I’m asked this question quite a bit. I released my third book, Broken Pieces, last December, and as of today I have 140 reviews on Amazon.

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Did I wave my magical redhead wand? No. Did I pay for reviews? NEVER. So how did I do it?

Betareaders. Okay, and maybe a little bit of magical luck.

Let’s deconstruct.

1) What’s a betareader? A basic definition of a betareader is ‘a person who reads a written work, with what has been described ”a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public.’ (Wikipedia, 2013)

2) Where do I find betareaders? There are several ways to go on this one.

  • Social Media: I simply tweeted and posted that I needed betareaders (and betareviewers) for my new work and was anyone interested? I told people I needed their email and to DM or PM me. I heard from about thirty people over the course of the month prior to release.
  • Groups: If you’re in any Goodreads groups, LinkedIn, or Facebook groups, you can draw on these folks to see if anyone would be interested.
  • Reviewers: It’s always a good idea to establish relationships with book bloggers and book reviewers far in advance of you needing anything from them. This is why I always stress that social media is about relationship-building. Asking reviewers for reviews ‘right away’ is akin to strolling into someone’s house with your hand out and expecting a hand-out. Not gonna happen.

3) Will a blog tour help? Yes! I’ve done quite a few tours with several different companies and while I like them all, I’ve had great luck with Orangeberry Book Tours. Let’s be clear: you pay an admin fee for the tour, for prizes, for graphics. The money you pay does NOT pay readers, bloggers, or reviewers to write you a favorable review! In fact, I’ve received more than a few 2-3 stars during blog tours and I’m okay with that because it legitimizes the tour process.

4) Newsletters. It’s always a good idea to start marketing a book long before you release it (I suggest at least six months at least). Connect with readers via a newsletter! Give them excerpts or a sneak peak, and ask for volunteer readers. When you DO send out your beta copies, remind them that it’s a a rough copy — typically in the final stages of editing, and ask politely for their review on Amazon and Goodreads once the book goes live.

5) Legality: I’m NOT an attorney, but I do understand that letting go of our baby to betareaders can feel risky for some…what if someone uploads the work without my permission or claims it as their own? I can tell you that’s it’s extremely unlikely, given that the book isn’t formatted yet and your name is on it. One author friend requires betareaders sign a confidentiality agreement, and that may be an option if you’re uncomfortable. Do you feels best for you or consult an attorney.

A final note: my book has been in the top 10 on several Amazon lists since release (Poetry, Women’s Studies, Gender Studies), has received multiple reviews from some top sources (all unpaid by me), and has been nominated or won some awards.

Reviews are but one part of an author’s platform. It’s not only reviews that got me more sales, and then more reviews. It’s a combination of social media relationships I built over time, blogging, advertising, blog tours, newsletters, and a million other little things that mean absolutely nothing if you haven’t written the best book you possibly can — and then pushed yourself to write an even better one.