Reviews Revisited – Is Buying Reviews The Only Way To Get Them?

Home / Reviews Revisited – Is Buying Reviews The Only Way To Get Them? - June 21, 2015 , by artwithers

It’s been a month since my last post on reviews and how I’m trying to get them. I thought it was prime time to update those of you who follow my blog on what I’ve found and where I stand at the moment. I’ve had a tepid response on Choosy Bookworm, a little better response on the giveaways of the prequel and find myself at a crossroads about the book review scene.

As you may recall, I signed up with Choosy Bookworm‘s offer a free eBook and possibly get a review service. In the month five weeks that have transpired, I received eight emails from interested reviewers, five of whom actually returned an email to get the free eBook. One of those four was a relative and the other a friend. That puts That puts me well short of the 50+ emails I should have theoretically received from interested parties. To be fair, it’s only been a month. Science fiction books take a while to get a response, even among those who troll the Choosy Bookworm web site looking to get free eBooks. Of the five who responded, a month later, I’ve yet to see a review – even by my friend or relative. It’s disheartening, to say the least. I’m hoping this kind of experience I’ve had informs other writers looking to garner reviews for their masterpieces. It’s not an easy road, fellow scribes.

Jumping to my next adventure in reviews – book 0, the prequel. I recently gave away 35 copies of that eBook (Mishaps and Mayhem) to attendees of Comicpalooza who signed up for it. I sent them each instructions on the review process in hopes they might drop a kind word on Amazon about their experience. Of those 35, I haven’t heard a word or seen a review, but that was literally only a week ago. I’m still hopeful that volume will produce some results.

Three reviews HAVE posted to Amazon for Mishaps and Mayhem, though! Two were from the free eBook giveaway during the launch week of The Adventures of Reztap and another was from an actual customer – someone who bought the paperback¬†Mishaps and Mayhem (and The Adventures of Reztap) from me at AggieCon. An incredibly large number of free eBooks were given away that first week of March, so I’m hopeful there may be more reviews coming from that initial giveaway launch and possibly from the Comicpalooza giveaway.

Let’s look at the timing for a moment. From the initial launch of Mishaps and Mayhem, it took nearly two months to garner three reviews, two of which were generated from the free giveaway (but were not given in “exchange” for a review, so there did not need to be a disclaimer for it in any of the reviews.) I’m not saying the free giveaway was worth it from the Amazon point of view – I personally know all three of the reviewers and they’re definitely being kind to post a review. It was not from the altruistic reactions of strangers that I received any reviews at all. So, is it too soon to expect reviews from others for both books? Perhaps.

That brings me to another realization. Given the way my publishing process has worked in the past, giving away ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) may be an important part of the marketing strategy I’ve been unable to capitalize on. The editor back and forth between me and my editor often happened just days before the book actually launched. A completely edited copy would’ve only been available at most a day or two before the book went live. That’s hardly enough time to send out ARCs with any expectation of a review posting close to when the book launches.

This may precipitate the delay of book two, if that’s even possible. I may be locked into it launching this month regardless, and I hardly have time to modify that agreement with other things happening right now. I’m due to make an appearance at ApolloCon at the end of June and it will be one of my last marketing opportunities this year to give book two a push at a live event. I’ll have better luck making that happen with book three.

I’ve seen some amazing and downright unlikely review jumps for brand new books from unknown authors – case in point The Sigil Blade by Jeff Wilson. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s a fine novel, but it has 32 reviews already and it’s been out for just over five weeks. New author, five weeks, and 32 reviews. So many reviews and sales that it’s now being promoted by Amazon. Given my own experience, I have to wonder how this book got those reviews so fast. Some of the reviews are dated the day the book came out. I’m a fast reader, but it’s highly unlikely I’d be able to whip through a 400-page book and retain enough of the story to make a fair review of the book AND write it the same day. Does this mean advance copies went out to readers or was there some purchasing behind the scenes going on for reviews? In just the first few pages, I noted there was probably no editor for the book, given credence by some of the less than stellar reviews of the book. However, there were many five star reviews that came in essentially the day the book was published. I don’t want to knock the author – I haven’t read the entire book. I do want to commend him on his understanding of the Amazon marketing engine. Get enough positive reviews up as quickly as possible and Amazon quite literally does the selling for you. Did he pay for reviews? I honestly can’t tell. I do think he has a loyal following of friends and family that put the majority of the reviews into place sucking in additional buyers – this propelled the book to a status that had others buying it simply because it appeared popular. A self-propelling perpetual sales engine if you will. However, my understanding is that it will not get the same lump of readers to buy the sequel if this one isn’t written well. It’s a way to sell one book, but not to sell a book series, IMHO.

So it comes to this – what’s a budding writer to do? I’m still keen to wait another month and see what transpires. Maybe I’ll even have my sales figures from my publisher by then and be able to cross-reference my marketing attempts to see what pays off. I haven’t given up hope of getting some reviews for The Adventures of Reztap yet. But if it hasn’t blossomed by then, I may have to go the way of The Sigil Blade

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