Reviews are the currency of today’s authors. Now that Indie authors can bypass traditional publishing and marketing with self-publishing and handling their own promotion, book reviews are more important than ever before.
This raises three important questions. (1) Why should you write a book review, (2) how do authors encourage readers to leave a rating and (3) what can you learn from these evaluations?
Gone are the days when readers only look to the New York Times Best Sellers List to find that next read. This is great news to first-time and Indie authors, especially since the New York Times doesn’t include “ebooks available exclusively from one vendor” thus discounting from their ranking any authors who publish solely on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Today’s consumers treat buying a book just like they would any product or vacation, they research it. This means they read the customer reviews.
This can be both good and bad news, depending on the shape of your current reviews. Either way, readers today are savvy and know that taste is very individual and will often take a chance on a book, even if it has a few ghastly reviews, so take heart.
(1) Take the time to leave a book review
Reviews are so important for helping authors obtain more readers. While the vast majority of readers may not realize just how critical this is, we authors do. It only takes a moment to leave a book review and bolster your sense of shared camaraderie with the vast network of writers out there, so please take the time to do it.
But what happens if you didn’t like the book? First, remember that not every genre and plot will appeal to you. Just because you didn’t like it doesn’t mean others won’t, so try to be constructive in your review. Explain the aspects of the novel that you did like and if there weren’t any, touch on the areas where the work could be improved, for example through a professional editor. Don’t be afraid to state the truth, but in polite terms. Above all, be honest.
(2) Ways to encourage readers to review your books
New authors spend a lot of their precious time promoting their books. Just as important is getting those reviews in. There are a number of ways to do this.
Offer free promotions and urge readers to leave reviews. This is a win/win situation, as you expand readership with free copies of your book while encouraging reviews in return. Many readers are grateful for the free read and are happy to leave a review.
Spread the word on social media. I’ll cover ways to get social media to work for you in another blog, but once you have a large following, or any following for that matter, it’s okay to remind them that if they read and liked your book, to please drop a review in Amazon, Goodreads, review sites and anywhere else your book may be listed. Sometimes people have the best of intentions and have just forgotten, or maybe this is the first time they’ve been asked. Either way, this is an easy way to spread the word that you would be appreciative of reviews of your novel and to briefly explain how important those reviews are to fledgling authors.
Put it in your book closing. I always take the time to thank my fans for reading my novel. This is a great time to let them know that reviews can be very helpful and ask that if they enjoyed the novel, to please consider leaving a review. Many authors see a jump in reviews once they have included this simple request.
Ask book reviewers in your network. As authors, we are connected not only with other authors, but also book reviewers and avid book lovers. If you are struggling for reviews, put the word out that you will supply a free book to anyone who is willing to review. You can also approach some reviewers directly, but first do a little research to ensure that they review in your genre and are legit.
Approach the professionals. There are a number of organizations who will review your book and help you promote it. Many authors have mixed feeling about this as they are paid services, making you feel as if you are paying for a good review. In the case of the legit reviewers, in fact you are paying for the promotion of your book through a review and you will find these reviews to be honest. Stay clear of the sites which promise a good review, as consumers will see through these quickly, and if you are caught doing such deals, Amazon can remove the review or even your book. The advice here is to use caution and always look for honest reviews.
One way to avoid any confusion is to add your professional reviews to the editorial review section of your product page, rather than the review section. They are also good fodder for your author websites and social media, so they are valuable.
(3) How to deal with your reviews
I’ve heard everything from “don’t read your own reviews” to “if you get a bad review, tell the reviewer why you think they’re wrong.” There is a lot of bad advice out there. What’s important to remember is to always remain professional; in many cases, this is your only way of obtaining consumer feedback on your novel. There is a lot of value here.
Should I read my reviews? Yes, absolutely. If you’re nervous about it, invite a friend and read them together. It’s good to know what people are saying about your work, even if you don’t agree or it wasn’t what you were hoping for.
Should I reply to bad or aggressive reviewers? In general, no. Remember everything you write will be public for all to see and it most cases no matter what you reply, it will seem defensive. It’s best to just remind yourself that everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you want to feel better, read some of the reviews of the most famous authors today – even they get slammed from time to time. However, and I have done this myself, if you have good ratings across the board and one bad one comes in, say two stars and no comments, you could ping the consumer to ask if they had any points for development, which might be useful in revision or your next novel. Offer them a free copy of your next book for their help. Not only do you learn something, but it helps build a loyal fan base.
Should I just ignore the criticism? Definitely not! I have learned a lot from reading reviews of my novel. Reviewers are honest and tell it like they see it. They may have noticed things you never thought about, or more likely are telling you things you already know deep-down, such as certain scenes could be removed, the story is too long, the genres are mixed, the cover could use help and so on. These are all important tips, so calm down and try to listen to what they’re really telling you. This is how writers improve.
Please take a minute to show your appreciation and review the last novel you enjoyed. Also comb your own book’s reviews and glean any tips for improvement. And when you need help with reviews, don’t be afraid to ask.