If you follow any indie authors (or really any authors in general!) chances are you’ve seen something like this:
Reviews help readers find good books and help the author gain exposure for their writing. Leave your favorite author a review today! #amreading #amwriting #booklovers #Indieauthors pic.twitter.com/XGPPh2Df6n
— K. Kris Loomis 📚 (@KKrisLoomis) December 3, 2018
The reason for that is that for authors reviews=sales. Even bad reviews can help (though good reviews are better!). Amazon’s mysterious algorithm promotes books more when they have fifty reviews or more. Reviews can be a sentence long. They still count.
When I published Beautiful, I rather naively thought that if I asked readers on social media to review the book, at least some of them would. But that plan had a few flaws. If Amazon suspects that the reviewer is a close personal friend/family member of the author they’ll delete reviews. Not everyone who leaves reviews is. I’ve had reviews from unknown readers deleted but once Amazon has deleted a review it takes an act of divine intervention to get them back up. Another problem is that even though the reviews don’t have to be long, it’s hard to get people to write them.
So how can anyone get reviews? Some authors hire review services. These are actually legit. They’re basically a panel of readers. Once the author pays a fee, the book is presented to them, and any readers interested are free to read it and leave an honest review. But that means the author needs to be able to pay for it. If you have a writer in difficult financial circumstances (and there are many these days!) that’s hard.
The best way to get reviews is to send out ARCs. ARCs mean that you have a chance of getting to the magical number of reviews before the book is published. But that’s something that you have know to know before your books’ release. It’s something that I will know when Frozen Heart is published. Of course ARCs don’t always equal reviews. Before Beautiful‘s publication I did send out some ARCs to bloggers. A few did give reviews. A few didn’t. So next time around I’m going to send out more ARCs to increase my odds. Live and learn.
Of course, getting reviews is only half the battle. The other half is dealing with negative reviews. When you’ve invested months (or years) of your blood, sweat and tears into a book, you’re sensitive. It’s your baby. My experience with Beautiful (so far) has been fairly positive. There are five customer reviews on Amazon that average out to 4.7 our of 5 stars. I know that as I (hopefully) get more reviews I’ll have to face some bad ones. Everyone does. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.
I feel like I’ve learned so much about this stuff since Beautiful was published. I did a lot of research before publishing, but I think that some of it just seems meaningless until you really see it in action.