Since Amazon itself is a central hub for people to read reviews for books, as well as other materials (even if they do not purchase them from Amazon), it is important to not only get a good number of reviews, but to get them from a variety of sources. Matter of fact, there has been increased attention from the international community on Amazon’s validity, due to its high level of success over the last five years. The international book industry realizes that Amazon is a good source for finding new content. As a result, foreign rights buyers use Amazon as a reference point when researching new titles to purchase. By having a dominant Amazon presence, you will ensure your book is well represented to foreign rights buyers. This being the case, I highly recommend a minimum of 5 – 8 quality reviews.
Below are review and/or contest sites that I would recommend submitting your book to for review.
Midwest Book Review actually gives preference to books from smaller presses and self-published authors. This is a free review site; they do not do expedited reviews. It can take a couple of months to receive your review but they post it all over the place, including Amazon. There are numerous, informative articles about seeking reviews and I will give you some highlights below.
http://readersfavorite.com/: Readers Favorite is a site that gives you multiple choices. You can query for a free review, enter their contest (like most contests, there is a small fee but you will also get a review out of it), or you can pay a fee for an expedited review (see below for an explanation of expedited reviews). Unlike other reviewers, they will only post your review on Amazon if it is a 4 or 5 star review. They will give you the choice if it is 3 stars and it can be buried if it is less than that.
http://www.rebeccasreads.com/: This is another site that offers the choices of free review, expedited review, and contest entry. They actually will provide a formal tear sheet in PDF format via email. They offer publicity services for a price; it would be up to you whether or not you would like to use them.
http://www.readerviews.com/: Yet another site that offers a choice of free review, expedited review, and contest entry. Just like Rebecca’s Reads, they will provide a formal tear sheet in PDF format.
http://www.bestsellersworld.com/: This site offers either a free review or expedited review. The expedited reviews can be purchased in packages with other services for publicity. Again, this kind of thing is up to you, I will provide more details later in the email.
http://www.featheredquill.com/: In my recent look at this site, it appears that free reviews are no longer an option and you can only sign up for an expedited review. They provide a PDF tear sheet of your review.
http://www.apexreviews.net/: This site gives a choice between standard (free) reviews and publicity packages with expedited reviews. They provide a PDF tear sheet for your review.
http://www.indiebookawards.com/: This is a relatively well known contest: The Indie Book Awards. It is only a contest; there are no other options (unless something has changed). There is a fee for the submission, which is not unusual for contests. They will provide a review although it may take quite a while as they tend to get a substantial number of submissions.
Alright, a few notes on “expedited reviews”. There are multiple schools of thought in the field about such services that you should be aware of. First of all, it is a fee that you will pay to the site (we don’t pay it for you). In a typical review submission, your book is not guaranteed for a review. If it is approved for an expedited review, it becomes guaranteed and it also moves up in priority so you get it faster. Each of the above sites makes the claim that expedited reviews do not guarantee a positive review (and by what I have seen, they hold true to that). Some members of the industry regard any review that you pay anything for as invalid (with the possible exception of contests).
The counterargument is that these sites do not indicate in your review whether or not you signed up for an expedited review. It is really something that is up to you. With the exception of Feathered Quill Reviews and contests, you always have the options to seek a free review. Your average reader does not know what an expedited review is or what it means. This is where it really becomes your choice whether or not you wish to take this route.
Remember, when you are submitting to a review site (or a newspaper or magazine or blog or magazine), there is a risk for a negative review. Within the author exchange, if an author does not feel they can give you a good review, then they do not give one at all. As disheartening as that may be, at least you know you will either get 4 stars, 5 stars, or nothing at all so there is really no risk. Going to the outside for reviews can be a bit stressful but it is important to broaden your horizons. Remember, if you really feel strongly about your book and feel that you have written a good piece, it is time to leave your shell. Also keep in mind, not everyone likes every book out there. Most bestsellers (especially in fiction), do have some negative (and brutal) reviews. Believe it or not, it ends up balancing out and gives a bit of credibility to your review pool overall (or at least, if you have a handful of four star reviews in addition to the five stars).
There are sites that will give you the ability to pay for a review and will guarantee you a good review. You will notice that I did not place any of these on the list. Review reliability is diminished for “set up” reviews like this. These sites tend to be a bit more known so if you want to use your reviews for publicity, these may harm you more than anything else although most readers still won’t know the difference. Again, this is really up to you. There is an element of risk here.
When submitting for a free review, keep in mind that the days that reviewers tend to be the most inundated is Monday and Tuesday so timing your mailing to land in their mail room for a Thursday or Friday is helpful as there are less books coming in that yours will need to compete with. Also pay attention to the month. September, October, and November are extremely busy as people are trying to publicize their books for the holiday season. Also, April and May are extremely busy for the Spring market which is quite big in the book industry. July and August tend to be a little more dead and January and February (and the second half of December) tend to be the deadest times for reviewers. Obviously, if you choose expedited, it moves up in priority so these dates do not matter as much except that they may have too many requests and not accept your book for review.