Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Guest post by K.P. Kollenborn author of Eyes Behind Belligerence

How to Acquire Book Reviews for Indie Authors

Book reviews are as critical as a heart transplant. Without the pulsation you might as well be deceased. For traditional publishers, acquiring book reviews mean mailing out hundreds of books to newspaper reviewers, and hope that a certain percentage will take the time to review, and then hope the reviews are a good one. For indie authors the process may be more time consuming, but by far and large it opens up the restrictions and narrow-mindedness big publishers tend to hold onto. What I refer to as the restrictions and narrow-mindedness are missed opportunities by reaching out to bloggers and other non-professional reviewers who use Amazon, Barnes & Noble, GoodReads, Smashwords, Ning, and the like to post their reviews.

Online book reviewers are becoming more viral; more substantiated than the conventional sources because their posts will always be out there as long as the reviewer stays open for business. Plus, with the voting systems, if feels more democratic and less tyrannical than that of the one bad review!

Method of Reviews

In essence, there are four methods of reviews you can acquire: buying them, growing them organically, swapping them, and just simply asking for them. One method doesn’t necessarily enhance your status more than the other, although juggling the three certainly can help establish it.


There is much debate about whether to purchase reviews or not. On the one side of the debate questions the morality of things. If reviews are bought, does that make them legitimate? There are places where you can buy positive reviews only, (although I still have yet to find those places); however, in my experiences, the reviews I bought were fair because some reviewers revealed their complaints and did not rate my book as high. So to question the legitimacy of bought reviews will depend on the legitimacy of the business itself. Many will state that they will not guarantee positive reviews, for instance, and how long have they been in business will determine if they are legit. There are “fly-by-night” reviewers who at some point will be banned and have their reviews revoked once found out.

The other side of the debate supports buying reviews because it facilitates your reputation and can provide exposure. Some of these places will have diverse outlets such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. And that’s really the goal all writers wish to achieve: popularity. I started reaching out to bloggers before having at least 8 reviews and only received one reply. After establishing at least 8 reviews, with some bought, (including Kirkus Reveiws,) in order to acquire credibility, then bloggers started agreeing to review my book for free. That may not be true for everyone experiences, but it was for me.

Now then, how much do these paid reviews cost? The costs vary and you could verily easily spend anywhere from $50 per review to over $400 per review, depending on the reviews status and outlet margin.

You can check out a list of reviewers on my blog here; just under blog tours. Some are free and some you have to pay:


You can reach out to bloggers and other book reviewers on Amazon and GoodReads for free. Some will ask for pay, but they generally do not because they are readers who have enthusiasm for reading. They are not professional critics, but are intelligent and thoughtful folks who take the time in their busy lives to share their passions.

The Business Side of Soliciting for Reviews

At one point in my life, I was a real estate agent- briefly- and got out just after the housing market crash. One of the things I learned, which is true in any business, is what’s called “the number’s game.” You reach out to 50 people, and out of the 50 you’ll get about 10 people who express interest in your abilities but will only get about 1 or 2 who’ll actually commit and sign a contract. On the business side of hunting down reviews, you reach out 50 book reviewers, and out of 50 you’ll get about 10 who express interest in reviewing your work, but will actually get a few who’ll actually commit and write a review. Just be psychologically prepared for this, and have realistic expectations.

Don’t forget to look and see if they keep a blog roll. If so, then you connect to more bloggers! Keep that ball rolling, baby!


Since they do not get paid, they are often swamped with requests, and therefore may take anywhere from 1-4 months to finally getting around reading and posting a review. Be polite, and take the time to see if they will be a good fit for your book(s). If they agree to review your book and you hadn’t heard from them in over 3 to 4 months, then send a polite follow-up. DO NOT harass them with frequent emails! This will begin to look like spamming and you will most likely turn them off, and therefore, they will turn off your emails.

