Tag: ebook sales

 

Show Yourself: All About Amazon Reviews

Waiting around for that first review to come your way after releasing a novel is tough.

It may take days, weeks, months… it might never come. Your sales rank dips, along with sales in general. Then, your book is lost. You have to give it away for free in hopes one of the many hundreds of thousands of readers out there snatches it from the bargain bin and reviews it when they’re done with it. “Come on,” you say to yourself. “Just one. Just give me ONE.” As you pray for that review to come, you cross your fingers that it’s not negative. No, your book isn’t perfect. You couldn’t afford a professional editor, and you have to edit the books yourself. Your only beta readers are your buddies and family whose praise may or may not be disingenuous. There! Your first review! They said they liked it! They actually liked it!

But your sales don’t increase. “I thought more people bought things based on reviews,” you might think. And you’re absolutely correct. But it’s not that reviews themselves matter. It’s how many you have. Someone is more willing to take a chance on a book that has twenty ratings and reviews compared to one with only five. But how does one generate more reviews? From my experience, people rarely review things they read, even if they like it. I’ve been guilty of it many times. What can you do to make them review something?

Honestly… nothing. You have to wait. And wait. And wait. As you’re waiting, you’re probably sitting on a book that took you a year to write, as well as on an empty wallet. Attention from people draws attention from other people. Reviews are what bumps you up to being noticed, because people already think you’re being noticed. But how does one even begin to get noticed if they can’t get noticed in the first place?

Is the answer to simply buy a review?

I’ve noticed something about book reviews: negative reviews are usually the ones rated “most helpful.” Why? Because those reviews are the ones people think are actually being honest about the product, even if it’s emotional, inflammatory, or just plain wrong. I can’t blame readers/consumers for thinking that. The surge of buying five-star reviews is growing. Who knows whether or not that five-star review you just read was from an actual reader? Who knows if those weren’t written by the author’s family or friends? When you only have five glowing reviews (and even fewer books), people are less likely to take a chance on it, because they think you and they are liars. People are less likely to give a positive review than a negative one, so we apply our thought process to other buyers. This is why many authors say that a negative review can help you rather than hurt you.

But bump that number of stellar reviews up to fifty? Not that many people can be liars. That book must be pretty damn good if everyone is talking about it. Hey, Amazon is even recommending it to me. It must be popular for a reason, right?

Studies have shown and proven that people will take the word of a crowd as law. If ten people chant “buy this book, buy this book!” chances are, you’re going to sneer and walk away, assuming their peddling garbage. But if that crowd of ten grows to twenty, then to fifty, you’ll listen to every word they say. Being ranked in Amazon’s top 100 increases your chances of obtaining even more chanting followers. But how does one even get there in the first place? If you answered “write a good book and get lucky,” you’re only a fraction correct.

A marketplace selling reviews, Fiverr, offers five stars for five dollars. But at what risk? Could Amazon close your account for dealing with these unscrupulous individuals? Or do they let it lie, knowing they too could make money off of it? I have yet to see anyone lose their account for this, but I have seen that Amazon will pull a review if they think it’s biased. Even if it’s not. The real question is: does it work?

Buying reviews sure worked for John Locke, who sold over one million copies of his suspense series thanks to investing in five star ratings. It was a marketing tactic, and not an honest one, but since people are so hard to reach, and people are so hard to convince to buy something, it was one of the few tactics that made sense. My friend, who is also one of my biggest fans, spread the word of my book to everyone he knew, not because he was trying to make me money, but because he honestly loved the novel. Not one of the people he suggested it to purchased it, and another few of them said “Meh. I don’t read much these days.” Either he’s in a non-reading crowd, his word-of-mouth technique isn’t practiced, or the book just doesn’t seem interesting. Whatever the case, sometimes word-of-mouth isn’t your best bet. It’s who people hear the news from that matters. People want to hear it from readers. More importantly, readers who review things.

So what does this mean for indie authors?

Other than it says that our job is one of the most frustrating ones on the planet, it also says that those who cheat get ahead, and those who can’t or won’t end up falling behind. If everyone in the market is a cheater, it means you too must cheat to catch up to them. The fact that Amazon does little to prevent this exacerbates the cause and effect. As far as I can tell, Amazon cares more for their business than their authors, but it’s the best avenue for us to take.

Worst yet, this means that people will no longer trust five star reviews. Even if your book is a good book, and even if people enjoy it, they still will never take a chance on you if everyone says they love it. As you can imagine, this is complete and total BS. You might be thinking, “If everyone loves my book, I did my job RIGHT. If I did my job RIGHT, how can I ever prove that if no one trusts me?” The answer is that you can’t. The market has become so saturated with “fake reviews” that people look past five star reviews nowadays. Not only do they do that, but they consider the positive reviews “ignorant” and “nonsensical.” People are more willing to listen to the rants of an angry lunatic than they are of appraisal. You could write a fantastic book that everyone who reads it, loves, but if no one says “this book is garbage,” they are actually less likely to purchase it. However, I’ve also heard people admit to being swayed by negative reviews when they were about to purchase a book they thought sounded interesting. It’s a double-edged blade, and it hurts the author either way. We can’t win. Ever.

So what do we do? Five-star reviews hurt us. Negative reviews hurt us.

Maybe we all just need to write three-star material, and everyone would be satisfied.