Getting Book Reviews #IWSG January 2021

Hi, guys! Happy 2021. We made it, right? After going MIA in December, I'm back to take part in the January IWSG. This month, I'll share my strategy for garnering the all-important book reviews. This one got kind of long, so I tried to lay it out for for easy skimming. 

As I said in my last post, I'm not an expert on book marketing, so this isn't exactly advice. I'm simply sharing what I've learned in case you might find a tidbit that helps in your publishing journey. (It also serves as a "note to self" for the next time I publish something.) 

Release Week Review Strategy

1) Submit ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) to Review Sites

The Goal: I did this in hopes of receiving early reviews from established review sites so I could pull blurbs from the reviews for release day promo on social networks, etc. 

  • Submitted to two review sites that had each favorably reviewed some of my previous books - Fresh Fiction and The Romance Reviews
  • I submitted to each more than 6 weeks ahead of release day.

The Result: Positive Review at Fresh Fiction. Nobody picked it up at The Romance Reviews

What I'll do differently next time: I'll contact more than two review sites ahead of release. 

2) Get ARCS Into Hands of Readers 

The Goal: Get at least 5 reviews posted at Amazon during release week. (As you see, all my goals are baby ones.)

  • Three months before release, I started offering free e-ARCs to my author email list and via LibraryThing giveaways (more on LibraryThing below). 
  • Once a reader expressed interest by either responding to my email or entering the giveaway, I sent out e-copies of the book and created a Review Team e-mail list. 
  • After e-books were distributed, I sent a thank you email to the Review Team list with links to where early reviews could be posted.  
  • Two weeks before release, I sent a reminder email.
  • On release day, I sent another email with links to post reviews on Amazon.
  • A month after release, I sent a final email to thank & remind those who hadn't reviewed yet to do so. The email included links to free copies of some of my other books.

LibraryThing is like Goodreads. Authors can set up an account, and once you do, you can give away up to 50 e-books with a request that recipients post a review after reading. Once you have an author account and are logged in, go here to see giveaways and set up your own (or got to More, scroll to Free Books, and click on Member Giveaways). The upside is that this is totally free. The downside is that you have to handle all the sending of books yourself. I ran a giveaway 3 months before release and another 2 months before release. Rather than automatically send a book to entrants, I sent an email asking them to respond with their preferred format - that way I was only sending out books to those who cared enough to actually respond to the email.

The Result: Of the 38 readers who requested an early copy, 11 rated/reviewed on Goodreads by release day, and 8 posted reviews at Amazon during release week. The moral of the story is that it's a LOT of work to achieve a 21% success rate - but we writers are used to that, eh?  

What I'll do differently next time: I'll incorporate BookSprout and Goodreads (see below) into my pre-release review strategy.

Getting Reviews & Ratings After Release

1) BookSprout ARC 

Take a look around the BookSprout site. You can give away up to 20 books for review for free or even more with a paid membership. It was so easy, and BookSprout handles distributing books, sending reminders, and showing results. The readership seems very conscientious about posting meaningful reviews. Highly recommend this service.

The Result: 10 copies claimed; 5 reviews posted (but only one posted at Amazon. Four posted at Goodreads, and three posted at BookBub). 

What I'll do differently next time: Get a BookSprout ARC giveaway in the works pre-release. I might also make an Amazon review a requirement - I only made it optional this time to encourage more reviewers, which might've been the right strategy. I'll have to think about it. 

2) Goodreads Invite

I set up a free e-book giveaway as an event and invited all of my Goodreads friends to the event. 

The Result: I have over 200 Goodreads friends, and only 2 of them took me up on the offer. But they both came through with reviews, so that's 2 reviews I wouldn't have if I hadn't asked. It was easy to do and totally free. 

What I'll do differently next time: Put the offer out pre-release.  

3) FREE Promotion    

My book is enrolled in the Amazon KDP program, so I made the book free on Amazon for 5 days and advertised the promotion in free e-book newsletters (more details coming in a future post where I'll compare free promotions versus 99 cent promotions). 

The Result: I ran the promo to boost visibility of the book on Amazon, but it had the unexpected result of increasing Amazon reviews and ratings (Amazon now allows readers to rate a book without having to leave a review - a very good thing as many readers are shy about writing reviews). A handful of reviews posted in the weeks following the giveaway as well as a bunch of ratings. The book currently has 63 Amazon ratings.  

What Hasn't Worked (for me)


It's the worst - at least for my genre and style of writing. I'd already learned this lesson, but when I became greedy for more reviews after Molly's release, I ignored my own advice and NetGalley reeled me in.

As most of you probably already know, NetGalley can be expensive for authors to join on their own. But NetGalley Co-Ops exist, and I was able to hop onto one for only $65 for a one month term.

My result for Molly after a month on NetGalley: A whopping 4 reviews (2 One Stars, 1 Two Stars & 1 Four Stars). Any review is appreciated, and I can take criticism, but compared to an average of 4.3 stars after 63 ratings on Amazon, I can objectively state that the NetGalley reviews are harshly skewed. It seems some romance reviewers at NetGalley use authors as their personal punching bags for working out their own life issues. The good news is that not one, but TWO of the NetGalley reviewers said the story made them want to hurl their Kindles. I always hope to evoke emotion in readers, so mission accomplished.  

Now, jut because NetGalley doesn't work for me, doesn't mean it won't work for you, especially if you write in a different genre. I have nothing but good things to say about Xpresso Book Tours, whose NetGalley co-op I joined and with whom I've previously booked a blog tour. Giselle is a dream to work with - efficient, professional & honest in setting expectations.

I would LOVE to know what Book Review Strategies have worked for you. Please tell me! 

This post is part of the:

Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. This wonderful group for writers was begun by the one and clonely Alex J. Cavannaugh.

This month's co-hosts are:

Ronel Janse van Vuuren 
J Lenni Dorner
Gwen Gardner
Sandra Cox
Louise - Fundy Blue!


L. Diane Wolfe said…
It's been a while since I looked through Library Thing. Thanks for letting me know about the free giveaways. (Don't use Goodreads anymore since they charge so much.) As a publisher, I contact over 100 review sites 6 months in advance for every release. We tried Net Galley once and found it a big waste of time. The big five publishers own it.
Never heard of Booksprout - thanks!
Sadira Stone said…
Thanks so much for sharing your detailed experiences! I've had good luck with Hidden Gems, which I believe is romance specific. Costs about $150, but in the two times I used it I got 20+ reviews. Happy 2021! Here's to better times.
Sandra Cox said…
All kinds of wonderful information here. Your marketing plan is amazing.
Wishing you much success and a wonderful-writing 2021.
Natalie Aguirre said…
I enjoyed reading what worked and didn't for you for getting book reviews. I didn't know about some of the sites, like Library Things.
Janie Junebug said…
I have always felt that I let you down with my review of Vibrizzio. And now I've probably spelled it wrong.

Jennifer Lane said…
I'm totes doing all of these! (Including NetGalley--wish me luck LOL)
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