–Sondi Warner, Writer/Blogger for Wrought Iron Reads
So, you’re a writer. You put your life on hold to present a “whole new world” to your readers. Yay, you! Now, they’re buying your books left and right. Your Gam-Gam is telling everyone her grandbaby is a bona fide published author. Your friends are telling you they can’t wait until the movie comes out, and your spouse is thanking all things sacred that you finally came out of the writing den and started doing the dishes occasionally. There’s just one problem.
You’re not getting enough reviews. Indie authors (especially) know the value of reviews. While the majority of readers don’t actually select their next book based on what someone else had to say about it, they do look at arbitrary factors, like what cute cover pops up in their line of sight first and how catchy the book blurb.
Well, reviews are factored into most of the algorithms that place titles at the front of the queue. In plain-speak, the more reviews, the more exposure. So, having a hefty bunch of folks click the 4- or 5-star button can mean the difference between you shooting to the top or languishing in the middle or, heaven forbid, at the bottom of the list.
When Amazon flushed the toilet on fake reviewers a month ago, the question in the forums and groups was: Do reviews even matter anymore?
Anyone can review. Anyone can say anything, positive or negative—whether they actually read the book or not. While there are rules in place to limit shameful trolling and gratuitous praise, at the end of the day, most readers and writers will tell you to be skeptical of reviews. That said, reviews actually do matter.
You can think of reviews as a megaphone for word of mouth. The opinion of a single reader gets amplified and echoes for every person who comes across the review to “hear.” It’s your cry from the mountaintop. It’s your free marketing. Even if only ten people actually read that review, that’s ten more people who have a pre-formed opinion about how they might like it based on how someone else felt about it.
(An aside – Which means before you even get to the review point, you better make dang sure what you’re putting out is worthy of a glowing review.)
I’ll tell you readers why an honest review is the best thing you can give back to your favorite author. I’ll also tell you writers how to start getting better reviews.
READERS DON’T REVIEW BECAUSE…
This is a tricky one. I’ve actually asked friends and acquaintances why they don’t leave reviews. The answers are varied. Take a look at a few of them:
- “I loved the book! But, I never remember to go back and review.”
- “I loved the book, and I told my friends about it. That should be enough, right?”
- “I hated the book, and I didn’t want to hurt the writer’s feelings.”
- “I can’t even remember what the book was about. I was that unimpressed.”
Towards the end of the list, scathing much? Yep. That’s okay, though. Readers should be honest, even if it hurts.
READERS SHOULD TELL THE TRUTH BECAUSE…
Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine you walk into your favorite supermarket. You can’t find what you’re looking for because the layout is poorly conceived, and when you finally get the item you came in to purchase, it’s expired or otherwise unusable. Depending on your personality, you might or might not complain to the management about the bad shopping experience. What most of us will do, however, is warn others off.
“Don’t go there! It’s a waste of time and money.” That’s your review. You can deter potential buyers from shopping at that supermarket chain. You can save them from having a similar bad experience. The supermarket will lose business and either clean up their act or close shop.
Conversely, let’s say you have a completely opposite experience at the chain down the block. The customer service is excellent. The produce is fresh. The store is clean and welcoming. The prices are right. You tell all your friends, “You need to check out such-and-such down the block! They’re worth every penny!” That’s your review.
Now, ask yourself do you want more bad business or more better businesses? (More better, tehehe!) You want better. The amount of supermarkets in your neighborhood isn’t likely to number in the hundreds of thousands. But in the world of books, we’re talking millions.
So, an honest review can help quickly separate the chaff from the grain and weed out shoddy writing, thus helping publishers either produce better books or get out of the game. You don’t want millions of bad books. You want millions of great books.
This is how you personally control your odds of getting the best out there. Review, review, review!
WRITERS SHOULD WANT THE TRUTH BECAUSE…
Writers shouldn’t be afraid of an honest review, the good ones, the bad ones and the just plain ole confused ones. Your job is to understand your audience so you can continue to deliver quality content that readers will enjoy. Padding your book with scores of glistening great comments will only hold you back in the long run. There’s no challenge if no one has anything to tell you about how you can improve. (You can improve, and you should definitely want to.)
HOW TO GET MORE REVIEWS…
I’m going to tell you how to quickly get more reviews for your books without having to rip off readers’ heads and scream down their necks. So, let’s think back to the primary reasons listed above for why some readers don’t review.
- “I forgot.” Voracious readers can go through numerous books a week. They WILL need a reminder to review. They still may forget to go back, but the easier you make the reviewing process, the better. Writers should consider leaving a hyperlink back to their website where readers can select from a list of all the online booksellers that carry that title. Rather than having to search out where they found the book, it’s like multiple choice. Hit the link, go to the book, quickly review. Clean, right? Easy is better. Better is smart.
- “I told my friends.” Writers might consider adding a diagram, table or simple explanation for how books can go viral. Show that one person telling three people about the book is great! But, posting a review allows one person to potentially tell millions of people about the book. It’s common sense, but, honestly, nobody coming off a book hangover thinks about stuff like that. Again, reminders really help!
- “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” It’s okay to tell your readers to be honest and post even bad reviews. When you, as an humble writer, show you have thick skin and want to be better, readers get to see you be human, ole mighty writer. Humans like humans, and we also like people more after we’ve done them a favor. We’re critical creatures. Blatantly encourage the reader’s inner critic. Because you don’t just want reviews. You want to know what people really think about your writing.
- Lastly, “I wasn’t impressed.” Stop the presses and pull your book down. Don’t cry. There’s life after bad reviews. This is the point where you need to analyze your novel and see how you can improve it. Better book cover? Better blurb? Great, but if the reader wasn’t impressed, it’s the body of the work that needs to be revamped. Don’t just clean up the packaging and put the bad product back out there. Be diligent about quality or go home.
We’ve gotten to the bottom of the list, and I hope that clarifies how reviews help, why readers should review and how writers can get more reviews. For more on the subject, click the links below under the For Writers bar. Feel free to comment on what you think of reviews.
You like books? Want to get them for free (before anybody else does)? Consider becoming an ARC reader. ARC stands for “Advance Reader Copy,” and most publishers use them to get feedback from real readers before or shortly after putting a book on the market. To become an ARC reader for Wrought Iron Reads, sign-up for our Forever Free program. 🙂
Here’s a link from The Blue Stocking Society on how to find out more about becoming an ARC reader for other publishers, 5 Ways to Get Review Copies of Books.
Still not sure you’ve got the formula down for generating more reviews? (The more you research, the more it pays off!) The trusty team at Writer’s Digest presents an excellent article on How to Get Reviews for Self-Published Books. Take a minute and read more now.
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So, click the title or just go to your favorite e-book retailer and look us up. Don’t forget to review!