Mini Guide: How to Get (Legitimate) Amazon Reviews for Your Indie Book

Most of us have been there. Acquiring reviews is the bane of the fledgling indie author’s existence. I struggled with it for years; hell, I only cracked the code in 2016, after heading down the review rabbit hole hard.

Tell me if this story is familiar.

You look at your Amazon book page…and see zero reviews. Or maybe a couple, with a 3.5 star average. If only I had a couple more Amazon reviews, you think, that must be what’s keeping people from buying my book.

And you’re convinced that, if you just solved this one little problem, your opus will take off like a rocket fueled by NOS.

Reality check: If your book isn’t selling, reviews are not the culprit.

But, seeing as how I believed that reviews were a panacea for my sales woes—and only the ice-water of harsh experience convinced me otherwise—I’ve assembled a comprehensive mini-guide to getting all the Amazon reviews you can shake a pen at.

Acquiring legitimate reviews doesn’t have to be an excruciating, years-long game of refresh the page and hope. This guide outlines a number of techniques and services that you can use to get legitimate, unbiased reader feedback (no black hat stuff here). Apply the steps below (you are going to take action, right, instead of “bookmarking for later”), give yourself four to six weeks, and you’ll receive plenty of reviews.

A final note: this guide is Amazon-centric. Readers tend to rate on their own more often on Google Play & iBooks. Barnes & Noble and Kobo resemble Amazon review rates—so if you don’t sell a lot on those platforms, prepare to see zero reviews for a long time. In any event, going out of your way to build reviews at other retailers—or Goodreads—is pointless, as promo sites don’t have review requirements for them.

Note: this guide was last updated in March 2017.

Why You SHOULD Bother

Before we launch into the guide, I want to reassure you (again) that reviews aren’t nearly as important as the uninitiated might think. They don’t seem to play into Amazon’s algorithms (edit, 10/18: upon further research, verified reviews appear to factor into Amazon’s recommendation algorithm, according to the documentation for their A9 algorithm. If this is so, it must be in relatively minor fashion, and almost certainly not on the bestseller charts/ranks – maybe they affect where you appear in also-boughts, search, etc., although I usually get lots of ugly 2 – 3 star books in search, so who the hell knows), and it’s possible to have a relatively low rated book (or one with very few reviews) sell well.

Let me be clear: I was utterly convinced that reviews were the skeleton key to success. That my unrated books would sell better with a few reviews to their name. After nearly being tempted by shady, insanely dumb shit in the early months of my career out of sheer desperation (I know your review-less pain; trust me), I thankfully said screw that and went the opposite route.

Over the ensuing years, I stumbled on the various services and methods outlined below. Alas, it was largely a futile quest off in the weeds, as reviews don’t play into sales that much—if at all. Definitely not worth the account-nuking chances I see some authors take with black hat techniques.

Case in point: a book I recently wrote had a single three-star review for over a week. During that period of review ignominy, it sold around 10 – 12 copies a day. Many trad-pub books, particularly more literary-skewing fiction, have averages of around 3 stars.

Why bother getting reviews at all, then?

Two marketing reasons:

  • Reviews allow you to qualify for promo sites. This is the real reason to bother—many advertisers have requirements of either 5 or 10 reviews, at 3.5 – 4-star averages.
  • A distant second: Social proof is a thing. All other elements being equal—blurb, cover, writing quality—a book with 15 reviews will probably be purchased over one with none. Still, despite this tendency, reviews are far less important for books than, say, socks or a new television. That’s because fiction quality is far more subjective. And, also, all other elements aren’t equal. A book with zero reviews and a genre-relevant cover will trounce one with a terrible off-genre cover and a hundred glowing reviews.

And one final, non-sales reason:

  • A good critical review can improve your craft. You’ll no doubt get lots of unhelpful, vague reviews (“terrible” or “deleted it from my kindle”) if you pursue writing as a full-time career. But don’t ignore genuinely helpful feedback because of this. I’ve learned a number of things (both positive and negative) from a limited number of reviews—points like my overuse of expletives, poor endings, confusing tendency to mash-up  disparate genres/tones, and (on the plus side) that readers found my work funny. This unbiased feedback is totally invaluable, as it is what paying customers (re: not your mom, writing group or dog) genuinely think about your work. I wasn’t remotely aware that these were problems (or positives) until I read my Amazon reviews.

