Everything You Need to Know About Amazon Reader Reviews
Reviews of your book are one of the most important parts of your book marketing plan. There are several kinds of reviews—editorial or trade reviews that you pay for directly, reviews in consumer magazines and newspapers that you normally pay for by hiring a publicist, and reader reviews on sites like Amazon. No money changes hands for reader reviews. In fact, paying for reader reviews could get you suspended or banned from Amazon.
How NOT to Get Amazon Book Reviews
Not too long ago, gaming the Amazon reader review system was a very common practice. At the beginning of 2018, it was estimated the 30% of reviews on Amazon were not submitted by real buyers of books (or even real people).
Amazon has put a lot of effort into cracking down on these shady tactics.
Why would someone go through the trouble and risk to fake reviews? It’s a common belief that when a book gets 20 to 25 good reviews, Amazon starts to include the book in their recommended lists. At between 50 and 70 reviews, Amazon might promote the book in their email newsletter and send it to millions of potential readers! This is a huge boost for any book.
Although Amazon’s exact algorithm can only be speculated about, I can assure you the number of reviews is a factor in search page rank. Because of the perceived value, some authors are willing to pay hackers to get phony reviews.
Black Hat Techniques
Before we move on to methods that you should use to get legitimate reviews, let’s cover the absolute DO NOTs. Avoid these at all costs:
- Don’t ask family members, close friends, or employees to post reviews.
- Don’t tell a group of followers or your launch team to post fake reviews ( i.e., they haven’t read the book or even laid eyes on it). A fake review might read, “What a great book! I loved the ending.”
- Don’t offer any kind of compensation for reviews, especially “positive” reviews – this can be monetary, trade, or gifts. Contest prizes are a grey area — we’ll talk about that a little later in this blog.
- This goes without saying, but I’ll mention it anyway. Don’t buy reviews on Fiverr or from click-banks, don’t scrape emails using append services, and don’t use zombie-bots (seriously, it’s a thing).
Why Book Reviews Are So Important
What’s far more important than the free promotion you get from Amazon is that book reviews are how most people judge the quality of a book that they can’t hold in their hand before they buy. To potential readers, a bounty of 5-star reviews proves that a book is good, well-written, and useful or entertaining. Reviews are the primary sales driver of books!
If you are a new author, you are probably desperate to know how to get reader reviews. If you already have books on Amazon, you also may realize that waiting for people to feel compelled to write a review is a zero growth proposition (even if your book is the best thing since sliced bread). Most people are simply not in the habit of leaving reviews. It’s extra work in a busy world.
Free Book Review Websites
Review websites (that offer free reader reviews) are run by book fans and avid readers who enjoy reading and reviewing books. Site owners also get a great deal of traffic and other ways to monetize their lists out of the deal. Some sites, like Ko’s Stuffed Shelf, are run by a one-person powerhouse. Other review sites list dozens of reviewers to choose from. Either way, you will probably be in for a wait. Review websites that offer free reader reviews are flooded with requests. It can take months for your review be posted. Keep in mind, you are not guaranteed a good review either. In light of this, book review sites should not be your only tactic.
Changes to Top Reviewer Contact Information
Amazon is constantly cracking down on what they deem invalid reviews. One of the newest attempts to make sure reader reviews are “real”, as of 2019, is that Amazon has removed access to Top Reviews email addresses.
Amazon reviewers are awarded rank by how active they are and how many reviews they write. To view the list, check out Amazon’s Top Customer Reviewers. In most cases, the top reviewers don’t earn their rank by accident — they write reviews in order to promote themselves for a variety of reasons including self-promotion, getting free books to read, or simply being social. In the past, reviewers could set up profiles on Amazon that included their email and other contact information.
Savvy authors would comb the reviewer profiles, either manually or by using a bot, in order to request reviews for their books. Often a free book is offered in exchange for the review, which is still legitimate IF the reviewer included the following at the top of the review,
“I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.”
However, because the system was being abused by sellers, Amazon has removed the visibility of email addresses on all Amazon profiles.
