I recently participated in a pilot program for a new book reviewer community called Novel Blogs. It was an interesting experience that I want to detail here for anyone thinking of becoming a book reviewer. I learned many valuable lessons and skills that could benefit new reviewers, as well as authors too … especially authors!
If you’ve not heard of Novel Blogs before, it’s a book reviewer platform where you can host your website and get access to tutorials and support forums. And, it’s 100% free! They have a paid premium option, but it’s not necessary unless you want access to additional themes and features.
The pilot program lasted roughly three months and included a short course at the beginning that taught reviewers how to build their review sites, grow their audiences, and earn money. To give you an idea of how much you can earn, reviewers in my pilot class earned an average of $300/mo just starting out. This is some pretty good walking around money. As you climb the learning curve, your earnings should increase.
Creating my site took only two minutes. Sites are automatically created when you sign up for an account. You receive a mostly completed site that requires only a few customizations to make it your own. This took approximately thirty minutes when following the Quick Start Guide. For the course, we had to complete all of the video tutorials. These give you a closer look at how the platform works. For example, it covers how to automate your social media and audience building activities, and additional ways to generate income. While helpful for people who are new to WordPress, it’s not necessary to watch all of these videos. I would recommend skipping to the last few sections. I found I only needed these if I screwed something up on my site. And, if all else fails, there’s the support forums. Typically, I would receive replies within a few hours.
Right off the bat, the first thing I liked about Novel Blogs was that they’ve structured the platform so they do well (financially) if reviewers do well. The combination of the tutorials, support forums, and this structure made me feel supported and that our interests were properly aligned. So, to summarize … I host my website on their platform (for free), I have access to some great tutorials and support forums (again, for free), and they show me some conflict-free ways to generate income. So far, so good.
So, How Do Reviewers Earn Money?
It all starts with your ‘eyeballs’. This is a digital marketing term that refers to the exposure you provide each time you view something. This is an untapped resource for reviewers. Most of us are busy reviewing for free without getting anything in return for the effort and exposure we provide. This is one reason why many reviewers burn out after a few months.
At Novel Blogs, reviewers in the community select titles from the same reading list, Novel Blogs’ internal reading list. Why? This concentrates our ‘eyeballs’. The more reviewers selecting books from the same reading list, the more exposure we can provide, and the more value we can offer authors. This is part of the reason why authors pay to add their books to the list.
First off, let me say that it’s not mandatory to select books from the Novel Blogs’ reading list. You can select books from anywhere. Again, this is another way in which Novel Blogs made me feel that our interests were aligned. Obviously I’ll want to read books that friends and family recommend, or those “must reads” that eventually get turned into movies. However, the reading list offers too many benefits not to use it. I incorporate it by only accepting review requests from people if their books are already on the reading list. This naturally filters the dozens of requests I receive each week.
Most of the authors who contact me don’t write in the genres that I read. In either case, if the authors are unlisted, I’ll refer them to the Novel Blogs reading list. This way, I know they’ll get their book in front of 1,000+ reviewers, all with different literary interests (i.e. genres), and all selecting titles from the same reading list. They’ll have a better chance of getting picked up by reviewers who actually read the genres that they write in. In addition, they will have exposure to growing audiences of readers. In short, authors are paying for exposure to the entire community, not to any one particular reviewer. As a reviewer, I like this because it leaves me free to select the titles that truly interest me. To see how reviewers (and our readers) are continually exposed to the books on the reading list, have a look at the video below.
Wait! So, how do I earn money? When unlisted authors contact me, I tell them that I only select titles from the Novel Blogs reading list. This is a great way for me to turn spam into an opportunity for both of us. Most authors are happy to learn about our community, often thanking me for the heads up. In my reply, I include my affiliate link. When the author clicks my link, the system records it. I earn a commission each time an author I refer pays to add a book to the reading list. Commissions are 40% of the listing price ($99). This is pretty good if you consider that I routinely refer 5 – 10 purchases per month, netting $198 – $396 in commissions, and I only read 1 – 2 books per month. And, these are books that I wanted to read!
Since I’m actively contributing value to the service I’m promoting, I feel good about recommending Novel Blogs to authors. Each time I review books from the reading list, I’m adding value to it. Each time I log into the main site, write reviews, view my own site, I see books from the reading list. Each time I grow / engage my audience, I’m driving readers ‘eyeballs’ to the books on the reading list. This provides books on the reading list with ongoing repeat exposure to two important audiences – readers and reviewers! This is valuable because it’s getting more difficult for authors to connect with both audiences.
Now, multiply this exposure by 1,000+ reviewers and their audiences. As more reviewers sign up and grow their audiences, this exposure grows exponentially. We all contribute to the value being offered, and in return we can all promote the value of an entire community to authors and publishers. This is one way in which we all work together, and it’s something I couldn’t replicate on my own.
Authors Should Start Out as Reviewers
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that this program would also benefit authors. Over the past few months, I’ve had many authors contact me asking for advice on how to market their books. This is amusing when you consider that I’ve not written a book, let alone marketed one! What would I know about book marketing? What I do know is how to quickly grow an audience of readers, which is what authors need. On LinkedIn, I added 8,500 connections in a few months, and most of this work was automated using macros, something I learned in the course. Do I have your attention now?
Authors interested in becoming book reviewers should read in their own genre for two reasons. First, it will make you a better author. You’ll gain valuable exposure to what others in your field are doing. You’ll also start seeing your own writing through a different lens. Second, when you connect with readers in your genre, you’ll be connecting with them as a book reviewer. You will have a different type of conversation with readers than you will as an author. This comes with a different level of “authority” on literature, and it’s absent of any sales pitch. You’ll cultivate this relationship over a longer period, developing a deeper level of trust. When it comes time to publish your own novel, you’ll have an audience in your genre with whom you’ve already cultivated a strong rapport.
In addition to learning some new skills, expanding your digital footprint, and cultivating an audience in your genre, you’ll also be creating another income stream for your writing platform. For these reasons, I think every authors should start out as a reviewer. The industry needs more reviewers, and I believe it will make you a better author in all aspects of the job.
For anyone interested in joining Novel Blogs, please visit Become a Book Reviewer.