One of the best things StoryOrigin does is make it possible to manage your eBook and Audio Review requests and keep your reviewer list clean and running smoothly. There are probably as many ways to do this as you can imagine, but below, I will outline how I do it, some tips and tricks I have learned along the way, and hopefully some advice you can use for your own stuff.
In using this method, I have increased reviews for all of the audiobooks and eBooks in my Capital City Murders series and with my novel, Harvested. This includes 51 reviews of Overdoses in Olympia (the series opener) and nearly 40 on Harvested on Amazon alone.
Harvested also has over a dozen reviews on Chirp, the BookBub audiobook platform, as it is distributed wide, and not just on Amazon. I’ve gotten everything from book recommendations on BookBub to many reviews on Goodreads (even though I don’t prioritize that as one of my review platforms), and countless reviews and mentions on reviewer blogs.
This has resulted in sales success (coupled with ads) for both series, and Teaching Moments (the sequel to Harvested) is off to a strong start too, even without an audiobook yet, but just from eBook reviews.
And thanks to a new feature update where you can share your publicly listed books with a single link, including your audiobooks, I anticipate even more reviews going forward.
All that being said, let’s get started with a deep dive.
So this is not a tutorial for StoryOrigin (there are great videos on their website for that). But when it comes to getting started, it’s really about a few different things. For eBooks you will need:
- Your Cover Image
- At least ePub and .mobi files of your book. (PDF is optional), or
- Copies of your eBook you have purchased on Amazon (see notes on KU below)
- Files that are a Sample of Your eBook (Usually the first chapter will do)
That’s pretty much it. I create sample files using Vellum, which I use to format my full-length eBooks as well, but if you use another program like Calibre, Atticus, or even Scrivener, you can do the same thing.
A Note on Kindle Unlimited
If you are in Kindle Unlimited, technically you are not supposed to distribute your books anywhere besides Amazon, so technically giving review copies away through another platform violates those Terms of Service (ToS), maybe. Here is some more clarity on the topic. It’s unclear how often Amazon actually cracks down on this, but it’s up to you if you want to take the risk.
As an alternative, you can buy copies of your eBooks for others. This is not a tutorial on Amazon either, but you can Google how to do this—tons of authors do. Then you can distribute those books to reviewers. There are a couple of plus sides besides keeping you out of potential trouble with Amazon: if you buy these copies individually, any review shows as a verified purchase, and it keeps freebie seekers who don’t want to download things from Amazon from cluttering your list.
Pro Tip: Buy extra copies of your eBook when you are running a Kindle Countdown Deal to give away later. It’s much cheaper for you and makes no difference to the reader who receives it.
There are some downsides to this too, especially for reviewers who leave reviews on BookBub or their own blog or even Goodreads, but not on Amazon directly. There are also those who don’t do business with Amazon for ethical or other reasons and won’t be able to access your book.
You can also only purchase review copies for others in your own country. You won’t be able to purchase a copy for someone in the UK if you are in the US, for example.
When setting up the Review Copy on StoryOrigin, you can:
- Visit https://storyoriginapp.com/reviewcopies/new
- Under the “How would you like to provide the review copy to readers?” field, select “Amazon Pre-paid Book Link”
This means authors in KU can still get the benefit of vetting reviewers’ completion stats and profiles before giving them a link.
Audio Review Copies
For audiobooks, you will simply need your cover and your blurb, along with a few retailer links. You’ll also need to know how to access your audiobook Promo Codes. If your books are on ACX, this is a part of your sales dashboard, and you initially get 25 codes for the US and 25 for the UK. You can request more, but that’s yet again another topic for another day.
If you are on Findaway Voices or another audiobook distributor, you will have promo codes somewhere on that platform. In my case, I have 18 audiobooks on ACX, and 1 on Findaway Voices. I won’t go into detail on the pluses and minuses of each for now, but all that is to say I know how to set up and send codes for each, and if you are on another platform, you should have received instructions on how to access those codes.
Setting up your files results in the creation of a StoryOrigin landing page and a unique link that sends readers to it. Once they reach that landing page, readers or listeners can request a review copy or an audiobook promo code. This is where you come in again.
Side note: To PDF or not to PDF
Not long ago, a friend called me in a panic. Her Amazon book had suddenly been unpublished and denied for continued Kindle Unlimited membership. Why? Well, Amazon (or rather its automated search) found the book available somewhere else on the web, clearly a violation of their ToS for Kindle Unlimited.
