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REVIEWS AGAIN

October 21, 2020

            I could’ve called this Reviews Revisited. After all, I’ve broached this subject multiple times here at Fred Central. However, Revisited doesn’t quite cover it. Again, is a better word because reviews are the lifeblood of an authors marketing world, as explained below.

            Amazon has now made it even harder. Somehow the software geniuses at the site have now decided, in their ultimate wisdom, to start cutting “irrelevant” reviews. While you may see an author has 20 reviews, only five of them may actually show for reading.

            What?

            Now, to top that off, apparently, you can rate a book with just the star rating and no narrative. While I welcome a five star rating, it would be nice to know why they liked the book. The same if they’re allowed to post a one star rating.

            No idea what that’s all about but they seem to be either cutting down on space, or their new algorithms have been randomly cutting what their filters consider either offensive, irregular, or somehow incestuous material. I’m purely guessing here.

            So, with some editing, I want to emphasize, once again, how important reviews are to the author and go over some do’s, don’ts, and some preaching to the choir.

INTRO

            When it comes to marketing your book, one of the most difficult things to obtain are independent reviews. When you’re a total unknown, one of those brass rings you have to grab for are independent reviews. I’m not talking about “paid” ha ha “independent” reviews. I’m talking about legitimate and honest independent reviews by people you don’t know who actually read the book and either like it, think it sucks, or somewhere in-between.

            The whole point is to get independent feedback from the real world. You want that feedback, hopefully good, of course, to help sell your book. After all, “word of mouth” is one of the best ways to sell something.

PAID REVIEWS

            To me, there’s something inherently dishonest about paid reviews. Okay, the “reviewers” can go ahead and say they’re a business and they have to eat. On the other hand, you’re paying them for a supposedly “unbiased” review of your book.

            Ahem.

            Have you ever actually looked at one of those paid reviews?

            I have and it wasn’t pretty.

            Does the phrase boiler plate ring a bell?

            A couple of them, who I won’t name, were so boiler plate, they almost mimicked a certain blatant paid reviewer I used to rail about on Amazon, one I warned you about that was an obvious fake reviewer. This “lady” if she really existed, used to take the back cover blurb, use that as her review and give the book either four or five stars. That was her review. She had like 100K reviews on Amazon, and every one of them was exactly the same format. They were all on books I wasn’t particularly happy with, by the way.

            Back to the paid review sites. You go to their submission pages and they’re full of warnings and “no guarantees.” This is all the usual bla bla bla stuff about how you could be throwing your money away, could lose your book in the slush pile and may never see your review. Or, if you did, it may be up to a year before it ever shows. Also, there would be no guarantee of a good review.

            Ahem…once again, go right to the boiler plate. I looked and looked and of all the boiler plates, there might be a single sentence attached to the standard boiler plate that varied to tell the truth about the book. Those single sentences didn’t vary much. So, if the book really sucked, I guess it never made publication and was culled. Those are the ones that got “lost” in the shuffle, or never made the “no guarantee” cut.

            Only the good reviews or at least the better ones made the cut.

            Now, you may ask, what was the boiler plate the review was based on? I can’t give you the exact words without giving the web sites away, but they were all customized to each genre, let’s just say that. If it was fantasy, it was about the beasts and wizardry. If it was western, it was about the boots and cows and so forth. If it was romance, it was about the whatever romance is about. Every review on each genre page was the same except for one sentence that actually applied to the book!

            So much for paid reviews.

NON-PAID REVIEWS – INDEPENDENT

            These are the gold, especially to the new and struggling writers. Unfortunately, to the new and struggling writer, these non-paid review sites can be just as struggling and unknown as you are, and their viewership can be a few to non-existent.

            However, you’re more than likely to get a more specific and honest review. The good with the bad?

            Obtaining a meatier review on a web site that nobody sees doesn’t get much promotion potential does it?

            Well…it depends.

            Who says that review has to sit there in obscurity?

            What about you?

