Friday, October 9, 2020

Author Dr. Bob Rich Offers His Book-Review Secrets

My way of getting (fair) reviews


Guest post by Dr. Bob Rich


 That wonderful lady, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, has set me a task: to tell the world about my method for getting [quite a lot of]  reviews for my books. And who am I to disobey her? So, here are a few thoughts on the subject.


Review what?

The first requirement is excellence. No one but no one sees my work until I consider it perfect. Then I send it to beta readers who prove that it isn’t. I am a professional editor, so there are few typos to pick up in my writing, but my raptor-eyed friends do notice even the extra blank space, the missing [quotation marks] and the over-repetition of some word (we all have those).


If you don’t yet have the skills to edit your writing to near-perfection, having it edited by someone knowledgeable is not a luxury but a requirement. As a beginning writer, I hired three different editors for three different books, and each time my writing skills advanced enormously.


Writing is both an art and a craft. When my words make you laugh, cry, seethe or ponder, it is because I designed them so, not in some heavy-handed way, but intuitively, the way a master chef produces a great meal. And all prose is poetry: if you read one of my stories aloud, there will be no awkward sentences to leave you breathless, no “Huh, what was that again?”


Finally, content also needs to be the best it can, though I could write a book about what that means. No, go away, not now!


OK, how?

Being a great magician, I wave a wand, and hex people to read my books and then post 5-star reviews.


When that doesn’t work (it hasn’t yet, but I keep trying), I rely on several approaches. All are applications of my philosophy. This is, the more you give, the more you grow, and also, the more you give, the more you get. When I answer the phone, I say, “Bob Rich here. How can I be of service to you?” Send out good, you get back good. Send out crap, and it hits you in the face.


So, I don’t chase people to buy my book. Certainly, where appropriate, like on my book pages, I do ask people to post reviews, and provide them with very convenient links to the exact pages where they can do so.


Rather, my motivation is to be of service to my friends, followers, fans, and soon-to-be fans. My task is not to get money out of them, or reviews, or referrals, but, depending on the book, to entertain, amuse, challenge, instruct or inspire them.


I also have a policy of many years’ standing. Anyone who emails me proof of purchase of one of my books has the right to a second title free, in electronic format. A review of the book is proof of purchase (unless of course the book was free from me. I may be old, but not that senile yet).


To get reviews, offer reviews


Occasionally, I edit or beta read a book that gets me enthusiastic, and I want to do everything possible to tell the world about it. So, I return it with an advance review. Also, fellow writers have occasionally asked me for an advance review or endorsement, and if I approve of the book, I provide one.


Because I’ve been posting reviews since 1999, a steady sprinkling of writers approach me out of the ether, and ask me to review their book. If the opening looks good, I agree. In addition, if I see what promises to be a good book, I track down the author and request a review copy to be emailed to me (No! Not a paper one! Paper is trees.) I may occasionally buy a book, believe it or not, but since I deliberately live below the official poverty level of my country as a form of environmental action, it is not often I can spare the money. If I have a few extra dollars, I donate it to some charity or movement I passionately believe in, like Medicins sans Frontieres, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, or the Climate Council of Australia. That’s more important than buying even the best book.


I am a reviewer for a few web services like Book Sirens and when I have the time, I grab a book from there.


My very strict rules for reviewing a book are:


If I consider a book to be worth 4 or 5 stars, I will provide a public review. I’ll publish it in my newsletter Bobbing Around happily post it on any website the author specifies.


However, I don’t trample on another writer’s baby. If I don’t consider the book to be excellent, I will privately let the author know why, pointing out what in my opinion are its good points, and where it needs improvement.


The return


Hey, but the topic is how to GET reviews, not how to give them, right?


Yes, but every time I read a book for review, I request a review of one of my books in return.


Since my books are good, almost always I get an enthusiastic acceptance. Now, a second aspect of my philosophy kicks in: “I can ask anyone anything, as long as I can accept a no, and vice versa.” I don’t know the other author’s circumstances. There could be all sorts of reasons that prevent this person from doing anything too much more than breathing, so a no-response or a refusal doesn’t make me react in kind.


Amazon considers review exchanges to be dishonest. Well, they can be, if you deliberately lie about the value of the other book, inflate your rating, in the hope of getting the same back. In my case, I am confident my work doesn’t need such sleazy treatment, because it is good stuff, and as I said, I prefer to be of service to the other person with suggestions for improvement instead of a review if I have concerns about quality.


In any case, I read much faster than most people. Typically, my review is posted and buried under many others before the return makes its appearance. I have never had my reviews refused for this reason.


It would be a poor thing if all reviews came from people I have had prior contact with. Whenever I check, there are those from strangers. If I can track them down, I draw their attention to the free book earned, and hopefully expand the single review into a series, and more important, into a friendship.


