Ep 016: “Getting Book Reviews”

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Welcome to the 16th episode of The Author Hangout, a “Hangout on Air” designed to help authors, especially self-published and indie authors, with marketing their books and improving their author platform. Authors struggle with various aspects of marketing and we are here to help!

“That’s one of the things with marketing these days; there’s so many people out there. You have to be yourself. You have to be who you are, shine your gifts and your personality.”– Shelley Hitz

Getting Book Reviews

We know that getting book reviews can be difficult, but they are such an important part of the process. Reviews are social proof that help potential buyers make that decision whether to buy or not, in the small window we have before they go and browse the next book.

In this episode, we were joined by bestselling author Shelley Hitz. We discussed various methods authors can use to get reviews, some methods of getting reviews you should stay away from, how to handle bad reviews, and some other great book marketing tips!

The Author Hangout – Episode 16: “Getting Book Reviews”

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Episode Resources:

Free guide for authors: Getting Reviews For Your Book


Shelley Hitz shared with us about how she got into publishing:

“I actually started out as a speaker before I was an author. I started out speaking and was speaking specifically to teen girls and was realizing 45 minutes to 60 minutes was not enough time to share everything I wanted to share with them. I’d have girls come up to me wanting advice and counseling and such, and I just didn’t have time. I realized, I need a resource. So it was out of a need that I published my first print book.”

She also dove a bit more into this story about how she went from being a physical therapist to being a speaker and an author with over 30 books published, so listen to the interview for more details.

While talking about her books, Shawn mentioned how many of her books are titled “21 ____”, and she responded:

“That just actually happened kind of accidentally, and then it became a branding thing for me. And when you’re an author, it is good to have some branding.”

How Important Is Marketing Education

“Oh, it’s so important, because as you guys know – I like to use the illustration you’re walking into a stadium and you have a message to share. It’s a powerful message, whether it’s packaged in a fiction book as entertainment or a nonfiction book, you have a message to share. You walk into that stadium, and that stadium is empty. Is your message going to impact very many lives? Not really. So when you publish your book, you have to come into a stadium that has people in it, and the only way you’re going to have people in your stadium is to have an author platform and begin marketing your book in different ways. So it is so important. Otherwise, you’re going to publish this book and be like, ‘Where are the people? Where are the sales? Why am I not selling any books?'”

What are resources you recommend for authors?

Shelley shared some great ideas for resources that aren’t ones that people always think about:

“Yeah, there are tons and tons of resources out there. I actually have a whole page full of the resources I recommend. It’s TrainingAuthors.com/resources. But some of the very basic ones – obviously, you have to have word processing, whether you use Word or something else. Dropbox – I use Dropbox every day all day. And a computer backup. As an author, your business is on your computer. Your manuscript is saved there. You need backups. So Dropbox is one way to back it up, as well as backing up your entire computer, those types of things.”

What should a book marketing plan look like?

“There’s different steps to building a book marketing plan. I like to think of it like building a house. So first, when you build a house, you need a blueprint, right? You need to have that blueprint of what’s coming, and that’s your actual plan. That’s your strategy. You strategize to represent you. If it’s nonfiction, keywords, targeting certain niches. If you write a book on underwater basket weaving and there’s no one that is interested in that, you’re not going to sell many books. Now, if you’re passionate about that topic and you really, really, really, really want to still write that book, just know you probably aren’t going to sell many.”

Continuing the house metaphor, she had some more great advice:

“And then comes the foundation. The foundation is having a quality cover. That’s part of marketing, because if you don’t have a good book cover, there’s books that are even free that I’ll go to their page – it looks very amateurish on the cover, I won’t even download it for free. So having a good book cover, having quality editing, having a good book blurb. The blub is what really helps sell your book on your book sales page.”

She also continued with the “house” metaphor that leads you from publishing, to the active marketing side of things. Be sure to listen to this interview in order to hear all of her tips.

How To Get Honest Reviews

Shelley just wrote a book called “How To Get Honest Reviews“, and she told us a little bit about this book:

“It’s to increase credibility, increase sales. There’s research out there that shows that having reviews and having more customer reviews does help sell your product. What this book was, as I mentioned, I have published over 30 books, and in a pretty short time. So I had tons of books that needed reviews. I usually try to get at least 10 to 15 reviews for my book before I launch and before I promote it heavily. So that was tiring. I was getting exhausted just going through the process of trying to find reviews and trying to figure out how to do it. It was through all of that trial and error with my own books that I found several different techniques that worked, and one that worked the best for me.”

So we prodded a little bit more, and she told us about LibraryThing and described it a little bit:

“It’s kind of like GoodReads. What it does is you are able to put up an eBook and you’re able to offer it for free in their eBook Giveaway Program. You can in your little blurb say “I’m giving it away to help get reviews for my book,” but obviously you can’t force that person. But I was able to do that and was able to deliver the eBook copies, so it cost me nothing, and able to get reviews for my book that way. So that was one way.”

She also shared one more tactic from her book for getting reviews, the #1 most effective tactic for her:

“We looked at some of the big traditionally published companies and what they were doing. What they do is they have book review programs, and so what we did was we set up our own book review program and was able to – people who are already emailing us and already saying “We love your books” or are part of my email list, I said, “Hey, do you want to read my books in exchange for a review for free?” They already know, like, and trust me, they already like my books, and so I developed a tribe of reviewers. I actually have a couple hundred right now that have agreed to review my books. So I send out one email and just send out the review copies, and it’s really super easy.”

Be sure to get Shelley’s book, “How To Get Honest Reviews” for the other techniques. If you don’t have enough readers yet to build up your own mailing list of people who want to review your book, then you can use our list at Reading Deals Book Reviews to reach more readers and get more reviews.

