Reviews are a big deal for authors! And it's one of the hardest things to build for a brand new author. But why? Put simply, it's what's called SOCIAL PROOF, which is using the power of what other people are doing or have done to find out if it’s worth their time. Reviews are social proof. Even though people may not read reviews, how many reviews and the star ratings for those reviews speak volumes for the enjoyment level of a book.
Just look at these two snapshots of review charts. Which book would you be more inclined to either buy, or at least dive in further to see if this is a book YOU would like? I would wager you'd choose the book that has over 200 reviews.
TIP: BEFORE you spend any money promoting a book, have AT LEAST 10-15 reviews for that book.
MORE if possible. You will waste your money and promotional efforts if you send people to a book that has fewer than a dozen reviews. It's all about perception!
So how does one get reviews?
I'll give you the really short version:
Use your mailing list to build a Review Team & hand out one book at a time.
But that's easier said than done. First, you have to build a mailing list. If you've read any of my blog articles, you know I'm a huge advocate of building a mailing list. If you don't know this, then be sure to check out my Mailing List Series AND my article on How to Build Your Mailing List Quickly. Go ahead. I'll wait. *Arial whistles to pass the time* Welcome back!
Invite People to Join Your Review Team
One of the best ways to quickly build a Review Team is to invite the people who have already shown an interest in your books. Ergo, why I encouraged you to invite people from your mailing list (ML). If you don't have a ML, however, try inviting people through social media. Here are some ideas…
- You can post a link in your profile “About” page to your newsletter
- You can post messages on your Facebook author page or profile.
- You can do a tweet campaign through Twitter (TweetDeck is free if you want to pre-schedule tweets).
- If you have the budget for Hootsuite, you can bulk upload a Tweet Campaign (click here to read my article about how to do that).
- Are you on Pinterest or Instagram? Then create a graphic that invites people to join your team. You can create amazing free custom images at Canva.
As you can see, there are several ways you can invite people to become a member of your Review Team and I've only scratched the surface! Anytime you engage with a ravenous fan, invite them to be on your Review Team if you're just starting out.
To gather those reviews, you could use a special Google Form as the sign-up sheet for your Review Team. OR you could use Groups in MailChimp, which can be included on your newsletter signup form. In MailerLite and Mad Mimi, you could create a completely different web form as a signup method and put them in a separate list (Mad Mimi) or Group (MailerLite). ActiveCampaign allows you to create separate web forms as well, but you can also create a custom field – check boxes. “Wanna join Arial's Review Team?” could be the name of the field, and then give them a couple of options to check: “YES! I have read and agree to the Terms & Conditions” & “I also review audiobooks“. I additionally have a signup form on my website tied in with my mailing list service through the use of Gravity Forms (I have a WordPress Website).
And in your Review Team welcome letter, be sure to let them know if you have special incentives for those who are active members of your team.
Incentives for Your Review Team
Free books are obviously the main reason why reviewers like to be on Review Teams. But I personally like to show my appreciation for those reviewers who work really hard at posting reviews promptly and on time when I'm under a deadline to get some traffic on a new release. So I always save my swag and goodies I get from book conventions specifically for my Review Team. These items are a GREAT incentives for quarterly drawings or new releases.
Hosting a giveaway is a fabulous way to encourage people to post reviews on a new release during the first week a book goes live, which helps your algorithms for your Amazon rankings. Get creative! For example: You could give extra entries for reviewers who post early. Let's say you have a new release and you've given away ARCs to your active Review Team members. How badly you want reviews posted the first week of your release will probably drive the prize values. So you might have a $25, $50 or $100 gift card up for grabs, a few signed copies and a grab bag of SWAG with promotional items. For everyone who sends you a link to their review, they'll earn extra entries for being early. So a point spread might look something like this…
- Day 1 your release goes live, they can earn 10 entries into the giveaway.
- Day 2 – 5 entries
- Day 3 – 2 entries
- Day 4 and every day thereafter – 1 entry
Of course, you can distribute points as you see fit. Although it might be a little time consuming to tally it up, it's not too bad if you create a spreadsheet ahead of time and record the entries as they come in. All of this is definitely worth the time for the results!
And be sure to encourage your team to leave HONEST reviews! 1 & 2 stars for a book review is totally okay! In fact, getting a few of those is healthy and makes your reviews look less biased. Of course, people who are already interested in your books will probably give you higher marks, but just be clear that ANY star rating will earn them an entry into the contest – no penalties for being honest! You're not buying reviews. You're just trying to encourage them to leave reviews in a timely fashion.
Keeping Track of Active Review Team Members
This is probably the hardest part about building a Review Team and some authors skip this because they don't like the administrative part of the team. HOWEVER, I personally think it's time well spent because, in the long run, you'll be saving money!
Why? When I give ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) of my new releases, I ONLY give them to people who have proven to be faithful at posting reviews. I'll tell you right now that a lot of people will accept your invitation to be on your Review Team ONLY because they get free eBooks…and then they don't post reviews. It's terrible, but that's what some people do and I got burned, too, like many other authors. The method I'm showing you here will ensure you have a better chance of getting reviews without giving up potential sales.
I keep track of my Review Team activity through my mailing list service. In MailChimp, I used a Hidden Group (which are not seen on the sign-up forms), marking those who left reviews with a little checkbox. In ActiveCampaign, which I'm switching to, I use Tags. I don't recommend creating a static segment, like you can in MailChimp, because once you create a segment, you cannot edit it.
You can use a spreadsheet or document or however you like to keep yourself organized. Google Docs is a great way to keep track of a lot of information, too. There are multiple tools to keep track of information, so use the one you're most comfortable with. But if you're contacting your Review Team via your mailing list service, you should probably find a way to identify those subscribers in your list so you have an easy way to email them all at once. Many of the methods I mentioned here are great options: tags, groups, custom fields.
“But how do I do all this??”
I know a lot of this can be overwhelming, especially for the non-tech-savvy author, but have no fear! I can help! In the near future, I'll be creating some classes on Udemy.com, which will cover topics on building mailing lists and using your mailing list to build and manage your review team. If you're interested in attending one or all of those classes, CLICK HERE to sign up for my author newsletter and I'll be sending out announcements as soon as I have links and information on how you can attend those online classes. If you have any immediate questions though, post them in the comments! I'll be happy to answer!
That's my two pence…