Today’s Monday Marketing post discusses the subject of Book Reviews, why you gotta have ’em and why you should give them too!
Are book reviews needed?
Short answer, yes.
Long answer, yeeeessssss. 😀
Seriously though, book reviews are important. They are like any other review, they are designed to rate your book and to help other readers decide whether to buy your book as well.
Obviously, not all book reviews are the same. Some might just give a star rating, some may give a simple “loved it” while others will go into extreme detail.
Now you want people to read your book, so the more people that do the better for you, right? So good book reviews are a way to open up the opportunity of encouraging other readers to give you a chance.
They are NOT for you
I’m going to pop this in here real quick. Book reviews are NOT for you. Don’t read them. You will get some negative reviews, either immediately or later… everyone gets them so it’s just something you have to be ready for.
Now, I’ve seen newly published writers who use reviews as they should a Beta Reader. Wrong! If you are getting your critique from a book review, you are already too late.
If you made sure to pick good, honest betas (not just excessive praise-givers) then you don’t need to read your reviews to see what you “did wrong.”
Even some positive reviews can say something that will sting a little. Believe me, no one needs that. If you really want to know what’s said, ask a friend or family member to read them and pass on the best ones.
You could even ask them to check for negative comments that recur, just as a growing exercise. But otherwise, leave them alone and NEVER reply to reviews to “defend or explain” yourself.
Nothing screams amateur like commenting on a book review to explain how the reader doesn’t “get it”. (Yes, I’ve seen that too. Ouch!)
Why are book reviews needed?
Well firstly, the more people touting how bloody awesome your book is the better, right? If people love your book and tell others via reviews, those others buy it and then they tell people via reviews and suddenly you’re ranking on Amazon shoots up.
Secondly, it has been shown that books that feature reviews sell more copies. Throw in the fact that some places actually require your book to have a set number of reviews before you can use their website services, and yeah, they are important.
As a new writer, people don’t know you (much, they should know you a bit or be able to find out about you, with all the Marketing you did before publishing right? Right?!).
So you have to convince them to give your book a chance, first do that by writing a great book and making it polished. Throw in marketing and a blog so that people can realise just how awesome you are. Then let your fans tell people how awesome you are.
Book reviews allow your fans to market your book for you. They get to tell people why your book is worth forking over cash for.
Getting Book Reviews
Now people can review books on Amazon, GoodReads, their blogs or even mini-reviews on social media.
You can reach out to Book Reviewers to review your books, (please note most have specific guidelines so be respectful, take the time to read their guidelines before you reach out to them).
Now, this brings me to my next point…
The Change in Amazon
Most people when they think about reviewing books is via Amazon. However, there have been some changes that apparently some people are unaware of.
In case you are one of them, here’s the skinny…
You can’t offer something for a review
What that means is, you can’t offer a free copy of your book in exchange for a review… well, kinda. Amazon is trying to stop the flood of “fake” reviews. This is often done by authors who give free copies or signed copies for a “good review.”
Yes, some people actually try and bribe reviewers to write a positive review.
Now you CAN give your book for free – but you can’t do so with the requirement that the receiver has to give a review in exchange for the book or attempt to influence the review.
Wait? What about ARC reviews?
ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copy and you may have seen some reviews that state “The author gave me a FREE Arc review of this book for reviewing”
Well, now that’s a big no-no and if your reviewer writes that their review could be deleted.
What does this mean for ARC reviews? You can supply them, you just can’t ask people to review them. You can hope they will and maybe say, something like “while I hope you review this book, please note you are under no obligation to review this book what so ever.”
Then it’s up to the gods or fate to move this person into deciding to review your book. But just make it REALLY clear they don’t have to.
No more Friends and Family support
Gone are the days when you could get friends and family to rack up your book review count. People living in the same household as the author can no longer review your books.
So if you share an IP address with someone, family, roommates etc then they will not be able to review.
You have to buy from Amazon frequently
This was a strange change. Apparently, reviews can only be posted if you have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com within the past 12 months. Yep, if you aren’t throwing your cash at Amazon regularly, you lose the privilege of reviewing.
I believe they even go so far as to state you need to use a credit or debit card, so if you’ve been buying items using gift cards given, then you don’t get this reviewing privilege.
Verified purchases only
I did read somewhere that Amazon was even clamping down on non-verified reviews. So unless you bought the book you are reviewing directly from them, your review may be removed.
Now I’ve reviewed all sorts of items I didn’t get from Amazon. I’ve not noticed any being removed, but maybe it’s a slow process. Or maybe it’s currently only happening on Amazon.com and I use .co.uk
Now let’s talk about GIVING reviews
A few months ago during my #TheMerryWriter Twitter game, I asked the question of my players if they leave reviews on books they read.
Now, remember, #TheMerryWriter is a game for writers! A larger-than-I-expected portion of players stated they didn’t.
How stange these people were writers, some published, some not, all who most likely wanted or would want reviews themselves and yet many stated they just wouldn’t.
Some said they forgot too, others that they didn’t feel confident enough but again a larger proportion just didn’t bother.
If you want reviews on your books, if you want people to take the time out of their day to write a review for your book, especially positive ones, you should be doing the same.
You owe it to your fellow writers to leave reviews, to take that time.
It’s like letting someone out at a junction, you stop and wave that car through. That person, will often, in turn, let someone else out.
So if you want book reviews, either now or in the future, if you’re not yet published, put that action out into the universe by leaving reviews yourself.
Few things to consider if you do leave a review:
Mark for Spoilers – Personally I prefer people not to write reviews with spoilers in the first place, but that’s just me. If you really must reveal something in the review, then please state the review contains spoilers.
What I find frustrating though, is as you read the words “contains spoilers” can you sometimes catch the spoiler because the reviewer has put it so close to the top of the review. So, be a little considerate of where you put your spoilers.
Don’t use Sockpuppets – I covered Sockpuppets in my 9 Things Writers Should NOT Do post.
Don’t be a Dick – Even if you didn’t like the book you should be respectful. Be honest but there’s a difference from making objective critical points and just crapping all over someone’s work.
Be Objective – Art is subjective, everyone’s tastes are different. So while you can throw in your subjective tastes into a review, if you do so state clearly “I’m just not a fan of books without happy endings” to show that’s just YOUR view… although don’t use this example, because you shouldn’t be spoiling the ending for anyone!
Instead, consider leaning towards more of an objective review. How was the pacing? Where the characters well-developed or where they stereotypical and one-dimensional?
Edit: Check out The Value of Book Reviews
Over to you my dear readers, do you leave reviews?