Review of Voracious Readers Only

25 Comments

Independent authors know how difficult it can be to find readers who will enjoy your books. You can advertise to a thousand people (or more) and only find one person interested in your book. The search for readers who would connect to your work can be frustrating, even at the best of times. I try to remind myself, that even though there are authors that seem ubiquitous and universally loved, like Stephen King, in truth, they aren’t. While I really enjoy a lot of King’s works, most of my family has no interest – which makes me a little sad when we have family gatherings, because I really want to talk about the new adaptation of IT.

If even someone as well-known as Stephen King can’t get everyone to try his books, how am I, and independent author with a small fan base, going to reach new readers? It’s a conundrum that all indie authors face, and there are a plethora of services competing for the limited funds indie authors have with the promise of helping readers connect with authors. Enter Voracious Readers Only.

What is Voracious Readers Only? They bill themselves as a service to help authors get reviews. From the Voracious Readers Only Evergreen offer:

“With theΒ Voracious Evergreen Offer, our newest subscribers will be offered a free copy of your book soon after they join the list (spots are first come, first served)… once they request a copy, we’ll forward you their name and email address so you can add them to your email list and then send them the book.”

Unlike Instafreebie, readers who sign up for Voracious Readers expect to get free copies of your books, much the way ARC readers would.

This is a simple surface look at what Voracious Readers does. Under the surface it’s more complex than just offering readers a free copy of your work and hoping for a review. VRO does a lot to try to encourage readers to give reviews. I signed up as a reader to see how it works.

First, you get emails daily with new books on offer. The instructions say don’t worry about taking all the books – wait for one you like then click. I signed up for three categories, and indeed, while I didn’t find all the books were my thing, I found a handful in the first week. You have to opt in to receive the book, it’s not automatically sent to you with the initial email – more on that in a bit.

After you opt in, a couple weeks later, you get an email asking if you got the book okay. Then, another couple of weeks goes by, and you get a reminder to leave a review, and a suggestion that if you enjoyed the book, one thing you can do to further support the author is spread the word about them to your friends, or better yet, buy a hard copy of the book and give it to someone.

Additionally, once you’ve been a member of the list and gotten a dozen book offers or so, you’re told the offers will slow down, because authors can’t give their books away to everyone (they have to make a living, too) and that if you want to get first pick of other free books, leave a review and reply with a link. You’ll then be included in the VIP program, which gives you even more choice in your free books.

As a reader, Voracious Readers is a great program. It keeps you in a lot of books all for leaving a few reviews. But how is it for an author?

When I first received the pitch, I was dubious. We all get these pitches sent to us out of the blue in our emails. “I noticed you’re an author! Would you like to give me money? I promise this will be the thing that kickstarts your career to the big time!”

The difference with Voracious Readers is the creator of the service offered a free sample. He said if I had a book I was willing to send out for free, he would send my offer to some of his subscribers and then return their names to me if they opted in.

I decided to give it a try, and sure enough, in a week I had about twenty names of people to send books to. I actually wasn’t thinking at this point about getting reviews. I thought it would be a good way to get my books into the hands of more readers. Additionally, these readers not only opt in to get your book, they agree to be added to your mailing list.

I signed up for the paid service within days of sending my first batch of names copies of my book.

No, it wasn’t because I got a flood of reviews, it was something else entirely. Reader engagement.

I’ve been signing up people to my mailing list for close to a year now. I’ve signed readers up through Instafreebie, BookFunnel, Facebook, the back of my books, my website and even through places like AuthorReach. I get a lot of sign ups when I offer something free, but many don’t even download the book.

Voracious Readers engagement is simply amazing. Here are the statistics of the first 150 readers I signed up:

81% open rates. 50% clicks. That’s crazy. I suppose there might be some people out there who say, “Oh, that’s alright,” but if you’re like me, you see those numbers and your eyes pop out of your head.

I think part of the magic of this service is how readers need to sign up to get your book. First, they sign up to VRO. Then they are sent a flurry of books. In order to see those books, they already have to be paying attention to things delivered to their email. Then they need to open the email they get from VRO and choose to take your book. That means that by the time they get to you, they have triple opted in. These are dedicated readers.

