How to Get Book Reviews in 5 Steps (2021 Update)
Imagine the day of your book launch. You’re sitting in front of your computer, blissfully imagining all the five-star book reviews that will soon be yours. Yet the days pass... and the reviews don't come.
Needless to say, you'll want people to buy and read your book ASAP so they can leave you some good reviews. But you may see the Catch-22 here: in order to make your first sales, you’ll need to display positive book reviews. So how do you get the chicken before you’ve got the egg (or vice versa)?
Enter book bloggers, who are your new best friends! For this post, we asked our top Reedsy publicists to share their best tips on how to get book reviews from book bloggers — and we've condensed their advice into these five essential steps, plus a few bonus tips at the end.
You can also check out this Reedsy Live on how to get your first book reviews, with advice from author and book marketer Debbie Drum.
Those who prefer their tips in written form, let's dive right in with the very first step of the review acquisition process!
1. Identify your audience
A quick preliminary note: you want to start the review-gathering as early as possible. If you can, plan your book review campaign 4-6 months in advance of your publication date. Because if you want your reviews to be in place by then, you’ll need to give people time to actually write them!
Now, using the "5 W’s of Storytelling," let's talk about the first thing you should be asking yourself: who? Who will be reading your book, and who is best positioned to promote it to that audience? The following tips will help you answer these questions.
Build a questionnaire
Here are a few more specific queries to help you clarify your "who":
- Who reads in my genre?
- What magazines, websites, forums, or blogs do they frequent?
- Where might they find reviews of my book that will entice them to buy it?
Indeed, publicist Jessica Glenn recommends building a full-length questionnaire to identify your audience and where you might find them on the Web (or in real life!).
“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 your book.”
Your questionnaire will direct you to your target audience and help you create a proto-persona. This is the "ideal reader" of your book, so to speak — a perfect blend of the traits you'd expect them to have. (For example, if you've written a YA paranormal romance novel, your proto-persona might be a 14-year-old girl who's obsessed with Twilight.) And whoever they are, you'll keep them in mind every time you make a marketing decision.
Think about comp titles
Another great way to get a handle on your target audience is to figure out your comparative titles — books that are a) similar to yours and b) share the same general readership. When pitching to book reviewers, these are the titles you'll use to sell your own book. For instance, "My book is Normal People meets The Incendiaries."
According to Jessica, you should have at least 15 potential comp titles for your book, ideally a mix of bestsellers and well-reviewed indie titles. “Many first-time authors balk at this," says Jessica, "as they believe there is no true comp for their book — but dig deep and you'll find them!”
Comp titles are critical because they act as a compass, pointing you towards a ready-made audience that enjoys works in the same mold as yours. This is a huge help in determining your target readers, as well as which reviewers will cater to them. Speaking of which...
2. Find relevant book blogs
Now that you’ve got a strong sense of your audience, you're ready to find blogs that will provide the best exposure to that audience. We recommend starting with our directory of 200+ book review blogs, but feel free to do your own research as well!
As you dig into book review blogs, check on these two things first:
- Is the site active? Has the blogger published a post within the last month or so?
- Are they currently accepting queries? If they're closed at the moment, it could be months before your book gets a review — if at all.
Once you've confirmed that a book review blog is both active and open to queries, think about whether it's right for your book. Here are some important factors to consider:
- Genre. Don't waste your time on blogs that don't review books in your 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.
- Traffic. High-traffic book 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."
- Posting frequency. Another consideration is how often the blogger in question actually publishes reviews. Too often, and your book will get lost in the shuffle; too seldom, and they're likely to lose readers. Try to strike a balance with about 1-2 reviews per week — no decent reviewer can turn them out faster than that, anyway!
Track down your comp titles' reviewers
Remember those comp titles you came up with earlier? You can use them not only to pitch your book, but also to find potential reviewers, as they will correspond perfectly with your genre and target audience.
