Becoming a successful author requires a difficult combination of writing skill, general resilience, good fortune, and calculated marketing. That last requirement is often tricky, even for ambitious authors, because it isn’t easy to get that deeply involved in the commercialization of something that means so much to you personally.
But something has to give, and if you want your books to be widely read, you need to be willing to view them as products with value — and thus as items suitable for review. Now inundated with options about what to read (all the classics of the past digitized, and new works from across the world available online), today’s readers simply can’t keep up with fresh releases, and need ways to narrow them down.
That narrowing is achieved through the collation of opinions from authorities (such as the New York Times site pictured above) and peers (anonymous reviewers). Whichever way you look at it, reviews are key, and you need to be incentivizing them. Here’s why, and how you can do it:
You Need Feedback To Optimize Positioning
Trying to find objective quality in a book isn’t an advisable task, because one person’s work of genius is another person’s waste of time. Artistic products aren’t suitable for generic valuation and packaging like businesses that sell direct are. Consequently, if a new author becomes discouraged due to their first book being slated, it isn’t necessarily a result of their poor writing: it could simply be a matter of incorrect placement and presentation.
This is another reason why you need to get as many reviews as you can. Through looking beyond the simple ratings and digging deeper into why people like or dislike your work, you can derive some useful inferences about how you’ve been marketing it. This is something that the Kadaxis Amazon Research Service is perfect for.
Sometimes, it even turns out that an author’s view of the strengths of their work is wildly inaccurate: they might have intended to write a comedy but somehow ended up writing a character study, yet persisted in presenting it as a comedy because they never consciously acknowledged the pivot.
In such a case, a book that has been struggling to gain any traction and gathering poor (and confused) reviews might just need some superficial alterations. Change the cover, change the blurb, change the listed genre (or discard the concept of genre entirely), and all of a sudden you have a hit. If you don’t stay aware of what readers think about your work, you’ll likely miss such opportunities.
How To Incentivize Book Reviews
To serve as compelling social proof, and to help authors and publishers decide how to best position any given book for success, reviews are vitally important — but books don’t inevitably gather reviews. With less popular works, you need to encourage them. Here’s how to do it:
Enter your books into contests. It doesn’t matter whether you think you have any hope of winning. Simply submitting your books as candidates for contests can get you some free feedback from industry professionals who may well have some valuable ideas for how you can improve your writing or your presentation.
Suggest your books for roundups. Bloggers love to do listicles, and something akin to “8 Horror Books to Try This Halloween” is an easy sell. If you reach out to sites that do such content and ask them to consider including your books, you’ll get some reads.
Reach out to readers through social media. Assuming you’ve made some sales — or at least been able to distribute some copies somehow — you’ll have some readers out there in the online world. Unless each one of them has already provided a review (unlikely), you should be able to pick up some more through simply asking.
Offer a small reward. If you’re really not getting anywhere in general and you just want to know where you’re going wrong, think about offering a minor reward for reviewing your work. You could provide free copies, or coupons of some kind, or even signed merchandise.
Any one of these methods can prove successful, so try everything applicable and you should be able to start expanding your range of reviews.
Let’s briefly recap what we’ve looked at:
You need reviews to persuade people that your work is worth their time.
By reading reviews, you can identify opportunities to pivot your presentation.
You can get reviews by pitching your books, consulting readers, and offering rewards.
Get started right away, and use the information you collect to achieve greater success.
Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who loves reading through book reviews to get different perspectives on stories. You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce.