Like a book? Leave a review.

Simple as that, right? It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s a chance to make your opinion known to the world. Besides, it’s probably the single kindest thing you can do for an aspiring author short of a basket of warm muffins and a nice long shoulder rub.

But the sad fact is most readers don’t leave reviews. Some of us are naturally private with our opinions, or we think nobody is going to care, or we think it’s harder to post a review than it really is. There are no real numbers out there for precisely what percentage of readers leave reviews. Some authors say maybe as high as 5 percent. Some say definitely less than 1 percent. So if you, like me, are lucky to sell a few copies in a good week, reviews will be few and a long time coming.

And that’s a problem, because we all know reviews are important. So I’m going to share with you one method of finding more reviewers. It’s labor intensive and has a low rate of return, but it doesn’t involve pestering your distant relations and definitely doesn’t involve buying a bundle of spurious, interchangeable, two-sentence reviews at five bucks a pop.

Here’s how the game is played:
1) Go to Amazon and find books in a similar genre to your own, preferably titles with a lot of reviews.
2) Scan the list of reviews and pick out reviewers who have left contact information, preferably an email address. (Warning: damn few reviewers leave contact information.)
3) Send these reviewers a polite email request offering them a free gift copy of your eBook in exchange for an honest review.
4) Wait. But don’t hold your breath. Much like with querying literary agents, a large majority of your requests will probably go unanswered, so just move on to the next name on the list and don’t worry about it.
5) You got a positive reply? Hey, terrific! Send that kind soul a gift copy of your book post-haste, and then…
6) Wait some more. ‘Cause hey, they have to read it, right?
Only sometimes? They don’t.


Over the last six months I’ve sent out a lot of requests, and I’ve kept track so as to avoid annoying people with duplicate requests. A spreadsheet of some sort would be ideal.

Photo on 3-17-16 at 10.09 AM.jpg
My spreadsheets.

Anyway, as near as I can tell from my hen-scratched pages, my total numbers look something this:

Requests sent to prospective reviewers: 78
Positive Responses: 13

Reviews generated: 8

Yep. Eight reviews. And four of those reviews came from reviewers who reviewed both of my books, bless them, so the response rate is even worse than it looks. And this doesn’t even include a few dozen book blogs I queried directly.

The obvious conclusion to draw is that this whole experiment was an exercise in futility, and sure, in terms of effort/gain analysis, it was a flop. It takes a lot of time combing through reviews looking for prospects, and the success rate is dismal, but I got some good reviews out of the enterprise. This one, and this one, and this one, are all the direct result of my futile exercise.

And just between us, there’s nothing quite so gratifying as having a total stranger tell the world how much they love the book you’ve written.

So how about you? Where do your reviews come from? And how do you get more?





17 responses to “The Long View (reviewed)”

  1. atthysgage Avatar

    I feel like I should add that Amazon seems to be making it harder and harder for people to leave reviews. Acquaintances, even very cursory ones—like people you’ve exchanged comments with on Facebook—can get their reviews refused or deleted. This is all in the interest of weeding out fraudulent or fake reviews, though the response seems wrong-headed to me. So far, though, they have no problem with soliciting reviewers and providing reading copies, so long as the obligatory “I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review” line is in there.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. GD Deckard Avatar
    GD Deckard

    Atthys, have you ever seen an empirical study that proves getting reviews on Amazon sells more books?

    I ask because it seems entirely possible to me that, on Amazon at least, the more books one sells, the more reviews one gets -not the other way around.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. atthysgage Avatar

    Nope. I don’t think there is any proof, certainly no automatic one-to-one correspondence between reviews and sales. (As you say, more sales almost certainly results in more reviews.)

    On the other hand, I do think many buyers are impressed by a lot of reviews and possibly wary of a book that has very few. There’s also a prevalent rumor that a certain number of reviews can trigger Amazon’s promotional mechanism, but that’s all a bit hazy.

    Without a doubt, there are many factors that are more important than reviews: author name recognition and word of mouth being by far the most important. (I did a post about this at Speak More Light a few months ago, complete with an ABA survey on bookbuyer behavior ( ).

    Problem is, we can’t do much about making the first happen (except wait and hope).

