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If your book sells on Amazon or another online retailer it is critical to get reader reviews up as soon as possible. The reviews provide social proof for your book and show that other people have purchased it and liked it. Many people will not purchase a book without reviews, fearful that they will be buying a bad book.
Think back to how often you have been ready to purchase a book or product on amazon and realized there were no reviews for it. Did you still buy the item? If so, did the lack of reviews make you hesitate? Your goal during launch is to remove all hesitations from potential readers. Ensuring your book has a solid amount of (hopefully) positive reviews will convince many readers your book is worth buying.
It's critical to have some amount of reviews to minimize people's concern for buying your book. The number normally suggested is 5 to 10 reviews is the minimum you need for people to seriously consider your book. After that number, there seems to be no direct correlation between the number of reviews and the number of purchases that follow, especially for recently launched books. After books have been out for a while, the more books that have been sold, the more reviews it will have, mainly because there are more potential reviewers.
I always try to launch with a decent amount of reviews. However, I've occasionally had less reviews on higher selling books and lower selling books with more reviews. I've found that during the initial launch phase having 5 to 10 reviews is really enough to get people to take a chance on you, a handful more won't make a ton of difference.
Once you acknowledge that reviews are critical to a successful launch, the big question becomes "how do you get reviews before people have read your book?" There are several ways, including reaching out to your business and personal connections, soliciting reviews online, approaching Amazon top reviewers, and many others.
One thing to remember when asking for reviews is that people are busy with work of their own. Many people, even friends and family, will not respond to your request at all. Several people who say they will write a review also will never get around to it. While a gentle follow up email is fine, after that it's usually best to just let it go. Don't be discouraged or let it affect your relationship with the person, it happens to everyone and it's not an indictment of you or your book.
One thing I can't stress enough is that when you solicit reviews you MUST ask for an honest review. I believe honest reviews, and honesty in general, are the keys to building up trust with your readers and will greatly pay off in the long run. Whenever I solicit a review, especially if I am giving them a free review copy, I always stress it should be an honest review so the reviewer is under no illusion they have to write a positive review.
The easiest way to get good Amazon reviews is by asking your friends and your blogging network. As long as the reviews are honestly written, Amazon is fine with them, even if you know the person. We often send review copies of our latest books to our more adventurous friends and connections and ask them for an honest review in return.
One of the best places to find potential reviewers for your book is from your readers. Unless your cookbook is on a vastly different subject than the one you blog about, many of your readers will be interested in it. It's especially valuable if you have relationships with some readers of your site. They are usually very excited to help out and happy you thought of them. We often reach out to some of our more visible readers, or readers we have communicated with via email and ask them for an honest review in exchange for a copy of the book.
As a food blogger it is important to work on continually growing your email list. This is one of your most valuable assets since it includes individuals that are already familiar with, and ideally fans of, your content. It is also a great source of potential reviewers for your latest cookbook.
If there are other bloggers that are in a niche that fits with your cookbook they can be great places to turn for reviews. You can often provide them with several copies, one for them and a few to give away to their readers. These connections can lead to both Amazon reviews and reviews on the blogger's website that can lead to more sales.
If you have a decent presence on any of the social networks you can turn to your contacts there for reviews. Many people in your network will be more than happy to write a review in exchange for a free copy. They will also often discuss the book on the different social media platforms, leading to more sales.
It is also possible to contact other reviewers on Amazon that have reviewed similar books. There are two approaches that you can take to recruit Amazon reviewers. Unfortunately, both are very tedious and take a lot of patience to complete. However, it can be a way to increase the number of quality reviews your book has on Amazon.
The first approach is to solicit reviews from Amazon's top reviewers.You can find Amazon's Top Customer Reviewers listed on this page. You can click on the reviewer's name and it will take you to their personal page. The first thing to look for is to see whether they have provided their email address. If they have not, you should go on to the next reviewer. If they have provided their email address then read through the "About" portion of their page. This will typically give you enough information to know if they might be interested in reviewing a cookbook. If it sounds promising then add their email to your list of potential reviewers.
For example, I just went through the top 10 Amazon reviewers and found they all provided their email address. Moreover, two of them #6 and #7 both indicated an interest in cooking and would probably be worth sending an email to. We have compiled all the emails we could find from the top 250 Amazon reviewers to create a list of the top Amazon cookbook reviewers.
The second approach to recruiting Amazon reviewers is similar. In this case you can search for cookbooks on Amazon which are addressing a subject similar to the one you are writing. For each of those cookbooks scan through their reviews sorted by "Most helpful". For each review you can click on the reviewer's name to determine if they have provided their email address. If they have you probably have located someone who is interested in your particular subject and is willing to write an Amazon review.
Make sure you make it clear you are asking for an honest review. Giving away a book in exchange for a positive review is against Amazon's terms, the book given away as a review copy must be in exchange for a review that can be positive or negative.
Of course, asking people who are more apt to like your work will result in much more positive reviews than asking people that don't know or like you.
We almost always try to provide a few talking points about what we were hoping the book would accomplish. This will help focus the reviewer on specific items when they read and then review your book. This direction can help shape the reviews to discuss the things you would like them to discuss.
It's important not to tell the reviewer what to write, but just letting them know what you were trying to accomplish often results in them noticing those points when they are reading. These points are then more likely to show up in their review.
The people you contact for reviews will be very busy with their own lives and might not get to a review for you quickly, or at all. We generally get reviews from about 10% of unsolicited requests, i.e. "Please review this book", and 33% of solicited requests, i.e. "I'd love to review your book".
We normally send one follow up email and then let the issue drop. The last thing you want to do is alienate someone that was interested in your book by badgering them about a review. It will be made apparent time and time again that no one cares about your book nearly as much as you do.
Several people may want to check the book out right away, so providing access to an electronic version is a great way to let them hop right in. We usually have PDF files on DropBox or Amazon S3 that potential readers can download or share.
Not everyone knows how to review something on Amazon. Providing them a direct link to the page where the review is entered helps increase follow through since they won't get frustrated looking for the link on Amazon.
Unless your book is an electronic only book, offer a physical copy if they want one. For the low cost of providing it you will hopefully get a valuable review in return.
To give you an idea of an effective email, here is a sample of the email we sent out for the Party Foods book.
Hey NAME! I've got a big favor to ask of you. My latest book has come out and is available on Amazon. It's on modernist party foods and is focused on creating remarkable dishes.
Anyway, one of the things that helps sales the most, especially in the first week, is reviews on Amazon. I was wondering if you would be willing to review the book?
The things we were trying to accomplish with the book were
- Create easy to follow recipes that will delight your guests
- Teach the basics of modernist cooking including the main techniques and ingredients
- Give people ideas about unique foods they can serve at parties
What it lacks
- Print version doesn't have color photos :-(
So I'd love any help from you, especially if you can spare it over this weekend. I believe you can submit a review directly from here: https://www.amazon.com/review/create-review?ie=UTF8&asin=0991050169&ref_=dpx_acr_wr_link
And feel free to pass this, and the link to the free book, along to any adventurous cooks you know.
You can download a high resolution pdf (160meg) here:
Or a lower resolution one (40 meg) here:
If you would prefer the paperback version of the book please reply with your mailing address and I will be happy to ship it out to you.
Thanks again, I really appreciate your help making my new book a success!
With slight customizations for each person you send this to, the email becomes an effective way to gather reviews for your book, as well as help publicize your launch. We also provide other cookbook review request examples.