Episode 81 – Reviews, Lists, and Indie Opportunity

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Question of the Week: How do you get your book reviews? What are some ways you might use to gather more?

Bryan and Jim headed deep into autumn with their latest episode on Amazon’s Fiverr reviews lawsuit, building giant email lists, and a comparison between indie and trad pub income. After thanking their wonderful Patrons for the week, Jennifer Evans Kochalka’s Grand Theft Auto and Other Misdemeanors ( http://amzn.to/1GRIzFb ), Tara Ross’ Cubicle Jail to Laptop Lifestyle ( http://amzn.to/1ZNNHWl ), and Mark Cooper’s Merkiaari Wars Box Set ( http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FU5LSME ), the stalwarts of self-publishing news took on a trio of tips about word count, writing productivity, and getting more reviews.
The news stories included million-reader email lists, indie author advice from the CEO of Hachette, Google book scanning project, Sela Lyons’ indie success, and Amazon’s lawsuit against Fiverr book reviewers. This week’s Question of the Week: How do you get your book reviews? What are some ways you might use to gather more?
What You’ll Learn: 
  • How Bryan is handling the stresses of his Selling for Authors launch
  • Why you might not to write as much as you think to write four novels annually
  • How to build your platform and still have time to write
  • Ways you can gather more book reviews
  • Why you shouldn’t sell ads to your mailing list
  • How to interpret advice from the CEO of Hachette
  • Why Google’s book scanning project helps authors
  • How much Sela Lyons’ would’ve made if she’d gone trad pub
  • What Amazon is thinking with its Fiverr reviewer lawsuit
Question of the Week: How do you get your book reviews? What are some ways you might use to gather more?

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  • Chris Syme

    Reviews…so many options. But I totally agree that paying for them is just dancing with the devil. You will get burned eventually. I’ve done everything from solicit reviews on Twitter to reaching out to influencers personally. The best return I ever got was putting a call out under banner “Help Wanted” in a monthly newsletter for people to join an advance reader team. That one call-to-action grew the team 4X. Also, I ask people to send a URL when they post their reviews and being on the team has some special swag and privileges. They don’t get another book to review until they review the last one. I always start with the Reviewer Grabber Tool in AMC, by the way.

    • Bryan

      Love that Help Wanted idea. Thanks!

  • Phil Kassel

    Working with my first novel, I simply mentioned it to everyone I could. If they showed any interest I would ask them if they would be interested in a free copy in exchange for a review. I built up a small but respectable list using that method. Now I am contacting blogs that focus on the genre of my book and asking if they would be interested in reviewing the book for their followers.

    • Bryan

      Glad you’re branching out! Your stuff needs to be seen :).

  • Laura Morelli

    Hi Bryan and Jim, I would be interested to hear some deeper analysis from you once you look into the Google book scanning thing further… I have no doubt that they are scanning full books. They are scanning MANY books, including new books, not just public domain. They are not offering “short excerpts” but rather substantial portions on line for free, without authorization or compensation of any type from/to the author/publisher.

    I indie-published two new shopping guidebooks earlier this year, and they are already up with more than 50% of the book content visible. I must admit that this makes me feel uncomfortable. If they are not offering compensation (which I suppose is OK given that, as you say, it’s free advertising), I would at least like the ability to set the percentage of the book that is visible (similar to the way you can set a preview percentage in Smashwords).

    My personal disclaimer is that I use the Google book scanning site all the time for academic research. They seem to have scanned many academic books, surely from library shelves. Many of these books sell for well over $100 and are not available as ebooks, so for me it’s a huge convenience to be able to search for a particular word or phrase that gets me to exactly the page I need without having to read the whole book or go to the library and scan each book’s index. By the way, by doing some of those keyword searches you can bring up pages that are supposedly “hidden” in the regular preview. That’s how you know they are scanning 100% of the book content. In theory, they could do whatever they want with this material and I do find it concerning.

    • What would be the motivation to just steal all the books in the world and make them free to everyone? That would surely catch the eye of anti-trust people, no? No way they could get away with that. That’s like saying it would be ok for them to grab all the music out there and just make it free. Same thing. I’m not arguing with you. I’m just piling onto this conversation after more thought.

      • Laura Morelli

        Hi guys! Here’s what I found out… Google states that their mission is: “By partnering with libraries to digitize books from their collections, we aim to build a searchable catalog of the world’s books online.” So, it sounds like it’s focused on scanning paperback books in libraries. (This won’t be a big issue for many indie authors who don’t distribute print books to libraries, but I do personally.) So it DOES sound like they want to scan all the books in the world–at least the physical books in libraries–and make them free to everyone, just the same as if you went to a physical library and borrowed a book.

