Do I need book reviews to make sales?

Do I need book reviews

Yes, yes, and yes. Book reviews are extremely important if you are looking to get your book in front of readers and make sales.

Each star you earn is a level of prestige, and the more reviewers giving four or five starts, the more prestige will be associated with your book.

Generally, book reviews show potential readers that others have read your work, and it was strong enough to warrant writing their opinion (Good or bad).

This is especially important if you’re a self-published author using the Amazon publishing platform.

To feature high in searches and be recommended to customers, the platform will account for the number of reviews, along with the average stars to determine where it will place your book in its list.

For a newly self-published author with one book to their name, most readers will be reluctant to pay for a book that only has a few reviews. But the more book reviews you get, the more people are likely to take a chance.


Online book reviews

Customer Reviews.

Amazon uses customer reviews, but they are general reviews about the product and customer experience. They are not necessarily critiques from reputable book critics.

Anyone can write a review and it may not be about the product.

It could be about how the product was delivered or problems about the ordering process. I’ve even read reviews that were about the weather, i.e., “I couldn’t use this item because it’s been too windy.”

Different types of reviews
Different types of reviews

Remember this if you ever get a low score because the delivery driver was rude, etc.

Book Reviews.

Book reviews written by reader will also be found on Amazon, but the best examples can be found on Goodreads or book blogger sites.

They are left by readers about the reading experience.

The reviewer may love the story, character(s), sub-plot, etc., or they may dislike them. But in a book review, the reviewer will give their reasons.

Book reviewing standards

Book reviewers don’t wake up and think “what author shall a ruin today?”

They love books and give honest feedback in the form of book reviews to highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A good reviewer will champion books that are well written with a strong prose, but also warn readers about poorly written, time/money wasting novels.

But remember, each reviewer has their own benchmark, and this can be tricky.

Some book bloggers will only ever give five starts if the book changed their life in some meaningful way. However, this is almost unattainable and is quite sad.

The majority of self-published authors are writing commercial fiction which is to be consumed and enjoyed by the masses. They don’t target English Literature post-graduates.

Think about Master Chef.

A famous and successful chef comes on as a judge. That judge has a pallet that can detect the faintest hint of every flavour.

Demanding too much
Demanding too much

They are then presented with a wonderful dish that would be thoroughly enjoy by any member of the general public.

However, the super chef will turn their nose up and say something pretentious like, “the broadness of fruity crunch was a bit dull, and the hint of chestnut was far too overpowering for me.”

Yes, that might be your expertly trained taste buds saying that, but I bet your customers wouldn’t have the faintest clue what you’re referring to.

I appreciate that this is a bit of a strange comparison, but it can sometimes be the same with book reviewers.

Because the book wasn’t a masterpiece that will be studied by academics of the future, is it really only worth four stars?

I find this to be harsh because the public see anything with fewer than five-stars as second rate. They demand five-star products.

It’s called commercial fiction and the purpose is to entertain the masses.

That being said, I have seen disclaimers on blogging sites that say they will not issue anything less than 3-star. This is out of respect for the author and the effort it takes to self-publish a book.

But not every reviewer thinks like this.

Don’t take them to heart

Reviews are opinions. They are a product of someone’s experience.

I love listening to Evanescence, but my wife can’t stand the band. Equally, she enjoys watching The Walking Dead, but I would rather go and watch the grass grow.

All of us are different. Nothing is ever good or bad. Everything is subjective.

Bad reviews and broken hearts
Bad reviews and broken hearts

Keep that in mind when (if) you read your reviews.

Even competitive authors will try to sabotage another author’s work. They will read the work as a writer instead of trying to enjoy it as a reader. Then, to reduce the ratings (and lower the competition), they will leave a negative book review.

It’s a sad truth, but it happens.

However, one day, you will be someone’s favourite author. You just have to find them, or make it easy for them to find you.

And in the beginning, for a self-published author, word of mouth and self-promotion is the best way to get your book found.

Check out THIS article for some advice on getting your name and book noticed.

Bad reviews

There are people out there who use reviews as weapons.

They have a bad experience with the delivery – they leave a negative review. They were constantly being disturbed by someone/something when they were reading – they leave a negative review.

I once read a review that said “delivery driver was rude,” so the reviewer left a 1-star review. Another was “I couldn’t settle into this book. My neighbour’s dog was barking for hours,” so they left a 1-star review.

This is not fair on the author because it directly affects the potential for future sales. But generally, Amazon reviewers don’t understand this.

