Hello, Writer, and welcome back to my life.
It’s Writer Wednesday, the day where I give you my tips and advice on the art and the business of writing, and tell you how I do what I do as an indie author.
Writer Wednesday (and all my videos) are supported by my patrons on Patreon, so if you want to toss me some cash for the advice…do that here.
Today’s question comes from patron Ryan Starbloak, who asks:
How do you get more Amazon reviews? It can be very tough when you’re first starting out. You ask people, and a very small tiny percentage of them actually do it. Some people will accept a book for review and post review on their blog, not on Amazon. How do you deal with all this stuff?
I have to say, I was astounded that I had not previously made a video on this subject, because it is a big question that a lot of new authors ask. I know that I’ve talked about it before, but I must have done that on podcasts or something, ’cause this is the first time I’m talking about it on video.
So let’s break down Amazon reviews. First of all: how important are they?
Super important, turns out. Super, wild, wow, very such importance.
You want Amazon reviews. You want a lot of them. You want as many as you can possibly get.
There are a few thresholds to Amazon reviews that really seem to matter. Once you get 50 reviews on a book, Amazon starts entering you into their algorithm as somebody to promote. That is when they will start emailing people that your book should be checked out. They’ll start putting you in also-boughts. Based on the best data we have, 50 seems to be the magic number for that sort of promotion to start happening from Amazon.
Three-digit reviews—in other words, a hundred reviews or more—seem to be a very magical number in terms of advertisements. 100+ reviews seems to make a giant difference in the amount of people who will click on a Facebook or Amazon ad. The click-through rate is several percentage points higher. If several percent doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, trust me, it is.
Beyond that, the more reviews you have and the higher your average, the better for you. My first book, Nightblade, has more than 1,600 reviews. It’s VERY easy to market and advertise that book with that many reviews.
But how did I GET that many reviews? The very astute observer, looking on Amazon, will notice that the next book, Mystic, only has a couple hundred.
Well, unfortunately, I did that with a marketing strategy that is no longer really possible, because it goes against Amazon’s Terms of Service. Back in the Wild West days of indie authordom, lots of people did this. Now you can get flagged for it.
What I used to do was give people a free copy of Nightblade if they joined my email list, and then I would offer them a free copy of Mystic if they would review Nightblade on Amazon. And I paid for lots of Facebook ads that got people to sign up for my email list, which put them through an email sequence that would ask them to do that.
Some people say you can still do this, but it is definitely against Amazon’s Terms of Service. If you do it, you run a risk of pissing off the only platform that will allow you to build a career as an indie author. If you’re just starting out, you might not care, and you might give it a shot. But don’t say that I didn’t warn you. I cannot in good conscience recommend do this. It could go badly for you.
What you can do that is still within Amazon’s Terms of Service, is that you are allowed to give out review copies of books. And what we have now is a review team of a few hundred people.
The difference here is slight, but it’s very important to understand it. You cannot ask somebody to review Book A in exchange for a free copy of Book B. But you CAN give somebody a free copy of Book A in order for them to read and review Book A. So when we release a new book, that goes out to our review team for them to review THAT book.
That seems like a really easy solution, right? “Well, I’ll just offer free copies to a bunch of people on my list in order to get them to review it.”
If you have tried this, you know it’s not that easy. Even people on the review team will not do it.
We add new people to the review team decently often. Some just get the first book and never leave a review for it.
The best way I have found to add people to the review team who will then ACTUALLY leave reviews, is to reach out to people who are already engaged, active members of your community.
If somebody actually replies to your emails—doesn’t just open, doesn’t just click on the link, but REPLIES to your emails—that’s an engaged person. They care about you more than probably 95% of people on your list.
You can have your email software automatically tag them. And then you can send out an email just to those people, saying, “Hey, I know that you buy and read my books. Would you like to be on my review team?”
These are probably the most qualified people you can possibly get on your review team. If you do this with a sizable list that you’ve already built, they will probably have already read your entire catalog, and they will be willing to go and review them. You don’t have to wait for them to read each book, they just go and leave reviews right away.
Here’s another tip: you always want to prioritize reviews on the first book in your series, or if you have multiple series, the first book in each series.
Reviews make it easier to get NEW people to read your books. But if somebody has read Book 1, the number of reviews on Book 2 isn’t what’s going to sell them on Book 2. It’s how good Book 1 was.
So in any review building strategy that you put together, you have got to, got to, GOT TO prioritize reviews on your first book, not the entire series. Your first book, top priority, always.
Now, one other little subject in Ryan Starbloak’s question is book bloggers who will read your book and review it on their blog, but don’t also drop that review on Amazon.
These are two different things. Book blog reviews are not serving the same purpose as Amazon reviews.
To be a hundred percent honest, you are playing a numbers game with Amazon reviews, and you don’t care what’s IN those reviews (unless they’re ALL terrible, which probably means something’s wrong with your book, not the reviewers).
The NUMBER of reviews, and your average RATING on your Amazon reviews, is probably over fifteen times as important as the CONTENT of your reviews.
Something like four percent of Amazon shoppers will ever actually read the reviews on a book. They will only look at how MANY reviews it has, and what’s the average RATING.
If a book blogger has reviewed your book on their blog, that is great…and it’s also not THAT great.
I am so, so appreciative when a book blogger reviews my book. It’s awesome. They’re probably gonna sell some copies to their audience, if they have one.
But they are just never gonna be quite as effective as an aggregated number of reviews on Amazon.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Book bloggers are amazing people who definitely help keep reading alive. I wish that they partnered with indies more, but based on the percentage of indie books that are, like, NOT EDITED, I understand why they don’t.
If any book blogger or BookTuber reaches out wanting a free copy of my book, I’ll send it right away. If they sell two copies of that book, that’s a profitable activity for me. But I don’t go around chasing down book blogs and BookTubers and seeing if they’ll review my books, because it’s just not a good time investment compared to what you get back.
- Book bloggers and BookTubers are not the same thing as Amazon reviews. You should recognize that their posts are valuable in their own way, but you should not try and pressure those people to leave Amazon reviews as well.
- You should try to put together a review team of people to review your books.
- You should prioritize the first book in each series so that your series is as easy to start for a new person as possible.
Thank you so much to Ryan for the question. It was a good one. Hope you and others found the answer helpful.
Reminder to everybody else watching that Ryan and my other $5 patrons on Patreon get all of these videos two weeks in advance, and are also the only people who are allowed to request the topics for me to cover in the video. If that sounds interesting, check out my Patreon.
Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you next Wednesday. Byyye!