Publicity and Marketing · publishing · reading

Why reviews are so important for authors

My favourite review I’ve ever received from anyone was from a lady named Margaret, who gave The Doll House one star because ‘she hadn’t read it yet.’ While it did make me laugh, reviews like this are surprisingly common and of course they’re frustrating for authors because they can pull down your star rating. In my case, this did actually disappear – I’m not sure whether Amazon took it down or the author did – but I know it’s a common problem so anyone reading this, please don’t review a book unless you’ve actually read it!

It’s always hard to impress upon readers and the general public how important and valued reviews really are to authors. Behind the scenes, they can actually have a huge impact – mainly on Amazon. For price-drop promotions such as Kindle Monthly Deals, a book usually needs to have a certain number of reviews (usually 25+ but the more the better) for them to consider including it in the promotion. This is the same in the US, and likely in other territories too. So the more reviews you can generate against your book, the more visibility you might be able to get on Amazon – hence the more sales.

Of course all authors want positive reviews, but this can’t always be the case. One thing you can do which does help is get others to mark any positive reviews as ‘helpful’ (and mark negative reviews ‘unhelpful’) – this influences the reviews which appear in the ‘top reviews’ section on Amazon (the ‘recent reviews’ chronology remains the same).

Often, Amazon won’t let family or people close to you review your book (it once blocked one from my boyfriend’s distant friend, which was very strange!) because it perceives your relationship to them as biased, which I suppose is fair enough – but that’s why getting genuine reviews from readers and bloggers is so, so valuable. It’s worth remembering that a lot of bloggers give up their time for free to review books, and the ones I know are incredibly hard-working, so they can’t always pop reviews up straight away but as a publisher we’re able to ask the ones we work with to help us out by copying their blog reviews onto Amazon on publication day to give the author a boost. A good blogger review is worth its weight in gold!

Other things you can do to help boost reviews – make sure your publisher puts your book on NetGalley (or your country’s equivalent) so that it’s up early and can get some early buzz, be pro-active and send out your manuscript to authors in advance if they’ve been kind enough to say they’ll read and potentially endorse you, and spread the word within your social circle about how important reviews really are. In my experience people are usually very kind and receptive, as long as you don’t hassle them of course! You could also think about doing giveaways of your book at certain points – for example, I said I’d send a free copy of my book to my 300th reviewer when I reached the 299 point – little incentives like this are always worth doing if you get the time.

Lastly, try not to worry about negative reviews – every writer I know has had one (if not more!). Reading is so subjective and just because your book wasn’t someone’s cup of tea does not mean another reader might absolutely love it – in fact this is very often the case. Don’t spend time dwelling on every word of a negative review – if you see the same thing cropping up again and again then you can of course consider it when writing your next book, but overall you ought to focus on the positives and make light of any that are rude or ridiculous. And always just smile at the ones that say ‘this book hasn’t arrived’ or similar (then mark them as unhelpful with a capital U!)

If you enjoyed this article and want to review my own book, feel free to here! Thank you! 

5 thoughts on “Why reviews are so important for authors

  1. By marking an Amazon review unhelpful the reviewers ranking is adversely affected. Obviously if a reader actually finds a review unhelpful they should mark it as such – the one star review mentioned would fit this. However, if they are doing so as a tactic to help the author bear in mind reviewers will not look kindly on books and authors they have taken the time to read and review thoughtfully, even if negatively, only to have to pull that review from Amazon due to attempts to game the system (it happens). No book will be loved by every reader as we all can and do enjoy different stories and styles of writing.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Jackie! I mean reviews that aren’t constructive e.g. ‘the book hasn’t arrived’ etc can be marked as unhelpful. Of course, all readers like different books, but marking a review as unhelpful doesn’t mean it disappears to my knowledge, it’s just about changing the ones that appear under top reviews. It’s always nice when anyone takes the time to review constructively.

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      1. “One thing you can do which does help is get others to mark any positive reviews as ‘helpful’ (and mark negative reviews ‘unhelpful’) – this influences the reviews which appear in the ‘top reviews’ section on Amazon”

        Marking a negative review as unhelpful just for being critical of the book? I understand you are offering advice to authors. If they get others to mark negative reviews unhelpful a regular reviewer will notice the unusual activity.

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  2. Hi Jackie, as I said earlier, I mean when the reviews are not constructive – and authors are free to mark reviews as they wish, the reviews will still be there and are appreciated! It’s fair enough for an author to want the positive reviews to be seen, I believe. But we can agree to disagree! 🙂

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