Monday, August 11, 2014

9 ways reviews are sweeter than chocolate – and how you can get more of both.


Everybody knows reviews are a good thing.

But why?

Someone recently asked me that, and it left me thinking.  Why are we so obsessed with reviews?  Good reviews, great reviews, 5-star reviews, hundreds of reviews. 

Why do reviews mean so much?

Here are 9 reasons why they’re a totally sweet addition to any indie publishing career.

  1. They feel great.  If you’re at all passionate about what you’ve written, it’s great to know that people are reading your books and talking about them.
  2. Social proof.  Buyers who see your books listed on Amazon or wherever can’t tell if they’re good or not.  Other people, preferably >100 other people, who mainly liked it, are good proof that your writing is tolerably decent.
  3. Momentum. When people review or star your book, Amazon and other sites will recommend other, similar books - hopefully YOUR other, similar books. 
  4. Infectiousness.  The more reviews your book has accumulated, the more likely it is to be suggested to people looking at similar books.
  5. Access.  Libraries won’t even consider a book without reviews.  It’s possible that they won’t take your self-published book even with reviews.  But if you have an “in” with a local branch or library system, you do have a chance as a local author – if you have that proof that your stuff is good.
  6. More access.  Ditto for schools.
  7. Social karma.  Yes, self-pubbed writers write reviews for other self-pubbed writers.  It doesn’t count as buying reviews as long as it’s not a straight “quid pro quo” (“you give me 5 if I give you 5”)  As long as it’s a book you can honestly put your name behind.  As long as you’re not afraid to give fewer than 5 stars or to decline to review a book you don’t like.
  8. Easy to understand.  As Amazon and other sites make marketing your book more and more complex, the appeal of a straightforward, no-nonsense review becomes even more clear.
  9. Agents like them.  So do editors.  Self-publishing one book doesn’t mean you can never go with the traditional model, and with a following, you’re more likely to get picked up.


The reading world has been burned by review-buying scandals a couple of years ago.

However wonderful it feels to rack up a stack of reviews… keep it above board.  

Sure, you may be able to buy a few reviews this way in the short term.  But the minute that reviewer crosses Amazon’s Terms of Service (like when they take money for reviews), Amazon has the right to yank their account(s), and any reviews they’ve posted. 

Especially those reviews you’ve just paid for.  Hundreds of writers have been burned as these bad apples have turned up over the last couple of years.  Don’t be part of the next batch of authors left holding a rotten old core.

Oh, and don’t write reviews of your own books under creative pen names, like this author did.

Instead, these pros offer legitimate strategies to help you get legitimate reviews:

And here are a few legit sites offering their own or links to review services.  Please, please, please, dear readers – read reviewers’ guidelines carefully.  If they say they don’t take children’s stuff – don’t send them children’s stuff.

If you know of more, let me know.  I’ll happily post updates. 

Oh, and here’s one reviewer who won’t read your self-pubbed book, no matter how excellent.  Worth reading to find out how not to approach reviewers.

I couldn’t let you sign off without sharing these hilarious videos of famous writers reading their own negative reviews (mainly from Amazon).  I’ll post the first one, but there are many more.  YouTube is sure to recommend more once you’re finished laughing.

I’ve started finishing each book with a quick request for a review.  It’s something basic I ought to have included from the start.  It hasn’t made a difference yet, but I am training myself to be a bit more aggressive in asking for reviews.

And so should you.

You’re proud of your book, right?

So get it out there, into the right hands, and watch those reviews come rolling in.

Drat – I just realized I promised I’d tell you how to get more of both, reviews and chocolate.  Getting reviews is tough.  But luckily, getting chocolate is easy.

Mmm… chocolate.

What’s your review strategy?  (and how do you know it’s working?)

Weekly writing tips and freebies (no ads, no spam, ever)

* indicates required


  1. Great content! Thanks Jennifer! I LOVE Readers' Favorite - the organization is extremely professional (I'm not affiliated) and I got 7 books reviewed by them :) The other authors are so kind, skillful and professional. This year I'm also experiencing all the different stages of the Book Contest. I'm a finalist now - the results will come out on Sept 1st so please keep your fingers crossed!

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Alinka. I did have my concerns about this organization. Good luck!

  2. Thanks for the mention, Jennifer! Great post, as always.

    1. Happy to link to quality material. I have your podcast all queued up, too... but I have about a million back-issues of the Self-Publishing Podcast to get through first. :-)


As always, I love to hear from you.