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Book reviews and their importance for marketing

How do you go about giving away free books in exchange for reviews?

Clearly getting good book reviews is essential for good marketing. I have a wide range of reviews from very good (5 star – assuming 1-5 scoring) to less than good (1 star). In some respects I am comfortable with the spread of reviews as we all know that not everyone will like our work. It also shows my reviews are genuine rather than extolling family and friends to write a review.

I have given away free books in exchange for reviews but after one occasion I believe I need to be more savvy and I should at least target fans of the genre. On one distribution, a review came back with one word - "twaddle". A little disappointing giving the cost of sending the book and that I had sample chapters on my website that should have alerted the person that perhaps the book was not for them.

That made me realise that perhaps folks in give want the book because it's free, rather than their preferred genre. That's quite dangerous for us authors and also a little unfair. I personally read several genres but there are definitely some genres that I know I wouldn't like, so wouldn't read and I certainly wouldn’t offer to review these.

The second issue is other self-published authors offering reviews and whether there is an opportunity to point score by being negative. I have a couple of instances where this might have happened. Librarything, Goodreads and other such sites are useful, as they give a clear indication of a person's tastes and that is what has made me a little suspicious.

Reviews are difficult to decipher and perhaps it is not wise to spend time worrying about the negative ones (providing of course you are getting more positive reviews). But reviews are hard to come by and it is always tempting to give books away in exchange for views. I have usually done well when sending books to fantasy blogs/review sites which is good and makes me believe in my works.

When sending out books for reviews, I would advise against wide scale distribution. Choose who to send your books to. I'd be interested in other people's thoughts.


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I agree with the points you make. I naively thought reviews would come in automatically. I was astounded that 4500 people downloaded copies of my ebook on two days when it was a free Kindle but not one of them submitted a review. Wide-scale distribution of free books for reviews isn't the answer either, as you say. Aaron Shepard gives some good advice in Aiming for Amazon, but he started solliciting reviewers even before he had his book published. Is the solution to write a new book?

Hi Margaret. It's always fun to write a new book. I have my latest book just out, but Lulu is taking an age getting it onto Amazon. That's taken all the fun out of it and diluted any marketing drive.

Well done getting 4500 out there. I managed 650 so you did very well. I still think wide-scale distribution is occasionally worth it but I wouldn't expect reviews from it.

Targeting folk is useful and if you have reviews on existing books, a new book is worth sending to the folk who obligingly gave a review the first time around. It's a lot faster than the first time.


I offered a freebie for my firefighter eBook novel on Goodreads with the provision that readers would post reviews and create some interest in my other stories.  I had 80 downloads and garnered 3 reviews.  I was very disappointed in the response.  All I can hope for is a few more may trickle in as the downloaders find it on their eReaders.  There are a lot of people downloading just freebies, stuffing their eReaders.   Offering your work as a freebie for a limited time may attract readers, but I also believe any author offering their work as a permanent freebie is insane.  It suggests to me the author didn't work too hard on the editing and is willing to toss the work away. It speaks of poor workmanship and brings all eBooks down.  Since there are thousands of free eBooks with people eagerly snapping them up they probably look at the authors who actually charge as snobs of a sort.  If a writer does due diligence on editing and the story is half-assed it is worth something.      

A few freebies as a marketing exercise makes a lot of sense. Your experience and mine suggests not to rely on freebies for reviews though. I would also suggest it can be dangerous as folk just want a free book and may not bother about which genre the book covers.

How much do you think reviews drive sales though? Is it really worth no matter what?

How do reviews make you rank on let's say, Amazon? 

I suppose it depends on whose doing the reviewing. Readers have such a wide range of tastes. One person can hate your book, another will love it. Just look at one of my favorite books, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. If you go to Amazon, she has something like 74 negative reviews where people were seriously against this book. Of course, others adored it. Right now I'm interested in getting more professional reviews


What sort of books do you write? Maybe we can trade and review each other.

Great idea.  William doesn't write but his new company BOOKUS will be handling a book for me this summer.  In the meantime, we can review each other.  What genre do you write?  My website is   pick one adult firefighter mysteries or juvenile chapter books.

Historical fiction. My book is The Last Heiress: A Novel of Tutankhamun's Queen.

If you want, message me so we can work out details, time frame.

I'm looking to load up my Kindle for a road trip next week so this comes at the right time.  I can get you a copy of any of my eBooks on  

Okay, so I just go to and send one of your books to my kindle?


Let me know which one you want and I'll get my super secret coupon code for your freebie.


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