You can check out a list of bloggers on my blog here; just under book reviewers:


Have you ever been to a swap meet? It’s a gathering at which enthusiasts or collectors trade or exchange items of common interest. The same thing can apply when swapping reviews for authors. This method serves two purposes: helping you collect more book reviews while helping others achieve the same goal. You can do so with online author communities as well as helping other writer friends within your own community. This method is a bit more reliable than asking your family and social friends to provide feedback because area of interests are often different, and you most likely will attain a more comprehensive review regarding plot and character development.

You can check out a list of indie author communities on my blog here; at the very top of the page under resources, and just under blogger book reviewers at the bottom:

*If you would like to swap reviews with me, my interests are for historical fiction, (no romance historical fiction, please,) literary fiction, memoirs, and even non-fiction. I am on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads. I accept ebooks in mobi, epub & PDF forms. I am on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads. Contact me here:


Don’t confuse “asking” for “begging,” because this approach should be suggestive, not forceful, and should not give off the “desperate” vibes. In the beginning, you could, of course, ask friends and family, but realistically, don’t expect it because their tastes will differ from yours, and therefore you want reviewers who share similar interests. There are online forums where you can request for book reviews such as Goodreads groups, Ning readers groups, Facebook groups and book reviewers fanpages. Another way to “softly” ask for reviews is by attaching this type of statement at the beginning of your book:

Insert the title of your novel was written, designed, produced and published by its author. Because independent publishers and writers should be held to the same high standards as the mainstream publishing industry, I encourage you to post an honest and objective review of this book in the online bookstore of your choice. Such dialogue only serves the cause of good writers and good readers.

Fake Reviews: The illegitimate critics

What exactly are fake reviews? Fake reviews are anonymous identities that open up phony accounts in order to praise or criticize online books. On the positive side of the spectrum they can either be authors praising themselves, or they are bought reviews from illegitimate businesses. (And I do want to place emphasis on illegitimate businesses because there are legitimate ones that do provide a fair trade. Just do your homework and ask other veteran writers for advice.) On the negative side, they can be either other authors criticizing their opponents, or other people who just simply have malice intent to leave a 1 star review to bring down your review status.

So, revisiting the debate about paid reviews you end up asking yourself: “Do paid reviews in fact represent fake reviews? Or at least on Amazon?” The three services I used, Kirkus Reveiws, Bookplex and Self Publish Review, I found to be fair. They use other bloggers and authors to represent their businesses’ reviews. Although the reviews mostly did come in a positive light, but I did not get that perfect 5 star rating, plus the reviewers did mention what they didn’t like or had certain issues with some of the content. All I can stress upon when making that investment is to use common sense, do your research, and ask other seasoned authors for advice.

To read more about “fake reviews,” check out these articles:

Forbes: “Fake Reviews: Amazon’s Rotten Core”

The Telegraph: “Fake Book Reviews are Rife on Internet Authors”

Business Insider: “This Man Made $28,000 a Month Writing Fake Book Reviews”


Pace yourself when researching and soliciting for book reviews. Don’t try to cram everything into one session. Space out days of the month to research for bloggers or swap book reviews. Also put yourself on a budget. You really don’t need to spend your mortgage in order to acquire book reviews. There are always other avenues. And remember, as exhausting and frustrating as this process may sound, it still beats getting rejected by agents and/ or publishers who won’t take on your project. At least you’re out there!

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  1. Online agencies are definitely the future.

    Visit to save on your agency fees

  2. I just went through this myself. It pays to take the time to read up on the blogs you approach and ALWAYS be courteous. I'm mostly depending on reviews from bloggers I've approached. We'll see how that goes. :)

  3. Fake reviews have really been in the 'news' recently. Some good info and advice in the post. Thanks.

  4. I found this article extremely helpful. I also visited the author's website, and will use some of the links she has posted. I appreciate all the research she has done. I have always been unsure about paid reviews, but if I can find a reputable service which offers fair reviews, with no promise of them being positive, then I think it'll be okay. Thank again.

    1. I was just reading about Amazon removing reviews lately. So paid review services are against Amazon policy? Hmm. I'll have to look into it more. It looks like they're fine with Kirkus Reviews, but not others. It's so confusing :)

    2. And The Bookplex is fine with Amazon as well. There are some double standards to question, for sure.