There’s something else I want to mention as well. While I do get people writing me from my list occasionally, the vast majority of the people signed up don’t interact with me. Maybe they are just readers looking for a good deal, or maybe, like me, they are a bit introverted and find reaching out to be stressful.

The readers from Voracious Readers, however, are not only engaged, they are excited to be on my list. Every five names or so that I send a copy of my book to, I get an email back asking to make sure they are on my main mailing list, too. I’ve also started receiving more feedback from readers since I’ve been in the Voracious Readers service. They send me notes about how much they love the book and are genuinely enthusiastic readers.

Right now some of you might be wondering if this is too good to be true, if these are bots or something. I like to source my readers as well, make sure everything is on the up and up, so I asked Larry Froncek, the creator of Voracious Readers, where he gets his readers from.

The list is built via a two-step process thru Facebook. First, I target people who have overlapping interests related to ebooks, goodreads, kindle, etc. with a post that appeals to people who read a book a week or more. Those who interact with that post become a target audience for the VRO pitch (see VoraciousReadersOnly.com) that introduces the concept of getting free books from authors in exchange for being added to their list and helping to promote their work. I also get referrals from readers to their friends who are big readers and also book club members.

In a sense, when you pay into VRO for their service, it’s like a communal facebook ad buy where all the authors who participate get the benefit of those who subscribe. It’s such a simple concept, I’m surprised nobody organized something like this before. If indie authors pooled their resources like this, they could, in effect, rival the big publishers for the attention of readers.

So, what was my personal result from VRO? In the two months since I signed up, I’ve had more than 300 people ask for my book. I have noticed an uptick in reviews and ratings, on Goodreads, Amazon, and even iTunes. And I have probably a dozen new superfans who have absolutely loved my books.

You can put a value on lots of things, but when you’re someone who creates for a living, there is nothing like positive reinforcement to keep you going. When the sales drop and you’re feeling down, an email from an excited reader can pick you right back up again. If you’re having those impostor syndrome feelings, it’s readers who tell you how much better you made them feel during their convalescence, or how you brightened an otherwise dreary week that make you feel like becoming a writer was a no-brainer. There is no price you can put on a feeling like that. Finding more readers who love your writing is priceless.

I’m so happy with the service, I plan to add a second book to the listings. And, when my next book is ready to go, I think I’ll add it to VRO to supplement my own ARC readers. As a reader, I’d also strongly recommend the service. It’s a great way to get free books and support authors.

 

 

25 Comments

  • Erik Bundy

    Thank you for this review. As a hesitant author just starting out, and trying to figure out the process, it’s nice to have your confirmation.

    • M.M. Perry

      It’s tough. You get a lot of blind offers from people. If you ever have any questions, I’m always happy to answer. While I’m not a huge author with thousands of fans, I have found a measure of success from a variety of sources. I started working harder to find readers roughly one year ago. This was my one year experiment to see if I could do it. I made a lot of progress in a year, and I’m hoping it continues the upward trend.

      • Erik Bundy

        I’m just out of the wrapper and new at this. Twenty-two people opted-in and my click rate is 33%, which is about half of yours, but is well above average. I do have a question. I signed up for Mailchimp and Bookfunnel and thought I cold just put the email addresses in Mailchimp and they took care of the rest with the automated letters. I was naive, of course. I spent most of my day learning how to send out free books to readers. Is there a way to automate this process? I can’t imagine having 300 readers, as you do.

        • M.M. Perry

          You have mailchimp, so you want to set up an automation. Go to create a campaign, then create an email, then on the very next screen, choose automated – it’ll be at the top of the pop-up window. The “Welcome New Subscribers” is a good starting point for your template that you’re about to make. Click that, than choose a list – if you’re just adding them to your main list, choose that. I have a separate list called Voracious Readers so I can keep track of them there. If you need a separate list, just make one before you start this process.

