Monday, July 23, 2012

Reviews -- Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

Good Morning. I used to know a man, a college professor, who read book reviews every morning while he drank his coffee. I asked him once if he would ever read all those books. He said, "No, I don't generally read ANY of these books." And I asked, "Then why do you read the reviews?" His answer, "So I'm informed. When I'm out with friends and the discussion of books comes up, which it always invariably does, I can report what I've read and I don't feel stupid."

Once upon a time, in this man's world, that was the sentiment. EVERYONE read book reviews. If you made it to the TIMES, you were golden. Nowadays, even the TIMES won't necessarily warrant a best-seller list.

In today's world, one book review is worth a thousand of your friends talking about your book. In today's world, a good book review and a half dozen sales in one day on Amazon will shoot you up to #10 in a best-seller rank. Sometimes even allow you to get to #1.

However, in today's world, even if you wrote the best book in the whole world, and sold a zillion copies, if you don't have a review on Amazon, you end up languishing in publishing hell. Amazon has changed their algorithms yet again, and for all my ranking of #1 Sunday and Monday with the free promotion of REMEMBERING YOU, because I don't have any reviews, no matter how many copies I sell per day, I have no rank on any list. It's all gone. (As of this posting, I do have one review. And my rank has gone up.)

Before Amazon offered the KDP Select program, people who sold merely 5 copies a day of any book they had could shoot up the best seller lists like nobody's business. I did. I maintained several top ten lists for quite a few weeks, depending on how many copies were sold, and who else had copies sold on the same day.
Heady stuff for a newbie pub like me. Especially with no reviews.

However, with the advent of the KDP Select program all that changed. You could now offer books for free, and in a market filled with authors vying for all the attention they could muster for their books, free became the new black. People were downloading faster than you could say 50 Shades.

But in that gluttony, having a free book out there also brought the attention of those less-than-5 star reviews. Mean reviews, stupid reviews, I-hated-this-book reviews. (Amazon has since changed their view on book reviews and has been taking down the mean spirited ones.)

All that said, this monster called Amazon rules our world, whether we like it or not. It's the biggest and fastest way to get a book out there. More people use Amazon for books (reading or publishing) than any other venue out there.

And in doing so, book reviews are king if you want to get anywhere in publishing. Of course, there's a problem with all 5 star reviews (see Anne R. Allen's post). But one or two 2 stars in a pool of 4 and 5 stars isn't such a bad thing. I should know, I have my fair share across the board.

And I know how exciting and exhilerating it is to offer up your first book into this self-publishing world. Some of you have networks and friends and have all kinds of blogposts and hops and tours lined up. You have no problems getting reviews.

However this lesson is for those of you like me, who don't have that kind of network. Before you upload anything to anywhere, have a couple of reviews in place, ready to go before your launch. I know, I should have, but I didn't. (I tend to go off half-cocked when I'm excited.)

Ask your mother, your friends, your Aunt Alice, the librarian in your hometown. And you know, those people who say those reviews don't count? Well, guess what, they do now. If you want to get anywhere on Amazon, you need a review. And hey, just one counts too. It's all about the rank. No, it's not about sales, it's about your ranking. And one review, even a 3 star will get you ranking on some list.

Tell me -- Do you write reviews of books you like? How about books you don't? Do you write reviews for friends? If not to any of those questions, why not?


Em-Musing said...

I've never been asked to write a review, but I've reviewed several books on my blog because I wanted to. I've not yet worked with Amazon, but after all the books I've bought through them, maybe it'll buy a good review for me when my book is out? Yeah, I know. NOT!

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

Very interesting post! And I think you're right. Reviews seem to be king now... Oh well keep plodding on I suppose...

Anne Gallagher said...

Leigh -- You never know what's going to happen with Amazon one minute to the next. More on that next week.

Pat -- I've been noticing the trend since the algorithms changed. Reviews are where it's at.

Linda G. said...

I rarely write reviews (I know! Bad me). I suffer from the "Who am I to judge?" malady, with a hefty dose of "Why would anyone care what I think?" thrown in.

That, along with there only being so many hours in the day, and barely having enough time for any purely-for-pleasure reading, makes it tough to actually contribute in the reviewing world.

JeannetteLS said...

I have written a couple of reviews on Amazon, yes, for friends who were published. It's good to know that perhaps it DOES matter. Thanks for this article, Anne.

Rick Daley said...

I do write reviews for the books I read, and lately, many of the books I've read are from people I know. I also check my books on Amazon regularly for ranking and reviews, because how the hell could you not?

February Grace said...

I'm not comfortable writing reviews, I did a few early in my blogging career and it just always felt wrong in one way or another, as if no matter how I worded it someone was going to read something into it that wasn't there. So I've sworn off, and it's hard because I know how grateful I am to those who have reviewed my book (yourself included!)

I've done blog features, star ratings, but reviews are a sticky wicket and I just have too much else on my emotional plate to wade into those waters any more. Though there is one book review I have promised for something coming out this fall but it is in my opinion more a nonfiction work than fiction and that to me is different.

I understand what you mean about the all five star reviews. Of the reviews I have up on Amazon for Godspeed they are all five star and though some are from total strangers, I think people don't take them seriously.

I have a three star on Goodreads that I wish I could beam over to Amazon- I think it would help.

