Monday, 28 December 2015

GETTING BOOK REVIEWS: Easy, ethical strategies for authors by Rayne Hall

4.5 out of 5 stars

Book Marketing, non fiction

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE



If you're a self-published or indie press published author who has contemplated buying reviews, joining reviewing groups or doing review swaps, or if you've been googling 'book bloggers' and are not sure where to start, consider spending 99p/$1.49 on this before you go any further! 

I've read a couple of Rayne Hall's other advice books, and what I like about them, this one included, is that she pulls no punches.  If you've been at the marketing-your-own-books game for a while, you'll probably cringe at some of it, thinking "Ouch, I did that" - as does Rayne; she tells you about the mistakes she made so you don't make them too.  This isn't theoretical advice; this is the real thing, from someone who's been there, done that, and bought the 'I've been scammed' t-shirt.

The book goes deep into the dos and don'ts of review-getting practices I knew nothing about, like review agencies and reviews via blog tours, though I imagine her experiences will be of great interest to others who have contemplated using them.  Best of all, she tells you exactly why you shouldn't join reviewing groups, swap with other writers, and pay for fakes ~ or even do unofficial 5* swaps with friends (you know, when Writer A thinks "I'll give Writers B, C and D 5* so that they'll all give me 5* back").

When Rayne asked me to contribute to the book, she specified that I should write about how I get reviews, rather than say what not to do, and when I read the whole thing I understood why; people buy books like these to find out how to get positive results, not just to be told all the things they're doing wrong!  There are plenty of good, practical suggestions, with positive action you can take.  As with all advice books I didn't agree with all of it; I don't like the idea of asking for reviews on social networking sites, whereas Rayne finds it works well for her; however, there are right ways and wrong ways to do it, and she advises you of the right ones.  I also felt that finding and building relationships with book bloggers could have been explored more - I love them, and often read several posts a day, as both a reader and a writer.

As with all works of this nature, there will be some advice within that doesn't gel with how you work, but you adapt to suit you, and I think you'll find some real gems; I am putting one piece of advice into action today!   If you've been looking at others' books and wondering how come they've got 40 reviews when you've only got 2, or if you're just starting to self-publish and haven't got a clue how to go about it, or even if you've got a fair number of reviews but would like more, I'd recommend this book.

Please note: I contributed to this book at the request of the author and confirm that I have no financial interest in it.  I was supplied with a review copy at my own request.

Twitter for Writers by Rayne Hall reviewed HERE



26 comments:

  1. Great review, Terry. I've also got quite a few of Rayne's books and have found them so helpful. I'm going to add this one to my pile! I spend equal time on Twitter and Facebook and notice many authors do ask for reviews, I'm wary about it and feel a bit pushy, but maybe there is a better way to ask? Look forward to reading this.

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    1. I don't like it, Shelley; I've always thought it's like saying 'no-one is interested enough in my book to review it without being asked', but perhaps it's also just my middle-aged, middle-class, boringly staid upbringing!! How Rayne has suggested it is good, though; I do think it seems less pushy when it's for non-fic advice books, too - like some of yours!!!

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    2. Hi Shelley and Terry,
      Interesting discussion. I find the success of attracting book reviewers in the social media depends on how you ask... and even more on how you handle your social media account.
      For example on Twitter (where I'm most active), if you constantly tweet a barrage of "Buy my book! Download my book! Read my book!" then your tweet "Review my book!" will annoy and/or get ignored like the rest of your tweets.
      But if you have a good relationship with your followers, and they're interested in what you do, they'll be curious about your book. Many have been thinking about reading it but held back because money is tight. They'll jump at the chance to get the book free, and are grateful for the offer.
      People who are interested in our books but have a limited book-buying budget are the main responders, and they deliver thoughtful, authentic reviews.
      Does this work better for non-fic advice books than for fiction? I don't know. Most of the requests are for my Writer's Craft books, while only a few people want to review y novels, which sees to confirm Terry's theory. On the other hand, my horror story collection "Thirty Scary Tales" gets a lot of requests too.

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  2. Interesting! Yes, I think it's different if you're offering the non-fic books, because they're something they want to read to help them - I don't know, it just seems different. I get what you mean - as I do and Shelley does, you chat to people a lot, so it's not like the constant scheduled book promo tweeters, who are just asking a load of strangers to review - you will have already talked to the people you're asking.