    Maybe there are ways of making the second happen. I’m all ears.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. GD Deckard Avatar
    GD Deckard

    “Psst…Hey. Give you a dollar if you read my book” -that’s a good blog, Atthys 🙂
    But really! Most people buy books w/out reading the first page? I’d of never guessed that.
    All these blogs about what does & doesn’t sell books is useful to me. I’m getting a better picture of the market.

    But I disagree that we cannot do anything about author name recognition. How about buying an ad on a viral YouTube video? ‘Course, people amazed by viral YouTube videos may not be our market.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. atthysgage Avatar

    That, GD, is the challenge then: what to do on YouTube that will be new and grabby enough to catch people’s attention while not betraying our core artistic beliefs or completely misleading everybody as to what we are about. Easy. Of course then you have to make it go viral, but I bet that’s no big trick. Right?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. GD Deckard Avatar
    GD Deckard

    Ahh, I wasn’t being serious. If anyone knew how to guarantee a viral video, we’d be inundated with viral commercials & politicians. But now that you mention it, maybe some videos attract commercials because they have lotsa viewers. Or, maybe some advertisers watch for videos in the process of going viral and throw an ad on it? It might be worth knowing what such ads cost.

    When I was a typical college student who already knew everything, I once worked on the campaign of a man running for the US Senate. His name, which I have forgotten, had too many syllables to be easily remembered. My self-appointed task was to help increase his name recognition. To that end, I had stickers printed, “[His Name] for Congress!” I placed those stickers at sitting-down eye level inside the stall doors of virtually every Men’s room at Ohio State University. He lost, but I still think the effort had merit.

    Today I think, they call that target advertising. Most important might be who you target. Which brings me back to my current quest, identifying who my readers are.
    I know they’re out there!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. atthysgage Avatar

    GD, I knew you weren’t being serious. Finding readers is the struggle we all face, I guess. I’ve gotten enough positive feedback from total strangers that I know I’ve got ’em, too. I have no doubt at all that there could be a hundred thousand people who’d like what I’ve done. Out of a billion English speakers in the world? That’s a tiny percentage. But it’s akin to finding those few planets in our galaxy which must (must? well maybe) statistically support intelligent life. So few and far between, it beggars the imagination.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. mimispeike Avatar

    You two are targeting reader/writer sites. That’s probably the way it’s usually done. I’m casting a wider net.

    Bumper stickers, posters in theater lobbies, etc. will be seen by people who don’t necessarily fish Goodreads, etc. I’ll try that until I see that it doesn’t work.

    If anyone wonders why I seem to bad-mouth my thing (difficult, intricate, etc.) it’s because the people who will look at it and drop it, it’s just not their taste, I don’t care about them. It’s the people who don’t look at it because they are not tempted by a story about a talking cat, but who may well go for a sophisticated piece of humor, I want them to be aware of what I’ve written.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. GD Deckard Avatar
    GD Deckard

    Excellent, Mimi! The more different things we try the better! Please keep us updated as you go?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. atthysgage Avatar

    I like the idea of casting a wide net, Mimi. I’m afraid I’m not long on ideas for what that means in my case.


  11. GD Deckard Avatar
    GD Deckard

    We will find our readers! We sought earth-like planets not because we knew they were there, but because, like Higgs boson, it was the obvious explanation for what we did know.
    To revive an expression Mimi may recall…
    “Keep on trucking.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. mimispeike Avatar

    Atthys, I’m thinking about your wider net. I have a feeling magic carpets may be involved. And, dark alleys with secret doors. Boogeymen under the bed?

    Liked by 2 people

  13. atthysgage Avatar

    I like the way your mind works, Mimi.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. GD Deckard Avatar
    GD Deckard

    Careful, Atthys. Mimi’ll have you dropping book covers from a flying carpet.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. mimispeike Avatar

    I wish for a magic carpet. I’ve thought about a plane dragging a banner over a stadium, Sly-Sly-Sly! Visit

    Costs big I’m sure. But my husband is a former jet pilot. We could rent a little plane, he’s flown all types, he would drive. I’m not ruling it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. atthysgage Avatar

    You’ve always had a gift for self-promotion, Mimi. I remember when you first made an appearance at Book Country. You hadn’t posted anything yet but you made your presence known.


  17. mimispeike Avatar

    I call it Making an Ass of Myself.


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