The Down and Dirty on Getting Book Reviews

Spring daffodil - Guenette photo

I remember once bemoaning my lack of book reviews with a close friend and she told me –

Real readers don’t write reviews. Think about it? Did you ever write a book review before you needed one yourself?

Good question and my answer was no.

Garnering my first book reviews was painful. The process involved trawling a limited pool of readers and that pool often seemed covered by thick ice. I chipped away at the following groups:

Other self-published authors. I was aware of my need for book reviews and I recognized that same need in others. Since publishing an ebook and starting to read on a Kindle, I discovered a host of great new authors. I wanted to be supportive. By fishing in this pond, I hoped others felt the same.

Future self-published authors. I solicited in this pool to catch authors who were hoping to build up future review capital. Yup – once again – reciprocal obligations.

Members of authors’ review circles. This is a type of group where reviews are either exchanged outright or there is an arrangement in which  A reviews B and B reviews C on down the line. A review in one of these circles can be powerfully echoed across social media on the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of the various members. But whichever way I chose to drop the line, I was on the hook to provide reviews to get reviews. Do you see a theme emerging?

Book review bloggers. The best sites were absolutely not looking for any reciprocal activity but the competition to have my book work its way to the top of a blogger’s pile was fierce. Hooking a high-quality book blogger doesn’t happen every day.

Periwinkle - Guenette photo

Suffice to say, I wasn’t catching many reviews for the effort involved in baiting my line. But I knew the numbers mattered. I wanted to qualify for various promotional opportunities and I needed those reviews.

In my last post, I wrote about the number of ways the self-published author is vulnerable to those who seek to make their money by taking ours. Many sites offer book reviews in exchange for cash. But purchasing reviews is not an advised practice with perhaps the exception of the big bucks required to get a Kirkus review. Amazon seems fine with those. Ignore the unfair reality that publishing houses pay top dollar to get high-quality reviews for their authors. No one said the life of the self-published author would be fair.

I have learned the hard way to avoid trading reviews with other authors. Amazon is onto this practice and they frown upon it. I know of one self-published author who has had most of her reciprocal reviews pulled down. A lot of effort for no gain on either side. But Amazon regulations aside, reciprocal reviewing put me in a tight spot. If the other person gave me a 5-star review, no matter the number of times I jumped up and down and sworn I would only review honestly, I did feel swayed to give a great review in exchange. This is human nature and if I’m anything, I am human.

I have recently heard of a new Amazon review policy, meant to stop the seemingly unstoppable tide of phoney reviews. Readers must have spent a minimum of $50.00 as an Amazon customer to place a review. Many have screamed unfair and shouted for the rights of the reader who has only bought one ebook ever and has developed a burning need to review that book. Too bad, so sad. Amazon wants reviews written by committed readers – not one-time only buyers, not bots or anonymous voices in the wilderness filling in blanks on a review template provided for them by a company who charged the author big bucks to get that book 50 reviews.

First rhodo bloom - Guenette photo

So – what is the self-published author to do? How is he or she to get those all important initial reviews? How do you find genuine fans?

Do beat the bushes the best you can. Solicit book reviewers and bloggers. Make sure your contact email is at the back of your ebook. Invite readers to contact you. Offer them an incentive for making the effort. When a reader emails you, ask them politely to put their thoughts about your book in writing on Amazon if they haven’t already done so. Let them know that reviews can be as simple as – I love this book because ____________. They can fill in the blank and they’ve often done just that in their email to you.

Getting these initial reviews isn’t easy. It won’t happen overnight. But you don’t need hundreds. I snagged my first BookBub promotion with 33 reviews.

So – let’s talk about the genuine fans. They do exist! I didn’t catch them until I started commercial fishing in the great lake of readers who discovered my books through my first BookBub feature. This promotion meant wide spread exposure to a targeted audience of ebook readers who were interested in my writing genre. Since then, through various other promotions, I offer the first book of my series free and I’ve managed to introduce my writing to new readers and create a halo effect of sales over all my books.

It turns out real readers do write book reviews and post them on Amazon. At last count, reviews for Disappearing in Plain Sight (first book in the Crater Lake Series) have zoomed up to 163. And reviews still matter. I’ve discovered that even when I offer one of my books FREE, people still check out the latest reviews before downloading the book.

First Rhubarb - Guenette photo

There you have it – the down and dirty on book reviews for the self-published author. Please weigh-in on this issue. Let me know what you think, what you’ve tried and how the act of getting book reviews makes you feel.

Long Weekend Give-Away

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No time like a wintery long weekend to cozy up with a good book. When you can start a whole series for FREE, who can resist?

Get Disappearing in Plain Sight – 1st book in the highly acclaimed Crater Lake Series – FREE today and tomorrow. Enjoy!

Check the deal out on             Amazon.com          Amazon.ca             Amazon.co.uk

Five Star Review: Great start to a wonderful series

First book of a great series. I’ve just finished the 4th in the series and they just keep getting better. This first book really sets the scene and allows you to start connecting with characters. Each book tells a great story. This first one will get you hooked for those that follow. Enjoy!

Snowy Feb morning

Storyboards and a Free Book!

Giving up the Fight

Well, the storyboard is up on the wallSmile Serious work on the 5th novel in the Crater Lake Series has begun.

