Free book reviews for self-published authors (how to get more reviews on Amazon)

person holding white and brown newspaper

This is a real quick post on getting more book reviews, biggest it’s one of the biggest obstacles to publishing success – especially since Amazon has started deleting hundreds of reviews from friends or family. It’s tempting to give up and throw in the towel, but you NEED at least 10 reviews before you even think about sales or marketing, even if Amazon has a duty to protect its consumers by removing biased reviews.

SO: How to get book reviews?

First, you need to build a list of potential reviewers. These should be people who actually like your genre or subjects, who regularly buy and review similar books on Amazon. This is important, because if you send your book to a bunch of people who don’t read your genre, it’ll screw up your also-boughts and hurt long term visibility.

Look at the top 20 books in your genre, go through the reviews and see if they have a website or email to contact them. Do this with multiple categories. Make a list of the top 10 most similar books, which have lots of reviews and are selling well. Then Google those titles + “review” and go through the first 5 pages of Google to see who’s reviewed them. You can also find reviewers on Goodreads.

What you want to do is offer a free review copy to as many potential readers as possible. I give out several hundred ARC copies of each new release. I don’t expect or demand readers review (you can’t actually trade a free book “in exchange” for a review – reviews with that language will get deleted). All you can do is let lots of readers read for free, try and build a relationship with them, maybe check in once or twice. This is a little dangerous because you’re cold-calling, but if you write a short, polite email and a link to a free book, few people will be annoyed (some will be grateful!)

What you don’t want to do is, ask friends or family if they’ll review, then send them a paperback copy, then nag them into posting (even though they didn’t read it, didn’t like it or don’t know what to say about it). I prefer building a big list with book giveaways and Facebook ads, and offering them a free copy. Now that I have a platform, I keep my ARC copies limited to the real fans in my private FB group, which increases the free books to reviews ratio (before I would give out 500 copies for 25 reviews… now I can give out 50 for the same number).

50% review rate is actually really high. You’ll be frustrated if you get angry because only 6 out of 10 reviewers posted a review after they said they’d take a look. Sometimes not reviewing is an easy way to say “I didn’t like it.” Don’t pressure them too much.

One last thing: you can gift, or use giveaways, or a free book campaign to give copies of your book straight to reviewers so they show up under verified reviews, which may be important going forward. Otherwise, I usually use BookFunnel, but those won’t show as verified and might get deleted.

How to make your own Advanced Review Copy (ARC) Cover for Pre-Publication Reviews (Free templates to download!)

If you want to send your book out to major reviewers, you need to send them an Advance Review Copy (ARC), aka “Advanced Uncorrected Galley”, at least 3 months (but preferably six months) before publication. If you’re indie or self-publishing, I wouldn’t recommend it: it’s a lot of extra work and effort that is unlikely to pay off: huge companies and reviewers will ignore your book unless it comes with major backing (famous people’s support), so your ARC will probably get trashed. Meanwhile other reviewers (the ones who will review your book) probably don’t care about ARC’s and would rather get a finished, beautiful book. Trying to play the game the way the book publishers do is a plan to fail; you’re indie, you need to take advantage of your ability to be quick, light and fast. Instead of sending out ARC’s, you could be putting finished books in the hands of key players (popular bloggers, community leaders, etc) who will help promote it.


If you do want to make an Advanced Review Copy, despite my voice of caution, some other book designers charge extra to make one for you, usually over $100. (FYI, I don’t charge my clients for ARC’s).

Luckily you can make one  yourself. The key ingredients of an Advanced Uncorrected Galley, is a tag that says “ADVANCE UNCORRECTED GALLEY”. Simple, right? I’ve made a bunch for you at hi-res, so you can just download one you like and add it to your book, one on the back and one on the front.

 (Click on the picture once to see the big version, then right-click and ‘save as…’)










You may also need to include (it’s a nice idea, not sure if it’s always mandatory) the marketing information, in a new box on the back that obscures the barcode (because this is not for sale).

According to Joel Friedlander of THE BOOK DESIGNER, you should include this info:

  • Prominent box added to brand the books as “Advance Uncorrected Galley”
  • The same prominent box added to the back cover
  • The lower half of the back cover has been reformatted both to make room for the box, and to accommodate the new elements
  • One quote, which was used in the press release that accompanied the ARC package, has been removed
  • Author information has been moved up
  • A new box, “Marketing Campaign” has been added. This box contains critical marketing information. Make sure to include here:
    • A brief summary of marketing plans
    • Bibliographic data including ISBN and subject categories, trim size and page count
    • Pricing information
    • Contact information for your publishing company and your PR or marketing contact person
    • Who will be distributing your book

So I’m also including a few blank boxes you can download and use.

 (Click on the picture once to see the big version, then right-click and ‘save as…’)


Here’s one of the ARC’s I’ve made recently:


I hope these are useful! If so, please share!