BOOK LAUNCH LEARNINGS 8: Reviews

PART 8 – LEARNINGS ABOUT WRITING AND PUBLISHING A BOOK SERIES – Reviews

While the last blog I posted about marketing might have been the most informative and useful. This post is about something that is probably the most important for a first-time unknown author. Reviews. This post will be split between some thoughts bout reviews and a bit about the reviews that have so far been received about On Swift Wings.

I’ve talked about my naivete when it comes to launching my first book. I didn’t really take into account the importance of reviews until far into the process. I’ve said that I figured people would read the book, tell friends, and it would just take off on its own. Once I launched, I realized that people need to be encouraged to write reviews, even their friends. There are rules about close family posting reviews on sites like Amazon, so I didn’t want to risk their accounts and review abilities, but anybody else is free to post honest reviews. Also, though it is very tempting, I’m not going to risk everything to buy fake reviews. I’m not even sure where to go to get them, and I’m not looking.

On Swift Wings is still starving for reviews, any reviews. I have received a couple dozen in various places, several on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, a few here and there on Goodreads, and a number of professional/semi-professional reviews from several legitimate sources. (I really need reviews! If you’ve read the book, please help me by posting a review to Amazon and/or GoodReads. The more people who comment (especially with 5-stars) the more people are likely to give it a try. A friend once told me that she wouldn’t buy a book without 100 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4-stars. I have 10, with an average of 4.6. So… just 90 more of you and I’m there! – this is an exceptionally high bar to achieve on Amazon. First-time authors almost never legitimately achieve that kind of review number, so she can only read mainstream published books.

Friends/Family/Advanced Reader Group

The first place to go for reviews should be your advance reader group. The only ARCs (advance reader copies) that I sent out were to my immediate family, who are ineligible to post reviews on Amazon… oops. Relax, sacrifice a little control, and give out copies to friends that can provide feedback and early reviews. It would also help to get involved in shared-interest groups. Find people with similar interests and connect with them. These are also more likely to provide reviews. These early reviews are crucial to achieving early traction.

Giveaways

Another way I tried to drum up reviews was through giveaways. I gave away 100 copies of On Swift Wings through a goodreads giveaway. I was hoping to get at least 10 reviews that way, I got 1 review and 2 ratings. There is a side-benefit of the goodreads giveaway, everybody who applies automatically has the book added to their ‘to-read’, so there are 303 people out there who have the book in their ‘to-read’ folder on goodreads. My guess is that a lot of people enter these giveaways pretty blindly and amass large quantities of free books they’ll never read. I’ll talk a little about giveaways and contests in my final blog post of this series.

Paid Reviews *** NOT PAID FOR RATING ***

The next place that I went for reviews was a number of paid reviewers. Note: These are paid for the time, placement and quality of the review, not for a positive review. You can pay hundreds of dollars for a professional reviewer to read your book and say its horrible. Fortunately, all my reviews came back with 75% or better stars. I approached a few organizations to find me some reviewers, either professional, or just people looking for new books:

OnlineBookClub.org – Arite Seki – 4/4 Stars
OnlineBookClub.org – Snowflake – 3/4 Stars

Reader Views – Paige Lovitt – 5/5 Stars

Readers’ Favorite – Romuald Dzemo – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – Liz Konkel – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – K.C. Finn – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – Ruffina Oserio – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – Lesley Jones – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – Rabia Tanveer – 4/5 Stars

There are a number of other options that I haven’t explored deeply including Author to Author, where you review a book from a pool of curated works and authors from that pool review yours. It is all blind, so you aren’t reviewing the person who reviewed you, but it is a way to gather more reviews.

Something I hadn’t thought about, but will also do in the future, is to include a note at the end of the book asking for a review. It felt tacky the first time I heard about it, but now I recognize that many people don’t do things like review a book without being asked. Whether they don’t think about it, or they forget. You get a lot more of what you want in life by asking for it, so next time, I’ll ask for it. Also…

Please review On Swift Wings!

(You might notice that the more stars you give, the prettier your review. 😉 )

Coles North Hill – Sadly Closed
Order now from Amazon.ca

Anyway, thank you for reading my blog. I hope that some of the things I have written will be of some value to you. If you feel inclined, I would be thrilled if you gave On Swift Wings a try. It is available all over the place, if you are a fan of your local bookstore, they are able to order it from IngramSpark, it is stocked at a few Coles/Chapters locations, although sadly my local outlet has closed permanently due to the pandemic. Of course the book can be ordered from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indigo, and many other sources. A kindle and eBook version are also available.