“Once you have your 15-or-so comps, you can research where each book has been reviewed,” says Jessica. “With luck, you will find at least a couple of book reviews per title, which will give you many more outlets to investigate further.”
Now, 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 Google! Try searching the following terms to find reviews for a given title:
- [Title] + book review
- [Title] + review
- [Title] + Q&A
Once you’re armed with a bundle of suitable book review blogs, you've arrived at the third (and perhaps most crucial) step in this process. This is, of course, creating the pitches you'll send to reviewers.
3. Write pitches for them
Pitching a reviewer is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is a) keep it short, and and b) personalize it as much as possible. However, before we get to our publicists’ actionable tips on pitching, there’s one more thing that you absolutely HAVE to do. And that thing is...
Read the review policy!
Before you pitch any blog, make sure you read the blogger’s review policy. Some blogs will have a form to fill out; others might ask you to email them directly. Still others might not welcome any queries from self-published authors. Whatever they say, make sure that you follow it to a 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 review queries, 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.”
For more firsthand advice on reaching out to reviewers, check out this Reedsy Live from professional marketer and book publicist Ben Cameron.
More tips for pitching reviewers
Now that you’re clear on what the blogger wants, you can start pitching them with confidence. Here are three more key tips for pitching book reviewers:
1. 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,” says Jessica Glenn. Or if you didn't find them through a comp title, mention other aspects of their blog and why you think they would be great to review your book!
2. Be concise and direct. “Include your title, publisher, date of release, and genre in the first paragraph,” notes Beverly Bambury. “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.”
3. Appeal to their commercial side. “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 get the word out first," says Hannah Cooper. Indeed, if you can convince a reviewer that you are doing them a favor, you're practically guaranteed to get a review.
Basically, try to get reviewers to think, “Oh, if I enjoyed [comp title], I’ll enjoy this person's book too,” or “They've done the research to know that I’m a good fit for their book.” If you can do that, you’re already much closer than everyone else to obtaining high-quality book reviews!
4. Send out your book
This is the step before the moment of truth (the review itself), so it's extremely important to get everything right. To ensure you're complying with each reviewer's guidelines, review their policy again before you send them your book. Some bloggers might prefer digital copies of manuscripts, while others might want a physical ARC — be prepared to accommodate.
Also, as you begin sending your book to various outlets, you should track your progress in a spreadsheet. Record which blogs you’ve submitted to so far, which blogs have responded, and which blogs you plan to submit to, so you don't accidentally double-submit or skip over anyone.
Formatting your book
Other than double-checking the review policy, the most important thing to do here is to format your book in a professional manner. After all, you want the presentation of your content to match the quality! Even though it shouldn't technically matter, reviewers will definitely judge your book by how it looks, inside and out.
The good news for self-formatters that you probably won't need to send physical proofs, and ebooks are much easier to format than hard copies. Digital copies also cost next-to-nothing to produce, so you can easily send multiple copies of your book out to different reviewers. You may want to check out apps like Instafreebie and Bookfunnel, which make it easy to generate individual ARC download links that you can send to the reviewers.
Pro tip: If you’re searching for a good book production tool, the Reedsy Book Editor can format and convert your manuscript into professional EPUB and print-ready files in a matter of seconds!
5. Follow up after a week
A week or more has passed since you queried a book blog, and so far… crickets. What do you do now? Why, follow up, of course!
When it comes to this stage, 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 you receive a decline response, or no one responds to your third chase-up, assume this means they are not interested. Any further follow-ups, or aggressive requests as to why your work's not being reviewed, will not be viewed kindly. Above all, be polite and friendly at all times.”
That said, someone rejecting your book for review is a worst-case scenario. Best-case scenario, the blogger responds favorably and you’ve bagged yourself a review!
What comes next, you ask?
The reviewer will 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. This is yet another reason why it's vital to read that policy carefully, so you know exactly where the review will be seen.
