What good is writing a great book if no one knows that it’s worth reading?
That’s where book reviews come in.
Reviews matter. They’re a key influencer of buying behavior and provide important social proof even to non-buyers.
Just think about it: how many times have you bought a book without looking at the reviews? I can’t speak for you, but I always read at least a few reviews of every book I buy.
So how do you get more? Most important, more good reviews?
Lots of people are trying to make money off Authors’ confusion in this area, and giving out terrible, deceitful advice about getting reviews (and a few straight up scams).
That’s why I wrote this blog post.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about getting reviews effectively and ethically, especially on Amazon.
Why Do Book Reviews Matter?
If you’ve put in the effort to write a good book, then it’s worth taking the time to get honest feedback from your readers.
Quick note: I said “a good book.” All of my advice assumes you wrote a good book. I’m going to teach you how to get honest reviews, so if your book is not good, my suggestions will backfire. You’ll get reviews, but they won’t be ones you like.
1. Credibility & Social Proof
Imagine that you’re going out for a nice dinner, and you have a choice between two restaurants. One of them has two Michelin Stars, received glowing reviews on Yelp, and even has reviews on Google Maps.
The other restaurant looks nice from the outside, but it doesn’t have a website, and you don’t know anyone who’s been. You know nothing about the chef, and your only guideline for the food comes from the very basic menu posted outside the door.
Which restaurant are you going to choose?
Books work the same way.
If you had to choose, would you buy the book with 50 5-star reviews, or would you buy the one without any reviews at all?
People want to read books other people have read. If a book has a solid number of reviews, a strong blurb, and plenty of customer feedback, it’s going to do better.
Reviews are social proof. Proof that you have something to say, that you have the chops to say it, and that you can be engaging while you say it.
A book without reviews isn’t necessarily a bad book, but it also won’t have the same appeal as a book that consistently gets rave comments.
2. Influence search algorithms
You know what the third biggest search engine is?
Google is first, YouTube is second, and Amazon is third.
When people use Amazon, what they see first is determined by Amazon’s search algorithm…and reviews are a very important part of that algorithm.
Most of our authors write books not just to sell copies, but to use as a tool to market themselves. If this is the case for you, then people searching for your book topic are very important.
The better your ranking, the more likely it is that people will find your book. And the more likely it is that people find your book, the more likely you are to sell it.
3. Drive sales
Reviews won’t automatically make you a New York Times bestseller, but it will make your book more visible to potential readers.
Every review boosts your rankings, emphasizes your credibility, or entices potential readers.
And good reviews drive sales. Think about it–when you go to buy a book, what is the first thing you do?
Read the reviews.
The more reviews you can get—assuming they are good—the better. Lots of reviews are strong social proof a book is popular, and popular books sell.
How Many Reviews Do I Need?
For a minimum, you should try to get 20 reviews within the first two months after your book release date. That shows your book has traction with real readers.
At around 50 reviews, you are probably good to go. Around that point, you have solidified the book as reputable and should continue to generate reviews.
A Note Before We Start: Don’t Try to Cheat Amazon
Amazon is savvy. Their algorithm is no joke, and if you try to cheat them, you will get caught. They actively look to find and remove any review that is not a real review written by a real person–and they’re very good at it.
Amazon also has a zero-tolerance policy for any review that is designed to mislead or manipulate customers. They’re not shy about removing reviews that violate that policy.
Here’s a list of things to avoid:
- You can’t pay for reviews. This includes cash or giving reviewers a free or discounted product.
- You can’t offer reviewers gifts in exchange for reviews.
- You can’t exchange positive book reviews with other Authors, so don’t head to Facebook or Twitter to find review swaps.
This may seem pretty restrictive. After all, don’t most of us rely on business associates, friends, and other members of our networks to sell books? And what about giving away free review copies? Does that violate the promotional terms?
Well, there are a few caveats.
You can give away free or discounted books to potential reviewers, but you can’t tell them what to write. If they hate it, they have to be able to rant and rave to their heart’s content.
That’s why I said earlier that you have to write a high-quality book. Any free copy you give away has to be given with no strings attached.
Most of this information applies to customer reviews, but they aren’t the only kind of reviews on Amazon.
Editorial reviews are either written by Amazon editors or they come from established publications like Publisher’s Weekly or Kirkus Reviews. Official book endorsements also fall under the category of editorial reviews.
Let’s say that you are a physical therapist, and you have a colleague who is very well known in the field. If she likes your work, it would probably be better to ask her for an editorial review. That way, when people look at the Amazon listing, her review will be front and center. It won’t be buried in the middle of 45 other reviews.
Editorial reviews aren’t subject to the same kinds of restrictions as customer reviews. It’s still not ethical to pay someone to give you a review, but you can and should make the most of your connections to get these.
How To Get Amazon Book Reviews
Step 1: Set-up For Success: Ask for Reviews In Your Book
The easiest way to get book reviews is to ask for them. What better place to do that than in the book itself?
Usually, it’s best to include a short, direct review request towards the back of the book, since good reviewers tend to read all the way to the end.
Few people realize how important book reviews are to Authors. There are probably many people who enjoyed your book and would be willing to write about it if you give them a little nudge.
There are unethical ways to ask, and you should avoid them.
For starters, don’t say, “If you really loved my book, please leave a review.” I know that Authors say this all the time, but it’s presumptuous. It’s like telling someone that their opinion doesn’t matter unless it’s glowing.
