“Your words are as important to an author as an author’s words are to you.”
Those words may seem counterintuitive to you if you are a reader, but in our data-driven age, book reviews left by readers on Amazon.com and Goodreads can make a huge difference to the success of an author, especially to emerging and mid-list authors who aren’t getting their books reviewed in The New York Times.
Author Lauren Faulkenberry gave a good accounting of the reasons why readers’ reviews can really help authors. Here’s a summary of what she wrote:
(1) “The number of reviews helps authors get into promotional gold mines like BookBub.”
(2) “Word on the street is that reviews help push our rankings on Amazon.”
(3) “Reviews make it easier for authors to get their books in indie bookstores.”
Let’s look at these reasons a little more closely. BookBub is a newsletter that has all but said “you must have so many Amazon reviews or we won’t even consider your book.” Why do they care so much about reviews on Amazon? I have no idea. I wish that weren’t the case. But they do.
Lauren explains in detail why books with more reviews get more attention on Amazon, as do others who have written on this subject. And, as Lauren explains, more reviews on Goodreads can help convince local booksellers to stock our books. (Local stores stocking your book is hardly ever a given.)
So here’s a question: Why don’t readers leave reviews?
I decided to do a super-scientific study of the reader I know best. Me. I also asked my friend who is a reader and who also happens to be sitting here at the cafe with me. (For those scientific types, this study’s n=2.)
I read 2-3 books a week, sometimes more. Some of those books I read to review for work, and for those books, obviously I’m leaving reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and elsewhere.
But for the other books—do I always leave reviews? Sadly, no. I would say I’m at about 50%. FYI: The typical review rate is 10%, so I’m above average. But I’m not nearly high enough. I want to be at 100%. My friend says she leaves reviews for 1 book out of 20. (I’m fussing at her about that right now, don’t worry.)
Here are some reasons my friend and I came up with for why we don’t always leave reviews for books. And, while making this list, I came up with possible solutions.
Problem: I’m reading a series, zooming through it, and as I consume the books one after another, I don’t stop to review the books.
Solution: Read the series—Great! There’s nothing better than being sucked into a series. When you get to the end of the series, review the entire series at once. Write one review for the whole series, like this: “This is a review of the entire [name here] series: I found it amazing!” Then paste the review in each of the books’ review spaces, and leave your star ratings. Sure, that’s not the most detailed of review for each book, but you left a review, and that’s what matters most.
Problem: I got the book as a gift from my mom, so I can’t leave a review on Amazon.
Solution: Not true! Amazon actually doesn’t care whether you purchased the product from them or not when you write your review. And, of course, Goodreads doesn’t have this problem.
Problem: The author already has a million reviews (okay, 2000), and I feel like mine won’t matter at all.
Solution: Not true! Sure, the review won’t matter as much to that author as your review will matter to the author who only has 48 (e.g., me), but it will still matter.
Problem: The author is with a major publisher, so who cares if I leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads?
Solution: Also not true! For all the reasons that reviews matter to small-press and indie authors that Lauren discussed in her piece, they also matter to authors at major publishers. I have many friends who are midlist authors with big publishers, and they worry about getting dropped, about losing their relationships with their publishers, about not meeting sales quotas. These authors need reviews, too.
Problem: I forget. I’m in a hurry. I’m lazy. I’m eager to move on to the next book.
Solution: Just do it. Just don’t write a tome when you write your review. A few words will do—and you can cut-and-paste that exact same review to Goodreads. Do it, and move on.
In fact: Do you ever sit around at night wasting time on the internet? Like, during the “cat video” time of the day? That’s a great time to write a bunch of book reviews. Reminisce about the great books you’ve read lately. And make an author’s day.