Great book reviews make an indie author's day – and until you've learned to thicken your skin against the less flattering comments, a low star rating can have the opposite effect. So how do you make the most of the best ones, once that initial flutter of joy has subsided? Debbie Young, ALLi's Author Advice Center Manager, offers a few top tips to help you sustain that good feeling and use readers' appreciation to fuel your progress as a writer and as an authorpreneur.
Dispelling Myths about Amazon Reviews
But first, let's debunk the most widespread myth about reviews. Many authors feel that reviews seem much harder to come by these days. On Amazon in particular, where over-enthusiastic monitoring (spot the euphemism) seems to have caused the removal of genuine reviews. This has fuelled rumors that deter readers from leaving reviews in the first place, e.g. you're not allowed to review or receive reviews from anyone with whom you're connected on social media. With most indie authors being highly connected as part of their marketing strategy, that would be very limiting – and Amazon states categorically in its guidelines that this is not the case:
“Simply being friends or liked on a social media site will not get a review removed.”
Don't forget reviews can also disappear for other reasons outside of Amazon's control, e.g. a customer deciding to close their Amazon account and delete their reviews as they leave.
All the more reason to take control of what you can control – and copy all new reviews as they are posted.
That way you have them forever at your fingertips, and you may choose to use them in various constructive ways, no matter what Amazon (or GoodReads or BookBub, or anywhere else you care to review) does with them.
First, Harvest Your Great Book Reviews
Cutting and pasting each new review as it turns up is the work of moments. Storing it in a meaningful way requires a little more thought – as does how to use it other than for your own private gratification.
If you're a technical type, the most natural way to marshall reviews for future reference is to put them into a spreadsheet with columns identifying book title, review site (eg store or blog), number of stars, date received, free text for the copy in the review. You can then sort them however you wish e.g. by reviewer (which will help you spot regular reviewers whom you might invite to join your pre-release ARC list), by book, or by store
A less technically demanding way is to stash them on your website or in a Word document. I create a reviews page for each novel, hanging off the novel's main page, and I just add the review to the top of the list, so the newest is at the top, but I'm also gradually compiling a spreadsheet of quotable quotes.
Most of my reviews are from Amazon, so I add a note at the top of each reviews page to say “from Amazon UK or US stores unless otherwise stated”. If the review is from a bookblog, I add a link to where the blog appeared to drive traffic to the site in gratitude for the blogger's support.
How to Get More Mileage from Good Reviews
Having all your great reviews in one place is like having a bottle of medicine to cure self-doubt on your writing desk. Whenever you get a bad review, read your best ones to restore your self-confidence and motivation. Many of us tend to remember the negative reviews more than the positives, and reliving those compliments be very motivating and restorative.
Create benefits further afield by sharing great reviews in social media posts. A few intriguing words with a link to the review, an eye-catching image, and (if on Twitter) a couple of appropriate hashtags can raise the profile of your book, and, dare I say it, attract new sales.
If you blog or guest-blog, quotes from reviews can help you say alluring things about your books without sounding big-headed. For example, I used a quote from Wendy H Jones‘ review of Murder in the Manger (“The funniest opening line of a novel. Period.”) as my jumping-off point for a guest post on Alison Morton's writing website on the role of humor in crime-writing.
Another reason to use reviewers' quotes is that they often find ways of describing your books that would never occur to you.
When Australian ALLi author Belinda Pollard, one of my wonderful beta readers, gave me the line “Miss Marple meets Bridget Jones”, I couldn't have been more pleased.
Great one-liners also lend themselves well to:
- endorsement quotes for your book covers
- “What Readers Say” pages at the start of your books
- information sheets for booksellers
For such high-profile uses, make sure you use the reviewer's name., Quotes attributed simply to “Amazon reviewer” have less credibility and will deter bricks-and-mortar bookstores from stocking your books.
In these contexts, you really should ask the reviewer's permission to quote them as you are using their words for potential commercial gain.
Most reviewers are flattered to be asked and are unlikely to refuse – but if you go ahead without asking, don't be surprised if they're less than pleased.
Two Notes of Caution
- If you are in any doubt that any reviewer may not be happy to see you share their review, then ask permission first. This particularly applies to bookbloggers, who are reviewing in their own space and under their own copyright – unlike Amazon reviewers, which Amazon actively encourages you to share (though reviewers may not realise this). Alienating a bookblogger by violating their copyright is a bad idea, especially if you are hoping they will review your future books.
- If quoting an extract rather than the full review, the conventional – and ethical – practice is to indicate what you've omitted with an ellipsis […] to show that you're quoting out of context, and alerts the reader to check the rest of the review, which may not be so flattering, if they wish to. (Most won't.)
OVER TO YOU Have you found any other uses for sharing great book reviews? Do you have any inspiring case studies or cautionary tales to share? We'd love to hear about them!#Indieauthors - like to get more mileage out of your book reviews? Here are a few ideas on how to use them to lift your spirits & sell more books! - by @DebbieYoungBN Click To Tweet
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