Do you love to read?

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Last week I wrote about my experience trying to get editorial reviews. This week I am going to tell you about a different type of review because it might benefit you personally as a reader, or as a writer. I’m going to refer to these as consumer reviews, the ones left everywhere nowadays from Amazon to Yelp to Uber. We have come to depend on the community at large to tell us what is worth our time and money. And if you like to read books and are willing to share your opinion, then this article is for you!

Think about when you go to buy anything on Amazon, I imagine one of the first things you do is to check how many stars and reviews an item has received. I do, time and money are precious resources that I am not willing to squander either. Now as an author, I am acutely aware of how I need to get those independent consumer reviews for two reasons. The first being to get the stars and reviews that shoppers depend on to determine if my book is right for them. The second is so I can learn what resonated or didn’t with a larger audience. That feedback is invaluable to developing my skills as a writer and I am so thankful for every review!

Amazon has created a process so as not to betray the customer. Authors cannot have friends, family, or social media contacts write reviews. It makes sense. When looking for a new book you want to know what other readers thought without the bias of a friend. This is another hurdle for the author though. How does one find complete strangers to read their book and give feedback? I start imagining myself leaving copies of my book on people’s doorsteps, under car windshield wipers, and at the dentist’s office. All equally bad ideas. So here is where it gets awesome if you love to read books. There are so many amazing websites and organizations that want you to read new books for indie, published, and famous authors in exchange for your honest opinion. I wish I had known about this in my twenties when I was broke and read all the time!

I’m not one to keep the good news to myself, so I’d like to share with you three services where you, as a reader, can get free or very discounted novels with the hope that you will write a fair and honest account of your opinion. How amazing is that! You as a reader can help novelists get unbiased reviews they need to improve and promote their work. And if you are an author needing help promoting your work, here are three places to consider.

Goodreads

I joined Goodreads in 2009 to keep track of all of the books I was reading. I rarely forget a plot, but I am awful with names: people, books, pets, etc. I digress. The relevant bit is this site has so much more to offer than helping people like me remember what they read and when. It is a great place to find books to read for free and often before the book has even been released. 

Since 2013 Goodreads has been owned by Amazon. I don’t know if that is relevant, but I thought it was interesting. Two things I would recommend looking at for free reading material would be in giveaways and ARCs (advanced reading copies).

Giveaways

On the top navigation bar, there is a tab called “Browse”. Under this heading is the Giveaways section. This is where authors give away a certain number of copies of their book to promote it and hopefully get reviews before the book launches. You aren’t guaranteed a book since it is a giveaway used to generate reviews and buzz. But it is a low-risk way to get a new book, maybe one from your favorite author. Oh, and there are children’s books! I wish I knew about this when I was a mom of a young child. What a gift that would have been!

Book Groups

From the navigation bar go to Community to Groups. In the search bar, you can type just about anything to find the right book group(s) for you. If you are interested in getting free copies of books to help out an author I recommend typing “ARC” into the search bar. It stands for Advanced Reader Copies and it will show you all sorts of groups that help match authors to readers. With a little skimming, it is easy to see if the group caters to the types of books you want to read. Most of the groups I looked at had places for authors to post about their books and a place for readers to post about their interests. So if you prefer to pick books you can message authors, or you can post your interests and let the authors message you. 

BookSirens

This site lets you identify the types of books you want to read and it provides quite a selection. Its search filters for books aren’t finetuned, but it appears that the algorithm is responsive to what you choose to read and review. There are sorting features that include: newly added or recommended for you; review destination, book-length, publication date, publisher, part of a series, and available format. So there are ways to filter, but they seem more author-oriented than reader-focused to me. I haven’t read books through this group yet, so I can’t speak to their recommendations, but I have high hopes that the algorithm is useful. I’m trying to settle on one book to start with and there are so many promising options. If you love to read I think this is a great option for supporting new authors and helping to lift up the next voices in literature.

BookBub

Bookbub offers highly discounted and free books for readers. It is a great place to discover new books without paying a high price. Let me be clear, there is a price associated with a number of books on this website, but most of the promoted books appear to be under five dollars. Additionally, there is an “African American Interest Book Deals” section which is a great opportunity to read authors who have been historically underrepresented by the book industry. This site seems focused on giving readers an chance to read books from your favorite authors first or to discover the next great novelist. There are so many categories and subcategories it is hard for me to decide what I want to read first. 

I did test out giving reviews on this website. I picked a few of my favorite books and completed quick reviews and I loved how easy it is on this website. When you select a book to review it offers word tags to describe the reading experience and then you can add a written review if you like. It makes the review experience highly visual and quick. Then it adds the author to the ‘authors I follow’ so you can learn about books and book deals from them in the future. 

In conclusion, if you love to read and are willing to take risks then I hope you will consider starting to review new books. It can be risky to take on a new author or book without the reviews of others. But your time and honest feedback can help raise up the voices who are overlooked or marginalized. It is an immeasurable gift to sit and listen to an emerging author. You might risk your time for a free or discounted book, but what you give in return is a chance to grow and shine for a person with an idea and dream on paper. I hope to run into you in the virtual stacks. 

*To be fully transparent, I am writing this article as a reader who is excited to have an opportunity to read more works by other authors. As a writer, currently Boardroom M is listed on Goodreads and BookSirens.

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