagged yourself a book review! Now, what do you do with it?
The reviewer will typically post their review of your book on their blog — and on Amazon, Goodreads, and any other platforms that they’ll name in their review policy. (Which is the millionth reason why a book blogger’s review policy is extremely important and you should make sure that you read it carefully).
Once your book is out there in the world, you can’t control other people’s reaction to it anymore. “Remember — by submitting your book for review, you're accepting that some people might not enjoy it,” says Hannah H. “Some people may even despise it! Most great novelists experienced a bad review at some stage in their career! It can be very tough after you’ve spent months or years crafting your novel, only for some reviewer to tear it apart. But you need to be prepared for that.”
And if you’re stuck at any point during your publicity blitz and need some help on your book review campaign? That’s what book publicists are for. You can reach out to talk to some of the best in the industry via the Reedsy marketplace today.
How have you fared getting book reviews? Do you have any questions on the process? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!