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  • Writer's pictureChase Walker

Reviews and Why They're Important

Reviews can be life or death for a new author's career, but not why you may think. Through my research, I’ve discovered it’s not about the star rating as much as the quality of the review. Platforms such as Amazon and Goodreads operate differently, but each platform uses reviews as a factor for ranking. In this week’s post, I’ll explain why reviews and ranking are important, how reviews help determine a book’s rank on Amazon and Goodreads, and what I personally have been doing to get reviews for Well of Bones before it’s release.

The ranking of an author’s debut novel is possibly the most important thing for a new author. Best selling books are great for business. Having a book high up in the ratings means more visibility to readers which, in turn, means more sales. In my opinion, sales aren’t important for royalties. The money comes later. It’s very unlikely I will quit my day job after releasing one book. Sales to a new author mean building a reader base. The author gets his/her name out there and their readers know what to expect out of the second, third, and fourth books the author releases. Besides all that, it feels great just to have your work read and enjoyed.

Amazon ranks its products with an A9 algorithm. A9 is a company that designs algorithms that tell Amazon how best to sort their products so customers can easily find them. I won’t get into the fancy jargon. Instead, I’ll focus on how this affects authors.

There are many factors that play into product ranking like, product pricing, product description, keywords, sale history, click-through rate (CTR), quality of the product, product page completion and finally verified reviews. I’m only focussing on the reviews. If you would like to learn more about these different ranking factors as well as more about the A9 algorithm, I’ll link a great article below.

The most important factor I’ve found with Amazon reviews is that only varified reviews count toward ranking. This means customers who had purchased the product on Amazon and then returned later to review it are verified reviewers. Your Amazon account recognizes that you purchased the product and considers your review a firsthand account.

Other reviews do not count toward ranking but they do help with the CTR. If your book is only available on Amazon, like mine, any review will be verified. Unless, of course, one of your advanced readers goes to review on Amazon. Since I sent a bunch of free Advanced Review Copies (ARC) of Well of Bones to my review team, those reviews would not be verified unless they bought the book as well. Amazon reviews are ranked according to whether or not they have been helpful to other customers.

Goodreads is like the wild west in terms of reviews. Anyone can post a review for any book, even if they haven’t bought it or read it. Even if the book isn’t out yet. This is good and bad because reviews from anybody mean as much as any other review. Advanced readers can post their reviews before the book is launched and available. Some authors have had trouble with people posting bad reviews for a book just because the reviewer doesn’t like the author. So keep that in mind when reading reviews on Goodreads.

Because Goodreads’ standards for reviews is more relaxed, so is their ranking. Their system revolves around popularity. The books with the most reviews are determined popular and their average star-rating is displayed. Goodreads also takes how often a book is added to a user’s TBR lists and read lists. When a user browses a specific genre, they will find a list of popular new releases, giveaways and most-read books in that genre.

As an author, it’s your duty to maintain your Goodreads account by blogging, conducting giveaways, and of course, reviewing the books you read. There are a bunch of little things to consider as well. I’ll include a link to a youtube video that has helped me use Goodreads to my advantage.

As a reader, you can help the authors you enjoy by reviewing their books thoroughly and honestly, follow the author's profile, nominate their books for “best of” lists, recommending books to friends, and encourage them to review as well. Even adding a book to your TBR increases it’s visibility and helps that author get the word out about it.

I've sent several ARCs for reviews before Well of Bones' official launch date. This helps bring visibility and hype up before its release. Most of them are PDFs I sent out to friends and family. I have also recruited some reviewers via social media. I used my newsletter mailing list to recruit several more with a raffle for three paperback copies as an incentive. There are many ways to get advanced reviews and luckily most of them are free methods. You just have to be creative about it.

I also sent ARCs to several Youtubers and fantasy bloggers. Each of them have a lot on their plate and could not guarantee a review right away, but it doesn't hurt to get them a copy anyway. If and when they review my book on their channel or blog, that would mean a bunch of visibility and is well worth the wait. When pitching your book to these professional reviewers, make sure you type up a professional request for review and personalize it for each reviewer. It's just a nice touch and I imagine it would catch their attention better than a cookie-cutter request. A good request should include a synopsis, what formats you can offer, and your contact information.

There are also paid methods of getting your book reviewed. I personally haven't resorted to paying a professional review company but it can be a legitimate way to get quality reviews. Disclaimer: it is unethical to pay someone for a good review. It is ethical to hire a company to recruit reviewers who will give your book an honest review. Some of these include Book Sirens, Reedsy Discovery, and Online Book Club. These sites offer a number of honest reviews for a price. The more reviews, the higher the price. If I don't see more success with my current efforts, I may utilize one or more of these sites. You must ask yourself what your budget is and if you think you can make that money back with sales. Or you may deem the cost necessary just to get your name out there. It's all up to you as the author.

Self-publishing is unique because not only do you write your book, you write the story of your own success with your actions. Keep at it. Stay the course. Put in the work and I know you will reap the rewards.

Thank you for reading my blog. I really do appreciate it. Please comment below if I've missed anything. If you enjoyed this or found it helpful, please like and share it.

Also, just a reminder: Well of Bones is still up on Amazon for pre-order for Kindle. Linked below. If you order yours before March 1st, 2020, you can get it for just $3.99. After the official launch date, it will be at the full price: $4.99. If a digital copy is not your style, paperbacks will also be available on March 1st. Check out the Well of Bones page to learn more about it.

Of course, when you are done reading it, consider leaving a review on your favorite platform. I would be extremely grateful.

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