There is one more source of reviews. Since 1999, I have established a list of subscribers to my monthly newsletter, many of whom are almost family by now. More recently, my blog has been attracting followers. Each time I post something, I get Likes and Follows from complete strangers. I do my best to contact them, which is not always possible, and send a standard message. It is the same each time, but from the heart: “Thank you for choosing to follow my blog, Bobbing Around. I hope my words will be of service to you for a long time.”


Many of my subscribers and followers go out of their way to recommend my books to their contacts, and I am immensely grateful for this. I am glad they benefit from the “More you give, more you grow” rule.


How to write a review?


Being a conservationist, I like to recycle. Rather than give review writing instruction here, I invite you to read a post on the subject


I make it as easy as possible by placing links to specific web pages where a review will be of help. These are the selling pages of the book, and its Goodreads page.


If someone emails me a review of one of my books, I offer a second book, free.


Rather than seeking reviews as such, I ensure my books are the best they can be, and that I am of service to people in every way possible.


I review many books, and request a return review.

PS: I’m keen to find out what you think of my ideas. I'd love to hear your ideas, too.  So, here is a prize: I’ll randomly select one commenter, who will receive a free edit of 3000 words of your work--or a free electronic copy of any of my books, which are listed at  

Author Dr. Bob Rich Offers His Book Review Secrets

More About the Blogger and Ways to Get the Most from This Blog

 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically ( ) that covers 325 jam-packed pages covering everithing from Amazon vine to writing reviews for profit and promotion. Reviewers will have a special interest in the chapter on how to make reviewing pay, either as way to market their own books or as a career path--ethically!

This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

Note: Participating authors and their publishers may request the social sharing image by Carolyn Wilhelm at no charge.  Please contact the designer at:  cwilhelm (at) thewiseowlfactory (dot) com. Provide the name of the book being reviewed and--if an image or headshot of the author --isn't already part of the badge, include it as an attachment. Wilhelm will send you the badge to use in your own Internet marketing. Give Wilhelm the link to this post, too!
 Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor. #TheFrugalbookPromoter, #CarolynHowardJohnson, #TheNewBookReview, #TheFrugalEditor, #SharingwithWriters, #reading #BookReviews #GreatBkReviews #BookMarketing


Dr Bob Rich said...

The next issue of my newsletter, Bobbing Around, is due to take flight on the first day of its month, in this case November. Because I want my subscribers to be included, I will wait until November 8. Then, I will choose one commenter, using

That person will have earned a free edit of 3000 words if an author, or a free electronic copy of any of my books.

So, please, comment away!

Lois W. Stern said...

I think your suggestions are fabulous and right on the money! I am a big supporter of the notion of "Authors Helping Authors", rather than taking a "What's in it for me?" approach, and find that being a supporter of other authors' pays the best dividends. thank you for sharing!
Lois W. Stern

Bob Rich said...

Thank you for visiting, Lois, and for your attitude. You might want to return here and post a link to your website or blog, so I an look at what you are writing. Besides, our host, Carolyn, insists on such action, because she is the ultimate marketer.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Yes, me the ultimate marketer. Ahem! I just love having you here. Bob, Lois W. Stern is an amazing author with and "Author Helping Authors" sensibility you will ove. Check out the tabs at the top of the home page of this blog to see how she helps authors right here on #TheNewBookRevie by helping match authors to likely reviewers at no cost. She also gives love of new (and experienced) writers chances to be more widely read by publishing a beautiful series of inspirational anthologies on the part of Chicken Soup for the Soul. You two should know each other. She tweets @tales2inspire2!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

PS: Bob asked me to let you know about this new idea: "I’m keen to find out what you think of my ideas. So, here is a prize: I’ll randomly select one commenter, who will receive a free edit of 3000 words if an author, or a free electronic copy of any of my books, which are listed at" So, let's have it. Just think. We might get him to share a few more of his marketing plans!
Your #TheNewBookReview Blogger
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Lois W. Stern said...

hi Bob,
My website is at When you get there, please click on GIFTS and download a free sampler of six of the stories published in somme of the Tales2Inspire books. I now have 10 of them, (some stories written by me, but most from the winning authors of my annual contest.) In keeping with my "Authors Helping Authors" mindset, there are no entry fees, and we work hard to support one another. If you are on Twitter or Facebook, do send me your moniker/Name.
Glad to make another internet friend!

Karen Cioffi said...

This are great tips on 'working' reviews. I also like the idea that it's about helping authors while getting reviews of your own books. I don't usually ask for a review from the author of a book I'm reviewing, but will not start! Thanks for sharing!

Bob Rich said...

Thank you, Karen.
I think review exchanges express the heart of the internet: mutual networking.

Bob Rich said...

And the winner is Karen Cioffi. She will now have a choice between a free edit of 3000 words, or a free electronic copy of one of my books.