The Importance of Reader’s Reviews
Authors need them. Here’s why.
Updated March 2022
“Your words are as important to an author as an author’s words are to you.”
If you are a reader, those words may seem counterintuitive. But in our data-driven age, book reviews left by readers on Amazon (yes, this stinks, but it’s true) and Goodreads can make a huge difference in the success of an author, especially emerging and mid-list authors who aren’t getting wide press support by their publishing houses.
How do reader reviews help authors?
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 x-number 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 rarely a given.)
Why don’t readers leave reviews?
In order to find the answer to this question, 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.
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, like, 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 [Title Here] series: I found it amazing!” Then paste the review in each of the individual books’ review spaces, and leave your star ratings. Sure, that’s not the most detailed of review for each book, but you left an honest 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! When it comes to reviews, Amazon doesn’t care whether you purchased the product from them. And, of course, Goodreads doesn’t have this problem at all.
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, but it will still matter. But you should DEFINITELY leave a review to for the author who has 48.
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 by their publishers because of many reasons, including not meeting sales quotas. These authors need reviews, too. Reviews push sales.
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. You don’t have to 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.
And, in case the problem is that you don’t know how to leave a book review on Amazon, here’s a tutorial just for you.
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