Getting reviews before a book launch
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Every author wants lots of favorable book reviews. That’s especially important for a new release or a new author because reviews are a primary factor in stimulating sales.
But first, you have to get people to read the book (or at least part of it) and the proven way to do that is to give away free copies of the book to as many people as possible. That’s what major publishing companies do by sending galley proofs or free print books to hundreds of critics and news media book reviewers, and to well-known authors in the same genre.
Long before publication, many authors also send confidential draft versions of the manuscript to a few “influencers” as Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) and ask for feedback. Sometimes, that may also produce short blurbs for the editorial reviews section in the Amazon listing or on the book back cover. Catherine Marenghi sent an ARC to former President Carter and he gave her a blurb she used at the top of her book front cover. Four years later, she has more than 1,000 customer reviews.
For indie authors without such contacts and big bucks and time to distribute lots of free print copies, a far better mechanism is to use a service such as BookFunnel to send ARCs or free eBook versions directly to readers to get customer reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. Indie author DV Berkom, with three successful fiction series, uses BookFunnel to send ARCs and also to offer free books to readers who sign up for her newsletter (see https://www.dvberkom.com/reader-list-signup/).
The marketing folks at Reedsy have a blog post discussing BookFunnel and some other mechanisms, including techniques and tips for using them to reach readers and get reviews and build email lists. (See https://blog.reedsy.com/bookfunnel/).
Disclosure: Both Marenghi and Berkom are authors I know and I bought their books before posting reviews on Goodreads.
Personal perspective: When I was managing editor at a small press in San Diego, I spent too much time and money trying to get critics and the news media to review a couple of very good books I helped people publish.
· Nothing came from paying Net Galley to distribute pre-publication galleys to book critics. Zilch. Nada.
· A great review by Kirkus Reviews came from $500 I spent for a paid professional review of a fiction book, and I used it in the Amazon book description.
· For a history book, blurbs from six scholars in the same genre came from ARCs the author sent to them by email, and we used them in the Amazon editorial reviews section.
· None of these efforts produced customer reviews that stimulate the Amazon algorithms to recommend the book to potential readers.
Now, I urge authors to try using the mechanisms suggested by book marketing professionals to get reviews before a launch and to expand an email list for a newsletter.