Chris A. Baird | September 23, 2021
What Everybody Ought To Know About Book Reviews

It is great to have a lot of good reviews but does it really matter? Learn more self-publishing tips and what everybody ought to know about book reviews.

Today's article has three points and you're going to want to stick around for the third point. Because it's a secret as to the absolute most powerful way of getting reviews for your books. So the topic we're going to discuss today is what everybody ought to know about book reviews.

Now, I know when you're first getting started, you've probably heard that reviews can be important for your book. Which you may not realize just how important they are to get for your book. So many authors when you first put your self-published book onto the market onto Amazon, it has no reviews.

So then maybe you ask somebody in your household to leave a review. So your wife or husband or kid or somebody leaves a review for your book of which is immediately scraped from Amazon. And now you have zero reviews again.

So you're thinking "well maybe I'll wait until somebody leaves a review". You put your book on free promotions, and then it goes out on KDP for 5 days of free promotions. Lots of people download the book and now you're excited because you should be seeing lots of reviews coming in.

Except for one problem which is most people don't leave reviews. Then comes a review from somebody you've never known before. And they're complaining that when they put the book on their reader it took forever to download.

Or they're complaining the way that their viewer on their Kindle reader that it looks poor. So they're complaining about the technology or maybe it took too long for your paperback book to get to them. Because Amazon used a long time and they're complaining about that.

Or even the paper quality and all of these things that you have no control over. People are saying they hate your book because of these reasons. And these negative reviews will destroy your ability to get book sales.

In the same way, having no reviews also creates a problem unless you're already a known author. And even then, it matters. Then you still have the same issue which is well, reviews.

"Why should I buy this book?". "How do I know what other people who've purchased it think?". There's simply nothing for them to look at and that creates a bit of a problem.

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So a little bit from my own story. I remember when I released my very first book, I was not even aware of the importance of reviews. I thought, well, how hard can this be? You put your book on the market and then people will begin to purchase it.

The only problem is nobody knows you and so we have a bit of a problem. But I hadn't at this beginning book realized just how big of a problem it was. Well, I came up with a clever idea I'd heard other authors doing this which is posting your book on Facebook groups.

So you would go into all these little readers' Facebook groups. You'd put it on a five-day promotion that you can do under KDP Select. So long as your eBook is not being sold anywhere else, you can put it on this five-day free promotion.

And then your book will be spread out to all of these people who will be able to see it and download it. Since purchasing it is free, so that's not too much of an investment for them. So all of these people then start to purchase and start to read the book through.

But something happened that I hadn't expected. Someone approached me and said, "Hey if you review my book I'll review your book" which is commonly known as a review swap. Now in this case it's an author review swap that would be one author agrees to read the other author's book in exchange for a review.

Now I was just completely caught off guard. I was not even aware of this concept but I thought "wow this could actually result in me getting reviews". But that was when I began to understand the importance of reviews.

How they can drastically increase the number of sales you're getting on a book. If your reviews are let's say three to five-star reviews. They don't even have to be five stars but three to five stars somewhere in that range are just fine.

And this is one of the reasons I commend the quality of your book should at least be able to get three stars. Three stars mean that your book was at least delivering enough value that you carried out on your promise. Now, there might have been some formatting issues and some other things that you have in your book.

That clearly could be fixed by listening to your readers. Or you might have slightly promised some value from your book. Let's say some recipes and when they tried to follow the recipes it was a little bit confusing.

But in the end, they managed to do what you were suggesting. Or the story was a little bit choppy but it delivered enough value that they got at a three. And many books that sell tons of copies of books don't have more than three to five stars on the average of the reviews that are being given to it.

But if you have one and two stars, that will completely kill all sales for your book. So this would be the thing you want to avoid, getting extremely low on the review side of things. One and two stars that tell you you should take the book down.

Reevaluate whether or not something can be done to repair the book that you have on the market but assuming we're talking three to five stars. So this was the thing I began to realize except for one thing which was when you get into this review swapping.

The thing is that there's a little bit of an expectation that you're going to like the other person's book. Because what if you were to give a one-star and say, "I thought the book was terrible". And the other person's like, "Look, if you're giving me a one-star, well then I'm going to give you a one-star".

So what happens then is that it ends up being like a five-star review exchange for a five-star review. Then the genres are all over the place. So a couple of things happen that are kind of magical here, the algorithm itself.

Amazon gets crazy confused because it suddenly sees you reading books all over the place from authors everywhere. All different types of books, it sees those people reading a thousand different genres.