Using Meta Data To Optimize Your Books

Shelley gives speeches on optimizing your book for Amazon, and she gave us some great tips on how to do that:

One of the big things that you can do is choosing keywords. So when you publish – if you’re self-publishing, when you publish on KDP or on CreateSpace, you can choose keywords. Seven keywords on Kindle and five keywords on CreateSpace. Those are very, very critical. And most people just kind of – it’s last minute, you’re publishing your book and you’re just thinking, “Okay, dadadada,” just whatever comes to mind. Those are really important marketing tools for you, and what it will do is it will help people when they’re searching those things on Amazon, it will help your book to come up in the search engine on Amazon. So I really recommend authors to do some keyword research, use like the Google Keyword Tool or other keyword research tools, and actually think about that and strategize, “What keywords do I want to use for my book?”

She also gave some warnings on what types of keywords to not use, because some are against Amazon’s TOS, so be sure to listen to or watch the interview.

What do you do when someone rips on your success?

When talking about meta data, Shelley talked about how someone was trying to use her name as one of their keywords in order to ride off of her success. She shed some light on how she approaches that situation:

“First of all, be glad that you’re successful enough that they’re wanting to do that. But if I wanted to, I could report that book to Amazon and say they’re using my name in their book and let them know. So you can report those things to Amazon. More than anything, what I choose to do is just to stay on my path, and I just try to keep doing what I do, do it to the best quality that I can, and do it in an ethical way. That’s why we called our book How to Get Honest Reviews, because there’s a lot, a lot of things people are doing that do not follow Amazon’s Terms of Service, and they are either unethical or they do not follow what Amazon set up. So I really believe in just doing the best I can do. Those people that are trying to do that, I believe that they’re going to eventually fall off anyways, you know? I mean, they’re just trying to copy somebody else and they’re not being original, not being themselves. That’s one of the things with marketing these days; there’s so many people out there. You have to be yourself. You have to be who you are, shine your gifts, your personality, who you are, and nobody can copy that.”

Great advice Shelley!

What are some of the bad ways that people can get reviews?

She shared a bit about the good ways to get reviews, but there are some ways to stay away from:

“Well, you can pay for them. That’s the big thing. It’s been talked about in the news before, some big time authors buying reviews and stuff like that. Definitely, definitely do not. Some people have bought them on Fiverr, “I’ll pay you $5 to post a review for your book.” No, don’t do that. Another thing is giving anything in exchange for the review except a copy of your book. I see a lot of people, even well-known people in the book marketing industry, that will offer other things in exchange for a review, like ‘I’ll put your name in a raffle for this prize if you post a review.’ Technically, that is against Amazon’s Terms of Service.”

She then sums it up with this:

“I can’t afford to have my account closed. That’s income that I get every month, and personally I’m not willing to risk it just to get more reviews. There are so many other ways to get honest reviews, legitimately, ethically, that follow Amazon’s Terms of Service; why even risk it?”

Getting reviews before your book is published

Shelley talked about how you don’t even need to wait until your book is published to start getting reviews for your book:

“You can send an advance review copy, ARC is what it’s called in the publishing world. What you can do – I would watermark it or something so people know it’s before it’s fully finished, going through the editing process, all of those sorts of things. You can start having people read it while it’s still in the process, as long as they know, it’s still being edited, still being formatted, that sort of thing. You can send out an ARC, and once then you click ‘Publish,’ you can send out an email and say “Okay guys, go ahead and post your reviews.” Then they can post the reviews right away once your book is published.”

How do you handle negative reviews?

Shelley shared some great tips on how to handle people targeting you directly, and then summed it up with this:

“Yeah, you will always get negative reviews. Unless your book is not selling, you know… Look at the bestselling authors on there, every bestselling author has some bad reviews. It happens. That’s just the way it works. And as long as your overall rating is still above 4 out of 5 stars, you still have a good rating. And as long as you’re selling books, you’re going to continue getting reviews, and more than likely the good reviews are going to outweigh the bad. My first 1-star review, I was devastated, and it was so hard. But now, I take it a little bit easier and realize this is just part of doing business. If I’m going to be an author, if I’m going to put my stuff out there, I have to expect both good and bad reviews. And I think as authors, we just need to go into it realizing, there will be people that don’t like our book, and that’s okay.”

Be sure to listen to the interview to hear more on this!

Do free ebook promotions still work?

Shelley had talked about using a free promotions to promote her book, and we asked her about it:

“I think it is still an option available to authors. It’s not as powerful as it was when it first came out. When it first came out, you could really get a lot of sales after a promotion like that. However, right now I think, again, it’s about strategy. So if you’re an author and you have a series – if you’re a fiction author and you have four books in your series, offering your first book for free is really smart because then you hook people into who you are. Especially if you’re an unknown author, you get people to try you out for free, and then if they like your book, more than likely they’re going to buy the second one, the third one, the fourth one.”

She also shared some great tips about how to use a free promotion, even if you don’t have a series of books.

If you started all over today, what would you make sure you do?

We love asking this question as it helps our guests get right down to what you should be doing:

“For sure I would make sure I had an email list from Day 1, an email list where I’m having people sign up to hear back more from me. Or for fiction authors, you can say “To be the first to hear about my next book, sign up here.” For nonfiction, it’s really easy to offer something. But to start building my tribe of people on email as well as a separate list for reviewers. Starting that in the very beginning.”

If you want some more tips on building an email list, you can read our blog post about building an email list, or Episode 7 of The Author Hangout on Email Marketing.

Connect with Shelley Hitz

The best way to connect with Shelley is to head over to TrainingAuthors.com to get tons of great resources.

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