Getting reviews is hard.
You have to ask for them.
But asking strangers is hard, so you need to build relationships first.
Then you need to make it easy, by having lots of reviews before you ask for them (the higher up on the chain you go, the more you need to prove your worth first). If you’re asking a review from a celebrity author in your genre, you either need a relationship, a mutual friend to connect you, or a whole bunch of social proof first (a hundred reviews from regular readers for example).
But how does that work?
Most authors struggle to get their first 10 reviews.
Nobody wants to be the first to review your book.
And if your cover isn’t super, it will be much harder.
The more reviews you have, the easier it is to get more and get responses from people.
Find all the reviewers who reviewed a book in your category or genre.
You can go to any bestselling book in your genre and look at the reviewers. Half of them will have contact info, or a website link. Write it down. Email those people one by one.
However, asking for reviews is boring. Why should they care about you and your book? Don’t just tell them it’s awesome. Get 3 or 4 other people saying it’s awesome first, before you reach out to strangers – even if it’s just your neighbors kids.
Bonus points for doing exciting.
For my first book, I’m running a mermaid giveaway AND donating all earning to save manatee. Asking for a review isn’t really the point of my email; I’m just contacting people who reviewed mermaids books because I thought they’d like to know about all the mermaid stuff, and oh – they can grab a free copy.
I don’t even really need to ask.
If they like it, they might review it.
What to do when nobody likes your book.
A lot of authors can’t get any one to review their books, even after they say they will.
If you ask for reviews and people keep giving you excuses, it’s probably because your book isn’t good enough and they don’t feel comfortable reviewing it, because if they were honest they’d give it 2 or maybe 3 stars, but then you’d get upset… so they are just avoiding you. Learn to watch for the signs.
Give your book away for free.
If you’re not sure whether anybody really likes your book, stop asking people for reviews and give your book away for free to the right readers. Set it for free either with KDP free days or by going permafree (by price matching). Run $15 in Facebook ads to get your free book in front of the PERFECT readers (using ads now you can combine interests, so I can target people who like YA mermaid books AND Twilight, for example.
If you don’t have any reviews, you aren’t going to sell any books any way, so giving away your book or not is a mute point. Do it. It can’t hurt. If done right, any fiction should get at least 1000 downloads. Out of those, you should get at least 10 reviews (make sure to ask for reviews in the back of the book!).
If you don’t get any reviews, or some negative reviews, your book probably has problems or isn’t good enough – by “good” I mean, does it satisfy readers of that genre, or not?
You probably knew all that stuff but were resisting it. OK, let’s try something else:
Use giveaways. Technically, you aren’t allowed to have a relationship with reviewers or offer incentives or anything that can be misconstrued as “paid for.” Amazon will delete that shit.
But if you’re feeling lucky, run a giveaway. With “Gleam” you can give entry points for taking different, custom actions. So you can get people to sign up for your list, like you on Facebook, Pin an image to Pinterest and do other marketing stuff for you – you can even ask them to buy your book and leave a review. Technically, you shouldn’t. But you can. Off a big prize to get their interest.
Gleam or Rafflecopter are good for lots of little actions, but KingSumo and UpViral are amazing at list building. Offer one big prize – ideally, 5 or 10 bestselling books in your genre – and get your offer in from of readers. When they sign up, they earn more points for sharing with their friends.
After you have a big email list, you can build a relationship with those readers directly, send them a review copy of the book or tell them when it’s available for free, and ask for reviews.
Make sure you use the correct URL – which ends after the ASIN number. If you use the full string you find in your browser, it probably has identification markers which is how they know you’ve got a relationship with the reviewer and delete the reviews.
You don’t have to offer a bonus prize or incentive, but you can.
This isn’t paying for reviews, this is rewarding your readers.
But mostly, you should run giveaways and contests with big prizes to get people on your list and support your book launch, but not to buy or review your book. You can also give your book away for free… get it out to as many people as you can, and find a way to make it a game or get them engaged.
You should do all of this before you approach strangers and ask for book reviews, because it’s so much easier and more fun, and after you’ve got a few dozen reviews, it’s going to be so much easier to get more from strangers.