Ten Tips for Indie Authors from a Book Reviewer

I love reading indie books and I strive to put one in my reading rotation which involves:

  • one standalone of my choice
  • a series selection
  • book club #1 choice
  • book club #2 choice
  • a classic
  • an indie selected from the hundreds of requests received each month

That’s right – I get hundreds of requests – but I can only pick one. And that’s the way it is for many voracious book readers. We want to read what’s hot, but we also want to make time for newcomers even when time is limited. We only have so many hours per day of reading time! (I wish that wasn’t the case. If only I could get paid to read…)

I have asked that people not approach me for a review on my GoodReads channel and instead to follow the directions on this website’s review policy page. However, this hasn’t seemed to stop authors. I’ve also had to disconnect my private Facebook page because authors have tried to make a more personal connection through that medium and request a review. And I get it- I really do. With hundreds of thousands of books entering the market, the majority of which are self-published, how do you stand out?

I have some ideas.

One. You must to be willing to provide paperbacks for reviewers – and a lot of them. Take the example of The Girl on the Train. It was one of the fastest selling books ever. What did they do? They gave out 4,000 ARCs to reviewers and booksellers just prior to publication. While the average author could never afford to do such a thing, giving out free copies is a must. I suggest running a free giveaway on GoodReads to get the ball rolling. Give away as MANY as you possibly can.

Two. Have a great cover. Cover art that turns heads will convert reviewers – guaranteed. If your cover looks like it was generated by your ten-year-old on Photoshop, you’re going to have a problem. Typos in your cover art are also a problem. I once responded to an author who had a terrible typo in her cover – in the title! As a reward for nicely bringing this to her attention, I was cussed out and told to go to hell. Fabulous.

Three. Don’t annoy reviewers. This includes: emailing more than once about your book to check in – if you didn’t receive a response, it was passed up; chastising a reviewer who tried to read the book but has passed on it; responding to a negative review. The latter will ensure avoidance by other reviewers who have taken note.

Four: Do some work and email reviewers. There are thousands and thousands of book review blogs out there! How do you find them? Check out Bloglovin’. Search for a popular book that is similar to yours and find positive reviews. Approach that blog owner making sure to read their review policy.

Five: Spot and avoid bullies. By now, many of you have heard of the infamous GoodReads bullies. Google it. There are many book bloggers and reviewers who are VERY harsh with indie authors. Before approaching reviewers as I mentioned above, make sure to check out previous reviews. Take a look at their GoodReads or Amazon reviews and filter them for one and two star reviews. If there’s a plethora of vicious reviews that tend to punish indie authors – avoid this reviewer. Every reviewer reacts differently with books they do not like. Some write scathing reviews, other simply decline to review. It is important to spot the difference.

Six: This is pretty obvious but it still needs to be said: spellcheck and proofread. Typos are normal and human, but a book riddled with cringe-worthy mistakes will render the book unreadable.

Seven: Promotions. I obtain review copies most often from Word Slinger and  Netgalley. Netgalley is a great way for reviewers to obtain digital copies, but it is also ridiculously expensive. Their base of reviewers is enormous and you can’t go wrong if you have the money. I prefer physical books and get many of my indie selections from Word Slinger which is a lot less expensive for authors – but their base isn’t as large (It’s only $50 to be listed there for the entire year versus $500 for only one month at Netgalley – also note that Netgalley deals in digital books while Word Slinger deals in paperbacks).

Eight: Keep going. Don’t be discouraged when your book doesn’t hit the New York Times bestseller list after one month. While I think it is important to remain realistic and know that very few books will become bestsellers (out of all the books published in one year), don’t stop looking for reviews after a short period of time. It is important to keep momentum.

Nine: Contact your local journalists. This is huge. A must. You could pay hundreds for a press release OR you can write your own press release and send it to the emails noted for press release distribution on the contact page of your local paper, or email directly to local journalists. Make the press release about YOU and not the BOOK. It should be a people piece. Write the press release in THIRD person (never first) and write about you, who you are, what you do, and why your newest release is important. You will almost certainly be contacted for an interview and boom! – free advertising.

Ten: Pimp out your positive reviews. Did a blog author love your book? Show it off! Post it on social media, add it to the the back of your book, give that reviewer some love! Although you should never contact a reviewer regarding a negative review, you can always say thank you for a positive review.


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Rebecca Skane

Rebecca Skane is the self-instated editor-in-chief for the Portsmouth Review. She holds a Bachelor of the Arts degree from Lawrence University in Wisconsin and resides in Portsmouth, NH with her husband and two children. She is the founder of The Portsmouth Book Club which boasts over 1,000 members. She also doubles as a professional escapist. Her genres are scifi and fantasy, both adult and young adult - but she often reads outside of her preferred genres. You can follow her on GoodReads.


  • Ethan

    I love everything about this post! As someone who also gets hundreds for review requests, I think each of your points is spot on. I once had a request from an author who cited one of my negative reviews as a reason they were sending me their book. They said “we saw that you reviewed (insert book title) and think you’d love our book too.” Clearly they didn’t even take the time to read my review.

    • Thanks, Ethan! That’s hilarious about the one who contacted you. I’ve had similar experiences and I have to wonder – but I think it’s a numbers game for the authors. They have to contact a lot of reviewers to get that one glorious yes.

  • I also get a lot of review requests, even though it says on my blog that I don’t take review requests. These are great tips. Being an indie author is hard. I don’t think I could do it. There’s a lot of competition, and it’s hard to get noticed.

  • Great tips, Rebecca. I’ve certainly had my fair share of review requests but nowadays, I’m so overwhelmed that I haven’t done my duty to accommodate them all. Book publishing is a tough industry so I feel for the Indie authors trying to make it. At the same time, it starts with me, right? I need to do my part to help them out.

  • Great tips, Rebecca. Thank you for sharing. I didn’t know The Girl on the Train had that many ARCs to give out! I also love the local newspaper thing, that’s a great idea, never even thought of that!

  • I think these are great tips and I think they would capture my attention for a review. I feel for the indie author as they have a bigger hurdle to go over. I think some of those promotional tour companies with great clients get my attention easier than without some sort of representation.

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