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 write a book – steps and ideas for first time writers

young lady typing on keyboard of laptop in living room

Many writers get stuck in the “idea” phase – they have too many stories to chase and constantly jot down scenes and characters, but have trouble writing a WHOLE book. I had that problem too, which is why I changed my goal: instead of trying to finish a novel, I tried to write a strong beginning and reach the halfway point.

I did that 5 times, until I was comfortable with it, then went back and finished the second half for those books.

My point is that learning to write the first half of a novel is not the same as learning to write the second half. Writing a WHOLE book at once can be intimidating because there are so many pieces to get wrong, it’s easy to get stuck or frustrated, and there are also gaps or broken bits that need fixing.

Writing a book is kind of like building a bridge. First you need a rough sketch, then temporary scaffolding, then the foundations, then the internal architecture… only after all that do you being laying down the permanent, external stuff and removing the temporary stuff. 

I love this quote from Neil Gaiman, answering the absurd question “real quick, how to plot a book?”



book writing tips from famous authors


UP NEXT: 65 YA adult authors share their #1 writing tips!

In a recent video I made about Guerrilla Publishing, I accidentally said something like “just write the best book in the world” – which is misleading, because of how I define “best”. Most writers focus on the words and sentences, the quality of the writing. That’s a bad idea for two reasons:

  1. The rough draft is always bad. You have to allow yourself to write badly and get the story down first.
  2. Most readers don’t care about the writing – they focus on story or content.

To have a successful book that readers love (which, I think, is the only kind of book worth writing), you need to do it deliberately (it can be done accidentally as well, but that path leads most authors to frustration). Almost all commercial books follow standard tropes and genre expectations and universal story architecture. If you want to write a GOOD book, you need to learn the rules and know your audience. A lot of authors resist this, which is why most authors fail (or work far harder than they need to, and spend more than they earn on publishing).

I have a huge guide on how to write a book you should check out. I’ve published over 20 books in the last few years so I’ve had a lot of practice.

For more on writing fiction, read these:

For nonfiction, start here:

How to publish a book yourself on Amazon for FREE

book cover design publishing

Publishing a book is all about book design. All you really need to publish is a formatted book that’s professionally laid out for print, with smart font choices that match your genre or subject. Then you can convert your manuscript in ebook formats (epub and mobi) – I even have a free ebook conversion tool.

Next you’ll need a Kindle ebook cover (about 1600 x 2700 pixels, which equals 6″x9″ @300dpi).
If you don’t have photoshop, you can get a cheap cover on Fiverr (which aren’t great) or use my free book cover design templates to make your own.

That’s enough to set up on KDP for the Kindle version – you could also use Draft2Digital to distribute your ebook (though I prefer Kindle Unlimited’s Select program). Print books are more complicated, because you need to calculate the spine width based on page count, and get the trim right, and it has to be precise or Amazon will reject the files (Createspace is more forgiving if you skip the automatic previewer. KDP print is picky).

Upload your files, congrats, you’re published!