Regarding Reviews
By Marianne Jones

You’ve written a great book, published it and launched it, and listed it on Amazon. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the royalties to come pouring in. While you wait, you mentally compose the answers to the fan mail you’ll receive, and make plans for what you will do with your writing income.

The wait gets long. You pray. You wait some more. After the launch, sales have flatlined. You get the sinking feeling that not only will you not be waving around fat royalty cheques any time soon, but you may not even break even on the costs of publishing. What did you do wrong?

The truth is, you haven’t done anything wrong. You just haven’t done enough. Writing and publishing the book is only the first step. Now begins the next leg of the journey: promotion.

Yes, I know. You’re a writer, not a business type. You have an artist’s temperament, not a salesperson’s. You want to spend your time writing, not promoting.

I understand. I’m an introverted writer, too. I wish somebody else would promote my work for me. Or that my books would just “be discovered” and save me the effort.

Reality check here: contrary to what you may have heard, no book sells itself. People will not buy what they don’t know about. And since nobody cares more about your book’s success than you, it’s up to you to get the word out.

One effective way is through reviews. People read reviews to get unbiased opinions about which books they are likely to enjoy.

But how to get them? There are a number of ways, and all of them require effort and time. You can ask friends and family members to post reviews on Amazon, but you will likely find that most are somewhat shy about it. The word “review” may scare them. They may be thinking about the book reports they had to do in school, or they may be worried they can’t write something that will live up to your expectations. You need to assure them that a few sentences will suffice, simply indicating what they enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) about the book. (Obviously, it’s better not to ask relatives with the same last name as yourself.)

If you belong to some online writers’ groups (and I hope you do,) you can put the word out about your book, and invite reviews from members. Some members may offer to exchange reviews with you, but this is dicey. Amazon watches for signs of exchanged reviews, and will delete them as being of questionable honesty. After all, who is going to post a less-than-glowing review of a book, if the author is going to review yours next? But there are often members who will offer to review your book with no reciprocal expectation.

By now you may have 5-10 reviews on Amazon, and have exhausted your personal contacts. Don’t despair. That’s why God created the internet. There are numerous places listed where authors can get free, unbiased reviews in exchange for a copy of the book. Most will accept a kindle or pdf copy, although some insist on a paper copy.

Some places to check out are:
The Book Blogger List
Book Blogger Directory
YA Book Blog Directory – (for young adult books only)
Story Cartel – all books on Story Cartel are free in exchange for honest book reviews.
Directory of Book Bloggers on Pinterest
Kate Tilton’s Book Bloggers
The Indie View.

Some caveats: Read the review policies carefully, and follow them to the letter. If you send a Christian romance to a reviewer who states that she does not review romances or Christian books, you will achieve nothing except to annoy her and demonstrate lack of professionalism. If the review policy says that they accept paper copies only, do not send them an e-book. It is a waste of your valuable time, and the reviewers’.

As with submitting manuscripts to agents or publishers, it is necessary to send the reviewer a query first, unless the reviewer says otherwise on their review policy. The query should be brief, stating the genre of the book, the number of pages, and giving a quick blurb about it. It should also include a brief author’s bio, and the link to your website. Address the reviewer by name, not “Dear Reviewer.” Ask if they would be interested in reviewing your book, and sign off courteously.

After all this, realize that you may get one positive response for every 5-10 queries. Reviewers are swamped every day with review requests, and cannot possibly say yes to all.

Are you getting the impression that this is a lot of work? That’s because it is. If you have ever struggled to find employment in a tight job market, you will recognize the similarities: (be professional and courteous, put your best food forward, keep sending out applications, address the prospective employer by name, etc.)

Yes, there are sites that offer reviews for money. But they are likely to undermine your credibility. Amazon won’t accept paid reviews. As with review exchanges, how trustworthy is a review that was purchased?

When a reviewer does agree to review your book, be sure to thank him/her. Reviewers are offering a free service. They deserve the courtesy of an acknowledgement.

A final caution: in the event of a negative review, resist the temptation to respond. It will not help your cause to argue or defend your book, or to attack the reviewer. In one situation, a book blogger devoted an entire blog to writing about a disgruntled writer who objected to her negative review. The blogger named the writer and the book, which, of course, brought even more humiliation and negative attention to the author than the original review. Don’t make that author’s mistake. A negative review will sting for a few days, but if ignored, it will be quickly forgotten. Remain professional. This is a marathon, not a sprint!

Happy writing.

Marianne Jones’s award-winning book, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die, _is available for purchase! Get your copy from, Chapters/Indigo, The Great Canadian Authors Website, and wherever fine Christian books are sold.

About this Contributor:

Marianne Jones is a retired teacher and published author of four books. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, The Globe and Mail, and numerous denominational and literary publications. She was named International Christian Poet Laureate in 2010 by the Utmost Christian Writers Guild, and is a member of The Word Guild and League of Canadian Poets.

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