Not long after we published the 9th edition in November 2017 I discovered another book review business I think authors should be aware of, and it’s called Happy Book Reviews.

This is what I call a review services business. They do not review books; they help you reach individual reviewers. Read this post about the 4 different types of review businesses.

Happy Book Reviews has 2 programs to choose from:

  1. Option 1 costs $25. They announce your book’s availability to their mailing list and offer 25 copies.
  2. Option 2 costs $222. They research and contact 50 reviewers of similar books who have left 4+ stars on those books.

Sounds great, right? I mean, it is an honest approach that doesn’t require hours of your time and it is affordable. But don’t take my word for it, let’s hear from the founder, Jim Kurkral!

Jim and I had a chance to visit about the program a few weeks ago and I thought he had some great advice to share.

Jim is the author of 14 books; 1 traditionally published and the others self-published. He is a true pioneer in this business, in addition to being an expert internet marketer, professional speaker, award-winning blogger, and small business Web consultant.

David: What is Happy Book Reviews, and why should authors be interested in it?

Jim: Happy Book Reviews is a service of the Author Marketing Club which I founded back in about 2010. There is a tool there available to subscribers called Review Grabber, and Happy Book Reviews is essentially a service that uses that tool for authors who don’t have the time to go out and find their own reviewers to get reviews on their books.

David, you and I both know and agree that you have to have a good base of reviews if you’re going to be successful. If you go to Amazon, or go anywhere—to buy a television, for example—we look to see the social proof, which is the reviews that are available. If there aren’t any reviews, then you’re probably not going to buy. If there are reviews out there, and there aren’t a lot of good quality reviews, you’re probably not going to buy anything as well.

Your brain made an instant decision, whether or not you should even bother to continue to look at this product or not. That’s just the way our brains work.

So, it’s really important that authors get a good strong base of reviews and constantly build up those reviews. So that’s where Happy Book Reviews came from. It’s the fact that authors really struggle to find reviews for their books and they need better ways to do that and is a service that allows us to help them get that base of reviews.

We get 2 different types of people who sign up.

  • People who need to get that core base of reviews. I always say that you need to have at least 10 to 15 good quality reviews on your book before you even spend a dime marketing it. Otherwise, you’re really risking the money, because in my opinion, people aren’t going to buy that book without a review, without a good base review.
  • Then I get people who already have 100 or 50 reviews, they just want to find ways to get more. I don’t think you could ever have enough reviews.

These are customer, or reader reviews we’re talking about. What about reviews from services such as Kirkus—so called editorial reviews? Are they worth it, or important for self-publishers?

Jim: I don’t believe in editorial reviews, only because I’m a direct response internet marketing guy. I just don’t believe that a reader will notice a Kirkus review and say “wow, that’s a Kirkus review, I better buy that book.” I don’t think a typical reader has any idea who that is, or even cares.

It’s like in years past when people would say, well if you’re not with a publisher, people are not going to buy your book. I don’t think people care if you’re with a publisher. I don’t think people care if you have a specific review from a specific person.

And then there is the cost! What does a Kirkus review cost? $500? Are you really thinking that is going to be a sales differentiator or it’s going to close $500 worth of books for you? In my opinion, no. I think that if you did get a Kirkus review, it’s great for your ego, right, because you got this review from this established agency. But in terms of just sales, which is 99.9% of most people, I don’t think it’s going to make any difference.

Where they might matter is if you’re trying to get a publishing contract with a publisher. It might also help if you were writing a book that you were trying to use to get speaking gigs. Some meeting planner might see it and say, oh they got that wonderful Kirkus review.

But for some regular off-the-shelf, gonna buy on my phone purchase, I don’t think they matter.

What about blurbs? Since they often come from editorial reviews, aren’t those important?

Jim: For my book Attention, which was published by Wiley, I got Mark Cuban to give me a blurb for the back of the book. So, did I think that helps me sell any more books? No. Because the way people buy books is different than it was 6 or 7 years ago.

If you look at the retail stores there’s not a section there that says, the top blurbed books of 2017. It doesn’t exist. Spending $500 to possibly get a blurb is in my opinion, a big expense and the money is better spent on editing or other marketing opportunities, upgrading your cover, staging book ads. There are many other ways you can spend that money to get a more direct return on your book.

Every author has to make this decision. Are you in this to run a business and be successful selling copies of your book? Or are you in this for the vanity aspect of it? And that’s fine if you’re in the vanity aspect of it. You’d like to have a book. You really want to get published with a publisher because you want to have hard copies of your book.

You’re hoping and praying that it’s going to show up on a book shelf and you have this whole romantic dream of a person walking off the street with a Starbucks in their hand. They walk to the end of the isle and they go to your genre section. They see your book in the shelf and they’re like, oh, wow, this looks great. That does still happen but it’s not the way you make money with books any longer.

It doesn’t happen that often compared to online sales.