As an author, I need book reviews. It provides Social Proof, an indication that my book is worthy of your attention. It helps other readers make decisions to take a chance on reading me.
However, something you may not know is I am penalized by Amazon (and other marketing groups) if I don’t have reviews. For example, without them, some platforms refuse to run my ads. Only with reviews and buys will Amazon list my new books as a hot new buy.
But something great happened last week! With the help of fans and readers, Never Date a Siren met a BIG landmark.
It’s taken a year of HARD work to get there. I’ve given away 13,500 copies for FREE of this book. This means a substantial loss of potential income if I had sold it, but it got the book promoted, which was the main thing I wanted.
I didn’t want to put my book on Kindle Unlimited because KU requires an exclusive to my book. I wouldn’t be able to sell it at Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Apple. Since I am not a big Amazon fan, I didn’t want to do this (for other authors, though, KU seems to work; it’s just not for me).
As an Indie Author, I will need to giveaway a lot of books to get seen. That is just the cost of doing this, and I put that into my “promotion” budget.
How did I get these book reviews?
Many books are lucky to get five reviews. My first book under a different name got about that number. It was super disappointing, but I was also new to the idea of being a self-published author and was naive about the business of publishing.
I’ve directly solicited people, asking if they would be interested in reviewing. I’ve spent time tracking reviewers, sending out gift books, and doing the hustle for reviews. I promote the idea in my newsletter that you can get the next book for free if you do a book review. And I’ve given out 13,500 copies of my first book in the series for free.
These are all great strategies, but in the end, Man Plans and God Laughs.
These last two months, Amazon has removed somewhere between 20-30 reviews from my book listings. Yes, that was frustrating. Not only to me, but to my readers. I do have some fans, and they love to support me. But now they are getting frustrated with Amazon’s arbitrary decisions on who they accept as a reviewer.
For example, I got this email the other day from a reader:
Guess what? Just for fun, I scrolled thru the reviews to find mine. Guess what? It wasn’t there! I must have checked 5 times. So I went to my Amazon profile and there it was submitted November 20, 2019. I don’t know what happened. So I submitted it again and it’s up. So I’m your 101 review! The only thing is that it doesn’t show up as a verified purchase. Oh, well. (note- she owns the book!)book reviewer with over 5,000 reviews on Amazon
Best book review practices
Some readers no longer review on Amazon because of the some of the wonky, and in some cases, unjust, Amazon policies. If you want to leave a review, let me recap some of the best ways to do it:
Buy the ebook. Most of my ebooks are less than $2. If you review without a copy, Amazon will most likely remove your review at some time in the future.
If you are using Kindle Unlimited, read the book before you leave a review. Amazon is tracking your page flips in KU. If you don’t finish the book, Amazon knows.
If you got the book free (off of Amazon) due to my Bookfunnel or Voracious Readers promotions, make a note in your review where you got the book. Sometimes Amazon will allow this as ‘verification’ and not remove it. This seems especially true if you are a Net Galley or Kirkus reader.
If you are an author who is reviewing, I would suggest you use a different name for your reviews. I do not review under the name Byrd Nash, as this could be seen as some sort of favoritism by Amazon.
Consider leaving a review at Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Apple. I do have my books on these platforms, and I don’t think any of them require proof of purchase (if I’m wrong, please comment on this post so I can correct that info). They have less restrictive policies than Amazon.
Amazon requires that any account reviewing to have spent $50 on its platform. For those who really dislike Amazon or who have a new account, this can prevent your review from being accepted. I’d suggest reviewing elsewhere like Goodreads (owned by Amazon BTW), Bookbub, Barnes and Noble, or Kobo.
Be sure that you don’t give all five stars to every review you do on Amazon. Amazon is going to see that as strange as no one likes everything. Give honest feedback.
If, due to financial reasons, you can’t afford my books but want to read them, I do gift copies all the time for those who will review. See below for details.
On my end, Amazon prohibits me gifting you anything but a BOOK in exchange for an honest review. So I cannot give you an Amazon gift card or anything else in exchange for an honest review.
