Why it’s super important for you to get book reviews

Today’s Monday Marketing post discusses the subject of Book Reviews, why you gotta have ’em and why you should give them too!

Why it's super important to get book reviews.  Image of positive, neutral and negative faces - from Pixabay

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

Share your thoughts in the comments below :)

Over to you my dear readers, do you leave reviews?

Happy writing

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39 thoughts on “Why it’s super important for you to get book reviews

  1. Don’t be a dick 😂 love it!
    I leave reviews if they’re indie authors but not if they’re already famous author, simply because they probably don’t need any extra reviews. Maybe Thats wrong!

    • lol I did wonder if I should remove that part, but it needs to be said 😀

      No I can understand that. I’ve left reviews on my fave famous author usually if I read a shitty review that I felt missed the point entirely or appears to be a sockpuppet. lol Otherwise I’m the same, I usually just leave reviews on newer authors and indie authors

  2. A long, long time ago, I never reviewed anything I read. I didn’t realize how important it was. I just wanted my Goodreads profile to look fancy with the number of books I read, lol. But, then an author reached out to me on my blog about an ARC. This was long before I had a book review policy in place. I wasn’t a “book blogger” yet this author enjoyed my blog and trusted me enough with an ARC. Once I did a review for her, author requests piled in. I made a request policy and even have to close it in the summers because I get so many. Once I realized the process and understood how important it was, I not only leave reviews on books that are requested but also books I read for fun – whether they’re popular or not, indie or traditional.

    As for Amazon… they’re weird. As far as I know, I haven’t had any of my reviews deleted but I always state where I got the book. If it’s not from Amazon, I mention I borrowed it from the library or got it at Barnes & Noble or something. Even if it’s an ARC, I simply say, “I received an ARC from the author/publicist/publisher/etc.” I don’t know if that helps or not. I’ve also realized, that my reviews get approved much quicker if my review is for an ARC and I DON’T give it a 5-star review. I think, if it’s super positive, Amazon automatically assumes I was paid or the author gave me the free book just to give it a 5-star. If I give a book any other rating, it gets approved almost immediately.

    Anyway, I’ve rambled long enough. Great, useful post, Ari. Thanks. 🙂

    • It’s good that your reviews have not been removed, and as you have so many and show you don’t always give positives hopefully that will keep them from being deleted.

      I understand why Amazon are clamping down, but they certainly aren’t making things easier for authors.

      I think it’s important we state where we got the books from and it’s frustrating that honest reviewers are often being penalised because some people are “bought and paid for” with their reviews. *sigh*

      • Right, I think it’s good that Amazon is checking it over… they’re just not going about it the right way.

        But some people make a living off book reviewing. What about places like Kirkus Reviews? Those are legit but the reviewers get paid for it. I actually applied there one time. In a perfect world, I would be able to read all day and still be able to pay my bills, lol.

  3. Though it can suck for ARC’s, Amazon had a problem of people rage-reviewing books. Back when Bill Nye’s book and Hillary Clinton’s book had come out, there was A TON of negative reviews that were 1.) obviously not purchases and 2.) obviously political.

    So, I think that’s what ruined ARC reviews for everyone else. This is why we can’t have nice things.

    • It is so frustrating that people ruin things. I remember near a supermarket, they had these great recycling bins.

      You put in your different recycling items such as plastic bottles, tin cans etc and it gave you points that built up to be redeemed as coupons.

      It was a great idea and people were doing awesome with recycling. Next thing, it had been stopped because some idiot had figured out they could cut things in half or “trick” the system to get more points.

      The company that supplied them pulled it.

      I feel the world is full of great ideas and idiot people who abuse them.

      It’s like that Amazon had to remove the “anonymous” reviewer because authors were creating sockpuppets to leave negative reviews on their “competitors” books. *sigh*

      • It’s sad that it only takes one person to ruin it for all! That recycling sounded like such a cool deal.

        When it comes to reviews, likes, and follows… well, there’s a lot of unethical stuff happening. Yelp buys reviews, or restaurants leave other restaurants bad reviews… I’ve honestly stopped trusting a lot of review systems.

        There’s a video on YouTube called “Chinese like farm” and “Inside of a Chinese click farm.” It’s exactly what it sounds like (they sell “likes”), and it’s highly unethical and sad.

      • I might check out that youtube video. It is sad. Reviews aren’t what they used to be due to all this underhandedness. 😦

  4. Being a part of a writer’s group, having beta readers and so on I’m about as seasoned as one can get when it comes to negative reviews.

    Because of that I am a much better writer and person for it. A writer needs to look beyond the bad review and see what’s missing. You are so right when you state nothing screams amateur when a writer replies to a bad review.

    This is extremely informative. As always, thank you.

