Reviews for Your Self-Published Book Are Critical to Success
I spent a lot of time researching books on Amazon and was always surprised at the lack of reviews on self-published books – even books that won national awards. Reviews on Amazon – or really anywhere your book is available – are incredibly important. Think about your own shopping habits. If you can’t decide between two books, are you going to pick the one with dozens of great reviews, or a book with only one or two reviews? Positive reviews lend credibility to your book. They make it look established and people like buying established products. Another reason reviews are so important is that Amazon takes them into consideration when ranking books, and a slate of positive reviews will help your book rank higher.
Here’s an example of a book that has been available for six months (as of the writing of this post) and won a prestigious national award for Popular Fiction by the Independent Book Publishers Association. A lack of reviews is a death sentence for a book’s rank.
It’s most likely a really good book to win such a prestigious award, but it only has one review! It’s also expensive at $22.95 for a paperback, so reviews are even more important! It’s also obvious that the book isn’t selling well. It’s a dead giveaway when Amazon says “Only 2 left in stock (more on the way)”, that a book isn’t selling. It might seem like they’re almost out of stock because lots of people are buying the book, but the truth is, Amazon doesn’t like more than a few copies of books in stock unless they are selling.
Reality Check on Book Reviews: They’re Hard to Get
I sold so many pre-orders of my book, that I was sure it would be a snap to get a dozen or more reviews online right away from all of my supportive friends who loved the book. I was wrong. People loved my book. Even people I didn’t know. But convincing them to find the time to write a review was really, really difficult. They wanted to. They meant to. But people are busy and not everyone is a good writer or feels comfortable writing. So, I begged. I don’t do well with self-promotion, so this was incredibly hard for me. I sent emails and Facebook messages to people. I asked people to review the book on my birthday as a present.
I set a goal of getting 25 reviews, so I didn’t stop asking, even after I had 18 reviews and Amazon had started ordering a lot of books.
Verified Book Reviews vs. Unverified Reviews on Amazon
In order for someone to review your book, they must have an Amazon account, but they don’t need to have purchased the book on Amazon. (Although they do need to have a history of shopping on Amazon.) These reviews show up as Amazon Customer reviews. When people purchase the book on Amazon, the review shows up as a Verified Review in red to indicate that it is a fully legitimate review. It’s fine to have a lot of unverified reviews from people who purchased your book outside of Amazon, but the verified reviews are even more important as they lend credibility to your book and Amazon takes this into consideration when ranking your book. Looking at my reviews, I have an assortment of both types.
How to Get Verified Book Reviews
After your book is published, it’s tempting to sell them directly to your friends as you make more money. However, it’s a better strategy to have them support businesses that are selling your book, including local bookstores and Amazon. So, when people ask about buying my book, I encourage them to buy it on Amazon (it’s usually cheaper anyway) and write a review, or support a local bookstore and write a review. At some point, your book will start getting purely organic reviews from people you don’t know who bought the book on Amazon and loved it. But in order for this to happen, you really need to solicit as many reviews as possible. I jumped with joy when my book started getting organic reviews! As of this writing The Smallest Horse has 240 reviews.
Professional Book Reviews
I don’t really have any experience in this category, but there are ways other than relying on your friends to get reviews. Here are a few Blog posts I found with solid advice for soliciting reviews. I think it is probably much easier to solicit reviews for a children’s book that takes less than 10 minutes to read. If you’ve published a novel or non-fiction book, you’ll probably have to look for reviews outside your social circle.