The Two Easiest Ways to Get Book Reviews
“The principle of social proof says so: The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct.” – Robert Cialdini, Influence
Nobody is going to buy your book until you have reviews.
… and yet you can’t get reviews without sales.
It’s a chicken-and-the-egg problem, and it sucks, especially as an unknown, self-published author.
The easiest way to get reviews early in is to bug your friends, social network and family.
But most people do this all wrong. They post a mass Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter/Instagram message … and get one or two bites if lucky. If they’re a little smarter, they send an email blast and maybe get another few.
The truth is: People hate mass messages—even if they love the recipient. At best, people quickly scan your message and think, “I’ll totally do that later.”
Then they forget.
If you reach out personally to everyone that is likely to leave a review, your success rate will be infinitely higher. Even the most antisocial people in the world probably have 25 people they can ask.
Just make sure they buy the book, so the review shows up as verified. And if they’re related to you, make sure they don’t use your same last name (just a first name is fine). If they really don’t want to buy it, you can offer to reimburse them via PayPal, Venmo, cash, check, whatever.
(Technically, this is against Amazon’s rules, but it’s quite common. You’ve gotta play the game to compete. We’re just trying to hit 50+ positive reviews quickly, so your book is taken seriously. Then the quality will determine its success.)
Once you’ve bugged enough friends and family to get traction, the best way to get organic reviews, long term, is what I call the Bait and Don’t Switch.
My first book (which has made over $14,000 in profits with ~0 marketing) has 77 reviews, averaging 4.2 stars … but only two of them are from friends. (I was too proud to bug people, for some stupid reason.)
Because I discovered the Bait and Don’t Switch by accident.
In Smart Sports Betting, I explained that it’s critical for bettors to track their bets—but there weren’t many good tools out there. I found a pre-made template in a forum years earlier, and thought anyone taking my advice would like it.
Naturally, the spreadsheet didn’t fit in the book. I physically couldn’t put it in a paperback, and a downloadable link would be awkward in a digital edition.
So I told people to email me with the subject line “template” if interested.
“I found one a few years ago that I use and love. If you’d like it, send an email with the subject line: “template” to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send the file to you for free.”
That’s it. No fancy sales pitch. Just: Here’s something that will help you, that doesn’t fit in this book. No obnoxious withholding of information that should be in the book. A bonus.
After they reached out to me, I emailed them this:
“Thanks for reaching out, [NAME]! The template is attached. Let me know if you have any questions.
If you have 30 seconds to leave an honest review of the book on Amazon and share the link with anyone who might benefit, I’d be extremely grateful. It’s huge for the book’s success.
As of May 2019 (4.5 years after publishing), I’ve sold 1,332 copies (and made over $14,000 in profits).
I’ve received 188 emails with the subject line “template” (14% conversion rate).
Of my 77 reviews, 68 are 3-5 stars.
Of my 68 positive reviews—the most came from emails (32, or 47%). 30 (44.1%) came organically—and the rest came from friends (just three, cuz I sent mass messages before I learned not to), one Twitter follower, one journalist I reached out to, and one person from my 60-person email list (again, I only sent mass emails before I learned).
Not to mention: I did this when I was 23 and just figuring things out—I left about a dozen messages unanswered, and followed up with almost no one.
If I hadn’t done those things, I’d easily have 10 more reviews (but reviews show diminishing returns—once you have 50 verified reviews and over four stars, you look “legit”).
The Bait and Don’t Switch technique is the best way to get reviews, period. And it’s so simple, even a 23-year-old, unemployed first-timer can get 77 positive reviews (notice the mention of my email).
Here’s what you do:
- What’s something that devoted readers will naturally want after reading your book? What’s something that doesn’t fit in the book, but you could give away for free?
- Create the thing (it could be a spreadsheet, a template, case studies, a smaller book, short story, deleted scenes, alternate endings, a workbook, a journal, behind-the-scenes content, pictures, anything).
- DON’T leave out valuable content that belongs in the book. Don’t leave out the ending to your novel. Trust is paramount—don’t lose it.
- Write a clear “call-to-action” telling people what to do.
- The easiest way is to use an email service provider to create a special landing page with the download. Capture your reader’s email and automatically send your bonus.
- That said, you can do it “ghetto style” and just ask readers to email—like I did, because I was young and clueless.
- When people reach out to you, give them their gift—and ask for an honest review. Explain how important it is and how easy it is to do.
- If they don’t leave a review and/or answer you, send one more email with increased urgency.
- Follow up one or two more times if needed.
And that’s how you go from obscure author to looking “legit.”
If you can’t get 50+ positive reviews with the Bait and Don’t Switch—your book probably isn’t good enough. Fortunately, there’s a fix for that.
I created a framework called Permission Publishing that guarantees people will love your book before you write a word.
And all you have to do to learn it is sign up for my newsletter (where I send weeklyish tips on writing and self-publishing) … and I’ll send you my free, 5-day email course on Permission Publishing, called, “No Idea to Chapter One: The First Step to Self-Publishing a Classic.”
Just enter your email below.