Why I need reviews, and fast
As a reader, you may not be aware of some things behind-the-scenes on how book reviews impact my ability to be seen or even my ability to advertise.
For example, I do advertise in a variety of reader newsletters. Most of the better ones, like Book Barbarian, OHFB, or Robin Reads, require that I have a certain number of reviews and a rating BEFORE they will let me schedule an ad.
That hurts my book launch, where the book is being released but doesn’t have many reviews yet. Without a successful book launch, Amazon starts to downgrade my book in search on their platform.
OTOH, in the first 90 days of a book’s release, if I hit a certain number of reviews, Amazon will put me in their newsletter as a hot new release. Or at least that is what I hear. I still think that is an Urban Myth.
Regardless, the first 90 days of a book launching is incredibly important in how the Amazon algorithm rates your book – how it recommends books to readers.
Reviews help with Social Proof
When readers see other reviews, they assume that those reviewers know something about the book. In the theory of Social Proof, it means someone is more likely to copy those actions (buy or don’t buy the book). It’s why even a one-line review is so important in getting the book noticed.
How many times did you pass on a book because it had ZERO reviews? Even having a mix of good and bad reviews isn’t as horrible as having NO reviews! Readers will simply pass me by if they see no reviews.
As the books gain more readership, I do expect reviews to be mixed. Not all readers will like or enjoy my books. Actually, I believe that having a mix of reviews is more important than having all five or five and four star reviews. It shows you are a real writer who many people are reading.
When I see a book with all top star reviews, I raise a skeptical eyebrow. It’s just not going to happen. I’ve seen what I would call near-perfect books (in my estimation) have one star reviews!
Having lower starred reviews doesn’t mean I will pass by a book. I like to read the low star reviews and see if they are complaining about things that I don’t want to read about. For example, if I see reviews complaining about many typos and formatting errors, I won’t read a book. But if they don’t like the book because it has a strong female hero, well that would make me buy the book!
Leaving a review, even if it is short, or one line, helps
In your review, tell other readers why they might like the book. Mention your favorite character and why you liked them. Or mention your favorite scene (no plot spoilers, though!). Some other good points to write about is why you chose to read this particular book and what type of readers might like it.
Some examples from my own book reviews:
At the first page, I was entranced by this book. It held all the elements I so enjoy: historical, mystery, puzzling back stories, and a plot that all revolves around the love of a telling a good story.The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Plotwise, Burned to a Crisp is my favorite, but character wise, I liked In the Teeth of It due to Raluca, an ancient emotional vampire.Burned to a Crisp and Teeth of It series review
Those who like the battles of Vikings and the politics of Game of Thrones will enjoy this adult fantasy book!The Wrath of Raghnall by Shauna Richmond
Be aware that the star rating reviews that you do on your Kindle reader (with no commentary) only feeds into Goodreads, not Amazon.
How I help you get my books
Never Date a Siren is FREE on all of my publishing platforms. You can grab a copy at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple and it will cost you NOTHING.
If you reviewed Never Date a Siren, you can get a FREE copy of A Study in Spirits (#2 in the series).
I do offer a lot of deals, such as Beta Reading (seeing the book when it is in development and providing feedback) which results in a gift book once the book publishes.
ARC readers receive an advanced copy of the book. Unfortunately, due to ARC readers not carrying through on promised reviews, I now ask those new to me for proof of a review of a previous book before I provide the advanced reader copy.
I do giveaways via my newsletters. Be sure to sign up there (free copy of Never Date a Siren, or A Study in Spirits) to know of when I will be doing more giveaways and deals. Or if you have both books, sign up here to know of future offers.
Another great place to connect with me and my giveaways is in my private Fan Facebook group – the Byrd’s Book Nest.
If you’ve ever left a review, thank you! Your words and feedback help a lot of people, not only me as an author, but also readers.
If you love Byrd Nash stories, join the private Facebook group for fans!