Book giveaways are intended to encourage the winners and/or people who download your free eBook to write reviews. As a new author, your obscurity may be the one thing holding you back from success, so you’ll be eager to see those reviews pour in. Whether or not you get many reviews as a direct result of a giveaway, however, offering your book for free to a large number of readers can still have a positive effect on sales. Word-of-mouth continues to be one of the best means of advertising, so if each of your readers recommends your book to a friend or two, you will see an increase in sales as recommendations proceed from reader to reader(s). In this fashion, enthusiastic readers will be inspired to write reviews.
Whether for a free promotion or for sales, consider using BookLinker so potential readers don’t have to take the extra step of going to their country’s Amazon site. As a Canadian, I know that I can usually change the .com portion of the link to .ca to go directly to a book on Amazon’s Canadian site. For those who aren’t aware of this trick, however, when directed to Amazon.com, they have to log in to their country’s Amazon site and search for the title. BookLinker will automatically direct them to your book on their country’s Amazon website. Also, make it easy for those who download your eBook to write a review by including a link at the end inviting the reader to rate it and/or write a review directly from their reading device. (Most electronic reading devices are now connected to the Internet.)
If you’re giving away printed copies of your book, add a nice surprise to the parcel. I received a book from one author who wrapped it in colored tissue tied with a ribbon, included a handmade bookmark, and wrote a personal note inside the book’s cover. Did this motivate me to read and write a review of her book? You bet it did! I’m not saying to bribe anyone, but a personal touch is appreciated and makes readers curious about you and your book. They are then more inclined to move it to the top of their “to-read” list and to write a review, especially if they liked your book.
When you look at open giveaways on Goodreads, there are always a large number of people who enter to win a free copy, even if the number of copies being offered is small and their odds of winning is consequently minimal. The question is whether or not the winners will actually read the book and, if they do, will be moved to write a review. You’ll get more reviews if you target your audience.
Reviews on Goodreads are great, and the GOOD REVIEWS group, among others on Goodreads, can help you find reviewers. Some readers advertise in this group that they’re looking for a certain type of book. If your book falls within that genre, these are good people to connect with because they do write reviews.
If you post a request on GOOD REVIEWS for an honest review in exchange for a free copy of your book, be sure to provide its genre and what your book is about. Write a short blurb similar to what you would find on the back cover of a book, even if you’ve already posted this information elsewhere for another giveaway. Because so many giveaways are posted on Goodreads each day, the reviewers in this group may not have seen yours.
Although it’s common for authors in this group to offer to exchange reviews, I wouldn’t recommend doing so unless you’re familiar with their work and can reasonably expect to be able to write an honest positive review. If you can’t, let them know why so that, in the long run, they can improve their writing skills and/or hire a professional editor if need be. Likewise, if someone tells you they can’t honestly give your book a positive review, find out why without taking offense or being antagonistic. Ultimately, the reasons they give can help you become a better writer and sell more books. Never forget that your success as a writer depends on providing books that readers will enjoy; be grateful, therefore, for any suggestions that will improve your product.
One problem with Goodreads reviews is that they don’t necessarily appear on the sites where your book is for sale. If you’ve done your research and targeted some quality people to review your book, don’t be afraid to politely ask them if they would copy and paste their Goodreads review on Amazon and/or wherever else your book is for sale. Most reviews from other Amazon sites eventually end up on Amazon.com, so let readers post reviews on their own country’s Amazon site if they wish to do so. Don’t be pushy, and be aware that they do have to indicate that they received a free edition of your book in a giveaway or in exchange for an honest review.
Someone whose reviews on Amazon are rated as being helpful by other customers can also be useful to you. If you view their profile on Amazon or on Goodreads, you’ll often find that they’ll write an honest review of a book in exchange for a free copy, or that they’re book bloggers who post articles featuring guest authors and their book(s). Some of them have many followers who trust their reviews.
If their Website URL is available on their Amazon or Goodreads profiles, visit it and learn something about them. If they are accepting requests for reviews, remember that they’re often bombarded by other authors with the same request. Always be willing to accept a refusal graciously, and be patient if they do accept your request: it will likely take them some time to get to your book, but their reviews may be influential in terms of future sales and reviews.
“The Indie Reviewers List” from The IndieView is one place to check for potential bloggers willing to review your book. Many of them will only accept certain genres or will have requirements for reviewing your book on their blog. They’ll also want you to provide images and links. To do so is common courtesy. Don’t make them have to look up links to your book, blog or author profile, and do provide them with interesting images to use. You can even join the Indie Authors List and be promoted on their site if you get a good review from one of these book bloggers.
NEVER provide a blogger with images for which you do not own the copyright and/or have explicit permission to use and to allow others to use. On the site I designed for John E. McLay, author of On Moutaintop Rock, I uploaded two videos from CTV News on YouTube and embedded them on his site. This required getting express permission from the station to upload and embed the clip with attribution. I indicated this fact both on YouTube and on John’s site, asking others not to embed it because permission to do so was granted to me only for John’s site. If I were to embed it on another site, I would again require permission from CTV News to do so. Just because something is available for public viewing on the Internet doesn’t mean you can use it on your Website or other social media. Familiarise yourself with Internet copyright laws and licenses, and don’t alienate book bloggers by providing images for which you don’t have the legal right to grant them permission to use.
If you have a WordPress site, you can use a widget–even free themes have widgets you can use–to add images of your book cover(s) that are “clickable” links to the site(s) where they are being offered as a giveaway or sold. These can be placed unobtrusively in the margin or at the bottom of your blog as permanent image links that appear in every blog post. This practice isn’t pushy, nor does it interfere with the content of your blog posts, but it does gently remind people that your books are available at a click of the mouse. Again, consider using BookLinker.
If you have your own author blog, it helps to give back to the Indie community if you want other bloggers to review your book or feature you on their blog as a guest author. You can share personal articles on your blog as well, and doing so may broaden the number and types of followers you have; but transparency about your own experiments with marketing or featuring another author whose work you admire helps to make friends in the self-publishing blogosphere. I’ve met many genuinely nice bloggers who, because we share similar goals and ethics–connecting readers with self-published books they’ll enjoy and sharing tips about writing, publishing, and marketing for authors–extended themselves to help me.
Don’t get lured into groups that exchange positive reviews for positive reviews or “likes” for “likes” on Facebook and/or members’ blogs. Such groups will often pressure you to read and provide high ratings and glowing reviews for books that may not deserve them. Maintain your reputation for integrity and honesty. (Check out the Ethical Author Code of the Alliance of Independent Authors for some excellent guidelines.) If your book still requires some work, undeserved positive reviews will ultimately harm your reputation as an author. Once verified buyers begin to write reviews, if you haven’t done the work to deserve such reviews, they will be motivated to write negative reviews about how disappointed they are as a consequence of having bought your book based on false positive reviews. Amazon can and will remove positive reviews that are suspect.
Finally, if possible, follow up by thanking those who review or otherwise promote your book. Working in a bookstore, I’ve connected with many traditionally published authors who’ve expressed gratitude for my feedback and promotion of their book(s) in my store. Currently, self-published authors are plentiful, and without the support of trusted reviewers and book bloggers, you may suffer from anonymity until someone trustworthy is willing to champion your book.
For more tips, best-selling author Nicholas C. Rossis has an excellent blog post about the efficacy of giveaways.