It’s no surprise that as an author, one of the biggest challenges is connecting with potential readers. Without a large marketing budget, finding new people to read your work — and most importantly, having those readers leave reviews, becomes a difficult challenge. I think at the beginning of my publishing journey, I believed giving my books away wasn’t helpful, or necessary, or…I really can’t be sure. And, as the years went on, I realized The System (aka Amazon) pays significant attention to reviews. And as a reader, I get it. Although most of my reading comes via NetGalley and authors I already know and love, I’m always looking for new talent. When I approach purchasing anything online, I always read reviews and yes, those reviews have a huge impact on my buying behavior.
So, with some of my recent novels, I wanted to revisit my strategy and and do my best to obtain more reviews. For The Queen of England: Coronation, I wanted a healthy base of reviews (and also to get over 40 reviews, something that was personally annoying me). As it is the first book in a three book series, my hope was to grab people’s interest (so that they read – and buy – the remainder of the series). For Twenty Year Reunion, given the space between releasing Life After Joe (2015) as Ann Benjamin and now, well, it’s a bit like starting over again. I recognize this as my own failure, but this is also the reality of publishing under two pen names.
Finally, while there’s nothing specifically scientific about it, I value a review at USD$5. As in, even though it is totally illegal, that is what I would pay someone to leave a review on any of my books. I think having an idea of what monetary equivalent per review review makes sense, and was important in my approach to below.
So, what services have I used? Let’s dive in!
In case you’ve not heard of this service, essentially for a fee (based on your genre), you sign up for a day and request readers. I used Hidden Gems – to great success – for reviews for Queen 1 and 2. While the service yielded more reviews with Coronation (15-20, if I remember correctly) than Grand Tour (9-10), both books received a number of positive reviews, and in a timely manner. I can’t remember exactly what I paid, but using Hidden Gems was definitely worth it. The only ‘con’ to using the service is that the wait list is rather insane. The absolute EARLIEST I could sign up Twenty Year Reunion was August (which I did).
However, a bit of good news, I was contacted late yesterday to see if I wanted an earlier spot (May 8th), which just opened up. I was delighted to accept.
Similar to Hidden Gems, Voracious Readers connects authors with potential readers. As my approach was to get people on the hook for the first book in my Queen series, I listed Coronation as ‘evergreen’ (an ongoing free book). As interest and requests rolled in, my optimism grew. Seeing all the potential new readers, I was excited.
Unfortunately, in comparison to the timely and responsive reviews of the Hidden Gems readers, I felt very disappointed by Voracious Readers, and decided to stop the service two months in. Why? For as many books I sent out (almost 200), I think I received maybe 3-5 reviews in that whole time. And the majority were on Goodreads (my preference is definitely Amazon). Because I overlapped my Voracious Readers service and a free day on Amazon where I had over 2,000 downloads, it’s difficult to tell where reviews from March 17th forward are coming from.
As some small bonus, I have added more people to my author newsletter database, which is a small silver lining.
As I thought Hidden Gems wasn’t going to come online until August (and that was too long to wait), I decided to research some other options to source readers for Twenty Year Reunion, and came up with AuthorsXP. Reviewing their options, I wanted to try the Elite Readers option (again, as a way to build reviews). After one week, I’ve sent out 13 copies, which I’m honestly kind of ‘meh’ about. I was hoping to be closer to 20, but perhaps I’ll hit that number over the weekend. If I don’t reach 20, I’m going to see what I can do about getting a refund.
I used this service to try and build my BookBub followers, as well as build my newsletter subscribers. I had the best luck with this service, and whenever I opted in, I received a list of 325 new subscribers. Result.
Of course, there are tons of other services out there – many of which I’m ineligible for, as my books are all opted into KDP Select. I do this, mainly because I’m paranoid about not complying with Amazon’s rules. I’ve tried to submit to BookBub for my YA stuff, but was wary this week about pulling the trigger for Life After Joe (as a way to get new readers for Ann Benjamin), as the $600+ price tag has me nervous on what actual return I would get.
So, where do you find out about new authors? If you’re an author, have you used any of these services before?