Human beings are social animals. We evolved to live in tribes, taking cues about safety and security from people we knew we could trust. Without the approval of others in our tribe, we risked ostracization or even exile from our support networks. Our survival depended on this for many tens of thousands of years longer than it hasn’t. Our brains remain wired to seek the opinion and approval of others.
That’s one of the reasons reviews are so important in helping a reader decide whether or not to purchase a book. If somebody says they liked a book you’re interested in, you become much more likely to buy it yourself. The other reason is number of reviews plays a role in Amazon’s search engines, book ranking, and recommendations.
Bottom line: you need a lot of reviews.
A Word on Quantity
The quantity of reviews is the most important factor when it comes to social proof for your books. Anybody can fake or buy a good review, or two, or even a dozen. But getting mid-to-high double digit quantities of reviews is very hard to fudge. Further, once you get into triple digits and more, people begin to suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and may buy your book so as not to miss a new trend.
It doesn’t even matter if all the reviews are good. In fact, it’s better for a book to have a handful of negative reviews. This also creates social proof, by providing evidence that not all of the reviews are faked or written by the author’s grandmother (or people the author’s grandmother is blackmailing). If every single review is five stars with glowing praise, readers may think there’s something fishy going on even if there are hundreds of entries.
About Those One-Star Reviews
Obviously, nobody’s going to buy a book with several dozen one-star entries and very few positive reviews. However, if you average above the 4-star mark even the worst howler of a review does you good overall. No book appeals to every person in the same way, and honest reviews about what sort of person will and won’t like your book are just as valuable for increasing book sales as reviews that sing your praises.
That’s because negative reviews make the reviews as a whole more reliable. It steers other people likely to give poor reviews towards other books, keeping those who do buy it among the people who will appreciate it the most. For example, I know somebody who published a series of books with a lot of profanity in them that was set in a post-apocalyptic world. The best 1-star reviews all spoke about how they liked the story, but couldn’t get past the amount of swearing. Those entries meant the wrong audience didn’t read the book, and acts like a 5-star review for people actively looking for post-apocalyptic fiction with lots of swearing.
This means you should mark 1-star reviews as “Helpful” even though they sting a little, if they talk about your book’s content accurately in a way that can help potential fans choose you. Most readers only look at the top 2-3 reviews, and the number of reviews, and the average score, then make a decision based on that.
Your Jedi Mind Trick
Okay. So we’ve established that you need a lot of reviews. We have several posts and trainings here at Apex Authors with dozens of tricks, techniques, habits, and hacks to grow your review lists into the upper stratosphere. You should read, watch, listen to, or experience all of them.
For right now, though, I want to mention the single best way to get heaps of positive reviews. Ready?
The single best way to get heaps of 4- and 5-star reviews for your book is to find people who left glowing reviews for similar books, then get them to read and review your work, too.
It works like this:
Step One: Come up with 6-10 books similar enough to your own work that you think people who love them will also love your book.
Step Two: Go through each of those books’ review listings and mark down everybody who left a four-star or five-star review.
Step Three: Find the listings from step two that include links to how to contact the people who left the review.
(Note: It’s okay to do steps two and three for each book in order, rather than do step two for all books and then step three for all books).
Step Four: Compare your lists for each book to find reviewers who have already reviewed more than one book on your list. These will be your first wave.
Step Five: Contact your first wave, asking if they’d like to read your book. Be careful about wording this like an exchange (Amazon is cracking down on that), but offer a free copy of your book because it’s similar to (Title they Reviewed). They’ll understand.
Step Six: Send the email to the other people remaining on your list.
Step Seven: Deliver e-copies of your book, and follow up on other communication, quickly and professionally.
Step Eight: Wait for the reviews to come flooding in.
This works because you’re approaching people who already like reading and leaving reviews and who already like books of the sort you write. It’s low-hanging fruit in the review game and works like a charm. You won’t just get reviewers out of this technique, either. A lot of times it leads to people becoming genuine fans who buy your books because they love them.
The Bad News and the Good News
The bad news about the Jedi Mind Trick is it’s time-consuming, and often confusing. You have to work through dozens of reviews and reviewers, and go through the scut work of finding their contact information. It’s enough work that many authors, even many Apex authors, don’t bother.
The good news is we’ve made it easy with a brand-new tool!
Our Book Review Rocket suite does the heavy lifting for you by identifying good reviewer targets and helping you get in touch. Just choose the relevant books that you would like to search through, and the Book Review Rocket will check all of the 4- and 5-star reviews for reviewers that left their contact information for you to contact them.
So now you have no excuses. Go forth, and get thee some reviews!
- Watch Apex Authors Training 085 – 17 Ways to Gather Book Reviews for inspiration on ways to encourage people to leave a review for your book.
- The absolute best way to get unlimited and appropriate 4- and 5-star reviews is to contact people who have previously left 4- or 5-star reviews on books similar to yours. You can manually troll through the reviewer profiles on Amazon to find ones that have left contact information, or you can automate the system by using the Book Review Rocket to troll through relevant books for good reviews and to provide you with a spreadsheet of those that have left their contact information so you can offer them a review copy. You can even generate a text file full of cut-and-paste letters customized to both your book and to the reviewer.
- You can also offer review copies of your book into a relevant group such as our Apex Authors Facebook Group, where anybody interested in your book can take a look and leave a review for you. This can be a great way to get your initial 10 or 12 reviews to entice others to start leaving reviews.