The best Christmas present you can give a new author: An Amazon review

(Cross posted from Chocolate and Vodka.)

Last month there was a great blog post by Anne Allen about how important Amazon reviews are to new authors:

[…] Amazon reviews, which were only mildly significant three years ago, now have a make-or-break impact on an author’s sales.

When you’re buying an ebook, there’s no helpful bookstore clerk to tell you what might be appropriate for your nine-year old niece, or if there are any new cozy mysteries you might enjoy, or whether the new Janet Evanovich is up to her usual standards.

Instead, you check reader reviews and Amazon’s “also bought” suggestions. These are all generated by consumers, which gives the ordinary reader immense power.

The post then goes through some really good guidelines for people who might want to leave an Amazon review for an author they like. It’s well worth a read, even if you’re familiar with Amazon, because Anne gives a very clear idea of how the whole review system works.

I didn’t quite understand the power of Amazon reviews until I started publishing in the Kindle stores. I have books available now in six stores:

The only store in which I have any reviews so far is the UK store and sales in that are way ahead of every other store, even the US store. Now admittedly there are potential language issues in the French, German, Spanish and Italian stores, as the buyers there might not be so interested in an English language book. But that shouldn’t be the case with the US and, in fact, the majority of my Kickstarter supporters were from the US so in theory I should have a good showing there. But so far, I do not.

I think this is down to reviews. I have three good reviews so far on Amazon UK, none in the US. It’s a shame that reviews don’t cross-pollinate stores, but there we go.

So if you’re feeling generous this festive season and you have read a book by a new author that you liked, it would be a wonderful thing for them if you took 10 minutes to write even a short review, or just give a star rating. Four and five star ratings are particularly useful as Anne explains:

Anything less than 4 stars means “NOT RECOMMENDED.” Don’t expect an author to be pleased with 2 or 3 stars, no matter how much you rave in the text. Those stars are the primary way a book is judged. Without a 4 or 5 star rating, a book doesn’t get picked up in the Amazon algorithms for things like “also bought” suggestions. Giving 1 or 2 stars to a book that doesn’t have many reviews is taking money out of the author’s pocket, so don’t do it unless you really think the author should take up a new line of work.

If a friend asks you to review something you found amateurish, or wasn’t your cup of tea, just tell her you don’t feel you can review it. That happens all the time and we appreciate it.

On the other hand, a 4-star review that recommends the book even though you have a few reservations, will earn you eternal gratitude from the author.

In fact, 4-star reviews can often be the most helpful. If a reader sees something like, “I loved this mystery, but the humor is pretty farcical. If you’re looking for a standard whodunit, this isn’t it,” or “this is awfully intellectual for something called chick lit.” Those offer honest information to buyers, without telling them not to buy.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be giving 1-3 star reviews. I’m just saying that on Amazon (not all review sites) 3-Stars is usually taken as a negative rating. If you intend to be positive, then 4 stars will better convey that sentiment.

This was certainly something I hadn’t really thought about in detail before reading Anne’s post.

So if you have a favourite author who’s either just starting out or hovering around in the midlist, why not take a few moments over the Christmas holidays and leave them a review?

2 thoughts on “The best Christmas present you can give a new author: An Amazon review

  1. “If a friend asks you to review something you found amateurish, or wasn’t your cup of tea, just tell her you don’t feel you can review it. That happens all the time and we appreciate it.”

    I can’t believe you’re peddling this. If a book wasn’t very good in my subjective opinion why shouldn’t I comment on it? To encourage people to do otherwise is just childish.

    I give you 1 star.

  2. Paul, I think you’ve somewhat missed the point. Anne and I are both talking about things you can do for authors you like, whether that’s work that you like or people that you know personally.

    If a friend asks you to review a book you don’t enjoy, then it is better to go straight to the author and discuss the flaws you found with it directly rather than write a bad review on Amazon.

    The star rating on Amazon isn’t like a star rating for hotels. A 1 star hotel may be very clean and nice, but it’s got fewer amenities and is less luxurious than a 5 star hotel. But you may still recommend a 1 star hotel if it was good value for money and met your needs.

    A 1 star review on Amazon says “this is really bad, do not buy it”, not “this is an item with fewer features”. It can really damage a book’s sales and when an author is either just beginning or stuck in the mid-list, then every sale is important.

    Neither Anne nor I are saying that you shouldn’t ever write 1 star reviews. But if you want to do something nice for a friend, then giving their book a 1 star review on Amazon isn’t it. And it’s certainly a crappy Christmas present.

Comments are closed.