It's not even clear where you stand, what types of books exactly you're reading. And also if the quantity of books you're reading is unbelievable.

Review Swapping Game

I think the average reviewer on Amazon, some of the top reviewers were leaving reviews for five to ten products a day. In books, they're reading five books a day. You can see that this can be a bit of a problem, some of these people are not necessarily authors.

But there's a status maybe behind being a top Amazon reviewer. But the problem here with this review swapping side with author to author is that they can see that you were the one who published this book. And then somebody else published another book.

And they would see an exact-for-one exchange on the reviews. The same thing happens on Youtube with like a sub for sub where I'll subscribe to your channel and you subscribe to my channel. So functionally we have a fake sub to boost up the numbers.

It is a practice that's done and will get your account banned on Youtube. So it's important to realize that some of these little rules can get you in serious trouble. I remember several years ago, I think was in 2017 was the first time we saw this.

Somebody is doing review swapping. What they were doing was using virtual assistants which was the most common pattern of doing it. Where you would have somebody who could find other people, other virtual assistants, to read through the books and leave reviews.

But the problem is the reviews are very low quality and each of these people is leaving so many reviews. What happens is that first of all, it creates a huge problem within Amazon. Then they start threatening accounts to take them down completely.

And one person even was into forced arbitration with a hundred thousand dollar lawsuit against them from Amazon for damages being done. Based upon I think they had a thousand reviews that had been taken down from them.

So this is a very important point that you need to keep in mind if you're getting involved in this review swapping game. It is that you get yourself into serious trouble. But we're going to get a little bit more into that in a few moments here.

But in my own thing, I saw what didn't seem too dangerous. I mean seriously, if you're just going to read another author and you have your own, that seemed pretty good. I also thought why not ask other people in my family to leave reviews?

And suddenly, I noticed those reviews were taken down immediately. So it showed me that wait this is a violation of Amazon's terms at some level because they were seeing in the same household. In reality, your friends and family, how neutral and organic are these reviews you see?

So our secret is going to get into exactly the way you should do this. But here's the next thing, I noticed that in the few books that did get reviews, the sales on them was about five to ten times what it was without those reviews. And this just gives you a little bit of an understanding of how important the reviews are as social proof.

That these books are of high value and quantity, in the same way, other things like views on YouTube or number of subscribers or likes. All of these sorts of things play in. Same thing with Instagram. The idea is this picture on Facebook is a good one or a bad one?

And we can see these things and they can be judged by their likes and dislikes. We're in Reddit or these other locations on the internet where things are being voted up and down. Another thing that some people had done was they were buying reviews off of Fiverr.

Where you would pay for somebody to leave reviews in exchange for just paying them directly. Now, this got them in serious trouble because then Amazon went with lawsuits after them and lawsuits after their customers. Taking down complete accounts regardless of the quality of your books.

In reality, these authors were just trying to get reviews for their books. Because they found that in the organic reviews that natural people read, there's a lot of trolls on Amazon. And usually, if you're happy with a product or service that's provided, you don't say anything you just enjoy it.

But when you're angry or you get something you're dissatisfied with, you're frustrated with something that's been handed over to you, a product or service for example, then what happens is you're more likely to leave a complaint.

That goes with restaurants as well. Like if you're looking, you'll see all of these nasty complaints and it additionally is worse if the complaint is very detailed.

And it also agrees with the other complaints about the same book or whatever it might be that are being left.

So these can just be completely destructive. So if we don't have any way of influencing the reviews this is going to create a problem for our books.

Because we're going to get one and two starred on those books for reasons that are either out of our control or unreasonable expectations that readers can be placed on the book.

You deliver the value, they should be satisfied at least a three. But then getting a one for that or even worse, they disagree with the idea. Let's say you read a book on vegan dog food and they don't believe in veganism and so they're just going to completely give you one star or something on religion or politics.

And they're just like "We don't like that religion or this political idea, so then we're just going to one star your book". And you can see how this would, "Look, that's not my book. It's not the quality of my book. You're judging it based on something outside of my control."

This is the sort of thing that we need to fix to make sure that we're not going to have these sorts of issues. And the only way to do that is to counterbalance these negative reviews. But when you do get these reviews, do not go nasty and negative on those people.

You need to respond to a "Thank you for your thing I see your review is related to the delivery". "I'm sorry as the author I can't fix that. I see that you disagree with my political position, I'm sorry I can't do anything with that."

