In the writing community, people often suggest soliciting reviews via Goodreads, but for the new author, how may not be immediately obvious. Today, I’ll give an overview of how to use Goodreads to solicit reviews.
Generally, the best way to solicit reviews via Goodreads is through the Goodreads Groups, which are established and run by members. Many of the discussion groups have programs that allow authors to offer a free eBook copy of their book in exchange for an honest review. The programs tend to be called R4R (read for review), R2R (read to review) or Authors Seeking Reviews. If you’ve never done R4R, here are the basics.
Where do I find R4R? There is no central repository for R4R programs on Goodreads. These are all done within individual groups, which are created by the user community. Generally, I’d recommend finding R4R in your genre. So, if you write science fiction, join some large Goodreads science fiction readers groups. If you write romance, then join some large Goodreads romance readers groups. Once you’ve joined a large group, search the discussion boards for R4R or Authors Seeking Reviews. Then, follow the instructions for offering your book for review. Read that again: Follow the Instructions. I don’t know what the instructions are, and you won’t either, until you find the group and find its program. But, do follow instructions, because no one likes people who think they’re above the rules. I suggested joining larger groups just because larger groups tend to have more activity and a larger pool of readers. However, if you find a really active small group, that can be a great place to find reviews, too. As a side note, it’s usually helpful to read through some of the group posts, and get a feel for it, before barreling in and requesting reviews.
How do the programs work? Again, it’s all very local, so it depends on the group. Some R4R programs are very organized, where one of the group’s moderators asks the author for the eBook in advance. Then the moderator receives all the member requests, and actually doles out the copies on behalf of the author. In these situations, the moderator usually follows up with recipients and makes sure they actually post a review. If the recipient doesn’t post a review, the moderator will ban the person from signing up for more R4Rs. In other groups, it’s strictly an honor system where the moderators are not involved, and follow up, if there is any, has to be done by the author. In this situation, where authors are dealing directly with reader reviewers, remember to tread carefully. Goodreads does not like authors “harassing” readers. Please review Goodreads’ author guidelines.
How long does it take? Like I said before, it depends on the group. Usually, three to four weeks is the suggested time frame for readers to complete the review. I saw one group that does speculative fiction that asked people to return reviews in two weeks. The guidelines are just that. They’re there to put some parameters on it so everyone can have closure. When actual reviews will show up varies greatly. Some readers will post a review the day after receiving the book, and others will wait until the end of the 4 weeks. It just depends on the reviewer.
Where do they post reviews? Goodreads. You can request they post a review on other sites, too, (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance), but they don’t have to. Generally, if a person does an R4R, the Goodreads review is the one that counts for the purpose of whether they’ve left you a review. Lots of Goodreads readers also have Amazon accounts and will post there, if asked. But, some readers don’t post on Amazon or other sites.
What do I do if they give me a bad review? Cry like a baby, and then go put on your big girl (or boy) pants. Really, there’s nothing you can do. They didn’t like your book, and you just have to deal with it. Books are given in exchange for an honest review. Do not complain to moderators or reviewers over negative reviews. Some authors have said they do not solicit reviewers on Goodreads because they believe Goodreads members leave overly harsh reviews. Please note that the Goodreads review scale is different from Amazon’s review scale.
It’s not perfect. People will receive the book, promise to leave a review and then not do it. You need to accept this as a possibility. You’re not allowed to harass readers on Goodreads, so be prepared for some disappointment. It’s going to happen. If disappointment concerns you, look for R4Rs that are pretty structured and heavily monitored by moderators. Those moderators want authors and readers to have a good experience and will help serve as a buffer for any issues that may arise. If you’re really just trying to cast a wide net, then go for all types of groups, so long as you know that you can’t make someone leave a review, even if they promised. (And ask yourself, what kind of review is the poor harassed, beleaguered person going to leave?)
Stay Organized. If you’re doling out copies of your books to reviewers, keep track of who’s received them and who has or hasn’t left reviews. This will help you know if the R4R program was a good fit for you, based on the number of copies doled out and reviews left.
An Example. Here’s an example of a Goodreads group that offers R4R for all genres: Making Connections. This gives you a feel for the kinds of rules that groups have. I would still recommend trying a genre-specific group, as you’re likely to get more readers who enjoy your type of story.