Reviews may be the best way to sell anything. This is particularly the case on Amazon. Most consumers who are considering two similar products online will use the reviews as a tiebreaker. Your potential readers may do the same.
I've made plenty of mistakes when it comes to finding book reviewers. Before I found out it violated Amazon's terms of service, I asked friends to help me out with a review. What a pain that was. There was such a lackluster response among my too-busy-to-care companions, I felt like I would have gotten a better response from random strangers on the street. I tried making deals with other authors in the "I'll review yours if you review mine" vein. Aside from being time consuming, the practice is now being frowned upon by readers who notice such reviews came in a trade. Lastly, when I saw the success of writers like John Locke who bought reviews from a review service, I considered pulling the trigger on the very black hat practice. I never did, thankfully, as it would have had the potential to damage my credibility. Never buy a review from Fiverr or any other service. It's not cost-effective and it's shady.
It wasn't until the end of last year that I found three legitimate ways to obtain reviews for my latest book, 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2. Currently, the book is at 67 reviews and I'm shooting for the century mark. Counting all of my books, I've obtained over 150 reviews using these three methods.
Here they are (in order of least effective to most effective):
1. I Asked My Readers
This was a multi-pronged approach that went far beyond an e-mail asking for Amazon reviews. I kept track of readers who'd read and reviewed my previous books. After that, I sought them out. While they'd likely be more than willing to purchase my future books, I decided the review was more important than the sale and offered them a review copy. I didn't mind losing the sale because I figured I'd get more out of an honest review from a fan than the $2 I'd earn in the next Amazon royalty payment.
Another part to this is making sure you have a call to action asking for Amazon reviews in the back of your books. After dragging my heels for over a year, I finally added a review request and a link to the back of my 1,000 prompts books. I'm not sure how many people have clicked through on those links, but sometimes you need to ask your recent readers to pull the trigger before they forget all about you.
Lastly, in a strategy I've just started employing, I've begun incentivizing reviews by giving away a free gift for an honest review. In this strategy, I ask my followers to send me their review via e-mail and I award them with a free copy of the next book. It doesn't matter if the review is one-star or five-stars, the reader gets the copy regardless (this is what keeps it from being a shady practice). I've heard of many authors having success with this method, and I look forward to trying it out for myself.
2. I Used Author Marketing Club's Reviewer Grabber
This was the most costly of the three methods for me, but it also provided me with the most value. Author Marketing Club is a website dedicated to helping self-published authors. The site's premium service, which costs $105 annually, includes many helpful tools. One of those tools, the Reviewer Grabber, uses a piece of software that searches through the Amazon database to find active reviewers who previously reviewed similar books to yours. By typing in related keywords, titles to similar books and author names for authors who wrote books like mine, I was able to find the contact information for 600 people who reviewed books similar to 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2.
I didn't e-mail all of these people myself, which is what made this the costliest method. I hired an administrative assistant for a few weeks to send out lots and lots of e-mails, which ran me a few hundred dollars. In return for the expense, I made some great contacts with reviewers and got some stellar Amazon reviews from product raters in the site's top 1,000 reviewers.
If you're sending the e-mails yourself, it will take some extra time, but it's completely worth it.
3. I used StoryCartel's sweepstakes system.
My favorite method to garner Amazon reviews is StoryCartel. Author K.M. Weiland turned me onto the site, which lets you run a limited-time sweepstakes for potential reviewers in StoryCartel's 15k plus user database. You agree to supply either copies of your book, a Kindle or three $10 Amazon gift cards. To enter the giveaway, StoryCartel users must download, read and review your book. Because its a sweepstakes and readers aren't guaranteed to win anything from posting a positive or negative review, the reviews are very honest.
StoryCartel has multiple paid methods for promoting your giveaway, and I recommend you take advantage of them. Beyond giving away the three $10 Amazon gift cards, I also used the site's e-mail advertising option ($95) to promote my giveaway for 1,000 Prompts, Volume 2.
StoryCartel provides you with a list of e-mails for everyone who downloaded your book, which is helpful in its own right. I received about 200 downloads before the e-mail promotion went out and about 400 after it. Approximately 30-40 people who downloaded the book reviewed it. I also asked the downloaders if they were interested in joining my e-mail list, and I was happy with the response I got to that as well.
I found that StoryCartel was the most bang for my buck and it's the reason my book is creeping toward 70 reviews at the moment.
Getting Amazon reviews takes time, money or both. Any promotion you do for your book will pay much higher dividends if you get more than 10 reviews on your work. I've heard there's an even higher bump if you get over 100 reviews, a feat I've only achieved once and with a book that's permafree. Even if a book's been out a while, it's in your best interest to hunt down Amazon reviews. Using these three methods wisely, you can get your book up from zero and increase the chances that an informed reader will buy your book on the spot.
Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on Google+ and Facebook.