A number of websites can help you distribute advance copies (or post-publication copies) of your book so that readers can review them. Note that some book review sites are scams, and may get you in trouble for violating terms of service on Amazon and other sites. The sites listed below are legitimate and abide by book retailers terms of service.
Many online retailers products explicitly prohibit giving away free samples of products in exchange for customer reviews. If they catch you violating their terms, they’ll remove your product.
Because the publishing industry has a centuries-long tradition of providing advance copies to reviewers, Amazon and other retailers exempt books from this prohibition. The caveat is that any who received a free copy of your book and then left a review must include a statement saying something along the lines of “I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.” The sites listed here try ensure their readers follow these guidelines.
A Word of Warning
When you give away free review copies, you should expect to get a handful of bad reviews. For one thing, you’re distributing your book to a general audience, rather than a targeted audience. Fantasy fiction fans may decide to take a look at your historical romance just because it’s free. Some will read just a page or two, toss the book aside, and leave you a one-word, one-star review that says, “Booooring!”
Others may leave thoughtless, poorly written reviews that reflect badly on your book, even when they mean to praise it. To prospective readers, it looks like they author paid some shill to post a four- or five-star rating.
Most of the reviews you get through the sites listed below will be legit, somewhat thoughtful, and reasonably helpful.
This word of warning is just to alert you, the author, to gird yourself for the one or two reviews that will piss you off.
Major publishers and indie authors use NetGalley to provide free advance copies to readers who agree to (but don’t always) leave written reviews. More conscientious readers will often re-post their reviews to Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers after your book goes live.
NetGalley is the biggest and most well-established player in the industry. They typically like to distribute advance copies, rather than copies of already-published titles. Prices start around $499 for a six-month listing, though you can list your title for much less through Dart Frog’s managed listing or through the Independent Book Publisher’s Association’s IBPA NetGalley Program.
Listing your title just before publication and allowing it to remain on NetGalley for awhile after publication often works well. NetGalley encourages their reviewers to share their reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and reviewers can only post Amazon reviews after your book’s publication date.
NetGalley also runs scheduled “email blasts” for different genres. For an additional fee, they’ll include your title in their promotional to readers, bloggers, librarians and bookstore buyers. These promotions typically generate quite a few additional reviews.
NetGalley has some additional perks, including reports of who read and reviewed your book, whether the reader is a librarian or a bookstore purchaser, the reader’s email address, and more.
BookishFirst belongs to the same parent company as NetGalley. They take advance copies only, not already-published works. They ask you to post an excerpt of your book, which is typically the first chapter or two. Readers review the excerpt, and if they like it, they enter a raffle to win an advance copy, which can be a physical or digital copy.
As an author or publisher, it’s your responsibility to mail the physical copies, if that’s what you’re offering. They’ll typically want you to commit to mailing 100 copies.
If you’re providing digital copies, the BookishFirst team will tell you how to set up controlled distribution of 100 digital copies of your book. It’s not too hard. Set aside a half hour or so for that process.
BookishFirst has some advantages over other reader review sites. Because readers must read your excerpt before entering the raffle, readers who don’t like your excerpt won’t ask for your book. That takes care of the “wrong audience” by weeding out readers who don’t like your genre or style. The remaining pool consists of the readers you are aiming at. These are the ones who should be reviewing your book.
BookishFirst also incentivizes readers to repost their reviews to Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and other platforms by offering rewards for reposting. Reviewers can eventually redeem rewards for titles of their choice.
A tiny percentage of readers game the system by leaving thoughtless reviews or cutting and pasting others’ reviews, just to gain points. Overall, though, BookishFirst generates the highest quality reviews of any of the services listed here. Their readers are enthusiastic, thoughtful, and articulate.
Because they feature only 1-3 titles per week, and because they tend to generate a good number of high-quality reviews, BookishFirst isn’t cheap. Listing cost around $1500, but if you know you have a good book and you want to launch with a lot of reviews, they’re the best bet out there.
Also note that BookishFirst readers tend to prefer the kind of upmarket genre fiction that can support book club discussions. Space Opera, gorey horror fiction, hardcore Sci-Fi, and hardboiled crime may not generate as much interest among their audience as you’d hope. Thoughtful Young Adult fiction, dystopian fantasy, and any fiction with a strong psychological bent (especially psychological mystery, thriller, and suspense) will get lots of readers. Ditto for good, insightful writing, well-developed characters, and works with heart.
If you want to know more about listing your book, contact them at BookishFirst@Bookish.com.
IndieReader is an excellent resource for indie authors. They offer a number of tools to help authors promote their books. Their review service has been around for many years. They have top-notch customer service, and review packages start at around $150.
Reading Deals is one of the oldest services helping indie authors to get reviews. They’re relatively inexpensive, and they have good customer service. They don’t offer any time guarantee as to when your 10-15 reviews will show up, but they’ll continue to list your book until all the reviews come in.
Your New Books
I have not tried Your New Books, but since they’re still in business after several years, they must be doing something right. Take some time to research them before you pull the trigger.