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Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Agony and Ecstasy of Book Reviews

Authors, you're in for a treat today. Giacomo (Jim) Giammatteo is like the Pied Piper of reviews. What impressed me is that he makes it looks so effortless and transparent. He uses no hidden agendas or ploys. But as you read his post below, you'll come to understand just how seriously he takes his responsibility for keeping his books visible.
It's not just asking for reviews, but taking every opportunity to secure new readers and fans. That's a talent surrounded by hard work and dedication.
You can't argue with his stats, so I am pleased to introduce my friend and peer. 
Take it away, Jim!
 The Agony and Ecstasy of Book Reviews
 It is damn near impossible to get noticed when you're a new author. Think about this—there are more than 2,500,000 books listed on Amazon.

“Showing 1 - 48 of 1,981,178 Results”

The above was taken from Amazon’s Kindle store list of books. And yes, that is almost two million books on the Kindle store alone.

The city of San Francisco has @ 800,000 people! (City limits) The picture above is from a protest and it was estimated to be about half a million people. In Amazon’s Mystery genre there are @ 300,000 books. So how the hell is an author going to get noticed in a crowd like that?

I decided that working hard to get reviews would be the key to getting noticed. I figured if I got enough reviews, readers were bound to take notice. Little did I know how difficult getting reviews would be.

The Process of Getting Reviews

           Your Book—In the back of your book put a statement about how important reviews are, and ask the readers to please leave a review. Don’t ask for a “good” review, just an honest one.

           Bloggers—This bit of advice is perhaps the most important. Do your research. Find the bloggers who read and review in your genre. Follow their instructions and guidelines. Most of them have their policies posted on the site. Read them. Did I mention—Read the Review Policies?

           Giveaways—This is huge. I have done three giveaways on Goodreads and two on LibraryThing. I gave away 16 print books on Goodreads and more than 60 ebooks on LibraryThing. What was huge about it wasn’t the number of reviews the giveaways generated—which wasn’t nearly what I anticipated—but the additional exposure, especially on Goodreads. During the most recent giveaway I had more than 100 people add my book to their TBR shelf, and more than 900 entered the giveaway. That generated a lot of exposure, which will pay off in the long run.

           Giveaways—I know I just said this, but now I’m talking a different kind of giveaway. These are personal giveaways and this can payoff in a big way. Talk about your book. Don’t be a pest but, if you see an opportunity, talk about it, and give the book away to anyone you think might enjoy reading it.

           Giveaways—What? More giveaways? Yes. Absolutely. Now I’m talking social-media giveaways. If you get in a conversation on Twitter—give your book away. If you’re talking to someone on Facebook or Linked-in—give the book away. G+, Pinterest—give them away. Any chance you get, give a book away. And don’t forget to politely ask for a review. The keyword in this section is conversation. I’m not talking about spamming your book all over Twitter, or mentioning it in every Facebook post. I’m talking about actually engaging people and getting into a conversation with them. As a side note, I seldom mention my books in social media—unless I’m doing a promotion of some kind.

           Bribery—Perhaps the biggest opportunity of all. If a reader writes to you to tell you how much they liked the book, don’t pester them for a review, but offer them your next book free if they leave a review. You’ll get a high percentage of people take you up on this, and the best thing is you can keep the chain moving. If they leave a review on the next book, give them the one after that free. But make sure to say, “It doesn’t have to be a five-star review. All reviews help.” Otherwise, they might feel pressured to write a five-star review, and if they aren’t comfortable with that, they simply won’t write one.

The Bottom Line

This is not an easy road. I spend more than three hours every week. Yes, every week, doing something related to getting reviews, but in the long run I know it will be worth it.

What I Don’t Do

              I don't trade reviews with other authors. I'll read another author if I like the kind of book they write, and, if I’m inspired, I’ll write a review. 

              I won't buy reviews. I bought a Kirkus, and a few other "editorial" reviews for Murder Takes Time last year, but I wouldn't do it again. 

Ciao, and thanks for listening,


Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of MURDER TAKES TIME, MURDER HAS CONSEQUENCES, and A BULLET FOR CARLOS. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.” 


I know I have a lot of crime readers out there. If you haven't tried one of Jim's books, please do. You won't be disappointed!

Let's discuss. How do you normally ask for reviews? Is there anything that hasn't worked for you?



Renee Miller said...

Excellent advice, Jim. As I give away my book over and over again for the same reasons you list, I keep wondering if I'm doing the right thing. Knowing it works for someone else quiets the voice in my head that's all "What?! You're just gonna give that away?"

The blurb about reviews in the back of the book is a brilliant idea.

Darke Conteur said...

Very good advice! I dislike asking anyone for reviews. I figure if they like it, they'll leave something, right? I never thought of bribery. :D

Maria Zannini said...

Renee: I thought that was the best advice of all.

