Getting Your Indie Book Reviewed

Nas Hedron,—Updated 18 July 2013

Why Do Reviews Matter?

It might sound simplistic to ask whether reviews really matter, but just about every author who goes through the process of seeking out reviews ends up asking themself this question.

Depending on your approach, getting reviews can take a significant amount of time and effort, cost you some money, or both. You’re bound to ask yourself at some point whether it’s all worth it.

It is, and here’s one reason why. The biggest hurdle any indie book faces is going unnoticed—even a well-written, well-edited, beautifully crafted book will sell very few copies if no one notices it amongst the many titles available.

Just how many titles are there?

Bowker LLC, which is one of the main issuers of International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) in the world, released figures in 2012 indicating that self-publishing in the U.S. had grown almost 300% from 2006 to 2012, having reached about 235,000 titles in that country alone. And Bowker reached that astronomical figure despite the fact that it only counts books that have been assigned an ISBN. Not all indie authors purchase ISBNs for their books, so the actual figure may be higher.

Whatever the real number, it’s a lot of books. If yours is going to get noticed, you want reviews. You want something you can quote in promotional materials, and you want online shoppers who land on your book’s page to see reviews from readers.

Paying for Reviews

There are a variety of companies that will review your book for a fee. These should not be confused with disreputable operations that guarantee you a good review regardless of the quality of your book. What you pay for when you deal with a reputable company is an honest, well-written review delivered to you for a set price and on a set schedule. In most cases they will publish it on their web site and they will often also distribute it through other channels. You can also use their review (or an excerpt from it) in promotional materials.

These companies differ in the fees they charge, in the experience or credentials they require of their reviewers, in how broadly they’re able to distribute their reviews, and other factors. Before deciding to use any particular company, make sure you understand exactly what they offer and, very importantly, read some of their reviews so you have some idea of what to expect. If you can, look for reviews of books that resemble yours in some way. We also strongly recommend looking at more than one company before you buy, preferably several.

Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews has long been considered the gold standard in book reviewing companies. If you walk into a book store and check book covers at random for excerpts from reviews, Kirkus is likely the name you’ll see most often.

Recently Kirkus began offering its reviewing service for indie books in addition to those released by traditional publishers. 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. You will receive a review of 250-350 words.

You then have a choice: keep it private or publish it (without charge) on the Kirkus web site. 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.

Blue Ink Review

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 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 on the Blue Ink site (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. is a popular web site devoted specifically to indie books and issues related to indie publishing. Their review fee is US$250.00. 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 (similar to Rotten Tomatoes, but for books instead of movies).

The Self Publishing Review

The 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 and Blue Ink, SPR offers the option of not having the review posted if it isn’t favorable.

Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly—which is widely read by publishers, editors, librarians, and agents—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. About 25% of the books that appear in PW Select will be reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly, but there’s no guarantee that your book will be one of them. Included in the price of your fee you also get a six-month digital subscription to Publishers Weekly.

Getting Reviewed in Newspapers and Magazines

In traditional publishing, newspapers and magazines were a core source for reviews, so it’s natural to look to them for reviews of indie books as well.

Thus far, these traditional media have not shown much inclination to review books by indie authors. There are a number of possible reasons for this, any or all of which may play a role:

Whatever the reasons, a select few indie authors have been successful (like Alan Sepinwall), while more have not (like Ted Heller).

As traditional media adjusts to the presence of indie authors, new mechanisms for pitching or getting noticed will likely emerge. In the meantime, the following are some good tips when approaching traditional media for reviews:

You should also consider when the best time would be to approach traditional media for reviews. If you’ve already secured positive reviews through other channels, this may help you overcome any apprehension on the part of the publication or reviewer.

Getting Reviewed on Literary Web Pages

If you don’t purchase a review, or if you want to supplement one you’ve paid for, the next obvious choice is blogs and other web pages that don’t charge a fee.

There are numerous web pages that focus on indie books, some of which include or specialize in reviews. As with anything, they have advantages and disadvantages.



Finding Literary Web Pages

Because blogs are easy to start but don’t always last long, the roster of pages available for reviewing indie books is constantly in flux. The best way to choose the blogs that you want to approach is to use one of several lists or directories, either online or in book form.

Making Enquiries

The key to using any list, whether online or in a book, is to treat it solely as a starting point. Use the list, but also make your own enquiries. For instance:

Getting Reader Reviews on Book Vendor Sites

It can be very satisfying to have an extensive list of glowing reviews for your book on vendor sites like Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. In fact it’s so tempting that some authors have resorted to underhanded tactics to get there.

There are services that promise to post five-star reviews for any book, no matter how terrible, in return for a fee. Some authors have also used “sock puppets”—false identities that they create themselves—to post good reviews they wrote for their own books.

Not only is this dishonest, but vendors and readers are getting wise. Vendors dislike the bad publicity that comes their way when frauds are revealed. Amazon recently purged many reviews that it suspected of having been obtained dishonestly. And readers are using lists of “red flags” that signal a fake review.

There are honest ways to increase the number of reviews your book gets. They take time and effort, but they work. The basic steps are:

There are several places to find potential reviewers, including social networking sites, social news sites, and vendor sites. The examples below are far from exhaustive, but they cover some of the main options and you can expand on these with research that’s tailored to your book or your own preferences.

Social Networking Sites

Discussion Boards and Forums

Vendor Site Giveaways

Using vendor sites, like Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes, for free giveaways can be effective, but you must check the terms and conditions of each site. Here are two examples to illustrate the types of differences you will encounter.

The Future of Indie Book Reviews

As indie authors grow in numbers, the landscape of indie book reviews is changing. A few years ago Kirkus still ignored indie books and Blue Ink didn’t exist—who knows how things will stand a few years from now, or how much might change even in the next few months?

We'll be adding information as new developments occur. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have a question.

Do you have a question about getting reviews for your indie book?
E-mail us at and we’ll help you find the answer.