People leave reviews because they want to express their feelings. Those feelings might be more complicated than, “I adored the book.” Of course you want positive reviews, but you also have to leave space for readers who enjoyed the book but are reluctant to call it the best thing they’ve ever read.
It’s better to ask readers, “I’d love to hear your honest opinion.”
Here’s another thing to avoid: Don’t ask readers, “Can you take a minute to review my book so I can sell more copies?” This comes across as desperate.
Other people typically don’t care how many books you sell. They need a better reason to take the time to write. Try framing your request around the impact that the book had on them and the impact it could have for others.
Here’s an example: “Did this book help you in some way? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Honest reviews help readers find the right book for their needs.”
Step 2: Ask Your Network for Reviews
One of the most effective ways to get reviews is to set up a launch team.
To do this, put together a list of people who would immediately do a favor for you. You want to aim for 30-50 people.
One month before the book release, send this team a copy of your book so they can read it in advance. It’s easiest to email the book as a PDF, along with a short call to action. Here’s a sample:
I’m excited to let you know that my new book, [Title], launches on [date]. It’s been an amazing journey to get it completed, and I’m excited to finally share it with the world.
If you’re receiving this email, it’s because you’re someone I trust enough to (a) send a free copy of the book to in advance and (b) ask that you leave an honest review when it goes live.
Early reviews are the single most important factor in determining if a book succeeds, so I’m incredibly thankful for people like you who I can rely on to leave one.
No action needed yet. Attached is your free PDF of the book, and I’ll follow up when the book launches with a reminder to leave a review.
Thanks so much for your support. I deeply appreciate it.
Just before the book launches, use KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) to discount the e-reader version to 99 cents for the week of the book launch.
Then, follow up with your team, asking them to leave a review. You can highlight certain things that you would like reviewers to mention, but again, it’s good to emphasize that you want their honest opinion.
Also mention that your book is 99 cents, so if they’re feeling generous, they can buy a copy so their review will be verified. A verified review means that the writer purchased the product through Amazon, and they didn’t receive it at a deep discount. These matter more for your Amazon ranking.
Here’s a sample email:
The day is here! My book, [Title + GENI.US link], is finally live on Amazon.
I have one simple ask:
If you were able to look at the book and enjoyed it, can you leave a short review?
Reviews should only be 1-2 sentences and should take about 30 seconds to leave (and would make a huge difference for me). If you can’t come up with one, here are some examples:
- [Insert example review]
- [Insert example review]
- [Insert example review]
Finally, I wanted to give you a heads up that Amazon can sometimes block or remove reviews if they deem our digital relationship too close, or if your account is too new. This is few and far between so I’m sorry if you run into this and thank you all the more for your support!
Thanks so much for your help! I can’t thank you enough.
As you can see, this email alludes to Amazon’s “family and friends” rule. Most book reviews and sales come from word of mouth, and you will of course be asking your network for support. The key here is that you aren’t forcing or bribing people to give you good feedback.
Step 3: Set Up Your Assets to Remind Your Network
Social media is a great way to remind your network that your book is ready to be reviewed.
Use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or whatever social media assets you have to keep your book present in people’s minds.
- Pin a tweet requesting reviews at the top of your Twitter feed
- Add the book to your email signature
- Put your book in the header of your Facebook and Twitter profiles
Step 4: Reach Out to Authority Reviewers & Top Reviewers
Amazon has a list of top reviewers who are enthusiastic and authoritative about certain areas. If you notice that someone consistently reviews books in your field, they might be a good person to reach out to.
Be cautious about contacting too many top reviewers, especially if your book isn’t in their realm of interest. No one likes spam, so only reach out with good reason.
You have to know your audience, so look at book bloggers who might have some knowledge in your area or podcasters who might be interested in your book’s topic.
Alternately, you could use a site like BookRazor to find people interested in your book. If you send them a free copy, they agree to follow up with a review.
Be aware though: cold calls have a high failure rate. We haven’t found this method as effective as tapping personal networks.
Step 5: Don’t Ignore Negative Reviews
It’s highly likely that, at some point, you will get a negative review. This is just a fact of life.
One thing to keep in mind before you get upset is that bad reviews aren’t always a bad thing. Books that only have 5-star reviews often don’t seem credible. Bad reviews can actually convince people that your other reviews are real.
There are many ways to deal with negative reviews:
- Ignore it. There’s no upside to responding to toxic people.
- Answer it…but be careful. Responding can be a double-edged sword. Respond in a way that addresses the issue without coming off as defensive.
- Admit it hurts to receive a bad review, then move on.
- Keep things in perspective. Don’t give negative reviews more weight than positive ones.
- Consider if the negative comments have any lessons for you.
- Try to get Amazon to take down the review if it doesn’t comply with their guidelines. They probably won’t remove it unless the person has been fraudulent or crude.
BONUS Step: Use Paid Services
Okay, I know I said that you shouldn’t use paid services. But what I meant was, “Don’t use paid services to directly buy reviews.” That’s cheating the system, and scamming Amazon isn’t a good idea if you’re trying to be a legitimate Author.
But there are paid opportunities that you can use to get the book into potential reviewers’ hands in an ethical way.
Goodreads is a social media site for book lovers. Their book giveaways are a good way to increase exposure and create hype. Goodreads requires participants to add the book to their wish list, and they also remind winners to leave reviews. They offer several packages at different price points, depending on how many promotional options you want.
BookBub features discounted books in their daily newsletters, which have more than 10 million subscribers. You can pay to have your book featured, or you can buy ad space in the newsletters. The pricing depends on how deep the book’s discount is.