Sales Funnel – Reviews
This is the last in my series on creating sales funnels to sell more books. I approach the topic of reviews with fear and trepidation, much the same way Paul must have felt when he sat down to pen his letter to the Romans. For authors, reviews are nothing short of the Holy Grail. That’s hyperbole to be sure, but darn close to the truth. Any first time author will tell you, getting reviews is like finding hen’s teeth. It’s tough to get an accurate statistic, but the numbers suggest that less than 10% of people who read a book will take the time to leave a review. If my personal experience is anything to go by, the numbers are statically lower; somewhere around 5% of the people who buy Noble Man review it. If you’ve recently put your first book on the market place, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t published a book yet, then you haven’t experienced this, yet. You might still be harboring fantasies of a run-a-way best seller ala Harry Potter. I hope for your sake it happens. Nothing would make me happier. However, all too many writers find writing, editing and publishing the book is the easy part. Getting reviews on that first fledgling publication is nothing short of a Herculean undertaking. Speaking frankly, I’d much rather combat the Hydra.
The problem with book reviews is that you can’t sell books without reviews and you can’t get reviews until you sell books. It is a conundrum that would leave Joseph Heller scratching his noggin. No one wants to buy a book that has zero reviews. On the other side of that coin, once you have 100 reviews, the book starts to sell itself. People see all those reviews and think someone, somewhere, read and enjoyed the book. It’s herd mentality at it’s finest. If you want to succeed as an indie author, you’re going to need reviews.
So far as traditional publishing goes, I’ll let you in on a little secret, publishing houses pay for online reviews. The big 5 have teams of people they keep on retainer to leave reviews on books before they are even published. By the time to book hits the stands, it already has 500 reviews or more. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this snap shot of first time author Lydia Kang. Her book was released August 1. It’s been on sale three days she’s got over 600 reviews. If the 10% statistic is correct, she sold 600,000 books in three days. She’s either the next J.K. Rowling, or the publisher stacked the deck. But I happen to know (because I checked) that Lydia had those reviews before the book even launched. How is that possible? Simple. She’s got a New York publisher who sent pre-release copies of the book out to a bunch of readers along with a nice incentive, maybe a Visa gift card or bottle of wine.
Before you get any ideas, if you try that, Amazon will ban your account. That tactic is reserved for traditional publishers. In fact, Amazon goes to great lengths in the name of fairness to prevent friends and family of indie authors from posting reviews. Hell, I’ve had people leave reviews, weeks later they friend me on Facebook and Amazon yanked their review based on our “personal” connection. So before you ask your mom and all your FB friends to review the book for you, know that most of those reviews will be yanked by the Zon Gods. Worse case scenario, they’ll ban your account.
But don’t despair. There are still ways to gather reviews on that first book. Here are three ways to get the proverbial ball rolling.
1. Ask for it.
Use the last page of your book to ask for a review from readers. It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose and you don’t have to grovel either. But if groveling helps, by all means, grovel. At the end of Noble Man I have a short ‘About the Author’ section where I tell the reader a little about me. Then a paragraph asking the reader to take a moment to leave a review on Amazon along with a link. This tactic alone will increase your reviews significantly. How significantly, I don’t have any numbers, but from my personal experience I doubled the amount of reviews I was receiving. That’s a darn good ROI for an extra 40 words at the back of the book.
2. Enroll your book in Kindle Unlimited and take advantage of the free giveaways.
Hold on a second there, Miller! Are you telling me to give away my work for FREE! If you want reviews, then yes. I’ve talked about this in other articles, and I’ll probably talk about it again, but too many authors have a snobbish attitude when it comes to their work. After all, they worked really hard on the book. To that I say, you worked as hard as everyone else and maybe less hard than some. I gave away several thousand copies of Noble Man to build up reviews. Is it fair that I had to give away my hard work for free just to have a chance at competing in the Amazon marketplace? Nope. It’s not fair that I was born with rosacea either, but what of it? We take the lemons life gives us, crush our enemies, and then make lemonade while listening to the lamentation of their women. (Bonus points if you recognize the original quote I lifted that from. Leave your comments below.)
The point is, you need reviews and to get them, you’ll have to give away free copies. The best way to do that is through Amazon’s handy Kindle Unlimited program. You 5 free days in a 90 day period. Use them wisely. Set up a free giveaway for the weekend, tell your friends, tell the family, post it on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, SnapChap and whatever else those darn kids use now-a-days. Head over to fiverr.com and hire a freelancer to post a link in all the available FB groups that deal in free and discounted books. If you give away 1000 books, you’ll likely collect one or two reviews and maybe a few sales. Don’t be discouraged.
3. Offer free books to reviewers on Amazon.
This is where you’ll get the highest concentration of top quality reviews. The method is simple, but time consuming. Go to Amazon. Are you there? Good. Now buy my book. Once you’ve done that, search for titles that similar to your book. If you write fantasy fiction ala George R.R. Martin, look up A song of Ice and Fire. Scroll down to the reviews. There are your potential reviewers right there. Clink the name of each reviewer, see if they have an email link. Some will, some won’t. If their email link is displayed, send them a brief email. Tell them you read their review of Ice and Fire. You’ve written a similar book and would they like a free copy. About 80% of your emails will go unanswered. But the other 20% will take you up on the offer. Be careful with this method. These people are serious readers and give serious reviews. If your book is not on the same level as Martin, pick a different target audience unless you want a bunch of one and two star reviews.
(How did buying my book factor in? Haha. Fooled you. Thanks for the royalties.)
Bonus option 4. Join a Facebook group.
Facebook is a giant time suck. Mark Zuckerberg should be stuffed in a deep dark hole for destroying a whole generation of young people who now live their lives vicariously through the internet. It’s also a really good place to rub digital elbows and cultivate business contacts. Join a Facebook group for writers. If you can find a group that focuses exclusively on your genre, all the better.
Hang out, post funny pics, do all the things neuro-typical people do and make yourself a part of the group. Once you’ve been around for a while, start investigating the other authors in your group. Pick one you like, buy their book and leave a review. Then go on FB and let them know you liked their book and reviewed it. Here is the important part; Do NOT ask for them to review your book. Just let them know you liked their work. Don’t try to strong arm them into a quid pro quo situation. I found about half of the authors I review will return the favor without being asked.
Let’s say you purchase 10 books at a price of 2.99 a piece. Rounding up, that’s 30 clams. You’ll average 5 reviews for 30 dollars. Believe me when I say that is a hell of bargain. Plus, you help out other authors in the process and make a few friends. Everybody wins.
If you use all four of these methods, you’ll probably rack up 40 or 50 reviews while you are writing the second book. (You are planning to write a second book right?) When book two goes on the market, book one will have a respectable amount of reviews and the sales will start to roll in.
Once you have a professional cover, a great blurb, and a healthy amount of reviews, your book should start selling. When you’ve got more than one book on the market the snowball will start to pick up speed. If you did all of this and you still aren’t getting sales, then you need to step back and take an honest look at your writing ability.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Sales Funnels. Leave questions or comments in the section below.
First time writing a novel? Stuck in the middle of that all important first draft and don’t know how to cross the finish line? The crew at Literary Rebel has put together a book on plot outlines. Pick up a copy of Hard-Boiled Outlines and learn the secrets we use to plot best-selling fiction.