But I've realized I have no control over all this- who reviews and who doesn't- I won't beg for them or for others to advertise my book (which is an upcoming blog post of mine actually). So in the end my rankings are something I am going to just have to let go.

I wish you the best of it all, though, your books deserve better than to languish at the mercy of Amazon's whims however they figure those rankings on a daily basis.


Bish Denham said...

I've only written a few reviews, mostly on goodreads as I'm new to it. But I'll be thinking about writing reviews on Amazon...

Jennifer Shirk said...

I had no idea that reviews on Amazon meant so much. Interesting.
I tend to write more reviews on Goodreads--unless someone asks otherwise. I need to change that.

Stacy McKitrick said...

I don't even visit Amazon. I buy my books through Barnes and Noble. I'm sure that will change WHEN (I'm being positive here) I'm published!!

As for reviews, with the exception of Goodreads, I don't do them. The site usually wants too much information from me and I'm not willing to give it to them.

But even my reviews on Goodreads isn't all that much. I pretty much state whether or not I like the book and if I'll look for others by that author. So, it's not really a review now, is it?

Johanna Garth said...

I always write reviews if someone asks me to. I will also write reviews is I particularly loved a book.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I do an occasional review on my blog, but only to promote books I truly like. That doesn't mean I review every book I like, because if I did, my whole blog would end up being about books I've read, but it does mean I'll never review a book I DON'T like, even if the writer specifically asks me for the review. Bottom line, I can't see the point in shooting down another writer's efforts with my lousy, and admittedly subjective, review. So, I guess my "reviews" could actually be considered "recommendations." I've only written a couple reviews on Amazon, but should probably try to do more, especially if a decent review can make such a positive impact on a writer's standings.

Anne Gallagher said...

Linda -- I hear what you're saying. It's hard to find time. And try to be objective without being subjective.

Jeannette -- I only write reviews for friends. I mean, they've all been there for me on my publishing journey why shouldn't I help them on theirs. Good reviews always make a difference.

Rick -- I know. I think we writers automatically get ADD the second we publish. And damn, I've got a review to write for you don't I? I'm on it right now.

Bru -- Sometimes a book DESERVES ALL FIVE STAR REVIEWS because it's THAT good. And five stars from strangers are the best kind. But I hear what you're saying. Some people just arent' comfortable writing them.

Bish -- Both places are generally where people read them so Goodreads is good, but Amazon is better.

Jennifer -- More people buy books from Amazon than any other three places combined and before they hit that "buy" button 9 out of 10 people read the reviews. Think about it.

Stacy -- When you're published, reviews will be forefront in your mind, believe me.

Johanna -- In my opinion, you should ONLY write a review when you LOVE a book.

Susan -- Blog reviews are good, but putting them up on Amazon afterward never hurts anyone.

Linda Cassidy Lewis said...

Just wondering, does this new algorithm only count the reviews posted since it went into effect? Or do you suppose new sales trigger a consideration of reviews already in place?

Until I was published I never realized reviews were so important to the author. Now that I'm one, I rarely write reviews except for author friends. Though I do usually give a star-rating on Goodreads.

Francine Howarth: UK said...

I've posted loads of reviews for blogging writer buddies and have only received one in return so I've stopped doing reviews. If I see a review on one of mine from a buddy I'll hop over and purchase their book quick smart and reciprocate. Simple as that! ;)

Donna Hosie said...

Interesting stuff, half of which I didn't know.

All of my reviews, so far, on Amazon have been 4 & 5 star. Goodreads has a healthy rating for Searching for Arthur too, but I thought rankings was solely based on sales.

I may have to get pimping!

Clarissa Draper said...

I get asked to write a lot of reviews and also, I write reviews because I've read the book. I do read reviews, especially the bad reviews, before buying books. Even free books.

Patti said...

I haven't written any reviews. I'm new to this Amazon thing and just starting to explore it now. Thanks for the information.

Anne Gallagher said...

Linda -- I think the new algorithms take both into consideration. Amzon is a tricky character. One never knows what they're doing.

For example, with one review on Amazon and no sales, my rankings have fallen. In the US. However, in AmazonUK. with no reviews and no sales, my rank is better than it was on the free promotion and holding steady.

So truthfully, I think it's all hit and miss.

Francine -- I know how you feel. I've been remiss in my reviews lately. I need to find some free time. argh!

Donna -- Not with the new algorithms. They take sales into consideration along with reviews.

Clarissa -- Reading all the reviews is the only way to buy a book I think. You can separate the chaff from the grain.

Patti -- anytime.

Christina Farley said...

wow, this is is an interesting post. I never knew the reviews were so important!

Jamie Burch said...

I had no idea! Thank you for pointing this out, Anne. Guess I should consider posting more reviews.

Hope you're having a fantastic week! :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I need to do it more. It's on my goal sheet.

Donna Hole said...

Ok, I've erased my comment and started over again about 6 times now. Which means, I have a pretty strong opinion about reviews. And yes, I post them regularly; but I haven't posted lately. I try to review every book I read - both on my blog and the purchasing site - but as you've inferred here, reviews can be a controversial subject.

I am sorry to say I have not read Rembering You. It is on a long list of books to read/review. I think I need to take a 3 month blogger break and just read all the books I have on my Kindle . .


Al said...

I have written a few reviews.
To be honest I don't read much other than material for research. Just never seems to be enough time for reading.

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