The Many Layers of Book Reviews

book reviews

For new authors or a new book, reviews become one of those must-have but are difficult to collect goals. They sit on checklists waiting to be marked off, but how many do you need? Are they really important? And if so, for what?

Book Sales

It is true that book reviews help sales. A few good reviews can make all the difference for a reader deciding to pick up your book… or not, if too many bad reviews rate the quality low.

Readers trust other readers. Wouldn’t you?

So getting those initial, and hopefully stellar, book reviews will help not only sales but on giveaway downloads too. And don’t sweat a few bad reviews. A slew of only five-star reviews feels false. A handful of four and three-star reviews, especially if the dislikes are succinctly laid out, make all those awesome reviews feel a bit more real. I’ve picked up books because of three-star reviews when the reviewer said the book was too complicated. I love complex books! So a well articulated, middle-of-the-road review might actually help you.

book reviews

How many reviews make a difference?

Aim for five and be happy when you reach ten. A lot of advertisers require this amount to book spots. Why? Because a few good, early reviews can pick up major flaws or show the promise of the story.

Beyond those five reviews, any more than that help create a solid review score is a bonus. By the time you get over a hundred reviews, one single bad or awesome review won’t change your overall score. So, hopefully, by the time you top fifty, you are rating pretty high – even if that meant listening to the poor reviews and fixing issues.

What about Amazon sending your book to readers if you have 50 reviews?

I’ve seen this idea or versions of it several times in Facebook posts and Twitter. As far as I can tell, it isn’t true. What Amazon sends to you as suggested reads comes from your browsing history, how you rate the books you’ve read, and what other people who’ve read the books you have also bought.

I’ve received emails with books that had two reviews as well as dozens. There is no magic number to make Amazon select your book for a promotion. What you need is people visiting your book page. And the easiest way to get that is not reviews: it is advertising. Put your book on sale, advertise it like crazy, and you will get more page views and downloads – especially if your book has good reviews!

When can you stop caring about reviews?

The short answer is probably never. A new good review is always exciting and fun to share! And, over time, you will get more reviews as long as the book remains available. I was so excited when Born of Water hit 100 reviews and equally as excited to top 150.

It takes time, but the more reviews you have means not only acquiring an engaged and interested reader base but also easier sales of your book. A 99¢ or free sale of a book with 150 reviews is so much easier than one with five. The amount you have to advertise to maintain the same level of sales or downloads is less. And earning a spot with a premium advertiser is also easier!

Where do you find reviewers?

This is the thousand dollar question, isn’t it? Those first reviews, especially if you are a new author, can feel insurmountable. But here is a quick list of where to find reviews:

  • Goodreads: there are groups organized by genre where you can do an exchange – you read another author’s book to review and they read yours.
  • Reviewer lists: a google search will net you some folks who review books, and there are some great lists like this one from the Indie View where you can find reviewers who read books in your genre. Be polite when you email reviewers, respect if they say they are too busy, and don’t spam everyone. Pick a few who say they like your genre, take a look to see what their reviews look like and if they would like your book, and THEN email. Do your research.
  • Ask other authors: no not for reviews (though you can) but if they have any reviewers or top-notch readers who might like your book. See if they will put a blurb that you are looking for reviewers for your book (and offering a discount or free book) in their newsletter and send them to a signup form. This is called a newsletter swap and there are a lot of websites (check out Bookboast) and Facebook groups (genre related is better) dedicated to helping authors network.
  • Organize a launch team: A launch team is a group of readers who will receive an early copy of your book for free in exchange for an honest review delivered during launch week. Use your mailing list, ask other readers to send a sign-up link in their newsletters, or advertise on your blog or wherever you share samples. Even a handful of reviews can make a huge difference during that first week.
  • Ask for reviews in your book: Seriously! This is valuable space. A reader just finished your book and as they look to read a sample of your next book or about you, they will be more likely to follow a link and leave a review, especially if you ask nicely. So don’t miss this prime space to ask.
  • Ask your fans in your newsletter: If people signed up to your newsletter and are already fans, why not ask them if they will leave a review. You can make it fun by offering a giveaway (but remember you CANNOT make leaving a review a requirement for the giveaway – it is against US law) or make it a requirement to join your launch team. Or just say how important reviews are, provide a link, and update with results on how many new reviews and what they meant to you in the news email along with your thanks (and maybe a free short story).

One last hidden benefit

I hadn’t really thought about this until I received an amazing recent review from Fantasia Reviews. As much as I’d had wonderful compliments from readers, this one felt different because it was from a critical reviewer. So even though readers with numerous books under their belts said my book was good, to hear it from someone who read and wrote about dozens of fantasy books impacted how I viewed myself as an author more than any previous compliment.

Every author has moments of self-doubt. There is always someone who writes better. I’m not Neil Gaiman, after all! But hearing from someone that you are a good author and write fantastic stories picks up your confidence. Reviews are not just for book sales. They will also boost your confidence as an author and can make you feel like you’ve achieved a personal goal. And that is worth even more than more book sales. 🙂

How many reviews do you think are important? What are other methods you’ve used to get reviews? Let me know in the comments!

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Written by: Autumn

Autumn (also known as Weifarer) is an indie author, conservationist, & world traveler with plans for many more adventures both real and fantastical! She is currently on the road in North America in a Four Wheel Camper along with her husband, Adam, and Cairn terrier, Ayashe.

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