Most of the folks who supposedly know how to do this self-promotion thing will tell you to get one of the major professional review sites or reviewers to review your book. You need reviews to get noticed. The more reviews – the more notice.
Dean and I both did a lot of homework in this area and then compared notes. Most of the “professional reviewers” we found were backed up for a year from being overwhelmed by the self-published like me. So, if you are going to go this route, get in line as soon as you can.
What you really HOPE for is that someone who reads your book will take the time to write something nice. What you PRAY for is that if they don’t like your book they’ll keep it to themselves. I find that asking someone to write a review is harder than asking people to beta read. But, if you hear from someone on your Facebook page or through your website who liked your book, suck it up and ask them to write a quick review on Amazon.
Things to remember about reviews:
#1 – It’s someone’s personal opinion. Not everyone will like you. If you can’t take the heat – don’t do this. Above all – don’t ever respond. Arguing with a reviewer is like looking down the barrel of your weapon after it has misfired. No good can come of this.
#2 – Tell your friends and family that while you appreciate their help, if they are going to write a review, they need to keep it professional. It’s supposed to be about the book. I’m offended when I read a five star review by someone who says, “My husband, Patrick, worked hard on this book and you need to give him a chance.” Really? You just made Patrick look desperate and needy and sorta whipped. Patrick, grow a pair and make her take it down! Better no review than that one.
#3 – I’m not sure how helpful it is to have one of the pros provide a review with a full synopsis of the book. More than once, I’ve seen no need to buy the book after reading one of these. Not that the book wouldn’t be a decent read, but the reviewer told me the whole damn story and spoiled the ending, so why spend my money. The other issue on some of these is that by the time I’m done with the lengthy babbling – I still have no idea whether the reviewer thought the book was worth reading.
#4 – Authors reviewing authors they don’t have a relationship with is okay. Robert Crais is welcome to drop by and say something nice about one of my books anytime. I choose not to review other peoples work as an author. As a private person and reader, I will review the books I spent my hard-earned money on.
#5 – Authors reviewing authors they co-write and work with is just plain unprofessional. I recently read a review on Amazon where several people who had written an anthology together, each posted reviews on each other’s stand-alone books. What validity does a review have if the authors are partners in a venture for profit? I know it happens all the time, but this simply doesn’t work for me. Was this review helpful? I hit the NO button.
Just in case you are wondering, many publishers require their authors to provide comments and reviews on fellow authors within the same stable. Books are provided to those authors, so it’s not even as though they bought the book and tried it. They do have a vested interest though and that makes it feel like some sort of sleazy scheme. Yet another reason that I went the self-publishing route. No one gets to tell me what to do or who to do it for.
So why are these damned reviews so important?
Because on Amazon they raise your ranking, which means you have a better chance of being seen. A book with a review will appear ahead of a book with no review. A book with two recent reviews will often be above a book with four very old reviews. Activity of any type (purchase, reviews, likes, and even views) moves you up in the strange algorithm that Amazon uses in creating their lists of “what people looked at.” The higher you go, the more often you appear on the recommended lists and people searching for this looked at that list. If you are on the first three pages of a search, you stand a much better chance of selling your book. People generally quit after the third or fourth page of a search.
Where do I stand on being reviewed?
I haven’t bothered sending my book to anyone in the professional arena. At first, I held myself back from doing this because I honestly didn’t see myself as fitting many of the specific genres that the reviewers specialized in. I’m reasonably sure my books and my style would not do well with someone who usually reviews historical romance. Nor do I fit in the “chick lit” column. The other issue in the very beginning was that it takes guts to throw your book into the lion’s den. However, after a while, what some so-called professional thought of my novel ceased to matter to me. Once again, this choice is not an issue of either pride or shame in my book – pro-reviews are just not something that I cared enough about to participate in. A pros opinion doesn’t matter as much to me as some guy from Paducah who paid for my book and took the time to write something honest.
I truely could not be happier with the reader reviews that have been posted on my books. The idea that someone I don’t know took the time to provide a comment is just incredibly cool. Thanks to the folks that have taken the time to do it.
Would I like more?
You bet! But only if they’re real. I’d rather have a review that said, “It was good – I liked it” than have some pencil neck geek post a bloody damn synopsis. Of course, if you don’t like it than I hope you will practice what your mother preached, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then say nothing.”