Get Reviews

ARGH—The Things We Do to Get Reviews!

Every published writer knows, or is destined to find out, that for a book to be discovered and find its way into the hands and hearts of readers, his or her book must somehow find its way up from the glut of books on the market, and announce and distinguish itself as worthy of attention. I published my first book a year ago this month and I’m finally feeling like my novel is getting some traction. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  1. Accumulated some credible and positive reviews.
  2. Submitted my book for evaluation and endorsement from a trusted source. I was lucky, I found Indie B.R.A.G.
  3. Found ways to promote my book to readers who are most apt to enjoy it, my target audience. (I’m still experimenting with this, and I will be writing a blog dedicated to examining the results of a 4 day Kindle Countdown Promotion August 19th through August 22nd.)

For this blog, I want to tell you what I’ve learned about step 1:


Until you’ve accumulated those early reviews, you aren’t likely to get that trusted endorsement or be able to stage a serious promotion for your book.

As I write this, my novel, To Swim Beneath the Earth, has accumulated 33 reviews on Amazon and 25 reviews on Goodreads (these were posted by 42 discrete reviewers because many reviewers posted their review in both places).  Consider, that it has taken me a full year to garner those 42 reviews.

I’m proud of those 42 reviews, even the ones from reviewers that thought my characters or approach or writing fell short of their expectations, but even so, I had (and still have) a lot to learn, and going forward, when it comes to strategies for getting those reviews, there are things I would do differently. I benefit nearly every day from the generous advice of other writers, so in the spirit of paying it forward, here’s mine.

Thrusting your shiny new book into the hands of friends and family, and asking them for reviews seems like a safe place to begin, and there are lots of websites, how-to books and articles about launching your book that recommend just that. So, not knowing any better, that’s where I started, but I wouldn’t do it again, and here’s why. Your friends and family have a vested interest in you as a person, but they may not have the inclination or time to read your book. And if that’s the case, it puts them in a terrible position, even worse if they invest time reading this opus that’s so important and personal to you and find out they don’t like it. And if inflicting a double-bind on the people you love is not reason enough to find other places to get those needed reviews, asking people close to you to write a review is against Amazon’s Terms and Conditions, and, trust me, you as a published writer don’t want to get on the wrong side of your most important business partner. So, yes, gift your book left and right to the people you want to celebrate with you and feel ecstatic when they read it and tell you they loved it, but these aren’t the people you want to review your book.

If you choose not to use your biggest, most adoring and personal fan base, then who should you seek out to review your book? Here are some sources that worked for me:

  • If you can afford to spend a little cash, turn to Patchwork Press’s Netgalley Co-op. Netgalley has a huge team of dedicated bloggers, librarians, and book readers who are passionate about reviewing and getting the word out about new and undiscovered books. Until recently, Netgalley was only available to the big publishers, mainly because the cost of submitting titles was so expensive. But now, Patchwork Press and several other companies have established Netgalley co-ops that make the reviewing service available to all of us on a month-to-month basis. I paid $95 for two months and ended up with 8 reviews, 3 from bloggers who featured their review of my book on their website, 1 from a librarian, and 4 from popular Goodreads reviewers. Eight reviews for $95 many not sound like many, but these were all solid reviews and my book received some great media exposure. I did get my first 2 star review, but the reviewer’s reasons for feeling less that ecstatic about To Swim were well articulated and that helped me understand her perspective. So although it was a negative review, the feedback was useful, and I’m hopeful that it will help other readers make an informed decision when they consider buying my book. I loved Netgalley and I am only sorry that I didn’t find it in time to make it part of my book launch.
  • For anyone who loves books, Goodreads is a many splendored thing! And Goodreads is the place where authors who need reviews can and do come together to help each other. The Goodreads Community has author groups galore. My favorite review-focused group is The Reviews Initiative for Indie Books . Here you’ll find authors reviewing each others’ books and short stories within a well thought out system that ensures that Amazon’s rules are all carefully adhered to. Expect to provide a free copy of your e-book and to give a review to get a review.
  • I’ve recently added a request for review at the end of my e-book, a suggestion I took from eNovel Authors at Work, a great website full of tips for authors. They promise this request will work like magic. I’ll let you know if it results in more reviews after my promotion next month. Mine reads:

Thank you for taking the time to read To Swim Beneath the Earth. If you enjoyed it, please consider telling your friends or posting a short review. Word of mouth is an author’s best friend. Thank you, Ginger Bensman

There are lots of review-getting strategies out there, but these are the ones that have worked best for me.

    May all your reviews be good ones!



4 thoughts on “ARGH—The Things We Do to Get Reviews!

  1. Excellent and timely, Ginger – for me, at least, as I hope to publish again soon and need reviews. Asking for reviews can be hard and feel awkward and ‘pushy’, but they are absolutely vital for independent authors. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I did not know about the Goodreads group you mention, so will certainly take a look.

  2. I’m coming late to all this useful advice, and copying it for trying. I didn’t know about the NetGalley option where you don’t have to compete with the big publishers – squirreled that away.

    And didn’t know about statvoo – also useful.

    Getting reviews is like pulling teeth – from hens!

    I’m hindered by chronic illness; reading and reviewing in exchange for reviews is impossible when I have so many days where brushing my teeth may not happen. So the reviewing communities which need reciprocity to keep going (they’re a great idea) are closed to me.

    But the Patchwork Press option is something I can do – thanks so much for that link. It’s still there. Your eNovel Authors at Work link leads to a Buddhist Guide, BTW; Jackie Weber was nice, and answered lots of questions, but it appears to be a Romance site, and people review each other, so not for a mainstream author with no energy.

    Have you tried the Midwest Book Review? There is a reasonable for-pay option available for ebooks I’m thinking about trying. Again, I can construct what I need in bits and pieces, and then see if the results are worth it without investing limbs.

    Thanks for sharing – I will be looking through your blog for more posts like this.

    1. Hi Alicia,
      I’m so glad you found some useful information. It’s an older post, so things may have changed. And I certainly understand that participating in providing reciprocal reviews can be enormously difficult if you have fatigue and health issues. I’ll be interested to hear what your experience is if you submit your work to Netgalley.
      Thanks for checking out my website:)

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