    • Thanks for reading, Bryan. Yes you are so right, a writer does need to see past the negative reviews to see what’s missing. After all, we are here to continually develop and grow our craft

  5. I find the whole issue of reviews a tricky subject. As a reader, I don’t read reviews as part of my next read selection, in fact I avoid them. I don’t want to know what other people think of a book… I’ll make my own mind up. Same with music and film reviews even restaurant reviews…I find the whole process so very subjective. The only reviews I do read are those to do with technical stuff, things that need to work.
    I will read reviews if I’m having difficulty with a read, to check out if I’m the only one and I don’t spend time reading books that I just don’t get on with. I don’t leave reviews now, nor ask for them, what I may do is highlight an author I have read and liked in a blog post or within a writing community and share the love that way…in fact, I must do that more 🙂

    • I admit, as a reader, I also rarely read reviews. I know that so mucn about books is subjective and I’ve seen the odd negative review about some of my favourite books.

      They will rarely influence my decision. I do read restaurant reviews and like you, technical or electronic items as well as some furniture or things for the house.

      It’s frustrating that Amazon use the quantity of reviews on a book to make decisions as to where they show that book and that some places do demand a certain number of reviews on a book before they allow the author to access certain services.

      It’s like we’re held hostage to getting reviews.

      I like the idea of highlighting an author and letting people know you like them is a good way to draw people to their work 🙂

  6. It’s not that long I’ve made a post where I pondered the fact that reviews are for readers more than the writers (and using very similar arguments) – and it’s glad to see I’m not the only one to think so.
    Truth is, I usually post my reviews on Goodreads and my blog but not so much on Amazon – possibly because of the fact I usually pay more attention to Goodreads reviews when it comes to choosing what to read next.

    • I will have to check out your post, I am still woefully behind visiting blogs since this move.

      Itd good to know ppl check other locations for views. It’s just a pity Amazon uses reviews in their algorithms and it can have an impact

      • Not sure if I can post links into comments, so I’ll say my post was made 13th January if you want to have a look. Around that time, I also talked about this in one Goodreads group to get some opinions of other people.

        As for Amazon using reviews in algorithms, I admit I did not know that – at least I learned something new. Thanks 🙂

      • If you post links in the comments, they can end up in spam. I managed to locate the article you talked about, looks great. I added the link to your article to the bottom of mine. 🙂

  7. One of the problems I have with leaving reviews is how I dislike the star system. I am perfectly fine writing a very detailed review (I do 3/month on my blog), but I dislike stars because of how subjective things are. For instance, I very much disliked Heinlein’s highly celebrated “Stranger in a Strange Land,” but I don’t think it’s fair to leave one star on… well, pretty much anything. I’d rather not give a review than give a 1-star review. And if that’s the case, I guess I just don’t like the star system.

    Is that silly?

    Also, going to probably be close to or below that $50 range soon because I try to avoid Amazon, so… that’s lame.

    • I know a number of people who don’t like the star system.

      I think star systems can work if they are explained. Some people see 3 stars as “meh” and others see 3 stars as “good”.

      So I feel like star system need to be clearly defined.

      I think Amazon are slowly removing the chance for people to give reviews and eventually people won’t even bother using them for reviews.

  8. Yes, I review every book I read. I have reviewed paperbacks bought in charity shops, review accepted, it will be interesting to see if that changes in the future. I put the reviews on Goodreads, but I have had some of my reviews turned down by Amazon. Four so far and out of four recently reviewed books only one made it! If one made it through it can’t be I haven’t spent enough. The last time I looked none of the writers were living in my house. I am certain I bought one of them, but can’t honestly say about the other two. If a book looks good I’ll take up the free offer while it’s in my mind, equally if a book looks good I’ll buy it. When I’m browsing my TBR collection I can’t remember how or why I downloaded them. I don’t read a lot of books, too busy writing or reading blogs, I do an occasional blog with my latest reviews.

    • There have been some rumours that Amazon has even pulled reviews of people who friended the author on their social media.

      I feel Amazon is going to move away from being the main source of were people leave reviews.

      It’s a sad shame that this new behaviour from Amazon comes from the result of people writing fake reviews or “padding” the number of reviews they have by either creating fake accounts or getting friend and family to review.

  9. Another great post, Ari. I’m always looking to get more book reviews but I can’t take your advice about not reading them! I do check daily as well, which is another thing people tell you to avoid.
    I hope Amazon doesn’t change the rules again, it’s so hard to get reviews and heartbreaking when Amazon take down genuine ones.

  10. Interesting – I’m still trying to understand how the world of reviews works, (esp. as Amazon keeps changing the criteria🙁) and although I know paying for reviews is unacceptable, I had been under the impression that the ARC reviews were a different matter. Thanks for shedding some light on that.

    A quick related question; I also was told that you must disclose it in your review if you received an ARC (from the author themselves, a publishing company or a place like netgalley) – you are saying that this is a red flag to Amazon?

    In this case, would it just be better to buy the book and then leave a review even if you read an ARC prior to release?

    • Apparently you can state you received an ARC copy but you need to include the information that you were under no obligation to give a review in exchange for the copy.

      It’s sad that it’s come to this but then I can understand why they are doing it (somewhat) because so many people have been messing and faking reviews.

      Obviously, we can still go directly to book bloggers and ask for a review on their blogs, popular bloggers can drive a lot of interest to a book.

      Though obviously, having a review on amazon is the best.

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