View Full Version : When reviews count and for what.

06-18-2015, 12:54 PM
First, this is about reviews on Amazon. The same stuff probably applies to other places, but I'm not sure.

I am NOT an authority. This only comes from having read a lot about reviews in many books, posts etc. and having watched the impact of reviews on new books. If you have better information please tell the rest of us. I am happy to be corrected.

Reviews on Amazon do two jobs. They move your book up in the rankings and they help customers decide to buy (or not).

Let's look at the first job of moving you up in the rankings. When you first publish Amazon handles your book differently for the first thirty days. Every review you get in the first thirty days has an impact on the books rank. For example a book that is not doing well after two weeks is listed at rank something like 275,000 a single new review will move it up to around 125,000. Sure, at 125,000 it is still not doing anything, but the point is, the review had a big impact on the rank.

The most critical time is the first week. Prepare in advance.
Amazon apparently understands that most authors will not have huge sales in the first few days or two weeks. During that time reviews have a very big impact on moving up in the ranking. The more reviews you can get early on, the greater impact they will have on rank.

The first ten reviews are the most critical. Prepare in advance.
According to Glyn Williams who wrote a book on Kindle marketing, he has watched the results of reviews close enough to understand what happens. I'll make up numbers here because I don't remember his. He says the first review has, let's say, 100% effect. Then the second will have 90%, and the third will have 80%. Then somewhere around ten they stop having a big impact ON THE RANK. Remember we are only talking about how your book ranks - not on how people buy it. But also remember they have to see it to buy it and that is a direct result of where it ranks. Apparently after the first ten reviews, the rank is as much a matter of sales as it is reviews.

After the first 30 days new reviews have almost no visible impact. If your book is struggling above the 100,000 mark getting more reviews after the first 30 days will not have any impact. Why is this important? Don't chase reviews after the first 30 days unless they come along with sales. Some blog interviews will give you both sales and reviews - good and fair, go after them.

If your book is selling along well, anywhere below 50,000 rank you won't notice a difference with new reviews during the third and fourth week days or after that. That is because the sales are what is causing you to rank, not the reviews.

I have read that getting over 50 review helps after the first 30 days, but it was not written by someone who said they studied it, but rather believed it did.

Bottom line, get those first ten reviews lined up weeks or months before your book is published. Then get them posted in the first few days.

If you have ideas on how to do that, please add that in your responses.

The other reason to get review is people buy books that are reviewed. Social proof is valuable. On another thread the question was asked if it mattered how long the reviews were. Yes and no. If you have 10 or more reviews a few will be long and excellent and a few will be short. You might even have a couple that are meaningless "Great book, I loved it" As a marketer, you want the best worded top rated reviews at the top and the lesser reviews buried below. This is a shade of grey, but something easily in your power to do. If you ask a few friends (it only takes two or three) to vote up the better written review as helpful it will push them up to the top where new customers will read them first.

Is it important to have the best reviews on top? How many reviews do you really read when you buy a book. I typically read the first two, maybe three. If most of the reviews are four and five star reviews I don't read more - they are usually just repeating what the first review said but not as well written. My point? In my opinion, don't push for the most eloquent review the person has ever written, just be grateful for the positive review and work on getting more reviews. People write a great review because they want to do a good job, not because someone asked them to.

What is the magic number for social proof? Depending on how new/old the book is, it seems to go in increments of the number of digits. Double digits above 50 are good for books a few months old. After the first year, three digits seem to be the requirement. Are there exceptions? Absolutely. I see books with half a dozen reviews ranked in the top 1,000 on sales. There are exceptions to everything. Lousy movies have been box office hits and great movies have flopped and the same is true of books. But this is not about the exceptions, it is about the rule of thumb for the rest of us.

Now, if you have any insights into how to get reviews, please share.

06-25-2015, 08:33 AM
I would think the best way to get reviews is to give them first. Kinda like crits.

06-25-2015, 08:43 AM
I would think the best way to get reviews is to give them first. Kinda like crits.

I don't think authors are allowed to give reviews on Amazon, though.

I honestly don't do more than glance at reviews on amazon before I purchase a book. Nearly all average somewhere between 4-5 stars from what I can tell. If someone were significantly lower than this, I might reconsider. But I'm more interested in what people I know think about books that total strangers.

How important are amazon rankings? What do they do for authors? If they're based on reviews, do they actually have any connection to how many copies of a book are being sold? Seems like something that is so sensitive to manipulation is going to be pretty useless for telling would-be purchasers how good a book is.

I guess I've never even thought about where a book I decide to purchase is on Amazon sales ranks in particular. If a book looks like something I'd like, or if it's been recommended by someone I trust, I'll buy it. I subscribe to Locus, so I get most of my information about new books and authors from there (in my own favorite genre, SF and F). I also hear about new books and authors on the blogs of some authors I follow. I purchase e-books on B&N more often than amazon also.

06-25-2015, 11:52 AM
I don't think authors are allowed to give reviews on Amazon, though.

Unless something has changed in the last year, you are correct. Authors aren't allowed to review other authors. (Considered to be reviewing a competing product.)

Gilroy Cullen
06-25-2015, 04:10 PM
Okay, here's my difficulty with this whole review "strategy."

Reviews are not up to the author. They are not for the author to manipulate, comment on, or in any other way futz with. A review is a reader or critic stating an opinion about the book they just read. A SINGLE OPINION. So why are authors so worried about fricking reviews? Too many people panic when "OMG! I got a 1 star review!" SO WHAT? You're a writer. Grow a skin, dang it.

