As sites like Amazon and digital formats like Kindle become increasingly crucial for authors trying to reach their audience, getting the right consumer reviews has become central to the promotional process. While these reviews may not conventionally be used for promotional material as with professional reviews, they have become just as important when it comes to individual readers taking a chance on your book – and quotes from these reviews are increasingly showing up in marketing materials from indie authors.
In any case, for self-publishing authors who rely on digital platforms like Amazon for the majority of their sales, these consumer reviews are essential.
Tips on Consumer Reviews
The direct relationship between readers and indie authors has really been one of the catalysts helping self-publishing to take off in recent years. These reviews now rank nearly as highly as your cover image in offering potential readers a first impression. While the nature of consumer reviews can make authors feel powerless in getting these reviews off the ground, you can actually take an active role in getting the reviews you want.
Do some research – find out what bloggers are writing about your genre or topic, reach out and ask for a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Theindieview.com offers a list of bloggers and other writers who review self-published books for free, including where these writers post their reviews.
Amazon Consumer Reviews
It’s important to understand that Amazon policy prohibits review swapping or paying for positive reviews. You can’t offe free gifts in exchange for reviews, or swap reviews with other authors. Doing so could lead to your book being removed from the site altogether – so don’t risk it. Furthermore, the company began removing nepotistic reviews in 2012. Those reviewing a book for someone they know should be open and transparent about their relationship to the author to have the best chance of not being removed.
However, this doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do to make sure you get the most out of Amazon’s review system. You can, in fact, ask people for reviews, even emailing top reviewers and to request a review. Look for top reviewers within your genre, who have given positive reviews to similar books.
One approach is to assemble a launch team of reviewers who agree in advance to provide reviews. That way, as soon as your book is available, reviews start to show up and your ranking begins to improve. Social media is a great way to build these relationships ahead of time – you can post excerpts from your book to build interest, and keep people updated on your writing and publishing process.
Being proactive pays off. Your Amazon ranking is based on both the volume of downloads, and the amount of reviews received. A high-ranking leads to more organic reviews and increased sales, and boosts both your book and your brand as a whole.
When you’ve really made a name for yourself on Amazon, you can even leverage this success for your promotional materials and website, mentioning your number of reviews and quoting particularly positive comments.
Resist any temptation to respond personally to negative reviews in the comments section. Instead, just click “no” when asked if the review was helpful to you.
Goodreads Consumer Reviews
Goodreads is a popular “social cataloging” website on which users can rate and review books and join groups to make recommendations – sort of a social media network centered around books. This provides a number of important tools for self-publishing authors, of which reviews are just one.
Goodreads allows authors to give away paperback copies of their book, offering a great opportunity to ask winners of these events for a review. Authors will be given the name of the winner of each giveaway event so you can send the free copy, allowing you to write a note in the book asking for a review and explaining how to provide one. By including the note in the book instead of on a separate note, the request will travel with the book. If it gets passed on, or sold on eBay or Amazon, future readers will also have an opportunity to provide a review.
In general, getting involved with Goodreads is a good idea. The platform provides a variety of opportunities and events to attract interest in your book, and to generate user reviews.
There are more platforms available to help connect authors directly to readers than ever before. Some of the most successful self-published authors have found success by actively becoming involved with online communities of readers. This can do much more than just get positive consumer reviews – it can connect you to active, enthusiastic readers who can become loyal fans. You can even learn more about what your audience wants, helping to inform future writing. This direct give and take is part of what has made the blossoming world of self-publishing so special.