Monday, September 5, 2011

5 Ways to Get More Amazon Reviews

Not only is Amazon one of the largest book-selling venues in the world, it’s also the first place many readers stop to get the lowdown about books when deciding what to purchase. The candid reviews of other readers are one of the most important elements in this purchasing experience, and authors everywhere check and double-check their Amazon pages for their next review. Reviews not only give your book credence among readers, they also lift it in Amazon’s algorithms, making it visible to more potential customers.

But sometimes those reviews are slow in coming. What can you do to get more reviews? Here are a few tips.

1. Just ask. Whenever a fan contacts you with rave reviews about your book, don’t be bashful about asking if they’d be willing to take a minute to post the review on Amazon. Link to your book for easy access and explain that reviews are gold to starving author types. Most people are more than happy to help out their new favorite author. Don’t forget to be polite, respectful of their time, and modest.

2. Send the book to volunteer reviewers. Publishing houses routinely send out Advance Reader Copies to influencers who will review the book and help promote it. Authors can take this one step further by offering copies of their own in exchange for honest reviews. Make it clear you’re not asking the reviewer to praise your book if he doesn’t like it, and, should the unthinkable happen and he does indeed end up not liking it, show you’ve got class by accepting the negative review courteously and professionally.

3. Put a note in the back of the book. If you have control over the formatting of your book, stick a note in the back, reminding readers how valuable their reviews are and asking them to take a moment to review the book on Amazon if they enjoyed it. Kindle books automatically provide a “rate me” page at the very end, which will send the reader to the book’s Amazon page. If possible, avoid including traditional back matter (such as the author bio), which readers generally skip, to ensure readers actually reach this important “rate me” page.

4. Remind social media followers. Every so often, send out a bulletin to your Facebook and Twitter fans, reminding those who have read your book how much you would appreciate their reviews. You can also remind your followers of how valuable reviews are by occasionally posting links to recent good reviews. Don’t go overboard with this, since followers won’t appreciate being inundated with these backhanded sales pitches, but a few every now and then are fine.

5. Review other authors’ books. Give and you will receive. In some instances, thankful authors may read and review your book in return, but, even if they don’t, going out of your way to help others in the same way you want to be helped can only benefit everyone involved. That said, “trading” good reviews is a shaky and generally unethical practice. Even should you trade review copies with another author, make it clear you want their honest opinion in exchange for your own.

There is no magic formula for gaining hundreds of Amazon reviews, but these tips should have you on the road toward an ever-growing number of reader opinions.
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  1. I agree that trading reviews with other authors can be a tricky business. Authors will generally be your worst critics. They are the ones who know all "the rules" and often won't understand why you broke the rules, if you did so. I know that for myself, if a book isn't really well done, I now have a hard time letting go of the internal editor and just enjoying a story. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the blissful days when I didn't know better. :)

  2. (Ditto, Lynnette)

    I'm not above begging for reviews, but I love finding little surprise reviews from people I don't even know.

  3. @Lynnette: I find myself to be the exception, generally, to the rule that authors have a difficult time enjoying stories without being aware of any little flaw. I still have my moments of over-criticalness, to be sure, but, in general, I'm happy I'm able to just enjoy the story!

    @Linda: Those are always the best!

  4. Good article! As a reviewer and blogger I can agree with the free author copies;) In line with this, I have recently seen quite a few authors putting up blog posts about review copies; a win win(to a certain extent).

  5. It's sometimes hard for author to wrap their minds around the idea that shelling out money for review copies (and postage) is one of the best ways to earn a return, since good reviews will net both better placement in Amazon's search engines and more credibility for the book.

  6. oh, Lynette, me too. I can never quit being a writer now, I've ruined my reading habit! I used to pride myself that I never stopped reading a book until I hit the end. Now it's much harder to make it past chapter 10. That is one warning I'd give any wanna be writer--think hard about if you are in it for the long haul, you may ruin your enjoyment of reading anything and everything.

    I do find that fellow author reviews on Amazon are obviously from other writers. They often wax poetical about character arcs and plot subtleties or provide a summary for some reason, in other words they use the writing jargon, but rarely say "I loved this....". I skip these when I read reviews, because I can never be too sure if they liked it or they are just being nice to a coworker. When I review, I look at the other non-reader reviews to remind myself what they look like and try to think of what I would have said as a review prior to writing and write my review as a reader.

  7. Arghhh! You think I would have spelled Lynnette right considering my mistake last week. So sorry, Lynnette. :)

  8. @Melissa: Usually my favorite reviews (from a reader's standpoint) are the gritty ones that cut straight to the chase. "I loved it" or "I hated it" - and here's why.

  9. I was most pleased when some kind soul gave my story a 5-star review, and when I checked that reviewer's other reviews, discovered it was his or her only 5-star!

    If I could only recruit more "tough graders" to review my work, I'd be most grateful.

  10. That's great! Always a boost when you know someone's praise is 100% honest.

  11. I've only written one review - and that was on Smashwords, not Amazon. I really liked the book and I happened to have read it right after three books that really disappointed me, so that no doubt made it look even better by comparison. I was surprised to see I had read the book within a week of it being released.

    That said, I'm going to make some time to head over to Amazon this week and write a couple of reviews. I'm like you, I don't focus too much on technicalities, I just like a good story.

  12. The authors you review will love you forever!

  13. Nice post and a good reminder that I haven't asked for reviews lately. I'll tweet this post to remind others.


  14. Great post, K.M. Following up on no. 2, Goodreads and LibraryThing feature special sections for authors to host book giveaways. For Goodreads, the book must be physical, but LibraryThing allows for digital giveaways as well. Though I've not yet participated, other authors report garnering a significant number of new reviews as a result. They do warn, however, that the members of these sites tend to be a bit tougher with their reviews. But the reviews themselves are well written and honestly given.

  15. K.M., number 3 is an excellent tip and one that I hadn't thought of. Even if your book is traditionally published, you can include a note in your 'about the author' page at the end of the book.

    I'm sure most readers outside the writing world wouldn't even think of putting a brief review on Amazon - the author page would be a great place to ask for one.

    Thanks for the tip!

  16. @Lou: Thanks for passing it along!

    @B.: I've also noticed that reviews tend to be tougher and more to the point on Goodreads. I definitely tend to be that way with the books I review there, perhaps because the pressure isn't on as much to expound on your opinions. You can just state them briefly (and sometimes pungently) and be done.

    @Martha: Glad you found it useful!

    @Karen: When you consider the ratio of reviews compared to the number of people who actually read a book, you realize the percentage is teensy. The more readers we can encourage to become avid reviewers, the more benefits for all involved.