Some authors never read their reviews and advocate ignoring them. I believe this is an egregious, borderline career killing mistake, as the feedback is truly invaluable. If you feel like downing a bottle of bourbon and talking with your pet shotgun after browsing Amazon, however, then don’t do it. Personally, I would work on building a thicker skin, because you can’t escape criticism. If you build a mailing list, for example, readers will email you and talk to you about your books.

But that decision is up to you.

I want to be clear: There are really no other good reasons to acquire reviews besides the three outlined above. A la Facebook likes, Amazon reviews quickly become a vanity metric. Once you get past 50 for a given title, there are basically no benefits. Edit 10/18: apparently Amazon’s recommendation algo does weight more recent, verified reviews more heavily, although I think the impact of reviews in their recommendation algo, as stated above, is negligible to non-existent in the real-world.

50 is an arbitrary threshold, but effective for the following reasons:

  • Criticisms tend to repeat themselves at this point. You’re generally not learning new things about your craft from review #156 that you didn’t learn at #45.
  • You qualify for all promo sites. Yes, that includes the mighty BookBub.

Knocking on Doors: Review Services

Important: You aren’t purchasing reviews via these services. Instead, these sites play matchmaker between authors and prospective reviewers—matching your book with interested, unbiased reviewers who request your title based on its cover, blurb and other factors.

These reviewers are not compensated, beyond the free copy of the book. If a site claims to compensate reviewers—either via monetary payment, contest entries or other incentives—you should probably run the other way. Due diligence is a must.

I’ve used the sites below without issue, but the song does not remain the same—so look into their current policies and make sure they’re on the up and up.


Goodreads Giveaways (free setup; ~$15 per paperback): I can’t directly attribute any Amazon reviews to the six giveaways I’ve ran for three different authors; I have received a few Goodreads reviews, which tend to skew lower in overall rating. They were all fair, but given the price, time investment (you have to order, sign – if you offered signed copies – and then ship the books) and inability to track results, this is a hard pass. My least favorite way of getting reviews. Placed first on the list, since it’s a service many indies are familiar with.

Recommended: Absolutely not

Time investment: 5 minute setup, 2 – 4 hours signing, packing and shipping books.

# of reviews: 0 – 1 on Goodreads (depends on # of books given away)


Hidden Gems ($2 per reviewer – e.g. $50 for your book to be sent to 25 reviewers): While their website suggests that they’re ostensibly for romance, Hidden Gems has reviewers in all categories. They claim to have an 80%+ review rate, which sounds impossibly (and suspiciously) high. Their FAQ indicates they’re selective about who they send ARCs to and actively cull their lists of non-reviewers. They don’t guarantee any reviews, nor do they guarantee positive reviews. The author who told me about the site indicated that she received some middling reviews from the service (e.g. 3 stars).

Why all the eyebrow raising on my part? Well, as you’ll find with other services, response rates like this are rarer than friggin’ unicorns.

But after my research, I decided to submit my urban fantasy novel.

I was not disappointed. Hidden Gems proved well worth it and legit; indeed, theirs is the best review service I’ve tried. They sent my book to 25 reviewers; I got about 13 – 15 reviews from it that can be likely attributed to Hidden Gems. Perhaps a few others that are unverified, but didn’t mark their review with “ARC.” A mix of 3, 4 and 5 stars – probably leaning toward a hair under a 4 star average – which I’m happy about. The content of the reviews made it clear that these were real reviewers; hell, they even send you a follow-up email with selected comments from their ARC list:

“I think if you were to include the novella in this first book, it would make more sense. The other option is to add information from the novella to provide some background for the characters and assist with character development. Thanks!”

Good stuff. I’ll be back. By the way, the whole process – from booking to seeing the reviews posted on Amazon – took less than 3 weeks.

Recommended: Yes. They’re the best service on this page.

Time investment: 5 minute setup

# of reviews: 10 – 15+



Reading Deals ($79 standard/$129 premium): tried their premium option in January 2016 for a sci-fi adventure book. Received 10 reviews (this took over a year; received 8 within the first 3 months); they guarantee 10 – 15 from their readers, and send you weekly updates, which I like.

Addendum, January 2017: tried this for a sci-fi space opera book. Got one review thus far, but of more concern, only one review request. Bumped down from a definite yes to a “maybe,” especially given the price increase to $79. Weekly updates are now every other week.