Where did they find it? On an eBook pirating website. Now, Amazon is usually pretty good at telling the difference between a pirate site and a real one, but in this case, they didn’t. We were able to contact Amazon and quickly get her book and her account back in good standing, along with sending a stern copyright notice to the pirate site owner.
Her book had been pirated through a PDF she offered for review. How could she tell? Well, one trick to tell where a pirated book copy came from is to include some unique language, but language that doesn’t stand out or isn’t too unusual, in the book somewhere, usually on the copyright page, in an author dedication, or something else. Then if a pirated copy shows up, you know where it came from.
First, this is another reason to distribute review copies through buying Amazon copies of your own book, but that still isn’t a 100% guarantee against piracy. However, if you can prove to Amazon that the pirated copy was downloaded from their site…
Second, you can simply not offer PDF files. It is optional on StoryOrigin, so I simply don’t upload anything in that spot. If someone emails me and asks for a PDF, this is an immediate red flag—there must be a reason they want that type of file, and it is usually because it is easier to convert a PDF, even a secured one, to an ePub and distribute it than to do things the other way around. (Either is possible. You won’t ever stop piracy 100%). Anymore it isn’t because they don’t have a way to read an ePub or .mobi file. And if they are not tech-savvy enough to open one of those files, how can you rely on them to leave a review on the web?
Besides, ideally, you are looking for an audience of eBook readers who also leave reviews. Readers know how to access content in different formats. So while it is up to you, I no longer recommend uploading PDF copies for reviewers unless you are dealing with a major magazine or publication that needs one for some reason. Even then…
But that leads us nicely to our next topic.
Approving or Denying Review Requests
One of the big advantages of StoryOrigin is that you get to accept or deny review requests as they come in before the person gets a copy of your work. This is much better than say, having to email anyone who asks for one a digital copy or just posting a link where anyone with that link can download your book. In the latter case, if someone unethical manages to get onto your review team, they can share the link with anyone.
There are protections you can put in place, but they can impact your ability to share review copies with someone who is not on your list, especially if you make them public. We’ll get to that too.
When a person makes a request for a review copy, you get a notification. If you don’t go check your dashboard, you’ll get an email the next day letting you know you have applications waiting for approval.
When you get an application, you will have the option to deny or accept the review request. Don’t be afraid to reject a request that seems off. At first, I just approved everything, as I wanted as many reviews as possible. But as you will see, that can be a bad thing.
For each applicant, I have started to look at:
- The requester’s reviewer profile.
- The number of reviews they have actually completed.
- And, if I have other questions, I conduct a search on social media.
If someone has downloaded one book and has completed one review, I may take a chance on them. If they have zero, I look them up on Amazon or social media and see if they are new to StoryOrigin or if this is a freebie seeker, bot, or even a scam attempting to steal your book.
For audio, you can also look at the person’s audible profile (see above). As you can see, this person has left 73 reviews on Audible, the latest one on one of my audio books, so I know they are active and a good choice to gift a promo code.
A potential red flag? If when you click on “view listener profile” you go straight to the Audible home page. This can be misleading though, as the person could just not know how to set up a profile, but you can also look at their reviewer profile. If they have never reviewed an audiobook before, they might be looking for a freebie, or if they request codes for all of your books all at once, that can also be a red flag.
One option is to offer them one code or review copy, even if they have requested several. You can wait to see if they actually leave a review before approving their other requests. Yes, this can be a pain to leave those requests outstanding, but it might be worth it in the long run.
Here is what a couple of accepted review requests look like, one completed, and one not.
Remember, you are building a tribe of listeners and readers for your books. And on that line, you can look at your own statistics to evaluate your reviewers. I have witnessed several things happen:
- The person never even downloads the book or redeems the audio code even after you approve their request.
- They never report their reviews to StoryOrigin, you can’t find their reviews online, even on their blog, but they keep asking for review copies of your books. See above for a screen shot of what that looks like.
If the person is new to my review queue, I will go look for a review where they said they would leave it (Amazon, BookBub, or Goodreads are my three top preferred locations). Sometimes they simply did not come back to StoryOrigin to add the link to their review, but they did leave one. If not, I won’t approve their next review request, or I may send them a message through StoryOrigin asking if they have a link to where they left a review.
The point is that to increase the legitimate reviews you are getting from readers; you don’t have to give the book to everyone who asks for it. It is against Amazon’s ToS to require a review if you give someone a book, but you don’t have to give anyone a book, ever, for any reason.
