So, I laughed when I logged into Magical Words on Thursday and found John’s post, about pre-orders and release dates, and stuff like that. I laughed, because I had already planned on writing a very similar post. Not about pre-orders — they’re not as important in the new world of self-publication, because the only vendor who allows them is Apple.
But about reviews. And why they’re important.
If you follow any authors online at all, you’ve heard them post about reviews. We remind our readers to write them. We say how much they mean to us. We beg for just a word here, a star there.
And there’s a reason for all that.
But first, let me get one thing out of the way. Reviews aren’t critiques. I wrote about critiques in my last three posts. Critiques are intended to be exchanges between authors and readers, with the goal of teaching the author how to make his or her manuscript better.
Reviews aren’t an exchange of information; rather, they’re readers stating their opinions about a published work. It’s too late for the author to make any changes.
In fact, shrewd authors ***never*** respond to reviews. If the review is good and the author gushes thanks, then the author looks like s/he’s just trying to cozy up to fans. If the review is bad and the author explains or denies or rants or raves, then the author looks defensive, angry, and unattractive to potential other readers.
So, if we can’t change our books, and if we shouldn’t respond, why do we even care about reviews?
Okay, we care, because we want people to like our work and, by extension, us. But why, in a career-advancing way, do we even care about reviews?
Reviews are the key to free, online promotion at one of the (the?) largest bookseller in the world. In addition, reviews are the key to valuable promotion that authors can purchase.
That bookseller? It’s Amazon, of course. Amazon has fancy, secret algorithms for promoting work to readers. Many of those algorithms are triggered by a book receiving X number of reviews. How many reviews? I don’t know. (Remember, I just said, the algorithms are secret.) But once a book receives 20, or 30, or 50, or 60 (these are all numbers bandied about by those supposedly in the know), Amazon starts to promote the book. That promotion can be the “Readers who bought X also bought Y” type promotion. Or it can be emails sent to actual buyers: “As a reader of X, we recommend that you buy Y”. Or it can be placement in various ad slots on various website pages.
The other valuable promotion? There are “advertorial” services that email interested subscribers about new book deals. I used one — Bookbub — to promote Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft. I paid them $240, and they sent out an email to more than 20,000 readers of women’s fiction, telling them that Girl’s Guide was on sale, for $0.99. I sold enough copies to break Amazon’s top 100 (not top 100 women’s fiction, top 100 overall). Those sales kickstarted sales for the rest of the series, and for my new series, The Jane Madison Academy Series.
There’s a catch for Bookbub, though. They won’t take $240 from just anyone. They’ll only take it from authors who have enough reviews on Amazon. How many reviews? Again, they don’t specify and exact number. But all Bookbub books I’ve studied have at least 15 reviews, and many have hundreds.
So. Reviews have concrete advantages for authors. And it doesn’t seem to matter much whether they’re good reviews or bad. The mere act of readers writing reviews empowers authors.
This issue is important enough to me that I’ve printed up business cards, which I hand out every time I sign a print book:
Will you help an author today? If you’ve read Single Witch’s Survival Guide or any of the other great books by our Magical Words authors, will you write an honest review and post it at Amazon, along with other review sites?
Do you regularly review books online? Why or why not?