I'm sure if you do some research into reviews, you'll see some of the best loved classics (and I use that phrase loosely) had critics who HATED the book. Yet, look where they are. Lolita received quite a few negative reviews.

And Amazon reviews? Don't even get me started on that trash. I don't tend to read ANY Amazon reviews. Why? Because they are gamed and not true reviews, more than 50% of the time.

"Book sucked."
"I never received the copy I purchased."
"Amazon sent me trash instead of the book I ordered."

As a reader and Amazon shopper, I don't care about the book's sales rank. I care that the cover blurb catches my attention, the subject matter is what I'd read. An interesting or intriguing cover art ups the possibility. Being an author I've read before and enjoyed also helps.

Reviews? Yeah, no.

06-25-2015, 05:31 PM
When shopping on Amazon for books, I will sometimes read reviews, but never the five-star ones, and rarely the one-star. I read the reviews in the middle. This is particularly true for self-published or small trade publisher books. If I see a book with ONLY five-star ratings, it tells me someone is trying to game the system.

If I'm looking at a book by an author not known to me, what WILL sell me on the book is the "Look Inside" feature. If I like what I read, then I'm more likely to take a chance.

06-25-2015, 06:23 PM
Review, specifically the ratings, effect how books show in search--so they can have an influence even on people who do not actually read them.

06-25-2015, 10:07 PM
I've been posting reviews on Amazon, but I'm not a published author. Is that okay? Do you surrender your right to review when you publish your first book?

And after I'm published, can I still post reviews on goodreads?

06-25-2015, 10:17 PM
I review on Amazon regularly under my pen name. If you avoid your own genre it is not normally a problem.

Dennis E. Taylor
06-25-2015, 10:30 PM
Very very highly suggest that you create a separate purchasing account and authoring account on amazon. They're ok with that, and it's possible to relate your reviews back to your books if you have just one account. You don't want to get into a retaliatory thing.

06-25-2015, 10:53 PM
But if you use a different name, which someone detects by looking at your wishlist or some other well known Amazon dodge, then they might think your are being sneaky on top of whatever other motivations they ascribe to you.

There are pros and cons to either approach.

06-26-2015, 05:37 AM
At this point, I still occasionally leave reviews on Amazon, and I don't think I've had a problem with posting anything. Granted, I'm not exactly a well-known author. However, I do make it clear if I have any affiliation with the book (book cover design, for instance). I also leave detailed reviews, both good and bad, and rarely leave five star (or one star) reviews, so it should be fairly obvious that I'm trying to review as a reader, and not trading reviews, etc.

I don't usually post to Amazon, though, instead preferring to post on Goodreads.

06-28-2015, 10:52 PM
As a reader, I have no interest in sales rankings, and I'm usually looking for something specific enough that my search should bring it up from the depths of the bottomless lists.
I read reviews for two things: spoilers (I like to know what I'm buying - 'Look Inside' is more important than reviews, and if there's no 'Look Inside', the author had better hope that someone left a detailed, spoileriffic review) and snark. I like a nasty review now and then, especially in the genres I don't read i.e. YA. The only reason I signed up with Goodreads was to see what was up with one of the STGB wars.

This is also why the various Amazon 'if you liked that, you might like this' algorithms don't always work: frequently the book I'm looking at is a fine example of what I don't like and don't want more of.

06-29-2015, 12:00 AM
I would think the best way to get reviews is to give them first. Kinda like crits.
I was gonna do that, but then I picked a book so poorly edited I could not write an honest encouraging review, much less hope for one in return.

06-29-2015, 12:43 AM
Posting reviews will only et you reviews if their is some expectation of reciprocity. And given that exchanging reviews is explicitly not permitted on Amazon, I would question that.

07-04-2015, 01:57 AM
Reviews are not up to the author.

They shouldn't be. I think the problem is they are up to anyone for any reason with no accountability, which is as good reason for some authors to defend themselves the logical way in a wild west gunfight.

''That anybody is allowed to come in and anonymously trash a book to me is absurd'' - John Rechy 2004.Also:

"Itís well known that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects web site owners from being responsible for user-provided content on their sites, even when that content is the source of profits."

And Amazon reviews? Don't even get me started on that trash. I don't tend to read ANY Amazon reviews. Why? Because they are gamed and not true reviews, more than 50% of the time.


I'm looking forward to when this comes out (even though it's not about books): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2dkJctUDIs

08-01-2015, 03:35 PM
"It’s well known that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects web site owners from being responsible for user-provided content on their sites, even when that content is the source of profits."

Just thought I'd share this. I did a consumer survey recently with 550 respondents. At the end I stuck on a question about whether online retailers such as Amazon, have legal responsibility for their customer reviews being genuine. The results were as follows: Yes = 49.8% Don't know = 28.7% No = 21.4%

So 78.5% were ignorant, which is a similar figure to how many customers rely on customer reviews in other consumer surveys. I guess a small amount of the "No" camp may have said no on the basis of wondering why such a question would be asked, to conclude that it must be because the answer is actually "No".

Interestingly this is black & white and not subjective, could be a pivotal factor underlying in the minds of the assuming consumer. I will add that the CDA 230 is also at the centre of debate about things such as child sex trafficking, libel, revenge porn and online bullying. CDA 230 is far too simplistic and all encompassing, like a builder using a hammer to put in nails, whack down sellotape, use as a paint brush and make the cups of tea with. It can, and should be updated to reflect the nuances of the modern internet.