Reaching Out to Bloggers for Book Reviews of Your Self Published Book
Got a great question through the Q&A on my blog about soliciting book reviews: Would asking bloggers to review a book on Amazon violate Amazon policies?
There are multiple issues to unpack from this question.
The author obviously and correctly recognized that bloggers can have influence when it comes to books. I do think that bloggers can steer their audiences to products and services, including books.
But these days, I don’t think most bloggers are as influential as in the early days of blogging. There are just too many blogs now. SoftwareFindr estimated there are 505 million blogs worldwide on all platforms (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.) as of April 2019. That’s half a billion (with a “b”) blogs. But that includes Tumblr “blogs," which can be debated if they qualify as official blogs or as social media. Take out Tumblr (441 million blogs), and you’re left with an estimate just shy of 64 million countable blogs, on top of potentially millions more who “blog” on social media networks instead of their own sites. That's still a lot.
There are almost zero barriers to starting a blog. Due to an oversupply of blog content, audiences for individual blogs are bound to shrink, making many bloggers less influential.
But getting the attention of prominent established bloggers and influencers with large numbers of followers, could be challenging. They probably already have many people approaching them with all kinds of enticing opportunities.
Why Blogger Reviews on Amazon?
One of the curious aspects of the Q&A question was the interest in asking bloggers to review the book on Amazon. Why? I’m guessing the author knows that Amazon reviews can influence book buyers. I get that.
But the thing about Amazon reviews is that the buyers may choose not use their real names in reviews. So readers may not even know it’s a particular blogger’s review, unless the blogger uses a real name or a handle that people recognize. This would also require that bloggers share links to these reviews on their blogs or social profiles because people would not naturally go to find a certain blogger’s customer reviews on Amazon.
In years past, authors might have solicited bloggers to review their books on their blogs, not on Amazon. Apparently, the author is aware that reviews on Amazon can carry more weight than any mention on an obscure, even prominent, blog. Plus, reviews are always visible right where people buy.
Does Asking for Reviews on Amazon Violate Terms of Service?
Amazon is clear that close friends, relatives, clients, vendors (such as your editors)—basically anyone with whom you have a close relationship—are not eligible to post customer reviews for Amazon sellers/authors.
But there’s nothing wrong with asking anyone else outside your inner circle of family and friends, bloggers included, to post thoughtful reviews on Amazon or on Goodreads (which Amazon owns) after they’ve read your book. Current Amazon policy allows authors to give free or discounted book copies to readers and reviewers, as long as a review is not required to receive the free/discounted book, and the author doesn't attempt to influence the review in any way. See Amazon.com for any updates to this policy.
WIIFM (What's In It For Me)?
What would the blogger gain from reviewing your book on Amazon or elsewhere? Here’s where the real problem is.
Again, as mentioned earlier, a free copy of your book probably wouldn’t be an an attractive enough offer to entice bloggers to read and review. But you should NEVER offer any other incentive (cash, gifts, etc.) for customer reviews on Amazon since that violates Amazon Terms of Service.
And who are you that would make bloggers want to publicly declare on their blogs or Amazon reviews that they read your book? Because you need the help? It’s a beg for a favor with little to no benefit to the blogger, unless you’re a celebrity level author.
I once received a book out of the blue, with a request to review on Amazon and social media because I had reviewed other books within the topic. Those other books were ones I actually wanted to read and had voluntarily acquired. I wasn’t interested in this random book, and declaring my interest or connection to the book or author would do nothing for me. Plus, it would take me several hours to read and review the book. I didn’t review it at all anywhere since I don’t want to be cornered into reading a book and doing a book review from someone with “give to get” behavior.
What About Editorial Reviews?
Did you know that Amazon allows editorial reviews of your book, including those from family and close friends?
An editorial review is a critical review of the book written by someone who is an editor or expert for your type of book or topic. This is much more than a customer review where the reader expresses his satisfaction with the book. This is constructive feedback on the book and its subject.
You upload editorial reviews you receive on your book's Author Central information page. There are a lot of rules about editorial reviews. So definitely check the support documentation on Amazon and Author Central.
The good news is that this is something a blogger could also write for you. But, again, what’s in it for the blogger? Not much unless they want to be observed as providing opinions on your work.
Learn More About Editorial Reviews
Best Practice for Soliciting Blogger Book Reviews
In contrast to the “give to get” review request example, I recently received a review invitation that was done very well.
The author contacted me through my Facebook business page, noting that he had seen other Amazon reviews I had done for books similar to his new one. He alerted me when the book would be available under his Kindle Free eBook Giveaway, and invited me to read and review if I had time or interest.
The topic is interesting to me, but I responded that it is a little outside my area of expertise and why. The author replied that he would be most interested in my thoughts on a particular segment that is within my sphere if I do decide to read and review.
That’s how you do it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2019 Heidi Thorne