Reviews. Ten people can read the same book and you can have 10 different opinions. (This happens all the time at my book club.) Writers obsess about the 'bad' ones, and rejoice in the good ones. Is it worth caring? To a degree, yes. Why?
Reviews—whether positive or not-so-great—get your book noticed. Amazon's algorithms start picking up books that have around 40 reviews (and here, it's simply quantity, not quality). Other promotional opportunities are open only to books that have a minimum number of 4 or 5 star reviews. That number is often 20 or more. It becomes a Catch 22. You can't get promoted to garner the reviews until you have the reviews. So, how do you get them?
In my indie books, I include a short paragraph after "the end" telling readers that if they enjoyed the book, a short review would be appreciated. Does it work? Maybe. It's impossible to know whether people would have left a review anyway, or if that request gave the nudge they needed to take the time to post something. I also know authors who will give away a second book if the reader writes a review of the first. There's also NetGalley, where people can choose books to review. But to get a book listed there requires a substantial monetary investment from the author or publisher.
I discovered a site called Story Cartel that claimed to be a way to encourage readers to leave reviews. There's no up front money, but their enticement to readers is, in exchange for a free download of the book, they get entered into a drawing for one of 3 $10 Amazon gift certificates, so there is an investment on the part of the author.
I decided to give this a shot to see whether I could get some more reviews for books that weren't doing so well on the "number of reviews" front. You provide the files to the company, so again, there's no outlay of money.
The first book had 50 downloads. Not bad. How many reviews? According to the company, there were 2, although they only report those who actually enter the contest, and I think I found 4 I could attribute to that site. Not a particularly good return on investment, but I believe in second chances, so I uploaded another book and tried a little more promotion. This one did much better, but again, the percentage of people who actually post a review is fairly low. In fact, the site recently updated its information to authors, indicating that the reviews tend to run at under 10% of the downloads.
It's kind of a "you can give a person a book, but you can't require they review it," situation, and as with everywhere else, there are a lot of people who see the word "free" and that's all they care about.
There is one aspect of this site that bothers me. On the author information page, they tell authors that they will receive email addresses from everyone who downloads the book. For me, increasing my newsletter mailing list was as much, if not more, of a perk than reviews. However—and this is where I disagree with them—they provide this information to people downloading books only if they dig through the privacy notice, and even then, it's not clear that authors can use the emails for mailing lists. I suggested—more than once—that they put this up front on the download page to let everyone know that their email address becomes fair game for newsletters.
One author colleague came up with what I consider an excellent workaround. She sent a special newsletter to everyone who'd downloaded her book, welcoming them and telling them why they had received the newsletter—and, of course, giving them the obligatory opportunity to opt out.
What's your take on reviews? Do you leave them for books you've read? Better yet—will you start doing it more often after reading this post? If you'd like a shot at one of my books, Finding Sarah is on sale for 99 cents at Amazon and Barnes & Noble through Sept. 15th. Honest reviews welcome!
*Note: I'm at the Bouchercon conference, with very limited access to the Internet, so I might be slow responding to comments. Please don't let that stop you.
|Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.|