If you’re an Indie or small press author, chances are you can relate when I say that getting reviews of your book is hard work. If I had a review for every sale of my second novel, The Buddha’s Bone, I’d be absolutely chuffed. If you’re a reader, not a writer, then chances are you read plenty of books, but may not necessarily write reviews for every book you buy – or might not leave reviews at all.

Everyone knows that books with reviews make more sales. Think about it: how often do you take a chance on a product if there are no reviews for it? As a reader as well as a writer, I tend to read reviews of books before deciding to buy, whether it’s a new author or someone I’ve read before. I look up the reviews before making up my mind.

So, how does an Indie author get reviews? In my experience, I’ve tried a few things, to varying degrees of success. Here are my thoughts on organic reviews, effective ways to get reviews, ways that have been ineffective for me and why I’ll never pay for reviews.

How hard is it to get organic reviews?

My answer? On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being easy and 10 being impossible, in my experience I’d say 7/10. Hard, but not impossible. I have had more organic ratings than reviews though. Just to be clear, by organic, I’m referring here to ratings or reviews coming from complete strangers: not people I have solicited for a review in any way. I have noticed a direct correlation between gaining exposure for my books through advertising, and gaining more organic reviews/ratings.

Why is it so hard to get reviews?

I honestly think that most people simply don’t bother, unless they have strong feelings about a product. Most ratings or reviews that I have seen tend to fall to the extremes. People are motivated to leave a rating or review if they either love a product and want to rave about it or loath it’s very existence, and want to warn all and sundry about it.

Should I pay for reviews?

I don’t recommend paying for reviews – period. I have personally never paid for a review, and never will. I’m happy to offer free copies of my books to bloggers in exchange for an honest review, but that’s all. Some authors may be willing to pay for reviews from sites such as Kirkus reviews, but this doesn’t interest me, besides being beyond my budget. I personally channel all my marketing money into advertising.

So, how can I get reviews?

A few methods have worked for me. I’ll list them in order of what I have found to be the most reliable ways to get reviews, or simply ratings.


1. Finding ARC readers through personal connections or social media contacts

I highly recommend that you get yourself a few trustworthy and reliable people who would be willing to read and receive a free copy of your book in exchange for an honest review posted on Amazon and Goodreads. I’ve found ARCs the most consistently reliable way to get reviews. All of my current ARC reviewers are people I have sourced through social media: Instagram, Twitter, etc. I begin by sending a polite message asking if anyone is interested in a free copy, in their preferred choice (ePub, Mobi file, PDF or paperback proof copy) in exchange for an HONEST review. It’s very important to stress that you are not expecting 4 or 5 stars in exchange for giving away free review copies. Once you have a team of ARC readers, you’ll need to send reminders to them as soon as your publishing date approaches: I tend to distribute ARCs about 6 weeks before my book is due, giving people time to read and write a review, then I send a reminder about 1 week before and again on publication day. Bear in mind that you will need to choose trustworthy readers who won’t redistribute the free e-copy of your book, and reliable readers who won’t forget to post their review. From past experience, I have both been pirated by untrustworthy sources, and let down by reviewers who simply completely forgot about my book during the 6 weeks. Learn who you can depend on, as they will be an invaluable team. I’d advise having a thick skin too: if you put your book out into the world, not everyone is going to love it. This is a motto that I remind myself of, especially when one of my books receives a lower rating.

2. Book bloggers

The first time I approached book bloggers to query if any of them would be interested in reading a free copy of one of my books in exchange for an honest review, I had a response rate of about 5 out of 10 emails, with 1 out of those 5 agreeing to a review. I started by using lists of book bloggers such as this one on Reedsy and reading through until I found any in my genre (psychological literary fiction). It’s a good starting point, though bear in mind that some book bloggers may only post their reviews on their websites. It’s best to find book bloggers who are willing to post on Amazon and Goodreads, as that’s where readers will be shopping for books. A tip that works for me is to browse books in your genre that you like, scroll down through their Goodreads and Amazon reviews, find the name and contact info of the book blogger and approach them. Bear in mind that you will have to be prepared to send free ARCs (Advance Review Copies) of your books to the book bloggers, so make sure to have a few paperback proof copies at hand, or ePub/mobi files ready to email.

3. BookRoar

BookRoar is a service where authors sign up to buy, read and leave reviews for books, earning credits for their own books in turn. It’s an effective way to get reviews for your books and avoids becoming a ‘review swap’ as the system prevents authors from choosing a book by someone who has reviewed them already. Bear in mind that you will need to learn how to write reviews of other books; writing non-fiction is quite a bit different than fiction and it can take time to develop those skills.


4. ARC review service:

I have personally had no results from trying ARC review services that offer free plans. From what I understand, genres such as romance, crime or YA fiction do best through offering free downloads in exchange for a review posted on Amazon or Goodreads. There are any number of ARC review services available to authors with free or paid plans. I wouldn’t personally recommend any ARC review services, from personal experience, although my genre is primarily psychological literary fiction and I have not ever tried a paid plan – so take my opinion with a pinch of salt. You may want to try ARC review services, and may have different results than I did.


Social media

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have been great in helping to spread the word about my books. I have found reliable ARC reviewers by advertising on social media, and they have posted honest reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. These are people across the world who I would never be able to reach if it weren’t for social media; in my experience, shouting to the world about your book online is time well spent. Approaching book bloggers has also been valuable in my marketing plan towards getting readers and gaining reviews, as well getting reviews through BookRoar. If you’re an Indie author, there’s no other way to get sales and reviews other than doing the leg work.

About Leilanie Stewart

Leilanie Stewart is an author and poet from Belfast, Northern Ireland. She has written four novels, including award-winning ghost horror, The Blue Man, as well as three poetry collections. Her writing confronts the nature of self; her novels feature main characters on a dark psychological journey who have a crisis of identity and create a new sense of being. She began writing for publication while working as an English teacher in Japan, a career pathway that has influenced themes in her writing. Her former career as an Archaeologist has also inspired her writing and she has incorporated elements of archaeology and mythology into both her fiction and poetry. In addition to promoting her own work, Leilanie runs Bindweed Magazine, a creative writing literary journal with her writer husband, Joseph Robert. Aside from publishing pursuits, Leilanie enjoys spending time with her husband and their lively literary lad, a voracious reader of sea monster books. CONNECT WITH ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA: https://mailchi.mp/75c5a1ad6956/leilanie-stewart-author-info

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s