I remind myself though that what works for one person might not work for another. There are so many unknowns to factor in that it changes the equation for each individual.

But these are terrific guidelines to start with.

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: I think back before online networking, that was what we all expected. If you liked it (or didn't like it), you reviewed it.

The internet has changed how and why we post opinions.

Giacomo Giammatteo said...

Maria: Thanks for giving me space. You know I love your blog. And Darke, I'm with you on the asking--I hate to do it. That's what got me thinking of other ways to generate reviews--so I didn't have to ask. And Renee, I think the back of the book thing works best. It's when people are just finished with your work, and excited (hopefully). I've had a few readers tell me that inspired them to write the review.

Anonymous said...

Since I'm not there yet, I'm just filing this away.

Great info!

Mike Keyton said...

Giacomo, thanks for the tips and the fruits of your experience. Like Raelyn I've filed this - along with much of Maria's tips and experience. Good luck with all this. I think it is a very effective campaign you have going.

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: In a way, you have one up on those of us who have already published. We didn't have near the information on publishing that we have today, thanks in part to so many people willing to share their experiences.

Mike: And think of all the contacts you and Raelyn have made. You have an automatic book champion in me when your books come out. I never forget my debts, especially those borne from friends. :)

PS Raelyn, thanks for the tweet!

Shelley Munro said...

I do quite a few giveaways and totally agree about Goodreads being a good way of getting your name out. I haven't tried LibraryThing yet and will investigate. With my giveaways I've started politely requesting reviews, either good or bad. I think that's paying off because I'm starting to garner a few more.

I've heard some writers use street teams to help them spread the word, and I suspect reviews would be a flow-on of this.

Excellent tips, Jim. It was great to meet you.

Cate Masters said...

*That* many new authors? Now I am depressed.

Do you think readers get tired of giveaways? With so many authors giving away their book, sometimes it's hard to garner interest.

Goodreads is one avenue I haven't done enough with. Thanks - great advice!

Giacomo Giammatteo said...

Thanks, Shelley, nice meeting you, too. As to LibraryThing, the nice part of their program is you can give away ebooks, which Goodreads doesn't allow. On my first attempt at LibraryThing, I got 33 requests and it generated 4 reviews. Not a lot, but those four have all become excellent fans, so well worth it.

And Cate, Bowker estimates there will be @ 350,000 new books this year alone. So crowded...yes, but still opportunities abound.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: I've never used Goodreads yet, but I think I'll try them when Mistress of the Stone releases in print.


Cate: I wondered that myself. I know for myself I'm not as motivated by freebies as I used to be. So much competition.

Maria Zannini said...

I forgot to mention too, that you need to put Jim on your blog readers.

He always has interesting posts!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

This is a lot of great ideas. I need to pursue reviews more.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Thanks, Giacomo. Lots of good advice and tips here. It just takes some time. And nothing good comes easy, does it? Thanks for sharing.
*waves to Maria*


Giacomo Giammatteo said...

You got that right, Jimmy. If it came easy, who would care? And many thanks to Maria, and to all of you. You guys are some of the most active commenters I've seen. It's always interesting here.

Angela Brown said...

I have to admit, the timing of me reading this post is interesting as I'm doing a a Reviewer Appreciation giveaway. I must admit, I hadn't really considered doing an ebook give just for the heck of it over a Twitter conversation, bit that's a great idea, especially when the conversation is with a reviewer for the genre I write in.

Thanks Jim and thanks to Maria for having you here today :-)

Suzanne Brandyn said...

Great post Maria.
Maria, thank you for your comment about the English Au/American in a novel. The feedback has been great.

Giacomo. Thank you for the snippets. I think my brain can absorb a little more for the week. :)

Must check out Library Thing. Although another social media site isn't something I really want. lol..

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: I think reviews do more to expand book recognition than anything else.


Jimmy: Waves back. :)


Jim (Giacomo): We have a great crowd here. I can always trust them to deliver good conversation.


Angela: Twitter still overwhelms me, but I know it'll come naturally to you. Go for it.


Suzanne: Library Thing is new to me too. Maybe when it slows down this weekend, I'll take a look.

Melissa McClone said...

Thanks for this, Jim. Lots of good advice!

LD Masterson said...

I'm not quite at this point yet, but I'm bookmarking this post in my "good advice" folder.

Gwen Gardner said...

I think I'm on the right track. I've given away tons of books on Amazon and I'm doing my second giveaway on GoodReads. I could do more on Twitter, though. And of course I could do better at asking for reviews:) Thanks Jim and Maria!

Maria Zannini said...

Melissa: Glad you could pop by.


Linda: I specifically asked Jim to write this post after an email conversation. This was too good not to share.


Gwen: You're like Angela--a natural on Twitter.

Henry Jordan said...

This is a lot of good ideas. I need to pursue more reviews.

The Equation book