          Then you’ll get to the automation screen. A couple of things to note here – if you want the book to go out as soon as you add an email, change the trigger to “immediately.” Then click “design email” and make your email – same as you have before. Save it as a template before you’re finished. This will make it easier to design other similar messages. In your welcome email, put a link to your bookfunnel page where you give away your book. If you’d like, I can send you a copy of the email I send out and you can work from there. Just send me a message at mmperry@authormmperry.com

          Once you’ve finished your automation, tell it to start, and it will send whenever you add someone to that list. So make sure you have it well tested before you enable, and that you don’t add people twice, or they’ll get the email twice. πŸ™‚ Hope this helps.

          If you’ve just started sending, your click rate may increase. It takes Mailchimp a little time to update those numbers.

  • Sarah Ashwood

    This may sound like a dumb question, but how does an author go about signing up for this, or even checking prices? I’ve visited the site several times and see no links for authors!

    • M.M. Perry

      Not dumb at all. I didn’t even check to see if there was a direct way to sign up. I got a cold call type email. I’ll mention to Larry (the guy who runs Voracious Readers) and let him know he should probably add a sign up link. Until he does that though, I’d send him an email and ask about his services and the various plans he offers. He always answers me from mailer@voraciousreadersonly.com so I’m betting that’s a good place to start. I’ll also give him a heads up that you might be reaching out. πŸ™‚

    • M.M. Perry

      Larry set up a landing page for authors now. It’s here: http://voraciousreadersonly.com/authors/ Hope this helps!

  • Karen Burns

    Hi, I’m wondering which is best: setting up an automatic way for readers to download your book (as you describe to Erik above) or interacting “in person” one-on-one with readers, which I realize may turn into a big job. Which did you do at first? (Am thinking that individual interactions might result in more reviews…..) Thx.

    • M.M. Perry

      First, let me say that any time I send a more personal greeting, I tend to get a better response. For this particular service, since I can get anywhere from 5 to 10 signups on any given day (some days there are only 2, it fluctuates) I have a standard email I send out, though it is tailored to the Voracious Readers. If you send me an email – mmperry@authormmperry.com – I’ll send you a copy of what readers who sign up for VR get from me.

      If I had the time, I might consider a personal email to each reader – I do this with my ARC team for instance and have a nice rapport with them. As you probably know, balancing time when you’re self-published is a challenge. Larry, the guy who runs VR, is very responsive if you have questions. I’m sure if you started with an automation and found the engagement wasn’t as high as you’d hoped, he’d be happy to switch you back to sending you the sign-ups directly so you could give them a more personal introduction.

  • George Q. Kaplan

    Only today did I discover that VRO exists. From your description, it sounds like a good option for fledging authors such as myself. My issue is that my second book in my Tookie series was just released. Should I seek reviews for it or the first book? By reading the first book, the reader will get a better understanding of my quirky MC. What do you think?

    • M.M. Perry

      Definitely the first book – for a few reasons.

      1. Most people looking you up are going to start by looking at the first book in the series, and that’s where you want the most reviews – particularly if you intend to offer your first book at a discount on occasion. The first book is your first impression for most readers, so making it a good impression by having more reviews has a carry on effect. Also, if you intend to try and advertise, you’re likely going to advertise the first book (just a good rule of thumb), and a lot of the better places require a certain number of reviews to advertise with them.
      2. Reviewers will have a harder time getting into a second book than a first book. You may get knocked on your reviews if they aren’t able to follow something.
      3. If they review your first book, you have a better chance of getting them on board to be an ARC (Advance Review Copy) reader in the future, since it’s a series they already know.

      VO is a great resource for new authors. It’s very cheap compared to things like advertising on FB for list building – which can get costly pretty quickly. It’s real easy to budget in $20 per month. VO is really good for building your mailing list with people who love to read, that’s why they signed up after all. Readers who sign up through VO are also much more likely to respond if you ask for ARC readers. I genuinely like the service and can’t recommend it enough. πŸ™‚

  • Janet Ralley

    Hi, I’ve got my free trail in a free days and I am considering signing up. At the moment I only have one book, the second in the series on pre-order. It’s the first book which I’m using for the trail and would sign up with. Im working on a second series, of stand alone books. Can change which book I use, if I do sign up in the future. I’ve been approached by other companies, but this one seems the most reliable.