            There’s always your own publicity machine, however small and limited you might be, starting out the gate. If you’re any kind of marketer, whether you get out there in the trenches, or do everything from a computer, you should at least have a few sources. How about a web site, Facebook page, forums for your genre? All of these present an avenue to trumpet your new review.

            How about Twitter as well?

            All of these are potential sources to repeat that review, provide a link to it, spread the word. Not only are you helping yourself, but you’re drawing more traffic to that web site. Maybe, just maybe that’ll draw more of an audience to that site and multiply exposure to both of you. The reviewer’s site gets bigger, more prominent, your review becomes more important in the big picture.

            Ever think of that?

            How about adding that review to a list of reviews for a publicity sheet?

            One day, you may want to accumulate all these independent reviews into a consolidated package, maybe to be used for a re-print of the book.

RETAILER REVIEWS

            We mustn’t forget the retailer reviews like Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Goodreads etc. Of course, you can’t copy them directly, but maybe quote lines. I did a bad review of a monster movie and the produces took one line from my review and used it out of context to tout their movie. I saw that and went what??? If they can get away with it, why not you?

            Whether all of your reviews are good or bad, copping the best lines from your reviews may be a thing to do. It may be a bit shady, but you can also go the high road and just pick the best of the best of the best. Keep it true and use it to your best advantage.

GETTING BLOOD OUT OF A TURNIP

            The hard fact is the 99% of your readers never do a review. That’s a huge hurtle to get over. No matter how much you beg and cajole your readers, most never will review your book. You may have decent sales, but that doesn’t mean it will reflect in reviews. Besides Amazon spending restrictions, there’s the fact that some people are just readers and not writers. Then there’s the effort to actually write the review.

            It all sums up to authors getting desperate and some giving in to the temptation to pay for reviews. As stated above, not a good idea.

            The only real solution is in the numbers, which is in itself a damned if you do, damned if you don’t thing. Reviews help sell books, but if you don’t get reviews, you don’t sell books.

            All I can say is outside of paying for reviews, do whatever it takes to get them legitimately and unpaid, wherever possible. The more the better.

            Happy writing!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2020 12:55 pm

    A woman in a writing group offered a free download of her book, asking only that the reader then post a review on Amazon. I did this and got a rejection of my review because I’m not a MEMBER of Amazon. Or something like that. No, I’m not. Amazon decided one day to involuntarily make an 88 year old client of mine a MEMBER at $9.95 per month and charged her credit card we’d used to buy nasal spray from their ordering site. We called and got her MEMBERSHIP cancelled and I’ve ever after refused to do business with Amazon. Not only were they very presumptuous in assuming this dear, little lady wanted to be a MEMBER, this kind of thing should be illegal. How many folks have the money to just pay their credit card bills and never look at the charges? Not the late Mrs. Rogers. That was a sharp, old gal and I miss her a lot.
    All that has nothing to do with your article, Fred, except for your mention of paid reviews. I think they’re scaly, too. Of course a paid reviewer is going to speak glowingly of your book. But thanks so much, as always, for your good advice that has come from experience. I’m so glad you don’t charge for it.

    • October 24, 2020 12:54 pm

      Wow! That is awful! I know Amazon won’t allow reviews unless you spend so much money, or so I was told. I’d always thought (or heard) that didn’t apply to books, movies or audio, but I guess that’s not always the case, or NOT the case. Geez! Now, if people use e-readers, there are only so many choices, but not EVERYONE uses a Kindle. There are plain readers, and NOOK, which my wife uses, so Kindle doesn’t have a monopoly. I’ve been to Barnes & Noble yet what I usually find are the same Amazon reviews. In fact, you just reminded me to check. However, what do people check when they check for reviews? Guess who? Plus, when you DON’T have a Kindle, but use some other e-reader, where is there to post a review? Yeah, not a lot of choices. Amazon and their policies is a huge roadblock for some people even if the reader is willing. Makes it that much harder for free reviews. Thanks so much for the feedback!

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