It’s no shocker that an informal “call to action” section, also known as begging for reviews, at the end of your book is the best time to generate reviews, but how do you squeeze the most reader engagement out of that short paragraph? In my experience, a great call to action has less to do with hitting the right emotional buttons and far more with removing any obstacles in the way of leaving a review.
Here are four of the most common stumbling blocks keeping even enthusiastic fans from leaving feedback. At the end of the list, I’ve included a sample call to action with suggested resolutions for each roadblock in practice.
- Never even seeing the call to action. First and foremost, make sure your request begins on the very same line as “The End” and doesn’t start on the next page. That sounds so trivial, but this little change can usually double the number of eyeballs on your action call in the first place.
- Time constraints. Explicitly state that you’re looking for any sort of feedback, no matter how short or generic. Some readers hear “leave a review” and immediately equate that with “write a book report.” Even if they’re willing to help, few have the time. So they table writing a review for later and… well, life gets in the way and things are lost in the shuffle. Make sure your readers know that even an emoticon thumbs-up/down is better than nothing. Of course, as an author, you prefer insightful and novella-length critique, but as a publisher… heck, you’ll take whatever you can get.
- Confusion between reviewing and rating. Remember that after the last page is finished on a Kindle eReader, Amazon has a pop up page asking the reader to “rate this book” and sometimes answer survey questions about the story’s quality. This is why you have so many readers contacting you and saying they left a review, but you aren’t seeing anything new on the book’s product page. Your fans aren’t being duplicitous. It’s just that the retailer isn’t clear about what they’re doing with this feedback and how it differs from a product review.
- Motivation. Sure, you created something entertaining, but the reader has already compensated you by purchasing your work. Thank goodness for everyone that goes above and beyond and leaves some feedback, but let’s be frank. No one owes you a review, no matter how simple and clear you’ve made the process. You, a stranger, are asking for a favor. It’s perfectly normal for the reader to demand something in return.
Now, per Amazon’s Terms of Service, you can’t offer anything other than a free copy of the book being reviewed in exchange for feedback. That said, you can offer free copies of other books to anyone signing up for your beta reader/advance reader/ mailing list, as long as reviewing this particular book isn’t required. You could even do some type of giveaway contest. Be creative, but the goal here is to offer something of value for the reader if they’ll just contact you. The very act of prodding them into emailing you or reaching out over social media encourages most people to leave a quick review. If not, you’ll have a second chance to remind them when they contact you.
I realize this part seems convoluted and indirect, but this subtle nudging really helps increase not just your review rate, but the level of detail explored in the reviews.
Sample Call to Action:
 THE END… I hope you enjoyed my little tale. Please don’t forget to give this book a quick review on Amazon.  Even just a two-word, “Liked it” or “Hated it” review helps so much. Positive or negative, I am grateful for all feedback from my readers.  Please just swing over to the book page [link] and toss up your review, since the star rating you leave on the next page won’t be visible online. Amazon simply uses that feedback for their internal recommendation engine.
 If you’re interested in becoming a beta reader and receiving FREE advance copies of new releases, just shoot me a head’s up at: __ and I’ll add you to the list. While not required to receive free new releases, I’d really appreciate it if you could leave a quick review of [this book’s title], of any length (one or ten stars, doesn’t matter). This is not a marketing or spam list. You will only be contacted to send you free copies of new releases. Thanks again for your support.
Miscellaneous Review Notes:
1) When you’re sending out free book copies, always, always, always remind the reader to mention that they received a free copy. Besides being illegal to not disclose compensation, disclosures are such a common practice nowadays that many readers just assume a review without a “verified purchase” tag and the free disclaimer is bogus.
You can include the reminder already for the reviewer. All they have to do is copy/paste:
As is standard publishing practice, I received a free advance review copy of this book in exchange for my feedback.
2) Like with any review system, you will (it’s a law of nature) receive some negative feedback that you feel is unjust. The vast majority of authors have no problem with that, but a small minority can’t accept this reality. For those writers, I don’t know what to say other than, “Suck it up, buttercup.”
Almost all negative reviews include valuable, albeit painful, lessons to learn. Even if you believe that a particular review is utterly false and has no value, be thankful that person took the time to write anything and remember that reviews are for readers, not the author. No matter what, don’t respond. Do. Not. Engage. Never. No exceptions.
Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, it’s only a passing rant and they’ll drop the issue… unless you spark a dialogue. Then you’re playing with fire. Ask any author; nothing good comes from such discussions. Even something as innocuous as, “I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the book. I’d be happy to offer you a refund,” can blow up in your face in a hurry.
The same goes for negative reviews posted in the comments section of your blog or social media pages. For example, on one of your Facebook posts. Far from being a safe place to vent, any strife here will be even more visible than on the retailer’s site. Be professional at all times, especially when you don’t feel like one. Don’t even bother deleting the negative comments; that’s only inviting trouble. This is one problem that will go away just by being ignored.