If you’ve been following my Author Facebook page or my Twitter feed, you’ll know that this weekend you can grab the 4th book in the Crater Lake Series FREE! No Compass to Right is just waiting to be downloaded to your Kindle device or app. Go for it and Happy Holidays.

Five Star Amazon Reveiw:

Wow, I went through this series unable to stop, in love with the setting, each and every character, their stories, their hopes and dreams, and wishing there was yet another book. Lovely writing, Ms. Guenette! Thank you.

Amazon.com link

Amazon.ca link

Amazon UK link

NO COMPASS TO RIGHT corrected version with corner alignment grid (original Jpeg )

Are You a Fan of Serialized Fiction?

Game of Thrones

Be it via novel, movie or TV, I am a big fan of series. Words like book one or episode one make my heart beat faster. I love the way the series format allows character arcs to develop over time. I gain emotional satisfaction from the breadth and depth and incredible scope. And I don’t think I’m alone in these feelings. Consider the success of HBO’s Game of Thrones or Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. And few will fault the creators of the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars movies. Well, at least not in my hearing!

Star Wars

As a novelist writing a series with multiple view-points and a large and vibrant cast, I sometimes face censor for the dearth of characters (all with their own unique stories) for the reader to keep track of. But when I look out into the world of serialized storytelling across delivery mode, I see a great hunger for the detail rich, character heavy saga type of story that I’m writing. 

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To illustrate this view, a reader emailed me the other day to tell me how much she loved Disappearing in Plain Sight. These are her words:

Your character development is excellent and your storyline complex but completely believable! You are quite the writer in keeping the climax climbing a very long time but you sure tie things up in quiet a bow!

Many thanks! That is exactly what I am trying to do.

Conn Iggulden War of the Roses

I’ve just finished Conn Iggulden’s War of the Roses series. Though he may play loose with historical time lines and break the head-hopping point-of-view rule, his books are amazing. Just darn good storytelling. Kudos as well to Phillipa Gregory’s books written from the viewpoint of the female characters who lived during the War of Roses and the Tudor era. I’ve read and loved them all.

I’m not a slave to genre. I’m in for any book, movie or TV series that demonstrates good character development. As the characters gain awareness, so do I.

Jack Reacher

I’ve read all the Jack Reacher novels and am in awe of Child’s ability to keep me coming back for more. He doles out the details of Reacher’s life at just the right titrated levels. I felt the same about Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books. I’ve sat in rapt attention watching Game of Thrones as I did with Firefly or Stranger Things or CBC’s Heartland.

Heartland

Even a character like Groot in the Guardian of the Galaxy movies has room for growth and thus something important to teach.

Groot

How do you feel about serialized fiction? Are you up for investing hours in either reading or viewing instalment after instalment, following characters new and old through the breadth and depth of their life experience? Let me know and tell me about your favourites.

No Compass to Right–Stepping Out

Garden Chives - Bruce Witzel photo

Hodge Publishing’s Mari Howard, author of Baby, Baby and the Labyrinth Year (check out my Amazon review!), has read and reviewed the entire Crater Lake Series. Here’s her endorsement for the latest book’s Amazon page:

Gentle, compassionate storytelling, inclusive and character-led. ‘No Compass to Right’ is a compelling, warm, and delightful book. I loved it.

Hodge Publishing has provided a thorough and thoughtful critique of No Compass to Right over on their website under their – What we’re reading – section. The review contrasts the experience of reading my novel at the same time as Joanna Cannon’s, Goats and Sheep. In the case of this review, contrast definitely leads to depth. Many thanks. Please hop over and check the Hodge Publishing site.

Book Sale Table for Canada Day

Bruce had to pinch hit for me at a selling event in Port Alice on Canada Day. I was away in High River, Alberta with family. I think he did a super job with his table. He even provided a flowering plant and a baby pic of the missing author. Now that is dedication to a cause.

Summer is Easy and the Book is Free

DPS in a take a book outdoor library

Disappearing in Plain Sight is getting out and about this summer! It’s sitting pretty in a outdoor library shelf in High River, Alberta and you can have the ebook free of charge from Friday, July 21st through to Sunday, July 23rd.

Amazon link in Canada

Amazon link in the US

Amazon link in the UK

153 Reviews on Amazon – Insightful … great read … the characters make this story real … I couldn’t put it down … I was hooked from the start.

Get set for a great summer of beach reading with the whole Crater Lake Series.

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Release Day! No Compass to Right

NO COMPASS TO RIGHT corrected version with corner alignment grid (original Jpeg )

Well – the big day has arrived. No Compass to Right – the 4th book in the Crater Lake Series – is live on Amazon in ebook and softcover format.

Rejoin all your favourite characters two years down the road from where you left them at the end of Chasing Down the Night. Sophie is now a delightfully vocal toddler. Izzy is busy building a private counselling practice and working part time at Micah Camp. Lisa-Marie has been avoiding Crater Lake and Justin but she is now coming home. Reg has more motivation than ever for driving production at the sawmill.

Amid laughter and tears, people discover that in the search for identity, acceptance and belonging, the compass that points true leads to the most unlikely of spots.

Amazon.com link

Amazon.co.uk link

Amazon.ca link

Enjoy Smile

Compass extra clear less shadow ( Filtered & cropped with added clarity)