Want reviews? Assemble a book review team.

book review team

To get reviewed on Amazon and other places online, you need to assemble a book review team and learn how to follow up. It’s a model that has worked for me over the course of many years and dozens of book launches.

Social proof is so important when marketing a book. I’ve launched dozens and dozens of books over the years, but it’s still a pain point trying to get reviews, and I know it’s the same for most self-published authors. Let me share a few tips on how to make getting book reviews on Amazon a little easier.

Assemble a book review team

I found the easiest way to get reviews is to have my own book review team. Most authors won’t do this, even after I explain how powerful this has been for me, but for those of you who make the effort to set this up, it’s something that can help you for years to come.

Your first reaction may be, “Sounds great, but what if I’m not planning on writing more books?” Well… I wasn’t planning on writing more than one, I never thought I was going to do this full time, and here I am over 40 books later. Whatever your long-term plan is, start by setting up your book review team.

It starts with one person who says they’re willing to read and review your book. My list of 818 reviewers began with one single reviewer. You have to start somewhere.

When you find your first reviewer, ask him to sign up to your book reviewer list, and make it official by having a specific email subscriber list. Once you start building a list, follow up regularly and build your relationship. Keep these folks up-to-date with your plans for this and upcoming books. Communicate with them and let them know about future opportunities.

Ask and follow up

So many authors expect that every single person who offers to review their book will post a review. That’s just not realistic. Reset your expectations and recognize that this takes work, but it’s worth it. The key is to ask and follow up.

It’s hard to ask for reviews. It’s hard to put yourself out there and ask for help. Even though I know most of the people who follow me are generous and encouraging, it can still be uncomfortable to ask people for help. But it’s important, so I do it.

For Broken Crayons Still Color, I had 150 people on my beta team list, and another 18 who said they would review my book. As of now, I have 79 reviews posted. Following up was an important part of this success.

At first, I only had 18 people who said they were going to review, and that seems like a small number compared to the 150 in the beta group, but it was more than zero, and for that I was grateful. If you have one only review, just thank God for that reviewer and for that review!

What I usually do with the people who have agreed to post a review is to follow-up personally with a deadline. If I’m having a launch or a special promotion coming up, I usually give my reviewers two to four weeks to post the review. If they haven’t, I’ll follow-up and say, “Hey, I just wanted to reach out and see if you were able to post your review of my book. I have a special promotion coming up, so if you could post your review by this date it would mean the world to me.”

Even if they post the review after the deadline, it still means the world to me, but when you follow-up personally with a deadline, you get a lot more response.

One week I had maybe eight reviews. I followed up personally and I got to 38 posted. I knew more would come, and the number has now grown to 79.

My book review teams

Today, I have two book review teams that I’ve built over the last five years. These reviewers are very active: I always get responses and reviews posted when I ask them to review books.

I have my “Christian Reader” list, which is for my fiction and nonfiction Christian books. I also have an “Author” list that I use for books for authors and business books. This list is quite a bit smaller, but it’s very specialized.

So I encourage you to find reviewers, follow up, and get those honest reviews. Good luck!

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  1. I am a high school student and has written a children picture book and now looking for a reviewer.
    Please Advise!

    Thank you,

  2. Shelley, what a great idea! I had never thought of organizing a book review team. I had considered asking my friends and family on my Facebook page, but I haven’t as yet. I have one great review on Amazon by my pharmacist. I have used her review on my website and in my book trailer for my first book in the series. I’m about to launch my second book in the series.

    When I begin to work on the book review team, how often and by what means to I interact with them? Should I set up regular webinars to update them, or allow them to ask questions? Is it better just to use more frequent email to keep them updated?

    Do you give them a book in print, eBook, or a PDF file?

    I am definitely going to start my own book review team.

    Thanks, so much for this interesting way to get reviews.

    Joan Jessalyn Cox

    • Hi Joan.

      Apparently Amazon takes a very dim view of reviews that can not be linked to a verified purchase, risking the reviewers’ profiles, and perhaps the authors’ too. Therefore, the invitations to review might be best directed to a list of buying readers. But not all reviews have to appear at Amazon: A couple of authors in my favorite genre have emailed to ask if I would review theirs on my blog, and have offered free copies for that purpose – the option of PDF or e-book.

      I think everything counts.

      Good luck,

      • Kerri – I think you have the right approach. I had hoped this article would have recommended ways to develop a review team, but trial and error eventually works (if you’re diligent and patient, of course).

        And I don’t think those who who feel Amazon is being unfair are being fair or realistic about the issue. Amazon, for its reviews to remain fair and credible, must have some minimum standard to make sure those doing the reviews have at least read the books, and are not shills for the author. Being able to confirm a sale is a low threshold, but at least one effort.

      • I would also think having a book review team would make it appear as if an author had biased people making reviews, especially if they were all glowing and five stars. On the surface it looks like a great idea but it could be leveraged against an up and coming author because of metrics and whatever other tools media giants such as Amazon and Google uses.

    • I believe the best way for reviews is to connect with one’s fan base through a list, and then ask them to review the book. It seems as if any other way just takes up a great deal of time, that can better be spent on writing.

      Kerri, thanks for making me aware of Amazon’s regulations.
      Joan Jessalyn Cox

  3. Amazon has routinely kicked off and deleted ANYONE they think knows me, from friends on down, so I am quite curious as to why that happens to me, routinely, ALL the time, and not to this author. Sounds rather unfair to me, as reviewers are free to write their own true opinions.

    • Amazon rejects reviews from readers who do not have a confirmed, verified amazon purchase, so those people who bought directly from me at a readers event are not allowed to write/publish an amazon review. Wow…

  4. So, if I send my book to a review team, I set up? Amazon won’t post that review? Sad, if true. I’m getting ready to organize a team. What other media sources will post team reviews?

  5. Thank you Shelley for the tip! Not being a “social media proponent” I’ve been concerned about getting published but your idea on reviews is a good one and will alleviate some of my anxiety for not having a platform.

  6. I too don’t understand how Shelley has managed this, given Amazon’s practices.
    As one person comments above, this leaning in favour of reviews from ‘verified purchases’ means that any genuine sale at a reading or other public event (so far, my main purchases) don’t carry as much weight – though I’ve not come across them being blocked.
    But the really bad news is that any connection to the reviewer may well mean that Amazon decides you know each other personally, and won’t allow the review. So all the things authors are encouraged to do (engage with your potential audience on social media, goodreads etc etc) can actually stop the few people who might post a review from doing so, if the author’s contact details known to these sites are also the publisher.
    I’ve heard many such anecdotes from self-published authors, but to illustrate with something that happened to me: a guy bought my book at a reading and talk I did. We followed each other on Twitter (I was hoping he might invite me to do a reading at his church!). His wife found the book in their kids’ bedroom and they read it, not knowing the husband had met me briefly. They loved it (yay), and she bought it on Kindle too (ie, a verified purchase, not just the copy from the reading). She wondered if they could use some of it in a church service (yay!) and mentioned it to him, and only then did the connection become clear; we swapped emails so I could send them some audio. We hadn’t even met and her reaction to the book was totally unbiased, but when she tried to review it, she told me Amazon refused because she is ‘connected’ to me.
    How can an indie author build an audience if people we connect with superficially will be unable to review us? And, Shelley – how does your review team manage to get their thoughts out there; can’t Amazon tell that you are in email contact? I would love to know how to handle this!

  7. One idea for is after you have assembled your review team, do a promotion to offer your Kindle book for free. Have your team download your Kindle book during your promotion. I’m not sure if the subsequent reviews will show as a verified purchase, but the reviews ought to be more credible to Amazon.


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