However, if a negative review is about the writing or about the story, then it might be worth asking what prompted that opinion.

If it’s one or two rogue reviews here and there, then they can be considered a miss – one person here and there didn’t enjoy your book. It happens.

But if lots of people say the same thing, maybe it needs to be examined as to why a lot of people are saying it.

Not everyone will love it
Not everyone will love it

That’s not to say it’s bad work. Like I said earlier, book reviews are subjective and there are people who will love your work, and others who won’t.

Good reviews

Family

I wrote my first novel for two reasons:

First, I need to let off some steam because I was stressed. I couldn’t get out from under the dark clouds and needed a healthy way to vent. The second, which became my driving force, was to write a story as a gift to my wife.

She loves to read thrillers, but always guesses the endings. So, I set about writing something that would keep her guessing until the end. And thankfully, it worked.

Her reaction was all I needed to be happy.

She was hooked from page one and I didn’t hear from her for hours. And when she finished, she was speechless (which is great motivation to write more).

This was technically my first review.

Not everyone will love it
Not everyone will love it

The next few came from family members.

My sister, mother, father, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, – they were all full of praise. But a swell of pride came when my mother (an avid reader), said “I forgot it was your book. It was like a real author wrote it.”

Then she apologised for the wording and went on to explain that it was like reading a novel written by her favourite author, Harlen Coben.

What a win!

That being said, these cannot be used on any platform as an official book review.

Non-family

A good book review is the fuel needed for us to keep going.

Being told that your book is great by family members is a wonderful feeling. But having a good review from a stranger is absolutely exhilarating.

You’ll want to ask them hundreds of questions about why they liked it. But you can’t.

Unfortunately, I was struggling to sell my book, which makes it impossible to get a book review. So, I approached a book blogger.

That blogger wrote my first Amazon book review and said, “Every Holmes needs a Moriarty and the author does a terrific job of creating a twisted villain, right up there with Hannibal Lector for cunning and evil.”

I almost fell over when I read this. Then, later that week, a second person bought my book and reviewed it. Again, their words were very positive, which led to more and more sales.

This is your target audience at work. If your book isn’t selling organically, ask a book reviewer/book blogger to read and review your book.

If they are willing, send them a copy, and hopefully, this will help fan the flames of book sales and reviews.


What can we do with book reviews?

Not every author will read their reviews.

I can understand why… negative reviews can make you feel like a failure, and positive reviews can make you complacent. But reviews are a great tool to measure what works and what doesn’t.

Reading the points raised in your book reviews can allow you to see the story’s best elements. Then, you can adjust your writing for future books.

Find the winning formula
Find the winning formula

If the review is negative, yet constructive, apply the same principle. Analyse your work and apply the findings to your next piece of work.

But don’t let negative book reviews hurt you.

If you receive reviews like, “the delivery driver was late,” etc., simply get in touch with Amazon and ask them to consider removing the review. If it has nothing to do with the author’s work, it shouldn’t be on there.

If the review is on a blog or reviewer site, try and reach out to the reviewer. Talk to them and try to understand their issues with your work. And if the conversation is constructive, maybe ask them to remove the review.

Remember, no one will benefit from arguing.

If you publicly argue with a reviewer on Amazon, you could find your product being removed. Amazon see this as a seller trying to influence an honest review.

Also, if a blogger has taken the time to read and review your book (on your request), but you don’t like their opinion, try to see why/what they didn’t like. Then, thank them for their time and move on.


Finally

Book reviews are the main reason why someone will click ‘BUY’ or choose to walk away.

It is your job to market your book to the right people so you can collect good ratings and reviews.

Target reviewers and bloggers who read your genre. Read the books they recommend and look at the book reviews they leave behind.

If your novel can sit on a book shelf next to them, you should engage with that reviewer and ask for them to take a look at your work.

Keep a list of reviewers/bloggers you like, then approach them with personally written emails. Don’t mass produce your requests.

Let them know that you enjoyed their review on a certain book, and why. If you like the way they write or deliver their review, again, tell them. And ask if they would be interested in reviewing your book.

Most of these people will have TBR (To Be Read) stacks from floor to ceiling, so they may not be able to jump into your book this weekend.

But they will give you a rough timeline on when they can.

Be engaging, be patience. But most important of all, be human, and appreciate that we all love and loath different things.

Feel free to share your experiences of book reviews in the comments section below.

Good luck.

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