    • M.M. Perry

      I’m sure Larry, the guy who runs VR, would be flexible. I’ve asked for several different options when I started up my second book with the service, and he’s always been accommodating.

  • Natascha

    “maybe, like me, they are a bit introverted and find reaching out to be stressful” Yes! So many yesses! For me it’s also about time. I don’t always get to read the author emails I get from authorreach. I would like to, but there is only so much I can read in a day and when it’s a choice between reading a book or an email the book almost always wins. Don’t stop sending the emails though. It’s always nice to have something in there other than spam and flight sales for holidays I cannot afford.

    • M.M. Perry

      Expedia and their “sales” πŸ˜‰ Hopefully I’ll have something fun to share with my list soon that should be more enticing than that Lowes Mother’s Day sale. πŸ˜‰

  • Hannah smith

    I’ll read and review on goodreads, never really on Amazon. Is that ok and it might be a while due to scheduling issues (and my to read pile is getting high)

    • M.M. Perry

      I can’t speak for all authors, but I don’t think I’m that far off from what most would feel when I say that any review, wherever and whenever a reader decides to write one, is welcome. πŸ™‚

  • Marlene Riggs

    I just published yesterday…first book in a contemporary romance series. I am publishing wide…I’ve published with Barnes&Noble, Kobo and Amazon directly and through Draft2Digital for all others. Is that a specific book format that is emailed out? I have epub and mobi…and if they don’t have a verified purchase on Amazon, they wouldn’t be able to leave a review…right? So do you request where they should leave a review?

    • M.M. Perry

      I’m so sorry. My comment spam filter was updated a while back and some comments got swallowed up. While this might not get back to you in time, hopefully future readers get some use out of it.

      Readers can leave a review on Amazon whether or not it’s verified – though from what I’ve read and been told in my indie writers groups is that the algorithms don’t rank unverified purchase reviews as highly as others. However, they still count when potential readers land on your page and look at the reviews. Also, if you advertise on Amazon, they don’t differentiate in the ad how many of your reviews are from verified purchases. B&N doesn’t differentiate at all, so you don’t need to worry about them. Kobo I’m unsure – I publish there but haven’t looked into their review process yet.

      You can always direct them to a service like Good Reads – but it has been my experience, and other indie writers as well, that Good Reads doesn’t help as much with sales as reviews on the sites that sell your books. Good Reads reviews are good for using in ad copy though, or promotional materials. Good Reads reviewers will often write a lot more in a review, so it’s a good way to get blurbs that are more descriptive of your work.

  • Frank Prem

    Thanks for this article and responses.

    It’s 2019 now and I wonder if there has been an impact on actual sales.

    I’ve signed 2 poetry collections up for the free part of the program and am receiving our I’m’s for book 1. Encouraging numbers do far.

    • M.M. Perry

      As far as impact on sales, it’s a little hard to determine if this is the only reason I have more sales than before – mainly because for a while, I was doing quite a few things to get more notice.

      I will say, I got a Bookbub for the first time ever. Since one of the things Bookbub looks for is reviews, I’m sure the ones readers left from this service helped. Also, my click throughs on my ads are better, particularly the Amazon ads, since the link they give in the ad very clearly lists the number of reviews. In the indie world, reviews, are the only way for people to get to know you, since we aren’t getting write ups in the NYT or anything. One of the nice things about VR is the reviewers often leave lengthier reviews, which is great.

  • L.B.

    Hello! My main concern is theft. I’ve just joined and was shocked by how many requests I received (more than the stated 20!) in the first 24 hours. When I signed up as a reader, I noticed there was no “good faith” agreement. All I had to do was supply my email and preferences. Because of that, I’m pretty leery about the possibility of my book being stolen and resold since I’m sending these readers epub/mobi files. Have you heard anything about theft, or has Voracious Readers been pretty good about that? I couldn’t find a way to contact the website about my concerns.

