Why Stars Matter
This article is a follow-up to How To (Self)Publish Books On a Budget. I am not an experienced author or an expert in getting reviews. This article is written by a two-week-old debutant. And therein lies its value. Seeing it from a debutant's eyes. I will update the post as I learn and figure things out, so if you would like to follow my journey to reviews, I recommend you bookmark this post.
One of the biggest problems I am facing right now is getting reviews for my book.
Starting this process, I didn’t know how important reviews are. I should have, though. As an avid reader, I always look at how many stars a book has before I decide to one-click buy it (I have one-click bought way too many books).
Reviews are important to get books into readers’ hands. But as a debut author, it’s difficult to get reviews.
I didn’t know how difficult it was until I published my first book. I was in the mindset that “I have enough friends, family, and fans that can give me a review boost.” That was before I read Amazon’s review policy.
Amazon has very strict rules for reviews to make sure no-one “games” the system. And even though I really like this, like really really like it, it makes it hard for new writers to get the stars (Review that sentence, would you?).
Especially if you don’t do any paid promos for the book or have a big following.
Why are reviews so important?
- The psychological effect. Don’t underestimate the effect of those stars and the little number in parentheses that tells potential buyers it’s worth buying.
- Promotional sites — Most of them require a specific number of reviews and an average review score before you can even submit to them. A real Catch 22.
- The sell-through. When I am publishing book two, I need to have reviews to even get people interested in reading the first book and hopefully spilling over into the next. Lack of reviews on book one will directly hurt sales of book two.
I won’t try to game the system at all. I want my books to be 100% organically and correctly reviewed. My problem writing this is the analogy; how to get the snowball rolling?
First, it’s the rules. I know rules can be boring. But as a bonafide bureaucrat, I love rules!
The 4 “main” Amazon rules for reviews:
- To give a customer review, the reviewer must have spent at least $50 from a valid credit card on Amazon in the past 12 months.
- It’s not allowed to post reviews on your own books, nor is it allowed for relatives, close friends, business associates, or employers, etc.
- It’s not allowed to get reviews for compensation, including free or discounted books.
- It’s not allowed to get reviews from other authors you have a personal relationship with, or that were involved in the book’s creation process (i.e. as a co-author, editor, illustrator, etc.)
There are many more rules, and read the community guidelines before you publish a book. But these are the big ones, the roadblocks for me as a debutant.
So…Sorry mum! You can’t review my book. Neither can most of my readers per today, as they are my Norwegians friends and relatives. Not that I think many of them use Amazon much and probably aren’t eligible.
I have heard there’s something like 1 out of 1000 readers that leaves a review. I have no idea if this number is correct. But most people don’t leave reviews.
There are some things we can do to improve our chance of getting reviews though, and this is what I am doing to, hopefully, reel in some reviews in the future:
At the end of my book, I ask my readers to consider throwing in a review. I am telling them (in a non-salesy way)how much their review means to me and the continuation of the series.
I will also try to de-mystify reviewing. One of the major reasons people don’t leave reviews is that they are afraid. Afraid they don’t write well enough or “smart” enough, comparing themselves with professional reviewers.
I want their thoughts. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5 paragraphs or 5 words. Doesn’t matter if the prose is tight or the grammar correct. I want to know their honest thoughts about my book.
I don’t want “pity-reviews.” The actual value lies between the 1’ and 5’s. And even though I want all 5’s, I will get more value (in an author-growth way) out of constructive critiques.
There are some sites that allow book promotions without reviews. There are also some sites where we can pay to get a book in front of reviewers that might review our books.
I think this is the best way if we are going to throw a little money around. It does not guarantee us reviews, and they certainly don’t guarantee us excellent reviews, but it might be worth the risk. And as mentioned above, it will definitely help the career in the long run.
Another way of getting readers, and hopefully reviewers is to run ads. This will, for the first book, most likely be a deficit project.
This is really not a tactic. But something I will do pretty intense. And it’s free. I have no control over the algorithms of Amazon. If they recommend my books or not. I have no control over the readers and if they will give me a review or not. I also have no control over you, who reads this.
The only thing I have control over is the product. The book. I can only make sure it’s as good as I can make it, and make sure the next one is even better, and so on.
I believe in setting goals. And I don’t set my goals based on others, because…Well, I am me. I’m also a staunch believer in setting realistic goals. I could easily say I wanted 1000 reviews with an average of 4,5 stars.
I will not get that.
My goal, for book one, before the release of book two in April(2021):
- 5 reviews
- 4-star average
That’s it. It’s realistic but difficult. But those 5 reviews will give me the momentum I need for book two. It will be the little snowball that rolls.
At the time of publishing this post (03.01.21), my book is two weeks old, and my review count is still a donut.
Update March 28.2021 — I am now one week from publishing book two, and I have five great reviews with an average score of 4,7. Goal reached! Another thing that has happened since I wrote this post, is that I don’t stress the reviews as much anymore. They will come. I have to focus on what I can do something about — Write more.
Thank you for reading!
If you would like to know more about me, the book, and/or the publishing journey I’m on, look at my site: tommyueland.com and sign up for my newsletter. I promise you nothing less than real-life Viking ships and frosty beards...