Book reviews are important to authors. From accolades to one star they serve a purpose beyond feedback of a story. Reviews are an essential means by which authors can promote their books. Without them, they are lost in a digital sea of ebooks. With the Amazon market filled with millions of books (think 1.3 million and thousands daily are added), visibility is becoming a huge challenge for many authors. The only way to become visible is to pay for advertising.
Reviews are garnished in a variety of ways. Some use websites such as NetGalley, Hidden Gems, BookSirens, and BookSprout to obtain reviews. These sites allow authors to post free copies of new releases in exchange for an honest review. Paying for reviews is against Amazon’s terms.
Amazon can also be a pain when it comes to receiving and keeping reviews. Their policies go far beyond no family members or friends posting reviews. They are now targeting individuals who may interact with authors on Facebook or other social media platforms. On author forums, you’ll read plenty of complaints about disappearing reviews from people they don’t know personally. A lot of book reviewers as well are getting nasty-grams from Amazon threatening to be blocked. These over-reaching rules go far beyond the purpose for which they were initiated to cut down on fake reviews. In 2015, an in-depth article on Gizmodo delved into what they termed Amazon’s Review Policy is Creepy and Bad for Authors. It’s a great article about how Amazon big brother is watching your every move.
Beyond this challenge, reviews are integrally connected to marketing. Marketing is a pain. It’s expensive. It’s a time-consuming task. It’s necessary to get visibility in a saturated marketplace when you don’t have a mainstream publisher backing your book.
The biggest obstacle in releasing a new book is the lack of reviews that plague independent authors on Amazon for months on end. Without reviews, they cannot market. Without marketing, they cannot get noticed. When you hear the best way to thank an author is to write a review, I sincerely hope that you will consider supporting the authors you read in this fashion. A few words and a number of stars help in getting noticed.
You may ask — well why don’t authors pay for advertising? Authors do but are restricted where they can advertise because of a lack of reviews. There are multiple places to market books. Costs can range from $5 a day to as high as $600 a day, depending on the marketing venue. Almost all of these advertisers have requirements that include a minimum number of reviews and minimum star ratings to be accepted. They either post it plainly on their website, or the marketing resource will check all your book ratings on Amazon, iTunes, Nook, Kobo, and Goodreads to see if you qualify.
BookBub is by far the best place to advertise, hands down but competition is fierce for placement from publishing houses and other successful independent authors. Only 20% of those who apply are chosen to run an advertisement. Depending on the genre and if you advertise in the USA, costs can be astronomical. For a one-day historical romance advertisement, the fee is $584 for a book priced at 99 cents. The fee rises if the price is higher. Results on BookBub are phenomenal but expensive. No matter where authors advertise, they don’t always receive a return on their investment.
Remember the next time you read a book that the author is hoping for a review. They realize that not everyone will love their book. Stars can range from one to five. They can be kind remarks or cruel remarks. However, the most critical reviews can be written with kindness. Your reviews can be a sentence or a multi-paragraphed discourse. Whatever you write, it brings feedback on the story, helps authors to get noticed, and makes them eligible to obtain advertising from third-party marketers. They also bring encouragement as well as discouragement.
I’ve heard it said by many that reviews are for readers and not for authors. As you can see, that’s not always the case. Reviews are an integral part of being an author. How do authors handle reviews? Here’s a great quote from one of my favorite authors who writes historical fiction.
“A bad review – or several— is, of course, one of the unavoidable pitfalls of being published. Some authors cry. Others get drunk. Most get mad. A few take it in stride, or at least, pretend to. After all, it’s our book someone just skewered. In the end, even a bad review is still a review. It means someone cared enough to take the time to say: Hey, this sucks. So, how did I deal with bad reviews? How else? I cry. I get mad. I pretend not to care. Then I pour myself a glass of wine and call a friend to complain.”