If all goes well, the reviewer will publish a positive review that you can use to further promote your book. Maybe you'll even get a decent pull-quote for your book description! Not to mention that if you ever write a sequel, you can almost certainly count on them for a follow-up review.
But what if you don't get any bites from book bloggers, or — horror of horrors — one of them gives you a negative review? Fortunately, the next two sections should help you deal with each of these possible dilemmas.
Bonus ways to get book reviews
Though book bloggers are the most reliable and professional source of reviews for independent authors, you may want to try other avenues to maximize your chances! Here are three more ways to get book reviews for your work, so you can bolster your Amazon profile and start making some serious sales.
1. Tell your followers about your book
Though Amazon prohibits reviews from close friends and family, you're free to tell your random social media followers about your book and hope they leave good reviews. It obviously helps if you have a large following on Twitter or Instagram, even more so if some of those followers are fellow authors who appreciate the significance of reviews.
That said, NEVER offer "review swaps" or any kind of promotional enticement for customers to leave reviews, as this would also be against Amazon's terms. Simply let your followers know you've got a book out and that you'd love for them to read it; the rest is in their hands. However, when it comes to reviews, any amount of awareness is better than none.
2. Reach out to Amazon "top reviewers"
Another option is to go straight to the big kahunas, by which we mean the top-ranked reviewers on Amazon. These are the people that the Amazon community has deemed most helpful and accurate, based on hundreds or even thousands of their reviews. Which means their opinions are golden... and if you can get a decent review from them, your book will be too.
Of course, you'll have to comb through this list pretty carefully to find someone who reviews in your niche. And once you find them, you'll have to write them a very convincing personal message asking them for a review. And even after all that, there's no guarantee their review will be positive. So this is one of those paths that's high-risk, high-reward — it's up to you whether it's worth the gamble.
3. Submit to Reedsy Discovery
Finally, for a professional review option that's a bit less time-and-effort-consuming on your part, you can submit your book right here on Reedsy Discovery! The platform allows authors to share their books with readers who are right up their alley, plus get the chance to be reviewed by one of our Discovery writers. If they leave a good review, you'll be featured in our newsletter, which goes out to thousands of subscribers every week.
Sounds pretty sweet, right? And it only takes a few minutes to submit.
How to deal with negative reviews
Once your work is out there in the world, you can’t control other people’s reactions to it. “Remember, by submitting your book for review, you're accepting that some people might not enjoy it,” says Hannah Hargrave. “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."
In that vein, here are some final tips on how to deal with bad reviews:
1. Have someone else read them first. This might be your agent, your friend, or your mom — anyone you trust to pre-screen your reviews. They can inform you whether each negative review is a worthwhile (if humbling) read, or just too nasty to stomach.
2. Ignore unreasonably hateful reviews. Easier said than done, yes, but really try to tune out these people! For example, if they're clearly not your target audience, but insist on pretending like they are. Or people who pick apart your sentences word-by-word, just for the "fun" of it. There's no sense in agonizing over readers who are determined to hate you, so block them on every platform and refuse to read anything else they write.
3. Address valid criticisms. You're only human, and your book won't be perfect. If someone points this out in a constructive way, acknowledge it and do what you can to fix it. This may be as simple as editing a misleading blurb, or as complex as restructuring your entire series. But if you're the author we know you are, you'll be up to the task.
Every author's book is different, but the process for getting book reviews is reassuringly universal. To recap: identify your audience, find relevant blogs, pitch them, send out your book, and don't forget to follow up! On top of that, feel free to try alternative strategies, and remember not to take the bad reviews too personally.
Yes, marketing a book may be madness, but the process of getting reviews lends method to that madness. So go forth and get your reviews — you deserve them! 🙌
Special thanks to book publicists Jessica Glenn, Hannah Hargrave, Hannah Cooper, and Beverly Bambury for their input and suggestions throughout this article. If you have any more questions about how to get book reviews, let us know in the comments!