Recommended: Maybe

Time investment: 5 minute setup

# of reviews: 10 for a sci-fi adventure book set in Atlantis; 1 for a space opera book


Choosy Bookworm ($129 standard/$299 premium): tried their standard option around March; I think I had to buy it around 6 weeks beforehand, though. The premium option allows you to jump to the front of the review queue, and also gets you more email addresses. This is a bit different than some of the others, as Choosy Bookworm will email you interested reviewers’ email addresses. You then have to send them the eBook files yourself (I send mine via BookFunnel), which is an added step. You’re supposed to follow up with the readers in about 14 – 21 days after sending; I haven’t done this, which might skew the results.

Recommended: Maybe; I like Reading Deals and Story Cartel more, though, since I don’t have to send the emails myself. However, Choosy Bookworm gave me better results (which is to be expected, given the price point).

Time investment: 5 minute setup; 5 – 10 minutes per batch of email addresses.

# of reviews: 5 – 7 reviews for a trilogy set that’s fairly niche.


Net Galley Co-Op ($50/mo; $125 quarterly): I’m listing the one via Patchwork Press, which is fairly well known; there are others, and you can also go straight to Net Galley (which is expensive). I believe I did this for three months for two different titles (a sci-fi mystery and a historical thriller). Got a couple reviews for each, but they were fairly critical. They were fair, just know that Net Galley reviews will skew lower.

Recommended: No

Time investment: I forget.

# of reviews: 1 – 2 for a historical thriller and sci-fi mystery


Story Cartel ($25 standard/$125 featured launch): I’ve used the standard option for six books and the featured launch for one. They distribute the book files themselves, but also give you an Excel .CSV of the readers’ email addresses, if you’d like to personally follow up.

I’ve definitely gotten zero reviews a couple times; for other books, one or two seems to be the standard. The launch did better, but the reviews skewed a little harsher for that—granted, I messed some (minor) continuity things up in that book (which I immediately fixed – see why reviews are good?), so the criticism was warranted.

Recommended: Yes

Time investment: 5 minute setup; optional outreach to reviewers afterwards

# of reviews (standard): 0 – 2 (variety of genres)

# of reviews (featured launch): 4 – 5 on a sci-fi adventure book


Book Review 22 ($60): I used this for an Urban Fantasy novel. Process took about 7 – 10 days from submission to when it was sent out to readers. They distribute all the book files, much like Story Cartel. Setup is super painless and the easiest of all the options.

Book Review 22 sends an update about two months after you order with links to the reviews procured by their service. I received two Goodreads reviews and an Amazon review for an urban fantasy book.

Recommended: No

Time investment: 2 minute setup

# of reviews: 1 – 2


Library Thing (free): this is one of my favorites. It’s about the same amount of setup as the paid options, but it’s totally free. Library Thing sends you a list of emails after the giveaway ends, you email the reviewers the files, and that’s it. I’ll usually get one or two reviews out of around 20 – 30 entries. Just set the giveaway to 100 eBooks (make sure you do eBooks and not paper copies).

Recommended: Yes

Time investment: 5 minute setup and 10 minutes sending out files to the winners.

# of reviews: 1 – 2


Uncarved ARC Builder ($52.50): this is different, in that you provide a link to your ARC (advance review copy) mailing list sign-up. Then they send out an email blast telling their list that they can join your ARC team and get a free review book.

I offered my latest UF book as a review copy. I got 120+ signups in 3 days.

Note: you want to set up a separate form/segment for these ARC reviewers. Don’t mix them in immediately with your regular ARC reviewers, as some of them won’t review or won’t like your work.

Anyway, I really like this because it gives you the opportunity to build actual fans, rather than get a few one off reviews.

Recommended: Yes

Time investment: 20 minutes to setup a signup form/get the book files together

# of reviews: 120+ signups; 3 reviews in 3 days


Book Razor (starts at $30): you may have heard of a trick on Amazon that involves looking for reviewers of books in your niche, clicking on their profile and then emailing them if their email address is listed. Anyone who has tried this (or contemplated it) understands that it’s ultra time-consuming. Basically, Book Razor does the back end email address gathering for you, and then you just email the potential reviewers asking if they’d like to review your book.

Full disclosure: I haven’t tried this service myself. Alternative similar options exist; they’re just escaping my memory at the moment. No reviews are guaranteed, and you have to do the majority of the legwork, from outreach to file delivery.

Time investment (estimated): 3 – 5 hours; more if you send personalized emails, which would increase the chances of getting a response.


Blog tours (cost depends): haven’t tried this; from the research I’ve done, it used to be much better for generating buzz and reviews than it is now.

