As an author, and after years of pursuing the holy grail of how to get people to do book reviews, I’ve discovered there is no holy grail.  You have to ask/plead/beg/extort/bribe everyone you know to give you a review. And then you must keep asking/pleading/begging/extorting/bribing everyone again and again and again to actually do the review they’ve promised you.  

In this day and age, reviews reign supreme.  Look at Yelp. Or TripAdvisor. And Google? Of course.  And the granddaddy of them all—Amazon. As an author, reviews are a writer’s bread and butter.  Maybe more like air and water. But for a business owner with a service to offer or a new product to sell, there is no difference between authors or business people.  Reviews can make or break our efforts, especially in the beginning. That’s why we all need to start with good reviews and we desperately need them now.

But trying to get friends, relatives, loved-ones, wives, spouses, or significant anyone’s to write a review for your book, your business, or your product is like pulling teeth. In my quest to get reviews from people, I think it would be easier to pull teeth.

So how do I do it?  Here are few tricks, hacks, and gambits I stumbled across in my long and determined pursuit of the ever-elusive book review which can be used equally as well by everyone in the business world:

Go with Who You Know

The simplest place to get reviews is from people you know.  (Getting reviews from people you don’t know is another universe of hurt.)  What better place to begin a word-of-mouth campaign is with the people you can actually talk to—your friends and family.  I know. It’s not exactly digitally sexy and exciting but online reviews from people you know are the easiest way to begin your digital word-of-mouth campaign quickly and effectively.

There are Two 10,000 Pound Elephants in the Room: Amazon & Google

For better or worse, Amazon & Google are king, queen, and jack for all sorts of reviews.  Yes, there are others but you’re in the cage with the beasts and you need to tame them. Amazon and Google are where everyone starts to look for your reviews.  And that’s where you initially need to concentrate all your review-getting superpowers.

The “Tip Jar” Effect

Piano players and waitresses know the secret to getting tips is putting money in the tip jar before they start work. Early reviews are the tip jar to your early success.  Even though you may not have finished your book, started your business, or finished your product, please start lining up your early reviews . . . early. Get a promise from people to review and make a list.

The first day you are “live” on Amazon or Google is the day you want everyone on your list to write a review.  It helps to “frontload” these reviews, so the Amazon and Google algorithms take notice that there’s a party going on (which makes them want to invite other people to the party!).  Then for a week or more keep the reviews coming. You don’t want just a one-night party. You want to keep the party alive and that’s why continued reviews for the first day, week, and month are especially important.

My Dog Ate My Review (Why Screenshots are the Easiest Show & Tell for Reviewers)

Oh, the beautiful excuses you will hear about why someone has not done a review for you.  And one of the main reasons is most people have no clue where to start reviewing on Amazon or Google.  The Trick?  MAKE IT EASY!  Create a step-by-step list with screenshot pictures of how to do a review.  Trust me, people love the screenshot pictures! Then you can either print it out, send it by e-mail, phone, telepathically, or by donkey.  You’ve just made it ten times more likely that you’ll get someone to review your book because they see how easy it is to do.

Why Do Horses Stand Opposite Each Other? To Help Each Other

Horses in the summer swat each other’s faces with their tails to keep the flies away.  It’s a variation of the old “You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours.” Trading reviews with fellow authors or business owners is a no brainer.  You both need reviews and you both end up helping each other. Tip?  The best way to write your “Scratch-your-back reviews” is at the same time.  Then neither of you has to bug the other to finish their review.

How to Ask for a Good Review by Not Asking

We all want five-star reviews.  Who doesn’t? But you can’t exactly ask for people to give you five stars (well, you can, but even that can backfire).  The Trick?  It’s simple and all in the wording.  Here’s what I say: “If you have enjoyed your copy of The Legacy Letters, I would love for you to write a very short review of it on Amazon or Google.  Just a couple of lines will help me out and then I can feed my kids again . . .”  The key is in the word “enjoy.” The implication is that if you didn’t enjoy the book, please don’t review it.  Most people get it. Most . . .

Why is Starbucks My Secret Best Reviewer?  “The 2-Fer” Coffee Bartering System of Reviews

Who wouldn’t like two reviews in a row?  The best way I know to get two reviews is to buy a cup of coffee for a friend—and their friend.  When they do the review, send them each a $5.00 online gift card from Starbucks. It’s simple. It’s easy.  And it works. Coffee is a great motivator, and everyone likes to get something for something. If you have ten friends, that’s twenty reviews.  The more friends; the more reviews. And the numbers really start to add it. Besides, it’s one of the cheapest marketing campaigns you’ll ever invest in.  

To Buy or Not Buy Reviews—That is Not the Question

Speaking at conferences on how to market books, I get asked this question all the time.  Here’s the down low and dirty on buying reviews on sites like Fiverr. You can. But usually, the reviews are grammatically not exactly correct and even worse syntactically (meaning it doesn’t even read like a proper English sentence).  What you get is a sloppy review that Amazon doesn’t even believe in and then takes down. Yup, they can do that. Get enough of those type of reviews and Amazon will take down your product page down. Better to barter for reviews than to buy.     

Why Bad Reviews are Sometimes Good

I love my reviews.  They are genuine, heartfelt and powerful.  Combined with my reviews from The Huffington Post and other national media sources, they move people to buy the book.  And I have a lot of good reviews. But the bad reviews are really bad, and they really help me because bad reviews are usually written by people who are professional complainers who just want their 15 minutes of Internet fame.  My best bad review, “Just not my type of read.” Really? That’s why, in the beginning, you don’t want just anyone to review your book, service, or product.

Why K.I.S.S. Reviews are the Best

Yes, it would be nice to get a review from a rock band.  But my version of K.I.S.S. is “Keep it Short and Simple,” as in reviews.  Most people don’t like to write. So, asking for a review is like asking someone to relive those horrible flashbacks of writing reports in school.  The easiest way around this problem is to give them a K.I.S.S.! Remind them that they don’t have to write a 5-page report for their review. They can give one line if they want.  And even give them the line as an example: “I really like your book. It makes me feel happy!” (That’s a review I once received.) Sometimes Amazon or Google reviews are written by people who love to write and write and write (yes, those people exist).  But for the rest of the non-writers in the world, just “Keep It Short and Simple.” That’s a nice K.I.S.S. for any review!

About the Author: Carew Papritz, also known as The Cowboy Philosopher, is the author of the multi-award-winning book The Legacy Letters. Though fictional, The Legacy Letters has won acclaim as a life lessons book for all generations, gaining the distinction of being the only book in publishing history to win awards in both fiction and non-fiction categories. A Renaissance Man in an age that lauds the specialist, The Huffington Post says Papritz “intrigues and enlightens, charms and catalyzes change for every reader.”