Pay-for review solicitation services like Book Review Targeter and Bookrazor indexed Amazon’s profile pages to scrape emails and relevant reviewer behavior so that authors could request book reviews in bulk. With the change in policy, Bookrazor has ceased to offer their service altogether. Book Review Targeter is still offering lists, but now they scrape website URLs and social media links that still are available on Amazon. It would be a safe bet that Amazon will remove these final contact details from profiles soon.
Link to Reviews in Your Book Back Matter
Especially with e-books, you are missing a huge opportunity if you don’t fully utilize your book’s front and back matter. See Why Your Front and Back Matter DOES Matter for an overview of all the things you should link to in the back of your book. For this blog, we are going to focus on one of the most important sections in the back of your book and that is, of course, a request for a review. What better time to ask for a review than when a (hopefully) happy reader has just finished your book?
I suggest dedicating a whole page to your review request. I like to format the request for review page as a letter to the reader.
Here’s a book review template to use:
If you enjoyed this book, please take a moment to leave a review.
How your review helps!
Readers choose books based on recommendations. Leaving an Amazon review is like telling your friends how much you enjoyed Bestseller List. After 20 reviews, Amazon starts to promote the book in the “you might like” lists. After 50 reviews, Amazon might promote Bestseller List by email. This would be HUGE for Bestseller List.
Your review means a lot to me! Thank you for downloading, reading, and reviewing 🙂 Get your book here – https://www.amazon.com/Bestseller-List-Kitty-Turner-ebook/dp/B07NC15Z79/
Thanks for reading,
Book Launch and Street Teams
Of course, there are many reasons to write a book—expression, legacy, or simply the pleasure of writing. However, on the outset, one reason that is not typically considered is that launching a book is an enormous marketing opportunity.
The primary goals of a launch are:
- To turn fans into super fans that use their own platforms to promote your book
- To funnel as many people as you can through your book sales channel pages at launch to increase your visibility on bookseller websites
- AND to generate reviews by distributing advance review copies (ARCs) of your book to your launch team and encouraging them to give you an honest review.
Prospective launch team members need to understand that leaving their review is one of the most important things they can do to help you succeed. Being a member has rewards like free books and the opportunity to win prizes, but participation is expected in exchange—this includes writing and posting a review.
When a Review Might be Removed
- If they are written by more than one person at an address
- If they are written by someone who resides at your address
- If they are written with people who share the same credit card
- If the review indicates the reviewer knows you personally
- If the review is posted immediately after purchase (the reviewer hasn’t had enough time to read the book)
- If the reviewer uses a link that includes time/date, location, or search information appended to the end of the URL
Contests, Giveaways, and Challenges
Sometimes simply asking your launch team to write a review isn’t enough. If your launch activities are boring or author-centered instead of engaging to fans, you are in for a rude awakening—you might discover that very few book orders and reviews come in.
Contests, giveaways, and challenges are a surefire way to increase participation and fun. Benjamin Hardy used a contest for Willpower Doesn’t Work and got over 12,000 downloads on the day of his release and nearly 400 reviews. In Ben’s case, he gave away a Tesla, so the prize itself created a lot of buzz. However, this illustrates the point that contests are powerful. I have run very successful launches that were incentivized with prizes valued under $500 like subscription gift boxes, coaching or consulting packages.
Remember, if Amazon sees your effort as compensation in trade for reviews, they can delete all the reviews they think are associated with the contest. Word your entry details carefully and make sure you tell participants to wait at least 48 hours between downloading your book and posting their review. If they post a review minutes after download, to Amazon, it will be seen as a fake.
To reiterate, if you are giving away a book as an incentive to leave a review, ask the reviewer to include the following, “I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.”
It can be challenging to get reader reviews, but it’s essential for your success. Spend the time to plan your strategy and execute some, if not all of the tactics recommended here. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to get all of your reviews at once. Plan a steady routine, approach reviewers in a personal way, and before you know it, you’ll be neck deep in 5-star reviews and selling books like mad.
Thanks for reading!
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