        I also found out that as part of Google’s Partner Program (same as Google Play?–I’m not sure), you can set how much of your own books you want visible in the Library Project. So, I will go in and see if I can change my “percent visible” through their form. I’ll report back once I see what happens…

        • Bryan

          Let us know. Thanks for dropping by!

  • Crissy Moss

    Wiki to the rescue on Google Book Scan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Books

    “a service from Google Inc. that searches the full text of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text using optical character recognition, and stored in its digital database.[1] Books are provided either by publishers and authors, through the Google Books Partner Program, or by Google’s library partners, through the Library Project.[2] Additionally, Google has partnered with a number of magazine publishers to digitize their archives.[3]”

    The article also states that it may have already scanned 30 million books, that they think there are over 130 million distinct titles in the world, and that they hope to have them all scanned by the end of the 2000’s.

    It started as a preservation of ancient books and has expanded, it looks like.

    QOTW: I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m terrible at asking people to believe in my writing enough to leave a review.

    • Bryan

      Thanks for the rescue mission!

      Gotta get on those reviews, Crissy! Tear off the bandaid. Ask ask ask :).

  • Hey guys. Long time listener, first time caller.

    I had to come over here and say that you really should do an entire show in your radio morning show voices. I don’t think I would be the only one to love that.

    And while I am here I will answer the question of the week…I am launching my first book next week and pretty much had no list whatsoever, so the first thing I did was set up a landing page that offered an ARC of the book to anyone and everyone that wanted it in exchange for their email. The book is a memoir about me running marathons so I shared the link to the landing page in multiple running groups on Facebook and through my social media. I went from 0 to 137 subscribers in the last few weeks. I have kept the list engaged with paperback giveaways and this weekend I have a number of email planned so that the list is excited about the book launch and I can get as many reviews as possible in the first week of launch.

    Not sure how well that will work…but I have a feeling it will do at least ok.

    • They definitely should do more radio morning show voices. Had me laughing all the way to work!

      • Bryan

        Hehe, good to hear, Monica :).

    • Bryan

      Hahaha, glad you liked that. Congrats on the mailing list push :).

  • Lavie Margolin

    My best strategy for finders more reviews is to find my readers. I offer incentives in my books for readers to contact me with proof that they purchased the book- such as a free resume review or a linkedin profile review. Once I’ve fulfilled this incentive, I ask the reader if they’d be so kind to post a candid review of the book. It has helped increase my number of verified purchase reviews.

    • Bryan

      I like that about your books, Lavie. Good work.

  • QOTW – I don’t think my list is focused enough on the core of what my wife and I write about (fitness and nutrition). That and the five books aren’t related to each other enough to cause people to want to read one after the other. Reviews have been hard. I offer free copies (even paperbacks at times) and few take me up on it.

    I think readers think they need to succeed on the program before they write a review. How many people ‘finish’ a diet? 😉

    BTW, if anyone wants a free book for an honest review… 😉

    • Bryan

      Haha, good point. Maybe you need a specific fitness-nutrition list?

  • Hi Jim & Bryan, Just wanted to drop a comment after around 76 episodes. I started to listen to the Podcast at episode 5 and quickly got up to date with the first episodes.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us every week, I Love the show and never miss an episode, specially to her the Number 2 news item 😉

    • Bryan

      Wow, Sergio! You must’ve gone on quite a listening binge :).

      Thank you for being a listener of the show!

  • I’ve been using the Reviewer Grabber Tool from Author Marketing Club (as suggested by Bryan…thanks!) and having some success finding reviewers through that. After pulling the reviewer list, I check each website (I’m targeting bloggers to start with, figure it’s the biggest bang for my buck) for their review policy and to make sure they’ve posted recently. Then I email each one individually. I try to connect my book with one of their past reviews, or better yet, their favorite authors. It’s slow and involved, but hopefully it will generate more meaningful reviews, and ultimately some real fans.

    Unfortunately, it seems that the RGT is having trouble finding emails on Amazon now. Jim…is that true? I’m not getting as many reviewers from my searches anymore, even when the book has hundreds of reviewers. Why would Amazon hide people’s email addresses and websites, especially the book bloggers?

    • We’re working on a fix. You can still get reviewers who have websites, you just have to go find out how to contact them. Amazon is probably hiding the emails because other systems have scraped/abused it. The scammers ruin everything. 🙁

      • Frustrating, but I’m checking the websites anyway, so that’s no big deal. 🙂