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What Is A Review Worth?

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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.”

17 thoughts on “What Is A Review Worth?

  1. Interesting points you make, Evie. Obviously there are all sorts of reasons people don’t leave reviews. Self-conscious, underwhelmed … just don’t want to. Look at the amount of blog followers one has, and the number who actually press like, or even better, leave a comment. A small percentage. Also, it’s not paid, so there is no onus on the reader to review. Even at that, one also doubts the “professional” reviewers, for various reasons … bias/prejudice … friends/enemies of the writer, doing it as a “gig” … who knows? So, get a positive review from a reader … I can see the benefit.

    1. Yes but you’ve liked AND left a comment, setting a wonderful example for everyone else, so I’m expecting my numbers to rise exponentially after this!! Seriously though, I agree, no-one owes an author a review (I chat about this AT LENGTH in my post – Reviews: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) https://eviegaughan.com/2017/02/07/reviews-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/
      and the people who do take the time are very kind to do so. Still, I sometimes think that if people knew how much difference a little thumbs up can make, they might decide the book warrants it. Or not. I certainly didn’t know any of this stuff before my own book was published, so I only left the occasional review. Now I review everything.

      1. And that’s why I try to comment as much as possible … it’s a quid pro quo … how can I expect someone to do it for me if I don’t pay it along?

  2. Evie, your statistic is disparaging. But, i must say i understand why people don’t write reviews. It’s work, and it takes time from reading and other things. I’m noticing though an increase on mini book reviews lately.

    Before i started writing, i was a serious bookworm – i’d read between 4-5 books a week, but i never wrote a review. If i met someone who was a bookworm, i’d recommend the latest book i enjoyed, or one i thought the person would.
    Then i wrote my first book. when i was researching the publishing industry, i realized i needed the reviews. so, i did put dignity aside and started asking people for the reviews and – sales aside – i realized that when a reader posts a review of my book, i’m as excited as if i sold a multitude of copies. I like reading what people thought, and if someone expresses interest, i readily make a copy available – I have a horrible business sense.
    on the other hand, or, on the reader side, i seldom read the reviews of books i intend to read. they spoil my interest, – and yes, i don’t read synopsis either. in a way, i’m like that literary agent, i read the first few pages, and if it interests and intrigues, i pick the book up.

    1. I love mini reviews! Because all a reader really wants to know is, ‘Is it any good? Did you like it?’ You’re right, reviews do take time and they are work, so I suppose authors feel a bit cringe asking for them. It would be nice if everybody spontaneously wrote reviews, but as that article said, “It’s a virtuous cycle — the more reviews, the more buys. The more buys, the more reviews. The more buys, the higher your rank in search and the more sales you get”.

  3. Boy have I experienced this! From the hordes of people claiming they will review my books, I can count on one hand how many actually followed through. I tell people the reviews don’t have to be long. A simple “I like it” accompanied with a sentence or two why is sufficient. As for Goodreads, I feel it isn’t as good of a place to leave reviews since someone can leave a star rating without explanation. Sometimes people rate books simply due to lack of interest.

    1. Haha, I know, this is my third book so I take a lot of it with a pinch of salt 🙂 I sometimes wonder if the opposite would work – using star ratings only on Amazon (like Goodreads). Maybe people would be more inclined to rate the book if they didn’t have to write a review? But I agree, I don’t think people realise that it doesn’t require an opus, just a line or two. Still, having people read the books is the main goal.

  4. I don’t always cross-post my reviews to Amazon (I know, bad little book blogger) because it takes a while to adapt them to fit in with Amazon’s rules, as well as removing any references to links or gifs that aren’t present in the Amazon version.

    I always tell authors to *tell* me if they want me to post to Amazon, b/c I don’t do it automatically.

    I can’t stand it when you get to the end of the book and the author is trying to guilt readers into leaving a review though – some of the wording can be quite aggressive! And I’m like, your readers don’t *owe* you anything! Let them know you’d appreciate a review, sure, but don’t act like a jerk about it!

    1. Thanks so much Cee Arr – great to hear your thoughts on this. I always knew that for some, Amazon was a pain in the butt, but I wasn’t sure why (apart from when they remove all your reviews for no reason – that’s certainly annoying!), so it’s good to know. Plus, I tend to feel a bit ‘ick’ asking reviewers to post their reviews on Amazon, so I always try to be polite and as ‘breezy’ as possible 😀
      I read something when I started out that , as an author, you shouldn’t be seen to be reviewing other books (especially negatively) on Amazon, so I stuck to Goodreads instead, but I’ve since decided that’s a load of crap! But my reviews are pretty short & sweet. I wonder how many people feel motivated to leave a review by those bullying ‘requests’?! ‘Write a review, or the bunny gets it!!’

  5. I don’t always have time or the words to write a review; I review about 2% of books read. I’ve been around booksites to know how important reviews are to indie authors where if I really loved one I have good intentions to immediately review that one. I read mostly via nook.

    Unfortunately, when I do it no longer will be posted to goodreads or Amazon. Nasty comments, reactions — I even had an author blow up at me for a five star review because it did not include the phrases wanted nor was it in the format paid for (I have a common first name and he confused with a reviewer he paid to illegally post undisclosed in with consumer reviews rather than quote in editorial section) — Amazon does not allow you to moderate comments on your review plus not easy to crosspost when I did review there, goodreads messed with my book catalog once too often (plus deleted then reinstated my account over an author swearing I was bullying them by shelving my p2p cloud computer networking nonfiction books as p2p — I did not do anything g with author or author’s books yet my peer to peer shekf was bullying them because “anyone having a p2p shekf is a bully and harassing other members”).

    Barnes and Noble — I just cannot figure out how to review there. Some algorithm they use always rejects my review (even a five star no link, no prices, nothing that sounds like prices or lnks, no bad language, no negative anything review) saying I need to edit yet I can never find and edit link nor will they tell me what in my review has to be edited.

    1. That sounds like a nightmare! It doesn’t exactly help authors or reviewers if the platforms aren’t user-friendly. All of that hassle would probably put me off as well, so maybe there’s more to these statistics than meets the eye – thanks for sharing!

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