Contacting bloggers (free): I sent out one email to one blogger, never heard a response, and decided screw that. Supposedly other people have gotten reviews, but I’m skeptical of the required time investment required to get said reviews. This is one of those strategies that was really popular a few years ago, then every blogger got bombed with requests as a result.

Important Notice

Amazon has cracked down on numerous review gathering techniques—from the obvious black hat to more gray areas. In short, to keep on the right side of their TOS, it’s vital to abide by a few principles:

  • Asking friends, family and other acquaintances to leave you reviews is not allowed. Some of them will do it anyway, without asking. I wouldn’t make a big deal about this—just know that these reviews can disappear.
  • If you interact with someone on social media, Amazon’s bots will sometimes pick this up and remove reviews by this person left on your work.
  • Ask people on your ARC team and through other venues to disclose that they received a free book: “I received a free review copy of this book from the author.”
  • You can’t compensate people in any way for leaving reviews, beyond the actual product (the book, in this case) in question. This means entering contests, paying them, swapping reviews and other tactics aren’t allowed.

The Verdict

In theory, if funds were unlimited, you could book all of the sites above. That would cost you around $450 and would realistically net you 15 – 20 reviews. If you’re in a popular genre, and your cover/blurb hit the right notes, you could see a good deal more than that. Getting loads of reviews, however, is still not the best use of marketing funds.

Instead, I would focus on getting to 5 reviews, as this is the threshold where most paid promo sites allow you to advertise. Then invest the leftover money into paid newsletter advertising and building your mailing list.

Additional Notes

If you’ve been struggling with reviews for a long time, rest assured that you can use all of these services & options for any book, old or new. I’ve used them for brand new releases (e.g. the same week) and for books over a year and a half old. It’s never too late to get feedback on your work, despite what those little voices in your head might be shouting about ships having long since sailed.

Anecdotally, I haven’t seen any difference in reader demand for new titles as opposed to old titles. I’ve never gotten a review copy up on one of these services before release day (as far as I can remember; I might have managed it just barely once or twice). A true advance copy might be more enticing than receiving a publicly available book.

The Two Most Important Techniques

I began with the review services, as those are likely what you’re most interested in. After all, you might be convinced that you’ve tried all the organic methods at your disposal.

But have you really?

These two review gathering methods are free and almost completely passive—set them up once, and you’re in business. And they’re not exactly well-kept secrets. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the fundamentals; oftentimes, that’s what delivers the best results.

Method 1: Ask ‘em in the back of book: right after “THE END” or “END OF BOOK 1,” on the same page, I have three things: a link to my mailing list; a link to book #2 with a brief, one-sentence description; and a request that goes a little something like this: If you enjoyed this book, please leave a brief review at your online bookseller of choice. Thanks.

That’s actually what I have in my titles right now. Yes, this actually works and dramatically increases the number of reviews you’ll receive.

A note: a more specific ask seems to perform better (I don’t have hard numbers, but that’s my feeling). E.g.: please leave a brief review on Amazon or Goodreads, instead of the generic “online bookseller.”

Unfortunately, when you go wide, other retailers take umbrage to the direct mention of competitors. It’s not worth generating a different EPUB for each retailer, in my opinion, hence the vaguer language. If you’re Amazon exclusive, just say Amazon (or Amazon/Goodreads, since Goodreads is owned by ‘zon).

Finally, an important note: the more cluttered your back matter, the less likely a buyer will take any action at all. If you have a million requests back there—follow me on Twitter! Here’s this thing I’m doing on Wattpadd! Oh yeah, I do dope Kabuki theater with this awesome troupe!—readers will take no action at all.

I limit the number of CTAs (that’s call-to-action, for the marketing greenhorns) to three: The mailing list, review request and a link to the next book.

Method 2: Build an ARC (advance review copy) team via your mailing list

You do have a mailing list, right? Not only is a mailing list awesome for connecting with fans and driving sales on launch day (as well as for promos), but it’s great for getting feedback on your books. Luckily, building an ARC team is super-easy.

Way #1: have an automated email inviting subscribers to join. When you sign-up for most lists, you’ll receive what’s known as a “drip sequence” or “autoresponder” from the author. This automated series of emails, set up in advance, is delivered on a set schedule.

Aside from a welcome email that delivers your reader magnets and says what’s up to your new peeps, you can also have an email—further down the line—that invites them to join your ARC team.

A simple message—like hey, if you want free review copies of my books before they come out, reply and I’ll add you to the list—is really all you need.

