We all want them, and we want them to be good. Securing them is more challenging than you may think (and if you’re been through this process, then you know), and more than that, what others say in a review is out of our control. (There are those words again: Out of our control. We’ve talked about how we can’t control what the media does either.) So what part of the review process can we control? Lots of questions here which we are going to unpack in this week’s Savvy Sunday Release.
The process of getting book reviews is challenging.
If you have a publisher, most likely you don’t have to worry about getting the industry trade reviews. They will do that for you by creating galleys, writing a press release, and sending it Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Book List, and others several months in advance of your publication date. They will also load it onto Net Galley, making it easy for those who prefer to read digital files and then write the review. The purpose of these reviews is to inform book sellers and librarians what they should “order in” for their customers and users.
Then there are the customer reviews. These are the reviews written directly from the people who buy your book and are most commonly posted on Amazon so that others may read them while deciding if they, too, want to buy your book. Reviews communicate other information too, which we’ll get into a little later.
Whether you have a publisher or you’re self publishing, securing reviews is important in your publicity and marketing campaign. Why? Because readers listen to other readers. We listen to our friends and we’ll even listen to strangers who write a review if they say something about a book that piques our interest. A review is more than just a review, especially where Amazon is concerned.
In some ways, Amazon is a bit of a mystery. A mystery that likes to change things up from time-to-time. And just when you think you have solved it and have cracked the Amazon code, that’s when they change their rules or algorithms. For example, in the not-too-distant past, common thinking was that you needed about 35 reviews to get some subtle marketing help from “The Zon,” but rumor has it, it’s at 50 now. 50 reviews. That’s a lot. You might think with all your networks and all the people who love you and your book that it will be easy to get 50 of them, but it can be surprising…
It’s challenging. I have seen it a hundred times. Everyone in your circle is very happy for you to have written your book, and whether you have a publisher or you’re self-published, they want to be supportive. Many will offer to do a review for you or will respond with, “Of course I will,” when asked, and we all feel good when that happens.
And then the waiting begins.
Do they need to buy the book, or are you giving them a promotional copy? Either way…
The waiting continues.
Some may actually follow through and post their review.
Many will not.
And here is the awkward part: After you ask two or three times, it gets very difficult to ask again. At some point, you’re just going to bag it because how many times can you ask and not hurt the relationship? They know that they should write that review, after all they said they would, but maybe they’re just too busy. Maybe they really don’t have time to read the book, let alone review it, so they avoid you. Maybe when they stare at a blank document, they freeze up and just don’t know what to write. All in all, it’s an unpleasant situation.
To help resolve this dilemma, several years ago I created a strategy that includes the step-by-step tactics on how to create an environment where others who commit to doing a review actually follow through on it. It’s a reviewer campaign with deadlines. The great news is that the rate of conversion, i.e., the percentage of those who actually followed through on writing the review, grew to 92%. That’s pretty good.
The whole reason for bringing this up is to stress the importance of creating a campaign that has dates, deadlines and commitments on it so that the people you approach are very clear on the expectations — yes, even with your sister-in-law. If you’re asking and getting yeses and then hoping they follow through, that’s too loosey goosey. We all need structure. Without it, you’re going to be disappointed.
Now, I’m happy to be wrong about that, but I have seen this play out over, and over, and over again to know what is going to happen. A campaign like this has to be put into place first, before you reach out to anyone for a review. Don’t leave this process to chance. It’s too important, and it will be a missed opportunity if you don’t capture people on the front end and get their commitment.
Reviews on Amazon are important for a number of reasons. As already mentioned, enough of them actually gives you a little marketing help from the company, but in addition to this, having a large number of reviews says something about you to others, at least subconsciously. It says you have generated a lot of interest, people took the time to write a review, the book must be good.
Within the reviews, readers sometimes share positive reasons for liking the book that you hadn’t thought of before. This is an opportunity to use them in other ways, such as expanding your marketing materials.
Speaking of Amazon, let’s look at a few of their other rules about posting reviews
- You (or your reviewers) do not have to buy the book on Amazon to review it there, but they do need to have an amazon account (It doesn’t have to be Amazon Prime) and have spent at least $50 on Amazon.
- Customers in the same household may not post multiple reviews of the same book.
