You have all seen, heard, and gotten the emails. “You recently purchased XXX. Would you like to write a review?” Reviews are becoming increasingly important to sellers of all types in these days of online research for everything. Authors also depend on reviews to help get word out about their work. You have seen me ask here for those who have read my books to please write a review. I am sure you have seen the same from other authors you are familiar with. I am going to give you seven reasons why reviews are important to everyone, although I am slanting this a bit toward book reviews.
- Credibility and Social Proof: This is the internet-driven equivalent of asking your best friend or your Aunt Maude what they have read lately. Of course, you can still do that, and there is nothing wrong with it. But if you are asking about a good book, well, what if your friend or Aunt Mabel don’t read Dark Dystopian Angst with Horrible Puns? You will be able to find people who do read what you like online, and their reviews can influence a yes or no decision. Seeing a book you are interested in with mostly good reviews helps you know you are making a good decision in buying and reading that book.
- Visibility: This is a key one for the author, more than the reader. With all the options for buying and reading books out there these days, it can be hard for an author who is not a top name in their genre to even be seen. Amazon, in particular is so huge and there are so many titles in any genre listed there, it can be extremely difficult for a less well known author to get their book noticed against more established names. Reviews help bump a title up in the retailer’s algorithms and that means more visibility.
- Your Opinion Counts: Leaving a review lets you, the reader, have a voice in the vastness of the internet. It allows you to provide feedback not only to others interested in what you are reviewing, but also to the author. (Yes, I know not all authors read their reviews, but many do and I have heard more than a few say they learned some things to help improve their work from those reviews.) It gives you some small measure of contact with both the author and with like-minded readers.
- Rankings: I touched on this a bit above, but it is an important point. There have been several kerfuffles in the last few years about book rankings on internet sites (primarily Amazon, but it applies to others, as well). The more reviews a book has, the better it fares in the impersonal, machine-crunched rankings that drive the internal advertising on sites like Amazon. In other words, more reviews tells the algorithm that is sifting through all the content that this book has a good following, and people buy it. Let’s be honest here- Amazon is in business to make money, and if they can sort out the things that sell best and promote those on their site, they are likely to make more money. More reviews=higher placement in rankings.
- Marketing: Ah, yes, the bane of every author’s existence whether you are independently published or more traditional . Marketing is hard. It’s time-consuming. It can be expensive. It can feel a bit dirty when you are hyping yourself. But it is also necessary. Reviews are a form of marketing, if a sort of passive one. But good reviews can be used in marketing plans to boost interest and to let the author look a bit less like they are the only one telling you how great they are. A good review can also be its own marketing. People searching for that Dark Dystopian Angst book can look at the reviews as advertising on a more personal level.
- This is a Good Decision: Let’s face it, there are millions of books out there. No one can read them all. You have to make a decision when you are ready to buy a new book. People, being people, tend to gravitate toward things they know, and hesitate when faced with something new. Positive reviews help buyers feel confident that they are making a good decision, since other people with similar tastes were happy with this book. This can be especially valuable to a relatively unknown author who may not have a big following yet.
- Negative Reviews are not Always Bad: So, you bought a book, read it, and find you just didn’t like it all that much. Do you write a negative review? Well, that depends. Of course, as the author, I may not be thrilled to see a less that positive review, but if the criticism is justified and thoughtful, it can be a learning experience. On a practical level, some negative reviews scattered through mostly positive ones does help build trust from potential buyers. A mix of reviews, with most being good, tells someone searching for something to read that this is probably worth thinking about, and not just a marketing scheme to pack the book with all great reviews. So, yes, if there is an aspect of the book you were less than pleased with, perhaps mention it. Just make sure to highlight the good, as well. And if there was nothing good, well, maybe remember what Mom always told you: If you can’t say something good….
Reviews are important, both to an author and a reader. A helpful review doesn’t have to be long and involved, nor does it need to be packed with all the praise words you can find in your handy thesaurus. Next week, I’ll try to give some tips on how to write a helpful review. Then, you can go and review all the books you read, and know that you are helping not only the author, but your fellow readers, as well.
Everything is FREE at Smashwords.com until July 31!
“Crossed Wires and Other Very Short Stories”. Twelve scifi and twelve fantasy short stories that can each be read in minutes. Available now Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and most other e-book retailers. More information here
I have written science fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy stories. There are novels, novellas, and shorter pieces to fit everyone’s reading time. There are even some free stories, both here on the site and in other places. You can go here to find out more about the books I have published. They are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and most ebook retailers. Thank You!