Way #2: if you don’t know a drip sequence from a dripping faucet—or haven’t set up your autoresponder—then simply sending a regular message to your existing list works fine. Same format as above: hey, I have cool pre-release copies of my books—you want in? Reply if you do.

That’s it. Add the people that respond to your ARC list (or segment/tag them, depending on how fancy you wanna get).

A twist on these approaches: email your list regarding ARC copies for a specific release. I did this with book #2 in a series, to a list of around 60 people. All I asked was hey, here’s the cover and description—you want a free review copy? All you gotta do is hit reply, then later on, leave an honest Amazon review. I received 25 replies and 13 total reviews. Nearly all of them were four and five stars, since these people were already fans of the series.

Not only was it great to hear from fans—they sent lots of nice emails, spread the word about the launch, and got excited about being involved—it provided a nice launch platform for the new release.

Important: you need to follow up with your ARC reviewers. Email them a link to the Amazon review form on launch day. Send a final message 7 – 10 days later reminding them to review the book, explaining that it’s important to the book’s success. Most people are happy to do you a favor, particularly when you’ve already done them one by giving ‘em a free ARC copy.

Special Trick: Get Pre-Release Reviews

Unlike trad-pub authors, indie authors can’t receive reviews for their pre-order titles. There’s a clever way around this, though: setting up your Createspace paperback ahead of time and “releasing it,” then directing your reviewers to the review link for the print copy listing.

Here’s how:

  • Make sure your eBook is available for pre-order and it’s the final draft. This is only important because you’re going to be releasing an actual product, in the paperback (at least for a couple hours), and thus you don’t want people accidentally purchasing a placeholder full of blank pages.
  • Release your print book via Createspace and make sure the distribution options are checked that make it available on Amazon.
  • Wait for the paperback to be published and available for sale.
  • Once it’s published, request for KDP support to link the paperback and pre-order eBook editions together, if they aren’t already.
  • Send your reviewers the review link from the paperback edition’s Amazon page.
  • Once the two editions are linked, unpublish the paperback by unselecting all the distribution options (if you want – or just leave it as is). If you do this, the review link will remain, but the paperback will no longer be available for sale. You can “re-release” the print edition on the actual launch day by simply reselecting the distribution options.

In Closing: My Favorite Review Technique

Dubbing this a technique feels a little disingenuous, as it’s dead simple. Nor is it “mine.” But I don’t have a more effective way of describing it…so technique it is. It’s pretty popular in the indie community, but I think people tend to overlook its effectiveness – not only for building reviews, but generating buzz/word of mouth for your book – since it’s not flashy.

The “secret”: Give your book away free for 2 – 3 days (you can do all 5, if you’ve done a free run before and know how to set up a good promo stack), and have a review request in the back matter. Book some paid promo so that you generate a decent number of downloads and sit back.

You can generally expect one review for every 1,000 books you give away. For paid copies, you can expect around one review for every 100 books sold. However, those numbers can be much higher if your book has high read-through.

Examples:

  • Book A: 9300 copies given away + 10 copies sold (permafree); expected reviews = 9 reviews; total = 18 reviews; approx. review rate = 0.19%
  • Book B: 12031 copies given away + 600 copies sold + 500 KU borrows; expected reviews = 23 – 25; total = 96 reviews; approx. review rate = 0.73%
  • Book C: 9210 copies given away + 78 copies sold + 44 KU borrows; expected reviews = 10 – 11; total = 6 reviews; approx. review rate = 0.064%

Book B, and the series it’s a part of, sells much better (with dramatically better sell-through) than either Book A or C’s series.

If people aren’t leaving reviews, and you have a clear review request in the back, it’s a good indication that they’re not reaching the end of your book.

A note for the thinned skin: understand that review averages for free books generally skew anywhere from a half-star to a full star lower than reviews for paid books. People tend to judge free products harshly. You’ll also get people trying your book who don’t like the genre and wouldn’t normally pick it up.

The ultimate goal should be building your own team of ARC reviewers. This is a slow process, but one worth starting now. That way, you don’t have to pay for any services (and wait for them to get to your book) or hope that readers will leave you reviews. Better still, fans of your work will tend to write in-depth, quality reviews (as a bonus, the star averages will skew higher, too). And if you get something egregiously wrong in your latest release, they’ll likely email you in private instead of publicly eviscerating your book—possibly in time for you to fix your error, as well.

That’s it. Go and get some reviews. And remember, always be building your career; not just a shiny stable of gold stars on a platform (Amazon) that you don’t own.