Everybody knows reviews are a good thing.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Momentum. When people review or star your book, Amazon and other sites will recommend other, similar books - hopefully YOUR other, similar books.
- Infectiousness. The more reviews your book has accumulated, the more likely it is to be suggested to people looking at similar books.
- 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.
- More access. Ditto for schools.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- “Don’t stalk the reviewer… but if you haven’t heard anything after a few weeks, follow up to see if they still intend to write the review.” Self-publishing guru Joel Friedlander, via Writers Digest.
- “I’ve sold almost 3,000 copies… thanks to the great reviews I’ve received which in turn affects sales and… ‘also bought’ lists.” Children’s writer Karen Inglis via TheCreativePenn podcast.
- “I spent more time creating, maintaining, and marketing THE PET WASHER than I did writing it.” Children’s writer Jennifer Lynn Alvarez via her blog, on the workload behind self-publishing.
- “Space out promotions so that you’re not hitting the same people with your free offer… so that you get plenty of new people who may not have seen or grabbed your free offer the last time around.” Children’s writer Beau Blackwell, via his blog / podcast.
- “Don’t oversell yourself. Reviewers are not impressed by hype.” Writer and reviewer Diana Kimpton, via Selfpublishingadvice.org. (“Don’t undersell yourself either,” she adds.)
- “In the back of your book put a statement about how important reviews are, and ask the readers to please leave a review. Don’t ask for a good review, just an honest one.” Writer Giacomo (Jim) Giamatteo, also via Selfpublishingadvice.org.
- There may be some useful information in this ebook marketing video, from writeforkids.org.
- “There’s a fine line between buying reviews and quid pro quo reviews and the kind of natural, organic reviews that result from solid relationships built with fans… but like obscenity, we all know the bullshit stuff when we see it.” From the Self-Publishing Podcast notes to Episode #19. (I admit, I’m totally hooked on this show now!)
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.
- The indie reviewers list (links to other sites)
- Blue ink review (I believe they offer free and paid services)
- Another list of review sites. (from BookBaby.com)
- Readers’ Favorite (appears to be free, though they do offer a paid service and a contest)
- Publishers Weekly BookLife program (seems to be free)
- Kirkus reviews (Costs $425 / $575 – is it worth it? See this article. Also, Joanna Penn wrote here, “I once paid for a Kirkus Review for my first non-fiction book – but it was an expensive mistake. I wouldn’t do that again!”)
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.
What’s your review strategy? (and how do you know it’s working?)