Out of every 100 copies of my book sold, approximately 2 people will leave a review. At least that’s what the statistics say, but empirical evidence shows that it is far less. The fact is that most readers don’t see the connection between leaving a review and improving the book’s visibility on Amazon or Goodreads. Yet, that is exactly what happens, every time someone writes a review. In fact, few people outside of the publishing industry are aware of the importance of reviews. They are the lifeblood of authors and their books – a priceless promotional tool that is aimed purely at other readers. In this USA Today article by Elizabeth Weise, it claims that “Just going from zero review to one increases the rate at which online window-shoppers actually click the ‘buy’ button by 65%.”
The publishing industry has changed a lot. It used to be that you went to your local bookshop, picked up a book you liked the look of and if you enjoyed it, you probably loaned it to a couple of friends. There was no such thing as writing a review and word of mouth was the only way to spread the love. Nowadays however, leaving travel reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor has become the norm and something businesses rely on heavily for publicity and future trade. It’s no different for books and reviews can make a huge difference to future sales, especially for Indie Authors and publishers.
If your book garners 20-25 reviews, regardless of how many stars awarded, Amazon will highlight the novel under the ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought’ and ‘You might also like’ section on a page. If your book receives more than 50 reviews, Amazon will include the title in their newsletter and increase its visibility on the site with spotlights, which means it will reach more potential readers.
Obviously, reviews are paramount to your book’s future success. But how do you encourage readers to write reviews without resorting to begging and losing any sense of dignity?! Readers are under no obligation to leave a review and to be fair, they’ve already paid you the highest compliment of buying your book in the first place. But I honestly believe that if readers knew how much of a difference their review could make in terms of an author’s ranking (not to mention potential revenue and ratings), I think they would be much more inclined to write one. Especially if they are already a fan of the author’s work. When it comes to Amazon in particular, they make it extremely easy to leave a review with their ‘reminder’ email, asking you to rate the book. These ratings are so important, because even when it comes to promoting your book with sites like Bookbub, they take your star rating into account.
So why do such a small percentage of readers write reviews? Even readers who contact me personally to say they enjoyed my book are reluctant to publish a review online, as oftentimes, they don’t know what they’re expected to say. If you scroll through the reviews on Amazon on Goodreads, you will find that a lot of reviews are written by professional book bloggers and are written in a standard format that includes the blurb and an in-depth critique of the novel. However, it is the reader’s choice what they decide to write – after all it is their opinion and they’re free to express it however they wish.
One reader told me that she didn’t like reviewing because it felt like being back at school and writing book reports, so I wonder if that’s what puts people off? It’s not like reviewing a lipstick, for example, because you don’t feel pressure to sound clever about it. Either you liked it or you didn’t! But the thing is, a review is simply to inform other readers – a brief review of your response to the book, saying why you liked the book (or didn’t like it), and maybe a similar book that it reminded you of. I am currently reading a book that I would describe as an ‘Entertaining read, very likeable characters and an interesting plot. Fans of Nick Hornby would like this book.‘ However, when I REALLY like a book, I go all out and write something more in depth. It’s really up to the reader – if you’re really moved by a book, you want to shout from the rooftops about it. But if it’s just okay or average, you might not bother. However, all ratings have value and even critical ones give a more balanced picture of readers’ responses.
The truth is that we all rely on reviews to some degree before hitting the ‘Buy’ button. Apparently, they drive 20% of overall sales. I always check out the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon before buying a book, just to get a feel for it and even if there are negative reviews, it can sometimes influence my decision to buy. As an example, I recently bought and read an AMAZING book that I absolutely loved (you can see me gush about it here) and that was after I saw a negative review saying that it was a story about a girl who talks to squirrels. Talking squirrels you say? Count me in! Obviously, the story was about so much more than that and it’s clear the reviewer hadn’t read the entire book. But the point is that what turned her off (a little quirkieness) completely turned me on. So you see, all reviews have their own funny way of influencing future readers. Ultimately, I think most people make up their mind using a combination of the blurb, the cover and reviews, but it definitely makes a book look more appealing if there are more reviews beside it.
So I would always encourage readers to use this platform to provide feedback on books that traditionally, might only be reviewed by book critics or worse, not at all. Short or long reviews, they all count! Your review has a big impact on, not only the book’s future, but also the author’s career. Writers and readers are so important to each other, as the author John Cheever once said:
“I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.”