You’ve finished your manuscript, had it edited, copyedited, and designed. You have a smashing cover and you are preparing to launch your book into the world. What can you do to help ensure that the publication of your well-written, professionally prepared manuscript gets loads of attention and sells right out of the gate?

Get reviews. Sure, you say, but how do I do that? Here’s a quick guide of the three major sources of book reviews for indie authors.

Free Reviews

To find writers willing to review your self-published book for free, consult reviewer directories such as Indie View and Book Blogger List. Also approach relevant bloggers and book reviewers, send them a free copy of your e-book, and ask nicely if they will review it. Two blogs that often review books by indie authors are Dear Author and Maryse Black. Finally, don't forget to consider traditional media, e.g. Publishers Weekly, which reviews self-published titles through BookLife, its site dedicated to indie authors -- and don’t overlook your local newspapers and magazines.

Paid Reviews

Paid reviews can be an effective marketing tool, too. Lots of sites offer paid review services. Here are a few examples: Kirkus Indie Indie Reader, Self-Publishing Review, Blue Ink Review.

Customer Reviews

Customer reviews on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads are important because they result in the overall star rating of your book that potential readers see when browsing bookselling sites. Indie authors should try approaching the appropriate Top Reviewers at Amazon to see if they're willing to write reviews. Additionally, some bloggers listed on Indie View will post their reviews as customer reviews on Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads. Reviewers for Blueink Review and Self-Publishing Review sometimes post their reviews to these sites as editorial reviews, though editorial reviews do not impact a book's star ranking.

Once you are comfortable with the kinds of reviews available to indie authors, it’s time to get busy. Follow these guidelines and you may be amazed by the results.

Your Book Review Action Plan

  1. Start planning your strategy early -- at least six weeks before the launch date of your book.
  2. Create a master list of everyone you can think of -- bloggers, reviewers, experts in your field -- who might be interested in your subject and in helping you with your book. “The most important part of soliciting reviews is to match your book to the appropriate reviewers,” says Joel Friedlander of the blog The Book Designer. So, spend some time to determine who has been reviewing other books in your category. And it's always a good idea to create a spreadsheet of everyone on your list and update it frequently to indicate who has responded and who hasn’t.
  3. Be ready to send MOBI, EPUB and/or PDF files to reviewers who request an e-book. Also order a batch of print copies to have on hand for reviewers who want a physical book.
  4. Write a friendly, personalized email to everyone on your list, attach a free copy of your book, and ask -- very politely -- if they would consider writing a review. Be as specific as possible about why you feel they are right for your book and how much you would appreciate a review.
  5. If reviewers prefer print copies, mail print books as soon as you receive their mailing addresses.
  6. A week before launch, send a reminder to anyone who hasn't yet responded. You know who those folks are, right? -- because you have kept a spreadsheet indicating who hasn't responded.
  7. Say thank you: Send a personal email to every single person on your list who has taken the time to review your book. They are your supporters, part of your community, your fan base. Do stay in touch with them whenever it’s appropriate and always let them know how appreciated they are.

There you have it. It’s not difficult, it can even be fun, and you’ll probably be surprised by how many people want to help you and may even be grateful that you’ve included them in your creative adventure.