A never-ending concern for independent authors is how to get more book reviews on Amazon. Although some authors can get reviews from their fans, many others rely on outside reviewers like book bloggers, ARC teams, and book review services.
What are Book Review Services?
Book review services hire reviewers to evaluate new books either before or after their public release. These services then distribute reviews to interested parties. The traditional publishing industry has long used book reviewers to validate new authors and build excitement for books written by veteran authors. Snippets of these reviews are often included on the book jacket to help them sell better.
Traditionally published authors don’t have to think about hiring book reviewers, as this is part of the traditional publishing process. But indie authors have to find their own reviewers. This is why book review services come in handy.
Why Book Review Services are Important
Social proof. The self-publishing industry is becoming increasingly crowded, and it’s difficult for indie authors to get the visibility necessary to market their books. Book review services are often trusted resources for unbiased, professional book evaluations. A positive review will give an author exposure to a larger fan base and industry representatives.
Marketing. A good review from a reputable source can help sell books. Many review services offer promotional benefits for highly-rated books, such as placement on the company’s home page, author interviews, and exposure to industry influencers.
Access to promo sites. Many indie promotional services require at least ten reviews before a book can be advertised on their websites. Book review services sometimes allow authors to purchase multiple reviews to increase their book’s chances of qualifying for a promo site.
Things to Consider before using a Review Service
Choosing a book review service is not an easy task. Authors must take into account several factors before selecting a service. Some considerations include—but aren’t limited to—the following:
Reputation and clientele. Some companies are well-established and have worked extensively with traditional publishers before offering their services to indie authors. Book reviews from these sites are reputable and attract the attention of booksellers, agents, and publishers. Other sites are newer and less familiar, but they cater exclusively to independent and self-published authors.
Reviewer experience. Some book review services employ knowledgeable, well-read book reviewers without special credentials. Other companies hire trained professionals such as journalists, teachers, authors, and those familiar with the publishing industry.
Turnaround time. Book reviews can take a long time. The turnaround time for most standard services is about 7-9 weeks. Expedited services cost more, but lower the turnaround time to about a month.
Perks. Some companies will promote your book on their websites, social media platforms, or through their mailing lists.
Review length. Most book reviews are at least 300 words long. Children’s and picture books are notable exceptions. Authors can pay for more detailed reviews, which are rarely longer than 500 words.
Distribution. Book review services will often distribute their reviews to Amazon/Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, social media, their company website, and interested members of the industry.
Cost. This is the most important consideration for indie authors, many who have limited resources. The cost of a book review is heavily influenced by the previous considerations. It’s important for authors to identify the tradeoffs associated with each service before making a financial commitment.
Before you choose a service, there’s another thing you’ll want to keep in mind:
Book review services do not guarantee positive reviews. Paying for feedback doesn’t guarantee a five-star review. You can choose to keep the review private, but you can’t get a refund for a poor review.
How it Works
The review pipeline differs between services, but in general, you contact the agency with information about your book, such as its title, genre, word count, and release date. The review service will then pair your book with one or more qualified reviewers. Reviewers should be genuinely interested in your book and able to review it before the established deadline.
Reviewers will provide feedback in accordance with their agency’s standards. Some services provide forms, while others only give general guidelines for providing feedback. The reviewers themselves are not paid for their reviews, and are expected to give an honest, unbiased, and thorough evaluation. They are not obligated to give a positive review.
The review will become available to the author in 1-9 weeks, depending on the agency. Authors will then have the option of if and where to distribute the review. Some book review services will post highly-rated reviews on their websites.
The Heavy Hitters
Some book review services are extremely well known and trusted. A positive review from these services will surely increase your book’s visability and sales. But be forewarned: these services are expensive.
Note: Rates are valid as of June 2019.
IndieReader is one of the largest independent book review services out there. According to the website, it is “maintained by authors and writers, for authors and writers.” Reviewers include librarians, journalists, teachers, writers, and published authors. IndieReader also offers additional services such as book distribution, marketing, and advertising.
Standard Review: $250.
Rush Review: $325
Turnaround time: 7-9 weeks for the Standard Review. 4-6 weeks for the Rush Review.
Added Perks: Authors who receive high reviews will be be featured on IndieReview’s website. Selected authors will be invited to give a book interview, which will also appear on the website.
Review Distribution: Reviews will be available for distribution to the following outlets: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieReader, and Ingram Book Company. Select titles will be distributed to the Association of Independent Authors.
Kirkus Indie Reviews
This book review service has been in operation since 1933 and is very reputable among traditional publishers. Besides its notoriety, indie authors can benefit from Kirkus‘ editing and advertising services.
Traditional Review: $425. Expedited Traditional Review: $575.
Expanded Review: $575. Expedited Expanded Review: $725.
Picture Book Review: $350. Expedited Picture Book Review: $425.
Turnaround time: 7-9 weeks for the Traditional Review; 4-6 weeks for the Expedited Traditional Review. 7-9 weeks for the Expanded Review; 4-6 weeks for Expedited Expanded Review. 7-9 weeks for the Picture Book Review; 4-6 weeks for Expedited Picture Book Review
Added Perks: Selected reviews will be considered for publication in Kirkus Reviews magazine and in their Email newsletter, which is distributed to more than 50,000 consumers and industry representatives.
Review Distribution: Reviews will be published on kirkus.com at the author’s discretion. Reviews are sent to licensees such as BN.com, Google Books, and Ingram Book Company. Reviews are not automatically added to Amazon.
This review service is fairly new, but has become one of the best resources for self-publishers today. Vetted by outlets such as The New York Times, Forbes, and Writer’s Digest, Self-Publishing Review also offers editing, marketing, and publishing services at an additional cost.
Classic Review: $219.
Lead Story: $309.
Turnaround time: Editorial: 7-days; Jumpstart: 14-days; Classic Review: 30-days; Lead Story: 30 days.
Added Perks: Fast turnaround time compared to other review sites. Some services come with marketing on social media platforms and author interviews. Additional services like book blurb rewrites and Amazon keyword assessments are available at an additional cost.
Review Distribution: Depends on the requested service package, but can include distribution to Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.
When to Submit Your Book
Some book review services, like Publisher’s Weekly, will not review books that haven’t been released in the U.S. Most others will allow pre-release reviewing. Because response and turnaround times are long, authors should submit their book for review at least two months before its release date, and possibly sooner.
Are Book Review Services Worth It?
This is the question that many authors ask themselves, especially since money’s involved. The consensus among authors and reviewers alike is possibly. When deciding whether book review services are worth the cost, consider the following:
Do you have a lot of Amazon book reviews? If so, a paid review service may not be necessary.
Do you value quality over quantity? Then a paid book review service may be for you.
Are you a first time author? A paid book review service can help you get established.
Are you looking for more visibility? If so, a paid book review from a notable agency might be worth the cost.
Do you need a lot of reviewers? Heavy-hitting review services may be a costly or impossible option. Consider using a book review service that caters to indie authors.
Do you need a lot of reviewers quickly? If so, look for a book review service that caters specifically to indie authors. They’re not as reputable, but they’re usually cheaper and have faster turnaround times.
Are you trying to maximize your outcome? Consider a hybrid approach: use a paid service to get professional reviews, but supplement reviews with those provided from other sources, such as ARC readers, book bloggers, and your fan base.
Paid services are a good means of getting book reviews for authors with some cash to spare. While cost is certainly a consideration, the value of a professional review from a trusted source could help you get the validation and visibility needed to launch your career.