Why Do Reviews Matter?

gray cat with glasses

It might sound simplistic to ask whether reviews really matter. Every author knows they’re important but I’d venture to guess every indie author who goes through the process of seeking them ends up asking the same question.

Why is this so hard?

Getting reviews can take a significant amount of time, effort and money … and as an indie doing it all yourself, with no publishing house support, you’re bound to ask yourself whether it’s all worth it. Yes, it really is, for one very good reason:

The biggest hurdle any indie book faces is getting discovered.

Consistent big volume sellers like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson or John Grisham are rare in the publishing world and they tend to be viewed as virtual ATM machines.

When their publishing houses announce a new book from one of these stars, the pre-orders alone make them oodles of money.

But that’s not true for most writers and certainly not for indies.

Getting Noticed
According to Publishers Weekly (July 17, 2006) the average book in America never sells more than 500 copies … and those average sales have fallen in the years since that statistic was written.

According to BookScan, the average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime. The reason is simple.

It’s crowded out there.

Bowker, one of the main issuers of International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), reports that over two million (2,352,790) books were published in the U.S. in 2012, which is a million more than the number of books published four years earlier.

More than two thirds of them are self-published books, which is where most of the growth in recent years has taken place. And those numbers don’t include books without ISBN numbers (which many self-published digital books don’t have).

That’s a lot of new books vying for attention.

In a crowd like that, even a book that’s well-written, well-edited, and beautifully crafted may only sell a few copies … unless people somehow learn it’s there.

Reviews Matter
If your book is going to get noticed in that mass of words, you need good reviews you can quote in promotional materials, and you want online shoppers who land on your book pages to see good reviews from readers.

However, if you’re an indie author shopping around for reviews you have to be careful. There are a lot of disreputable operations that will guarantee you a good review for a fee. Guarantee it.

But trust me, they’re a waste of your time and money. No one gives them any credibility at all because their words of praise are worthless, except, perhaps, as a salve for your ego (and I won’t even bother to mention any of them here).

However, there are some really good book review companies. Most of them also charge a fee for their time; but notice I didn’t say anything about them giving you a good review.

No reputable company will promise you a good review.

Some Reliable Review Sources
When you deal with a reputable company you get an honest, well-written review delivered for a set price, on a set schedule. In most cases, they publish it on their web site and distribute it through other channels. You can also use the review (or an excerpt) in your promotional materials.

These companies may differ in the fees they charge and how they distribute their reviews, but none of the reputable review companies will promise you anything but the truth … and an honest review sometimes hurts.

Before deciding to use any company, make sure you understand exactly what they offer and read some of their reviews so you have some idea of what to expect.

More importantly, before you seek any review at all … try to write a good book.

I knew you were going to be curious, so I’ve listed six of the top review sources that the industry (not just me) consider reliable:

Kirkus Reviews has long been considered the gold standard in book-reviewing companies. Kirkus Reviews of traditionally published works are published, whether they are good or bad, and Kirkus is known for some pretty harsh reviews.

Kirkus now also offers its reviewing service for indie books. However, as an indie (and only as an indie), you have a choice: keep your review private or publish it, without charge, on the Kirkus web site. Bad reviews never have to see the light of day. You can chalk it up to an expensive learning experience.

If you choose to publish it, you can then use it in promotional materials and Kirkus will distribute it to Google, Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor, and other venues. It could also appear in the Kirkus magazine or email newsletter.

Kirkus Indie Reviews charges US$425.00 for standard service (7-9 weeks) or US$575.00 for express (4-6 weeks). You send in your book by mail, or by uploading a PDF or Word document, and receive a review of 250-350 words.

But the review will be good only if your book is.

Blue Ink Review works much like Kirkus, but was founded more recently and deals exclusively with indie books. Their fees are and timelines are in the same general range as Kirkus: US$395.00 (7-9 weeks) or US$495.00 (4-5 weeks).

If you choose to upload your book as a PDF (rather than sending a printed copy), Blue Ink Review charges an extra US$19.95 to cover the cost of printing a paper copy for their reviewer.

Like Kirkus, Blue Ink’s reviews run 250-350 words. Once you receive your review you have ten days to choose whether to keep it private or allow it to be published (note that by default it will be published – to keep it private you must notify the company by email). Blue Ink also distributes their reviews through Ingram, Publishing Perspectives, and Self-Publishing Review.

IndieReader.com is a popular web site devoted specifically to indie books and issues related to indie publishing. The IndieReader.com review fee is US$100.00. Their reviews are guaranteed to be at least 300 words long, with a rating from one to five stars, delivered within 8-10 weeks. Their reviews are posted on their own site, on Amazon, and on iDreamBooks.com.

Self Publishing Review is another specialist web site devoted to indie publishing. They offer reviews for US$75.00, with a minimum of 500 words delivered within one month. Their reviews are posted on their site, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and, in some cases, the personal blog of the reviewer. Like Kirkus Reviews and Blue Ink, Self Publishing Review also offers the option of keeping the review private if it isn’t favorable.

Publishers Weekly is widely read by publishers, editors, librarians, and agents … and it also offers an indie book promotion package that at least offers the possibility of a review.

PW Select is a supplement to Publisher’s Weekly that comes out six times a year. For US$149.00 you can purchase a promotional announcement in PW Select that will include basic information about your book. Included in the price of your fee you also get a 6-month digital subscription to Publishers Weekly.

However, not all indie books submitted will be reviewed. Only about 25% of the books that appear in PW Select will be selected to be reviewed, and there’s no guarantee your book will be one of them. Neither can you opt out of having a bad review published.

Readers Favorite is the fastest growing book review and award contest site on the Internet. It reviews books for all the major publishing houses, as well as indie authors.

They will post 4- and 5-Star reviews on popular trade and social media sites, to help readers discover your book. Lesser-rated reviews will not be made public, but they are sent directly to the author as information they can use to improve their writing.

Readers Favorite will review your book for free, but they also sponsor a highly competitive annual contest covering multiple genres that you can enter for a fee (generally less than $100, depending on how many genres you select).



My books have garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

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2 Responses to “Why Do Reviews Matter?”

  1. Jeff Bushman Says:

    Thanks again for all the tips and info. The entire thing seems so daunting. I am working on a new book now. I have the first 11,000 words published on the blog, unrevised and unedited. Sort of a let ‘er fly attitude. I decided to not openly publish the rest of it to the blog. I am working on finishing it up and it should be done in a month or two. Then I will revise and edit to the best of my capabilities. (Which aren’t much).
    It must be terrifying to pay for a review and not be sure of the results. Terrifying or heartbreaking. I admire your courage Ron.
    Perhaps I will send it in, perhaps not. Being your own worst critic is a hurdle I have not been able to leap.
    Thanks again,



    • Ron Herron Says:

      Jeff – You never know. It’s always a good idea to have someone else help you proofread and edit your book. I’ve been a professional editor, but doing it for yourself is hard. You tend to see what you want to see. Other eyes will catch things, including (most important) continuity. Perhaps I’ll take a look at what you’ve written on the blog. I promise not to bite too hard.

      Jeff – it actually looks pretty good! One thing that caught me in my quick read was a shift from first person to third (“I” to “he”). That can be confusing, and first person is a much stronger voice. You tend to “show” story when you use first person, rather than “tell” it, as so often happens in third.

      Most important … ignore all that for now. Get the story down. Worry about fixing things and making them pretty later.

      Good start!


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