- If a review is removed or rejected because it does not comply with their guidelines concerning promotional content, that person may not resubmit a review on the same book, even if the resubmitted review includes different content.
- Reviews may only include URLs or links to other products sold on Amazon.
- Amazon may restrict the ability to submit a review when they detect unusual reviewing behavior.
If you’re interested, there is more here in the Amazon Community Guidelines.
Here are a few other tidbits worth mentioning about getting reviews
Ask: You’re allowed to ask people to review your book. Some people question the ethics around this, but I think it’s perfectly fine. Now, if you’re paying someone money to write and post a review, that’s a different story. For one thing, they would have to say they received payment, and that would defeat the purpose.
Research: You can research other reviewers on Amazon who have reviewed similar books and ask them to consider yours. However, Amazon no longer makes reviewer info available. This kind of search can be time consuming and sometimes yields nothing, although sometimes it pays off in a big way. You will have to decide if it’s worth your time and effort.
Your own email list: It has people who have opted in to you, so ask them to write a review.
Social media platforms: Use the ones that your target readers use. One idea: “First 15 people who respond with a DM, I will give you a free copy of my book in exchange for a review.”
Facebook groups: Facebook can be helpful. You can join groups or form your own.
NetGalley: NetGalley is a book funnel. It’s a subscription service where you can post your book that is free for readers. NetGalley sends a digital copy of your book to readers who will write an honest review.
Freebies: You have to give books away to get reviews. This is obvious, right? When you write a book, earmark a certain number for promotional purposes, such as reviews and other media opportunities. Expect it and plan for it. Even with a publisher, you may be required to buy a certain number of copies for your own promotional purposes. Other publishers handle that expense.
Street reviews: On launch day, offer a URL and ask people to leave an honest review of your book. You can share their reviews on social media. Ask them to take selfies of themselves holding and reading your book.
Goodreads: Some call Goodreads the “Facebook for Authors.” Overall, it generates more traffic for fiction than nonfiction books, but either way, it’s good to have an account there and link your blog to it. Also, a note to authors: the readers at Goodreads don’t like authors to comment on what‘s been written about them or their books. They find it creepy, which is one of those platform etiquette things that it’s good to know about.
Ask again: Get in the habit of asking for help and support. If someone sends you an email saying, “Oh I love your book, it changed my life!” Respond and let them know how happy it makes you to know this. Also, add: “I’d be delighted if you’d copy and paste what you wrote to me and put it in an Amazon review here.” And then give them the link to make it easy for them to follow through. I am underlining this because so often people want me to look at something and don’t bother to send me the link! I guess I’m supposed to search for it, and during a busy day, how likely is that? Send the link.
Help your people: Walk them through the Amazon review process if it’s new to them. Go through the form and simply do a copy and paste from their answers to Amazon. Hooray! It demystifies the process.
Remember, when it comes to book reviewers, part of their job is to say what they liked about your book, and to point out what they consider to be weaknesses. Obviously, if your best friend or spouse writes a review, it will contain only positive things. But a professional reviewer, someone who doesn’t personally know you, or a member of the media who is going to interview you and is also posting an Amazon review (It’s surprising how often this happens), then there may be a few negative thoughts as well. Be ready for that and remember that it’s no reason to get upset. It’s to be expected. In fact, if you get all 5-star reviews, it becomes a bit suspicious for those reading the reviews. “Are these people all friends of the author?” A 4-star or even a 3- star review can be a good thing.
When it comes to Amazon reviews, we love them and we hate them. Either way, we need them. These tips should help you to get focused, ask, and then use those book reviews to your best advantage. Remember, you want to pursue reviews throughout your book campaigns — not just during the pre-publication publicity part where you’re pursuing the industry trades and long lead media reviews. Also, that campaign needs to be very specific and spelled out. Don’t just hope and wish others will follow through on writing that review they promised you. Good luck!
To your success!
P.S. If you have any tips for getting Amazon reviews that you would like to share, simply hit reply and tell me about it. If we get enough, I’ll create a part 2.
P.P.S. Also, if you want more about the book review campaign offer I mentioned in this issue of Savvy Sunday News, email me by hitting reply. If you’re reading this on my blog, then send me a note via the contact form here.