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. MyBookCampaign.com 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?