I was a year into indie publishing and preparing for my third release before I got serious about developing my first Review Team. Review Teams have many benefits including gaining reviews pre-release and creating buzz in reader-focused social sites. They can also help with word-of-mouth marketing (leading to preorders of your book) months before your release date.
How should you begin building a Review Team? Finding first readers for an upcoming novel is as easy as sending a private Facebook or Goodreads message, or an email to a passionate reader of your particular brand of fiction.
Sure, you should also contact book review blogs when preparing for your release day. However, many bloggers are too busy to guarantee a review will post on a specific date unless you’re already a wildly successful novelist. Readers, on the other hand, will quickly publish a review if you’ve given them at least one week to read an advanced reader copy (ARC). If at all possible, give these kind readers at least two weeks to read and write a review.
As you think about developing your Review Team, keep these tips in mind:
The Mechanics: How you deliver an ARC is totally up to you. In traditional publishing, ARCs were books sent to a select group of reviewers with the expectation a published review would be forthcoming.
Indie publishing has expanded the notion of what constitutes an ARC. Some authors go to the trouble and expense of mailing a paperback in advance of the release date. Others will quietly publish an eBook and “gift” copies to interested readers, wait a week for reviews to populate then announce that a book is live. Yet others send PDF files before beginning work on the eBook or paperback versions.
One warning: there are many pirate sites for ebooks. If you are concerned about your manuscript being distributed without your approval, use a site like Bookfunnel that has tools to deliver secure ARCs to your Review Team.
Facebook Fanatics: The number of active and growing book clubs on the site seems to increase weekly. Find reader groups through a Facebook or Google search, or ask other authors and readers which groups they enjoy.
Many Facebook clubs—especially those managed by readers or book bloggers— encourage authors to join, and will allow you to post a description of your next release. Ask the moderator in advance if you may request for review from among the members. In fact, many clubs will also allow you to request reviewers for an older release.
But take care: many Facebook groups managed by authors will not allow you to crash the party, and ask their readers to review your book. Always check with the moderator before posting a review request.
Goodreads Friends: Because the site is built around readers, I’ve found it simpler to send a direct message to a potential reviewer I’ve met on the site. Many readers are thrilled by the opportunity to become a first reviewer of a book in a genre they love.
Specifics, Please: Tell each reviewer your release date. Ask specifically if the reviewer will post on the sites you prefer. For example, Amazon and Goodreads, BookBub, Barnes & Noble, Kobo—the list is up to you. In addition, if you want them to share their reviews on their social sites, ask them to tag you. Bear in mind that most readers are quite busy and will post on two sites, tops. So choose wisely.
Be Courteous. After the review is published, send a private email thanking the reader. Do this even if the reader gave your book a less-than-stellar rating. If they have taken the time to post the review on several sites, and have also shared on their own social sites, recognizing them publically is always a nice touch.
If you strike up a relationship with a reader, ask if he or she would consider reviewing a future work. If interested, keep the name in a file for future contact. As your career builds, you’ll have on hand a growing list of readers happy to review your works.