    I just had this lovely tweet about The House of York - a lady said "Greetings, Terry. Just finished reading "The House of York", and loved every minute - unputdownable from start to finish". I was over the moon, so lovely to see that when I logged on - but I couldn't quite bring myself to ask her to review!!! I thanked her profusely, but thought I'd give it a few days to see if she does so of her own accord :)

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  3. You could have asked her there and then. I wish you had. It was the natural - and polite - thing to say, "Thank you. Would you consider posting a review?" She would have been flattered to be asked. :-)

    Whereas by waiting a few days, you've made it awkward to ask. Now you have to bring up the subject out of context, which will probably feel awkward to you, and it will no longer be natural and may no longer be welcome because her mind is now on other things.

    Seriously, Terry, when people gush about your book, that's the moment to suggest a review, because that's when they're in the frame of mind when they want to tell the world. In my experience, they always say 'yes, of course' - and often feel flattered that you've asked.

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    1. Yes, you're right. I've always advised people NOT to do it, because it seems grasping - but maybe that is my middle-aged, middle-class English reserve that I ought to talk myself out of. I have never done it since a friend of a friend who I've never spoken to sent me a message on Facebook to say how much she'd enjoyed my first book. I thanked her, and asked her, and she was a little 'off' with me - it's 4 years ago now and I can't remember the exact words, but it was something that implied I had a cheek for asking, and was a review all I was after? I suspect I lost a regular reader, apart from anything else.

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    2. That's highly unusual. Most people would have been pleased to be asked.
      -- What I hate is when strangers ask me to review a book I haven't read. Like on Twitter "Thanks for following. Please read and review my book." That's just presumptuous.

      Oh, and among friends and acquaintances, if someone asks me to read and review their book, my heart sinks. Chances are, I won't like their book, so they're putting me in an awkward position.

      When people have already read your book and said that they like it, it's normally safe to ask for a review. (That woman on Facebook was a weird exception.)

      It's also safe to ask your Twitter followers (or Facebook fans or blog subscribers or whatever) if they would like a free ebook in return for an Amazon review. As long as you ask it in a general way, not addressed to specific people, and just make it an offer they can accept or ignore, it won't cause offense.

      Or would you take offense when I tweet to my follower, who are mostly writers,

      "Would any of my followers like to review my next book 'Writing Vivid Dialogue'? Reviewers get the ebook free."

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    3. Rayne, I think you're right - she was an odd exception, and it was a bad first experience for me that put me off, that was all!

      I took your advice and asked the lady who'd tweeted to me yesterday - and guess what, she'd already put it on Amazon.com! I did toy with the idea of asking her to put it on UK too (most non-writers don't realise they can post to all sites with the same log in), but thought that really WOULD have been a cheek! It's a lovely review, I tweeted it instead!

      As for everything else you say, I agree totally. The strangers who tweet to request reviews 'need telling' (and I do!), and I state on my blog that I don't do review requests, and refer them to it. With friends, what I do now is that I don't tell them I'm reading until I know I can review positively. I find that people who read my reviews don't ask me anyway, because they will have seen that I always review honestly; there's no guaranteed 5* or even 4*.

      I think your idea for getting reviews on your Writers Craft books is an excellent one. :)

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  4. Nice post and interesting comments. Getting reviews is difficult and particularly now there are so many more people asking for them! And it is hard to persuade readers to post them - writers often do as they understand the benefits to the author. This looks like a useful tool. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you for reading it, Deborah :) Yes - thank goodness writers are avid readers too, or we'd all have a lot less!

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  5. Oh wow I had no idea that getting reviews was such a tortuous task. Perhaps, it's because I haven't published anything as yet. I figured that if someone loved your book that it would kind of be natural to leave a review. Is it that actually giving a review is a difficult process? Great article and the comments were also very informative.

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    1. Sadly yes, Shenae! It's said that only 1% of the reading public review. So although you might feel great when you've sold your first 100 books, it might mean that the only people who review are your friends, and these reviews are often discounted by the book buying public as being biased. That's why it's best to get to know some book bloggers! Take this as an instance: my first book, You Wish, has probably sold around 6K copies over the years, and had about 20K free downloads (when I've done free promos). It has 100 reviews on Amazon UK. See what I mean??!! The books you see with 500 reviews will have sold THOUSANDS to get that many. Glad you found this article helpful!

