It’s been months since you launched your book on Amazon. At first you were excited, but now you notice that sales aren’t what you hoped they’d be. That lonely 4-star rating from your mom’s best friend hasn’t helped much either.
You research other indie authors on Amazon. Their books are selling well. You both have catchy book titles, interesting book descriptions, and good prose.
So why are they selling books and you’re not?
It often comes down to book reviews.
Getting More Reviews is Important: Here’s why it Matters
- Customers are more likely to purchase reviewed books. Customer reviews are a sort of vetting process. They’re often the only way potential customers know if a book is worth buying. Readers are more likely to purchase books that have been reviewed than those that haven’t.
2. Reviews can help increase search engine rankings and drive traffic to your Amazon listing. This can ultimately increase your book’s visibility, readership, and sales.
3. Reviewed books qualify for promotional sites. While any author can advertise on some sites, most require that books have at least ten reviews before being promoted on their platforms.
4. Reviews help improve your craft. Indie authors often don’t have the benefit of an editing team. Customer reviews are great opportunities to understand your strengths and weaknesses as an author. Incorporating this feedback into your books will likely make them sell better.
Getting book reviews seems like a chicken or egg paradox: readers won’t read books that haven’t been reviewed, but someone has to read your book in order to review it! The solution is to directly engage readers to write reviews of your book.
How to Find Your Next Book Reviewers
The best approach is to find readers to review your book before you launch it on Amazon. You can do this by either using a book review site or establishing your own ARC team.
- Submit your book to a book review site. Most book review sites are paid services, but they’re good ways to recruit a large number of reviewers through a single platform. It’s important to know that the reviewers themselves are not paid to evaluate your book, which keeps their critiques honest.
2. Create your own Advance Reader Copy (ARC) team. This is another way to increase the number of legitimate book reviews. This approach works best if you start at least a month before your book’s launch date. Not sure who to recruit? Here are some ideas:
- If you have a mailing list, contact subscribers asking them to join your ARC team in exchange for a free copy of your book.
- Recruit from a book blog. There are a lot of book bloggers out there. While some only write reviews for books from top publishers, many more will work with indie authors at little to no cost. Be sure to choose a blogger who specializes in critiquing your book’s genre.
Assuming your book’s launch date is at least a month away, here is an example timeline that will effectively utilize your ARC team:
- One month before launch: Solicit potential readers and assemble your ARC team.
- Two weeks before launch: Send your ARC team a free advance copy of your book. Use platforms like BookFunnel to distribute your book to readers. Make sure they know about your book’s launch date.
- Launch day: Send reminder Emails about the book launch and reiterate the importance of leaving a book review online. Include a link to your book’s Amazon listing.
- One or two days after book launch: Send a quick Email praising the number of reviews posted so far and encourage those that haven’t yet to submit one.
Don’t bother readers who haven’t left a review after your second reminder Email. The reality is that some readers will never provide feedback. But be sure to thank the people who left a review, because they did you a huge favor!
What if you’ve already launched your book? There are still plenty of opportunities to get more reviews:
3. Ask your existing readership or fan base for reviews. This is a good strategy if you already have a large online presence. Announce the release of your book on social media or your website and ask your fans to read it. Do not request specific people to write a review for your book, do not incentivize your fans, and be clear that you’re looking for honest feedback.
4. Remind readers to review your book in the back matter. A lot of readers won’t leave a review unless you remind them. Ask readers to write a review on Amazon at the end of your book. A simple blurb will do: “If you enjoyed reading my book, please leave a review on Amazon. Thanks!” Include a hyperlink to your book’s online listing.
Placement is key here: many authors include review requests after the acknowledgements, author bio, and a list of other books written by the author. Most readers don’t read this back matter and will never click on your link. Instead, place the link immediately after “The End,” preferably on the same page.
If you have a mailing list, include a link to that as well. This will help you market subsequent books to your readers, which can also increase reviews in the long run.
Don’t use these Tactics to get Reviews
Getting honest reviews is a time-consuming process, and cutting corners is tempting. Don’t do it. Customers are entitled to unbiased, legitimate product reviews. Book reviews that are biased or written only to promote the book will be removed for violating Amazon’s community guidelines.
If you want to use Amazon to market your book, you should avoid the following practices:
- Don’t write a review of your own book. You cannot provide unbiased feedback of your own book. You can, however, self-promote on your social media sites and link them to your Amazon listing. A downside to this approach is that Amazon sometimes deletes reviews from people who interact with you on social media. This may seem extreme, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Don’t be surprised if this happens every once in a while.
2. Don’t solicit reviews from friends or family members. This is a quick, easy way to get 5-star reviews, but it violates the community guidelines. Amazon doesn’t allow members of your household or close friends to leave customer reviews. They will delete these reviews, even if you didn’t ask for them.
3. Don’t do a review swap. This is offering to review someone’s book in exchange for their review of your book. There’s no incentive to provide honest feedback in this situation.
4. Don’t pay someone for a review of your book. It’s difficult to write an honest, compensated review that doesn’t sound like paid advertising.
5. Do not otherwise compensate readers for writing positive reviews of your book. Do not offer material gifts (like Amazon gift cards) in exchange for a review. It is okay to offer a free or discounted copy of your book in exchange for an honest review.
Don’t Forget: Good Books get Good Reviews
Let’s assume that you used some of the advice above to get more book reviews. There’s been a lot of traffic to your book’s listing, but you still don’t have a lot of reviews. What happened?
It’s possible that readers aren’t interested enough to read your book.There are some ways to improve that:
1. Consider aesthetics. Potential customers do judge books by their covers, especially if they have little else to go on. If you want readers to review your book, you have to convince them to read your book. A book with a catchy title and professionally-designed cover will help entice readers into reading your book.
2. Write a book description. Traditionally published books often contain a synopsis on the inside sleeve or the back cover. Indie publishers don’t always have this benefit, especially if the book is sold exclusively in digital form. However, readers are unlikely to purchase and read your book if they don’t know what it’s about. They’re also unlikely to read a book with a boring description. A good book description will encourage readers to purchase your book and increase your chances of getting reviews.
3. Your book doesn’t target the right audience. As with traditional publishing, your book is more likely to sell if it targets a specific audience. Many authors either overlook or misjudge their target audiences. If you want to sell books, know your audience and what they want to read. Potential readers may be disappointed when they realize that your book has been marketed as science fiction when it’s really fantasy, or romance when it’s really erotica.
If you’ve written books across multiple genres, you might have several fan bases. It’s important to target readers that will be most interested in the book you’re trying to sell now, not the books you’ve previously promoted.
It might be that none of these apply to you: your book has an impressive cover, an interesting description, and was marketed to the right audience. But your book still hasn’t received many reviews.And what’s up with those 2- and 3-star reviews?
Then you might have forgotten that the best way to get good book reviews is to write a good book.
Customer reviews are important, but like any product on Amazon, good books generate good customer reviews. Therefore, the best way to sell books on Amazon is not to get good reviews, but to write a good book.
Positive reviews are encouraging, but critical reviews can help you improve your writing and ultimately sell more books. Listen to what customers are saying. If your book has too many typos, hire a proofreader. Is the plot too slow? Reevaluate and relaunch. Do not continue to sell a bad book! Not only will people stop buying books with bad reviews, but you won’t build rapport with current or future fans.
And finally, don’t be discouraged. Getting more book reviews on Amazon is a time-consuming process. However, with a well-written book, patience, and a bit of strategizing, your book will soon start to get the recognition it deserves.