    • M.M. Perry

      This is a great question, and I think I have my next blog post topic. First, I’ll answer with the practical – as far as I know, VR doesn’t hand out your book for you – unless that’s a service they now have. That means it’s up to the author to determine how to deliver their book to those who request it. If you’re worried about theft, I suggest using Bookfunnel – which is another service I should review. If I only had one service as an author, it would be Bookfunnel. One of the many things Bookfunnel does, is allow you to send out review copies of your title in a number of formats. A lot of authors might say, well, I can do that with email – yes, you can. But Bookfunnel not only sends it out, if a customer has trouble using it, Bookfunnel provides tech support – a huge thing if you ask me. You don’t want to spend your days troubleshooting ebook readers. You’re a writer. Second, Bookfunnel also watermarks each copy with an individual watermark. That means if it pops up somewhere, it’ll say who posted it.

      Now, that’s the practical answer for how to avoid theft. But I’ll let you in on something I’ve learned publishing books for 8 years now, and it might not be easy to hear – established authors don’t worry about theft. Why? Because if you sell digital works of art, they will be stolen. Someone showed me a website hosted in China where every single one of my books was available for download, even ones I’d never given away and that had only ever been available for sale from Amazon, B&N and Apple. I never knew. And it hasn’t affected my sales. I still sell as many books as I did when I started – when presumably they wouldn’t have been everywhere yet. One of the things I’ve learned from watching the film market, the music market, the television market, and the video game market – everyone grapples with this to start with, even big studios. They try doing everything from requiring passwords to look at their content, to convoluted DRM that installs on your PC to lock down content. If Sony can’t stop people from stealing their content, none of us indies are going to, either. The only way to truly stop it is to never release it.

      The good news is, it doesn’t really matter if people steal your book. Generally speaking, people who steal art were never going to buy art. They don’t have the money or the inclination. They are simply the types of people who will not pay for things they can steal. For some reason, there’s a segment of people that think the work we make isn’t worth paying for. All the industries listed above claimed piracy was at the root of their woes when it came to lost sales. All the industries above eventually realized piracy wasn’t losing them money – it was a myriad of factors contributing to the changing ways people consume art. DRM only frustrates legitimate buyers of your art, it doesn’t stop the thieves. I’ll dig up some of the academic and industry literature that I’ve read about this topic for my next blog post and drop in citations to help those who might still feel anxious about these issues.

  • Annabelle Lewis

    Thanks for all that hard work on behalf of VRO. I’d signed up as a reader first and liked the way it worked, then as an author. I just begun receiving my opt -in requests for the first book in my series and assumed once it got to the magic 20 – it would cut off. But I’m still seeing requests. I’m conflicted about that…. assumed they would receive a “closed” signed on the promotion, on the other hand, I have email addresses of people who are interested. The bigger issue is that I chose not to pull the trigger and sign up yet for Bookfunnel ($240/year – was just one more subscription I was trying to avoid). I thought I’d gift the ebooks from Amazon. With royalty kick-back, I didn’t think it was that big of investment for a trial run. The problem came in that anyone outside of the U.S. (where I am) can’t redeem the gift of the ebook and are taking the cash. It’s a live and learn, but I wish VRO had given me a heads up about Amazon’s limitations. This first book is not for sale elsewhere – Sigh – a formatting issue which will require another $250 to correct. I intend to reach out to VRO as well. Thought you’d be interested.

    • M.M. Perry

      Yeah, using Amazon to give away your books for the purposes of reviews is a tangled mess. Amazon could certainly make this easier, but as one of the biggest suppliers they have little interest to help out people. Another issue I’m not sure you’ve run into yet but might with your method – Amazon does not allow friends and family to leave reviews. No one is 100% sure how they figure out who your friends and family are, but lots of authors reports mysterious disappearing reviews. Some have attributed this to friends lists on places like Facebook and Goodreads. Gifting of items to another Amazon address is another way some authors think might trigger this review removal. Just FYI. Here’s a place that has a technical read about all this: https://www.amarketingexpert.com/2018/06/26/disappearing-reviews-amazon-pulling-reviews/

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