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    2. I think many readers don't even think of reviewing. It simply doesn't occur to them. It helps to say at the end of the book something like "Dear Reader, I'd love it if you could post a review on Amazon, sharing with other readers how you liked this book..."

      Another factor is that many people mean to review the books they've read but simply don't get around to this. It's on their ever-lengthening 'to-do' list. I admit that's the case with me, too. I'm an avid reader - I devour several hundred books a year - and I review only a fraction of them. But I'm trying to review at least some - for karma. :-)

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  6. I hate to admit, but when I take a new book, I automatically go to look for the reviews page.
    And this happens even with the fact that I never base my opinion on reviews of others. Whoever it may be.
    I think reviews are so tempting because it's like being together in a room with reading people and listening to them talking about the book they read, even if you are not taking it for granted. Doesn't matter, you have to listen to what they have to say.

    I try to overcome my wish to read those and go to them only after I've finished the book :)

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    1. Why do you hate to admit it? That's what reviews are for, to advise the reader. I always read them before I buy a book. I read the bad and 3*, and if a few of them note stuff that's a deal breaker for me (bad grammar and punctuation, unrealistic dialogue), I don't buy.

      As a reviewer of books as well as a writer and avid reader, this is why I think it's important to be honest. Respectful of the writer's feelings, but honest. I've bought too many books that have nothing but glowing reviews, only to find they're average and best, and later sussed out that the reviews were all from 5* review swaps, well meaning friends, or (worse) bought.

      Even if I consider taking a book from our review team list, I always read the reviews first, now. It's saved me from ploughing through something badly written, then wondering how to diplomatically say 'this really isn't much good'!!

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    2. There's nothing wrong with looking at reviews before you decide what to buy, Lilit. The opinions of other readers who clearly have similar tastes as you can help you choose the right book.

      Just ignore any reviews that are obvious fakes, placed by the author's friends or hired writers who haven't even read the book, full of generic praise and 5*.

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  7. I read that the romance-series-which-shall-not-be-named but no-one can figure out why it was such a hit because it’s so terrible in so many ways got its popularity because the author already had a big following in fanfic. So she got her followers to leave hundreds of positive reviews and that catapulted it onto the bestseller’s list.

    I’m glad legit writers like Rayne are helping other writers get reviews so good stuff is brought to the public’s notice as well!

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    1. I don't know that it was the reviews that necessarily made it the huge success, more that she hit on a gap in the market! And a lot of the reviews are terrible. She perhaps paid for a big advertising campaign, too. There's nothing wrong with getting your friends/regular readers to write reviews if they've enjoyed the book, I don't think - if we waited for strangers to review, we wouldn't have very many!

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    2. It doesn't quite work like this, Aimee. The author couldn't just 'get her followers to leave hundreds of positive reviews'. The followers wouldn't do that unless they'd read and liked the book.
      More likely, the author took advantage of existing fan base by inviting them to read the new book for free. That's a legitimate strategy. Since these are people who already like the author's other writing, most will like the new book too, and this leads to many positive reviews.
      You can do the same. Start building a fan base of people who like your books. :-)

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  8. This is a great article. As a self-publisher who is hoping to get my own poetry book out there, I was wondering how one could get book reviews, especially when you're new at publishing. This really helped.

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    1. Good, I'm glad about that :)

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    2. If you want to review the book 'Getting Book Reviews' on Amazon, I can send you the ebook free as a reviewer copy.
      That's a legitimate offer, in keeping with Amazon's rules. :-)

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  9. It's like you have figured everything out, regarding quality writing, publishing and even promoting. It takes a genius to be able to understand the mechanism of writing in this age of social media and so many self-publishing platforms.

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    1. It's as complicated as you want to make it, Umar. Just write the best book you can, choose your proofreader and editor with care, and publish. Don't get sucked into these companies that offer a self-pub package with all the services included. They're usually not very reliable. Best to do your own research and make your own choices.

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    2. It's not genius. It's talent, combined with learning the craft and the business, observing the market, doing research, and doing the work.
      Anyone can do it. Just don't expect overnight success. I've been in the publishing business for more than thirty years. :-)

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