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Hi everyone,

I remember when I first got into ebook publishing, buying reviews was a thing, and it was pretty easy too. With all the changes to the system however, not only has buying reviews been mostly eradicated (which is very good), but it's become a lot harder to solicit for reviews. Please forgive me, but I always thought it was funny, because I had no love for people that had to buy or solicit reviews. For me, you published a book, you spent a ton on traditional marketing, and you either made a profit or you didn't. Looking back, I was a bit old-school AND it cost me more on marketing than probably every ebook publisher would typically spend (with perhaps much lower ROI).

The reason I bring this up, is because over the years my model of operation has evolved quite a bit, and I find that I'm publishing a LOT less, but still have a really strong toolkit that I can either let get dusty, or try and put to use.

I have an e-mail list of over 500 (674) dedicated readers that I've built up over a long period of time, that really work as a bit of an ARC for me. The most readers I've had is just under a thousand, but over the last year or so, the list has started to shrink because a lack of new material.

What I'd like to see if it would be useful, is if there are any of you that would like your work to be read and reviewed? It's quite obvious that I won't make any guarantees. But typically I send a book-link to a very tailored segment of the list (which end up being maybe 3-5 people, depending on the length of the book, genre, the effort put into the synopsis and cover, and a few other minor details - author/how many books published/average ratings). This small group ends up buying the book on Amazon, reading it and almost always leaves a review. It's like a professional courtesy, I honestly would be more surprised if they bought a book and DIDN'T leave a review.

What's the offer?
I will submit your book to a very small, curated group of readers. You could expect 1-5 (let's be honest, it'll probably be only 1 because I'm just giving this a try, so I'll probably be awful careful about who I send it to) purchases on Amazon, no guarantees for reviews but like I said before, I would be more surprised if every reader didn't leave a review.
For the first five replies, this will be a free offer. Just reply with one book of yours, provide your Amazon link and ASIN number, and I'll follow-up with a PM to let you know it's a go.

What's the catch?
1. I want to give this a shot for free, for let's say the first five people that reply within a week. If there's no interest, I get it and I'll move on.
2. I don't spam out books to everyone on my list. There are a LOT of books that most people simply want nothing to do with, and I get it, I'm the same (I seriously can't get past the first few pages on most fantasy books, even though it's my FAVORITE genre to read). Anyone thinking that they will get me to send out their book to all 500+ readers is dreaming, even if they gave me a huge chunk of money, they wouldn't get the results they wanted. These people are picky, and I'd probably lose a huge portion of them being disrespectful like that.

What do I want in return?
Some honest feedback. If I do get five people that reply/take advantage of this offer (again, free, no cost, no gifted books, nothing, the links will be sent to readers with disposable income). I'd like to hear from those people how the communication was, how many downloads/reviews they get (if any, if they get the 1 or more), and if it's a service they would pay for in the future.

For everyone else, I'd love to hear your thoughts on what I feel would be my services and fee structure. Now I've struggled a lot with this, because I don't have a "HUGE 500,000 LIST OF READERS" or whatever some of these promotion sites/services offer. Honestly, I'd probably just be content with recouping the cost of the book + a small service fee (my readers have a disposable income, but if I go from sending them something once a month to a higher frequency, it would be rude to just expect the same commitment without covering the cost of the book).

What I'm thinking I would offer as a service is:
$(cost of your book) + $10 service fee X (how many downloads/reviews you're looking for, to a maximum of 50).
This way I can send out an e-mail to a curated group of readers, with a complimentary gift card that they can use for your book or whatever they desire. That way I'm respecting my list, and making some money on the side.
e.g. You have a $9.99 book that you just published, but it's not getting any attention and you feel like perhaps if even just a few people read it, it could take off. You PM or e-mail me, looking for at least five sales, and at $9.99 + $10.00 = $19.99 x 5, equals a total cost of $99.95.
If I feel like I have the readers, I say 'lets go', and within a week you see the sales come in, and because they are courteous readers, you probably see everyone of them leave a review.
If you get only four sales, I send you back $19.99. However, if you get 8 sales, I don't charge you any extra because that simply means a few people bought your book without claiming a gift card from me, with their own money, so you did a good enough job on your cover and synopsis.

The reason I struggled with this, is because that may seem expensive, but I've gone through pretty much every paid promotion available, and with the exception of the few that everyone knows (bookbub, riffle, fussy, ent, robinreads, 'booksy) there's a lot of poor performing services out there. Especially if you want reviews, I remember doing over a hundred sales on a combination of two promos, yet after two weeks only gaining one new review. Which isn't a big deal if you want your book sales to stay stagnant, but is crucial for growing sales methodically over a long period of time.

Now I don't see 'five sales/reviews' helping really anyone except new authors, but perhaps I'm wrong. The reality is, anybody taking ebook publishing seriously has their own e-mail list and promotion schedule, and are banking 20+ reviews in their release week. I don't see anyone paying me to send out an incentive to 20+ readers, that's a ridiculous amount of money IMO, and honestly kinda feels like cheating yourself out of the work of building a good e-mail list. But to the newbie that hasn't even started their e-mail list, but already published their ebook, it could be a little helpful. I don't know, what do you think?
 

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purplehouse said:
Hi everyone,

I remember when I first got into ebook publishing, buying reviews was a thing, and it was pretty easy too. With all the changes to the system however, not only has buying reviews been mostly eradicated (which is very good), but it's become a lot harder to solicit for reviews.
I didn't read your post, but I will say you are sadly mistaken on this point. Reviews are still being bought and paid for quite regularly and quite easily. The buyers have just gotten smarter about hiding it.

And it's not just books. Reviews on all Amazon categories are still being quite heavily gamed, to the point where I rarely pay attention to 4 and 5 * reviews and just read the 1 and 2*.

And since this forum is read by both the honest and the dishonest, no. I'm not saying how it's being done.
 

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If anything, and after 15 months of solid review pitch sessions, I can tell you that paid-for reviews have increased, not decreased. Yes, they are hidden in terminology, and very cleverly disguised. I do know how they are doing this and blogged about it. I'll say it again, anybody can rat you or the reviewer out if they get a whiff of this activity. It's dangerous, since it can violate the Zon's policy. The only way around directly paying for a review, is to agree to a dollar amount that ads some type of special promotion, above and beyond the review.

"Buy me a cup of coffee" or "donate," might not be considered a solicitation. Although, it's mighty suspicious, isn't it.

What about "fast-tracking" the review for a dollar amount? Sounds like a paid review, doesn't it? It can also be dependent upon whether you get the review or not. IOW, if you have the bucks, you get reviewed. If you don't pay up, perhaps the reviewer requests the book and just dumps it, because they're working off the paid bunch, and just maybe, that is the only bunch they work on. 

ETA: When I do consider the time and writing involved in a solid review, plus linking you all over hell's half acre, I would not mind paying two bucks for a review. And that's because I really think they've earned it. I mean, on top of the free book--paperbacks excluded. The TBR piles are higher than K-2 out there, and they're not going to get any smaller.
 
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