As always, I’d love to hear back from you. Tell me what you think.

Reviews and Marketing

Please review On Swift Wings

My son (the joker) and daughter at the Coles-North Hill near my house at the store where I bought my first books. (On Swift Wings is now on shelves at Coles and Chapters in Calgary)

If there is one thing that I’m learning, it is just how difficult it is to market a book. While there are over a hundred copies of my book that people have bought and are reading, and I know that a few of them have read it from cover to cover, I still have no formal reviews. This is stalling my marketing efforts. As a first-time author, nobody is going to drop $20 on a book that nobody has said is a good read. Most of the people that have read the book are related to me, and are therefore precluded from providing reviews. My brother jokes, “even a bad one?”

Ultimately, I have to get some reviews (and hopefully positive ones.) I’ve foolishly tried to market On Swift Wings without them, and I’ve come to the conclusion that without reviews, marketing is a bit like yelling at a wall. I’ve heard that people are finding the book challenging but rewarding. The satire is amusing. I appreciate that feedback enormously. (Please make your thoughts public. Also it’d be great if your thoughts were positive :))

Please review my book!

Paid Marketing Efforts

I’ve tried a bunch of things, and as I learn more and more, I keep adding to this. I’m sure I’ve made a ton of mistakes, but that is part of the fun of this little venture.

Facebook

I’ve paid for Facebook marketing efforts. I put an advertisement for the book targeted at fans of Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, and included a note that 20% of all author royalties will be donated to the Children’s hospital. Currently, I think that amounts to about $80, as well as my own share attempt at launch, where each share of my post I donated a dollar to the Children’s Hospital (76 shares). I’m happy to donate, but this didn’t really drum up sales (see review problem above.)

About 6600 people saw my first Facebook post ($150). 582 people liked the post. I’m not aware of anybody that actually bought the book that way. The second post was more focused, only 1100 people saw that one ($100), and 165 people liked the post. I’m a data scientist, so the insights about who actually likes the post is quite fun. Facebook shows some basic demographics about location, age, gender.

  • 80% of the people who see my ads are women
  • 35% of the total are women over the age of 65
  • 83% see the add on their mobile app, 10% on a desktop, and the remaining 7% are viewing Facebook through a browser on their phone.
  • 20% of viewers are in England, 14% in Ontario

It costs between $0.25 and 0.50 per engagement (click, comment, or share.) So for $250, I have a bunch of post-likes, but definitely not $250 worth of sales.

Amazon

I’ve tried a couple giveaways on Amazon. The nice thing here is that I can test to see whether people are buying the book or not (without reviews, they aren’t.) Giveaways work by the seller buying x copies of the book and providing it to every y-th entrant. For paperbacks, the smallest number is 700, so every 700th person to enter wins a copy of the book during the 9-day giveaway window.

The first giveaway cost me three copies of the book @ $15 each. 2100 people were reached by the ad, but as far as I know nobody bought a copy. At least three people have the book now, maybe they will review it.

The second giveaway cost me nothing. I added a condition that to enter the person has to follow me as an author. I got 698 entries (2 short of the first copy.) At least 90 people actually looked at the book, which suggests to me that they considered buying it. Fortunately it cost me nothing, unfortunately, nobody got a copy of the book. Also, nobody bought a copy after looking at it either.

Kindle

I also have a long-running ad on Kindle when the user locks the screen. It has been posted 5,777 times, has cost $1.94, has generated 11 clicks (and zero sales.)

Donations

I’ve donated several copies to public libraries, and tried to give copies to my old schools (but haven’t heard back from either of them yet.) I’ve long said that it isn’t about the money, which is good, ’cause I ain’t makin’ any. I hope people read On Swift Wings, are entertained, and that it makes them think.

Back to Reviews

At this point, I need people to read my book and to post reviews to Amazon, or goodreads, or Indigo. I’m not allowed to offer incentives or free books, I can’t have my family do reviews, I can only ask nicely. Please read and review my book. (If you’re in Calgary, there are several library copies you can borrow for free, both hardcover and paperback.)