But I can say that I would appreciate the one-star. Just because I disagree, I don't know if that's fair but I wouldn't get into calling them names or going back and forth a lot. But you can just say appreciate your comment but you can respond to them.

The Best Route For You

Just make sure it's very neutral. You're thanking them for their opinions and then anybody who reads their reviews, they're going to have a response that they can read. To see that you're taking these seriously.

And you're also addressing the issues saying "This is not really a fair review of my book." So just that you don't let them sit there and these people troll you. But there is one other side note there too, it is that if your book is low quality and has lots of editing mistakes, well then let's fix it.

You're going to see multiple reviews saying the same thing and you can't just say "thank you for your comments I'll try better next time". No, take the book take it off the market fix the book. Then put it back on if you're seeing multiple people finding issues with your book.

But let's get into it here, what everybody ought to know about book reviews. The first point that we're going to hit today is that reviews are insanely important. Both for your sales of the sales page for your book and also for the ads.

Because when you're going to run somebody recently asked this on Youtube in the comments as you always can do and they were asking about this idea of what does it have to do with the ads? And on the ads, you can see the number of stars the person has for that book.

And so that is going to have played a role on whether that person clicks the ad giving us a high click-through rate. Telling Amazon "hey look at this person when we run ads not only does it show people the ads but they actually want to click on it".

Because they see you had like 50 reviews or something and four and a half stars or something. This is going to be a quality book that's definitely worth their reading and so that alone can influence people's decisions. It plays a huge role in how effective your ads are going to be.

And also how effective your books are going to sell when they do get to the sales page and they see those reviews. The second thing is review swapping is a violation of Amazon's rules in the beginning it was not so much.

The same goes on ACX, they used to have promo codes. You could swap promo codes and they did say you could give your promo codes to people to review your book. So that was not a violation of the time however they've changed the rules on all of these things.

Check out this related article:  Have A Self-Published Book You Can Be Proud Of!

So review swapping will get you in serious trouble. They will stop your ability to review, they will send you warnings and they may sue you if they see enough issues going on. Originally, it was forced arbitration but now they're just they exiting that with Amazon that was a recent change.

And so now it's just a straight-out lawsuit against you. So I'm telling you, you do not want to get into this review swapping thing. And as you get into it you're into Facebook groups, you'll find people from different countries around the world who will approach you and say "look I can get reviews for your book you would do like some reviews".

You need to be very careful because it can be threatening to your account itself if you go doing that so. And then you have to decide what exactly you're going to do. And the same would be true by the way with regards to asking your family and friends.

If they're connected to you on Facebook and social media that also can be a threat to your account. But the secret answer for today and the third point that I think you're going to want to pay attention to is that you are going to have to figure out the route in advance, the best route for you.

And I'm telling you the best route is the advanced review teams. That is you're building up an email list in your books you're saying "hey get on my email list" or you're saying "I'll give you something free". You know, some sort of an extra to your book in exchange for their email address.

You can look this up on the net where I've discussed it maybe earlier. But building an email list is by far the best use of marketing money other than content marketing. But building up the email list I use Bluehost, a good place to host your website.

But in general, this is the best way to go you're going to have readers who are already reading your book. And then you'd say "Look if you like the book I can give you a sample of my next book before it even comes out in exchange for a review, an honest review of the book".

You can't tell them how many stars to leave but you could say in exchange for an honest review of your book. If you enjoy the book and by simply asking this does not violate amazon's terms so you're completely safe.

But at the same time, you do need to figure out what your risk tolerance is. So you know the idea of me asking friends and family to leave reviews. Or other people I've known or if I'm going to conferences asking them to review my books.

As for me, that can be an acceptable risk to take but I'm telling you, you need to figure out what exact risk you wish to take. But I definitely would stay away from review swapping. This will get your account shut down at this point in the game.

And people are still doing it of course the VA's are still around virtual assistants who will continually be offering this. But I'm telling you it's getting more and more dangerous when it comes to reviews.

I have nothing against VA's and nothing against the people who have done these sorts of things. But this review swapping thing confuses the algorithm. It also shows serious problems and it risks threatening your entire account, all of the income you have coming through on your sales for Amazon books.

So that's just a few thoughts on that subject. My question for you is do you have a problem getting reviews? If you do, write "Yes" below in the comments and if you don't, write "No" below in the comments.

Because I need to know where you're coming from and whether or not this content is useful for you. And check out my other articles and videos for more answers to your self-publishing questions.

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