Also, be sure to remind readers to include the fact that they were given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review in their review text. This does two things: first, it satisfies the rules set forth by Amazon, and second it gives you a clue where the review may have come from.
So that’s the “what to do” and “how it works.” Here’s the payoff.
How I Get More Reviews (and sales)
One of the new options in StoryOrigin is to make your review copies public. What does that mean? Well, there is a public page on StoryOrigin here, where people can discover audiobooks and request codes, and there is a similar page for eBooks that can be found here.
This can increase your requests for reviews, and it has worked well for me so far, but let me back up for a minute, as this is certainly not the only way you should be finding more reviewers for your work.
Build an Email List for Your Review Team
First, you need to build a review team or as I call it a “Launch Team” list. I have one list for audiobooks and one for eBooks. I have built this list through my newsletter welcome sequence, some Facebook pages, and using other techniques. Your own list of reviewer emails is your best and most reliable source.
Pro Tip: Your goal should be to get most of those who review your work through StoryOrigin or other platforms onto that list if possible. That way you can interact with them directly. Your goal should also be to keep that list lean, and as much as possible, only keep those people on that list who actually interact with and hopefully review your work.
I only open this email team for new signups from the public at least a few times a year. If it gets too big, feel free to trim your list to those who are actively engaged with your content. Where and how you manage your email list is up to you, but I have my own preference, and you can learn more about it by following this link.
Automate Your Review Welcome Sequence
As you can imagine, with 19 audiobooks available and a ton of eBooks, even making everyone aware of what you have available, let alone getting reviews, could be a full-time job. Instead, my welcome sequence invites people, in order, to request codes or review copies so eventually, they can work through my entire catalog if they wish.
Along every step of the way, I give them an opportunity to reply to me with feedback and to unsubscribe. It’s much better for your list if those who don’t really want to be there just leave on their own.
As I can easily see from their email address, their name, and their StoryOrigin profile, I can quickly cull my list and determine who should stay and who should go. That being said, remember not everyone will review every book, so don’t kick them out too soon. But if you have offered them multiple books, especially if they have requested review copies and redeemed them, but never left reviews, it is time for them to go.
Keeping this list “clean” is even more important than keeping your main subscriber list clean, and my open and click rates on these emails are the highest of any list I have.
Don’t rely just on clicks and opens anymore. With new privacy protections in place and coming from more mail providers all the time, these will not always be recorded accurately. Be sure you don’t remove an active reviewer just because they use Apple mail.
Display Review Copies Publicly and Vet Your Reviewers
When the display review copies publicly option (discussed above) became available on StoryOrigin, I jumped on it right away. I quickly got 2-4 new reviews per audiobook, some of them just on Audible and not Amazon, but also almost right away (and without other promotions to explain the jump) I sold 50 more audiobooks the following month.
Sales on my eBooks rose in similar ways without adding additional advertising or promotions to most of them (I always have ads and promotions going on, so this is harder to attribute). But I also got more reviews and the surprising bonus of some extra followers on BookBub.
I can attribute at least some of this directly to making my review copies public and then vetting those reviewers carefully. I likely let a few slide who were new to StoryOrigin and new to me, so some have yet to play out well enough for me to know if I will “keep” that reviewer as part of the team.
But overall, making review copies public has resulted in good things for me and my books.
Like other marketing tools for authors, StoryOrigin should be one of many tools in your toolbox. The program saves you one of the most valuable things you have: time. It also offers a layer of security, as much as that is possible, for your review copies. You get to choose who gets your books, what formats are delivered, and to an extent how.
StoryOrigin is also constantly under development with new features being added all the time. I also use Reader Magnets on the platform, and while I haven’t done it yet, I am exploring the Goal Tracker feature (a FitBit for authors? Kinda) and other features as well.
But it’s only a tool. It makes your work easier, but it will not do the work for you. You’ll still need to build your launch team, carefully evaluate each reviewer, and all the other tasks that go with managing a review team.
If you use it correctly, it can help you increase the number of reviews you get for your books or audiobooks, and those reviews can lead to more sales. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re all after, right? Want more tips and tricks for authors, event updates, and even some free stuff from time to time? Join my email list and get a FREE book, 7 Steps to Plotting Your Novel Quickly. Click here to learn more.
Troy is a freelance writer, author, and blogger who lives, works, and plays in Boise, Idaho with the love of his life and three very talented dogs.
Passionate about writing dark psychological thrillers, he is an avid cyclist, skier, hiker, all-around outdoorsman, and a terrible beginning golfer.