By Sherry Roberts, The Roberts Group

Getting reviews for your books is tough. 

“Up to 600,000 self-published books could hit the market in 2015. That works out to one book for every 523 Americans, resulting in more competition in an already competitive field,” according to the Where Writers Win blog.

Review space in traditional media is shrinking. Once reputable review publications such as Kirkus are offering pay-for-review services. Obtaining a review in the The New York Times Book Review or Publishers Weekly is a long shot for most publishers. 

So what can you do?


There is a trend among authors and publishers to use their “street teams” to get reviews for books on sites such as Amazon or Goodreads. Here’s how it works. Prior to the book launch, you give away advanced copies to a group of your fans called your street team. These are relatives, friends, associates, and loyal followers of your work. They are folks who are likely to hit the “streets” of Amazon and Goodreads and talk up your book. You ask this hearty band of volunteers to read your book and post a short review on Amazon or Goodreads. And here’s a key component of the strategy: ask them to post their reviews on the day (or week) of publication. That builds buzz right away.

Popular self-help guru Tim Ferriss gave away a thousand advance copies of his book The 4-Hour Body leading up to its publication. He received about 200 positive reviews on Amazon within the first week of its release.  

One author I know sent out a call on her Facebook author page: the first 100 people who signed up for her street team received free eBooks of her new book. Another author lined up—via her street team—ten reviews a day for the first five days of her book launch, which was a huge success.

If you have been building a following with your blog or newsletter, begin thinking of those readers as the base for your street team. Network with them, stay in touch, and recruit them if they seem like good candidates for your team. offers a great guide for forming street teams and ways to use them to promote books. 

Although you can ask for reviews, there is no way to guarantee everyone who receives an advanced copy will review it or that the reviews will be positive. Still, in the competitive world of publishing, many publishers and authors are taking the old marketing position: any ink is good ink.  

What do you think? How do you get reviews for your books? Do you have a street team?


January 11 meeting: Ask the Bookseller

Maybe we should say Ask THE Bookseller because there are few with more experience than David Unowsky. Through his ownership of the renowned Hungry Mind and Ruminator bookstores and his experiences with Magers and Quinn and Subtext, he has hosted book launches and book signings for thousands of authors from John Updike, Norman Mailer, and Hillary Clinton to local first-time authors. He’ll talk about some of his most memorable experiences and also the do’s and don’ts when working with booksellers and doing signings. He’ll also talk about the biggest mistakes new authors make, a bit on how the industry has changed for authors, publishers, and bookstores, and more. Join us on January 11 at 7pm for an informative and entertaining evening. 

Where: Midland Hills Country Club, 2001 Fulham Ave, Roseville [map]