Writing a book is hard enough. Getting book reviews can drive an author to distraction.
One of our members, C.M. Huddleston, brought our attention to a frustration many authors share: “I have spent two days trying to market my books and get reviews. So far I feel my time has been wasted. Any ideas out there?” One of her books has been out for three months, the other for more than a year. The concern is practical, obtaining good reviews is one of the best ways to generate book sales.
There are pathways through the thicket. I wrote about some good indie review sites, and some well-established reviewers as well, my October 30 post. But there’s much more to cover in the area of reviews, and starting with this post, members of the BookWorks team will be talking about some of the ways and places for you to go after them.
HOW TO GET THOSE ELUSIVE BOOK REVIEWS
I’d like to start with Goodreads book reviews, which in some ways are simpler and more useful for authors than those at its corporate mothership, Amazon.com.
Goodreads reviews lack proximity to the actual “buy” pages that you get on Amazon, but Goodreads reviews are well worth the effort for other reasons.
It’s an enormous system, hosting more than 10 million reviews of an estimated 700,000 titles. Those reviews are not limited in use to Goodreads, either. They also are syndicated and referenced and show up at Google books, USA Today, the Los Angeles Public Library, WorldCat, Better World Books and other locations.
You can also display them on your own site, too. Once you have a book in the Goodreads system, you can take advantage of the reviews in another unusual way, slapping a review widget on your website, or your book’s landing page. Goodreads lets you designate a book (by its ISBN number), provide a header text for it (an example on their site provides “Goodreads reviews for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”), specify the size, and then post the Goodreads reviews – even new reviews as they come in, in real time.
Goodreads said on its site, “With our community of avid readers, Goodreads can deliver quality reviews on a scale that no individual bookstore or service can match. By providing added content on nearly every book page, your site becomes more engaging, entertaining and informative, guaranteeing your customers will stay on each page longer.”
Writer Michael Kozlowski in August listed GoodReads as one of the best book review places on the web, saying, “There are millions of reviews and people buzzing about new books coming out. It has a strong social media vibe, with some books generating thousands and thousands of comments. GoodReads is basically the Facebook of books.”
GOODREADS BOOK REVIEWS vs. AMAZON BOOK REVIEWS
As on Amazon, the more reviews you get, the more visibility you get. And, as on Amazon, there are “top reviewers” on Goodreads who can be worth contacting directly, and pitching your book for review, if you find one who matches with your subject area.
But the whole subject of getting reviews on Goodreads is a lot different than Amazon – in most ways simpler and with a lower bar to entry.
Goodreads links itself where it can to Facebook, and there’s some encouragement for cross-linkages through the two systems. The site Appadvice notes that, “Once you have set up an account and connected your Facebook account to Goodreads, you can see which of your friends use the app. You can also invite friends who you think would love the app as well. This can be done with Facebook friends or even contacts you have stored on your device. Your friends can easily find you too and send you requests to be added to your friend network.”
Goodreads’ policies on who is allowed to review a given book appear to be less restrictive than Amazon’s. Even authors are allowed to post reviews of their own book (though many wisely pass on that). You may encounter fewer review take-downs at Goodreads than at Amazon.
There are limits, which do help with reader credibility. Goodread’s guidelines on reviews say, “Commercial reviews are not allowed and will be deleted. If you received a free copy of the book, you are required to disclose that in your review in compliance with federal law.”
Amazon and Goodreads have distinctly different review results, maybe in part because of the ways the two are structured. An academic study at McGill University released earlier this year found “Amazon reviews have characteristics indicating that review writers are trying to ‘sell’ the book, while Goodreads reviews tend to reflect the content-orientation of the platform. The vocabulary of Goodreads reviews favors words that highlight attributes of books, or of the experience of reading; reviews tend to be shorter and more journalistic.”
On balance, Amazon reviews were reported to be a bit more effective in selling (or discouraging purchases) of books, but that may vary according to the type of buyer reading the review.
A wise author may seek out reviews in both places – and we’ll be back shortly with suggestions for getting reviews on Amazon.