Monday, 8 September 2014

How do I Ask for Reviews?

By Iola Goulton

My previous post discussed how to get honest book reviews (answer: Ask). This week I'm looking at some of the finer points of how to ask.

First, and most important ...

Please don’t waste the reviewer’s time by asking them to review something completely inappropriate. 

If their Amazon profile says they don’t accept book review requests, don’t ask. If their blog page says no vanity publishers and your publisher is Tate or WestBow Press, don’t ask. And only pitch your book to a reviewer who reviews in the same genre: as a reviewer of Christian fiction, I’m definitely not interested in your polytheistic inspirational, or your raunchy erotica (yes, I've been offered both in the last couple of months). And I'm probably not interested in your picture book.

Follow their review policy. 

As a general guide, it’s best to send a query first and follow that up with the ebook if the reviewer agrees to review your title. Don’t just send your book and then complain the reviewer never reviewed it. An unsolicited book is like the flyers in your letterbox from the supermarket you never visit: it gets deleted, unread.

Offer a free copy of the book

… and state whether your version is mobi (for Kindle), epub (for Kobo, Nook, Sony etc), or pdf (which can be read on any device, although Kindle users are advised to email the file to their Kindle with “convert” in the subject line, to get a readable mobi file).

Remember you are asking for an honest review, not a positive review (and certainly not a five-star review).

Don’t gift your book via Amazon in order to get the AVP tag—Amazon see the gift as financial compensation, and may delete the review (because the reviewer can decline the gift and spend the money on something else). Besides, the AVP tag is meaningless. However, you can gift copies via Smashwords (if your book is available there), which allows the reviewer to download in a range of formats.

What if no one agrees to review my book?

If you find you’re approaching a lot of reviewers but no one is interested in reviewing your book, here are a few things to check:

  • Are you targeting the right reviewers? Have they reviewed books like yours before?
  • Do you have a great cover? Does it look professional?
  • Is your book description gripping?
  • Do your opening pages have a compelling hook?
  • Has your book been professionally edited?
  • Is there something about your presentation which is driving potential reviewers away?

These are the main issues that lead to me turning down review requests. Most often, the opening pages of the novel simply don’t grip me. They might be all telling, not showing. They might use too many creative dialogue tags. They might be writing in omniscient point of view and headhopping. These issues show me the book needs more work, and will mean I choose not to review it. Other reviewers will have their own crtieria.

If you can’t convince reviewers to read your book, you’re going to have trouble convincing paying customers.

I sent my book, but it hasn’t been reviewed yet.

Some reviewers agree to review your book, while others only promise to look at it. If they decide not to review it, don’t push. The chances are they didn’t like the book.

If a reviewer agreed to review your book within a specific timeframe and doesn’t, it could be because they’ve forgotten (so one gentle reminder may well be appropriate). However, it could be they didn’t like it. Some reviewers prefer to only review books they like, so don’t push the issue if they don’t review it.

It’s a lot of work!

Yes, which is why it is important to keep track of everything:
• the reviewers you found who accept review requests (whether you contacted them or not);
• the reviewers you contacted who didn’t respond to your email;
• the reviewers you contacted who responded but declined;
• the reviewers you contacted who said no, but to keep them informed of future books;
• the reviewers who agreed to review your books and didn’t;
• the reviewers who agreed to review your books and did.

When a you’ve requested review appears on a blog, it’s polite to visit the blog, thank the reviewer, and respond to any comments. However, I don’t recommend responding to reviews (positive or negative) on retail sites (e.g. Amazon) or reader communities (e.g. Goodreads), as it can come across as needy and stalkerish.

Finally, keep special note of those reviewers who enjoyed your book: these are the people you will contact again when your next book releases, which will make this process much easier.

Do you have any reviewing questions I haven't answered?

By Iola Goulton. I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon Reviewer Rank that floats around 2000.


  1. Some good tips Iola. Thanks for that.

    1. You're welcome, Nola. Thanks for visiting.

  2. Hi, Iola. Great tips. I find it very frightening to ask for reviews. I have a friend who always says, "Buck up, Buttercup" I guess I just need to take a deep breath and do so.

    1. I understand your hesitation, but remember the worst that can happen if you ask is that someone either ignores your request, or says "no". Then you can just move on to the next one.

      If you're worried about actually getting a review and it being less than glowing, the solution to that is simple as well—just don't read reviews. Ask a friend to read them for you so you can thank bloggers if necessary, but otherwise ignore reviews. (Simple in theory. Harder in practice.)

    2. Iola, I think there's good and bad to ignoring reviews. Personally, I think I'm at a point where getting reviews is similar to submitting to editors. I want to learn from them.

  3. Aw darn it, that polytheistic inspirational novel I thought I'd write has now been shelved!!!

    1. You can write it, Rita. But don't be surprised if I choose not to review it :)

    2. Nope, think I'll stick to Romance!!!!

  4. You learn something new every day. I didn't even know polytheistic inspirational was a thing! Thanks for the tips :)

    1. And I'm waiting with bated breath to be asked to review a Kara Isaac novel—there are far too few Kiwis writing Christian fiction!

  5. Some great tips there Iola. Thanks.

  6. Iola, excellent post! Thanks for providing tips for authors from a reviewer's perspective :)

  7. Thanks for visiting, Jeanette, Dorothy, and Narelle.