UPDATE: Amazon no longer requires 21 words. You can leave a two-word review, if you want (one for the headline and one for the review). They made it even easier, folks.
To leave a review on Amazon.com — and, let’s face it, that’s where it’ll have the most impact — requires nothing more than 4 clicks and 21 words. That’s one click to start the review, one click for the star rating, one word for the review title, twenty words for the review itself, a third click to preview the review, and a fourth to post it. All told, about five minutes from start to finish, assuming you write something simple and not too verbose.
Want to see how easy it is to write a review?
I thought this book was fun to read. It held my attention, had interesting characters, and the dialogue was good.
That’s it. That is a twenty-one-word review, including the title. And, of course, it’s 5 stars.
Why Reviews Matter
Because word-of-mouth is, and always will be, the strongest selling tool in any creators toolbox. Think about how often you’ve bought, read, downloaded, listened, watched, or otherwise consumed some form of media or idea solely based on the recommendation of a friend or family member. We are psychologically programmed to like what those we respect and/or love also like. It’s in our DNA, so to speak.
The age of the internet and online stores has seen the meteoric rise of the “review as determination of value” — and all the inherent problems that go along with that, including ‘spam’ reviews, trolling, authors bashing other authors (SO not cool), etc etc ad nauseum. The ‘problem’ reviews don’t negate the value of the ‘real’ ones, though: there is, quite simply, nothing more handy for your sales than a 5-star review. And, of course, that same 5-star review is worth far more if it’s posted on Amazon. To be clear, I appreciate any review, anywhere that people will read it, whether that’s GoodReads, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, LibraryThing, or even the Grey Gecko website.
But let’s be honest here. No one likes to admit it, because it’s cool to hate them, but Amazon is the prime mover of books today. More books sell on their site and through Kindles than all other online sources combined. So anything that increases exposure on that site is, in a very real sense, contributing to the selling of a book or books. Yes, Amazon is evil, they’re this generation’s AT&T, they’re the big bad, the end of all civilization as we know it, yadda yadda yadda… I get it, 99%-ers. That doesn’t mean I can ignore the fact that 95% of my books sell through Amazon. That would be foolish.
Good reviews lead to more sales, which, when combined with those good reviews, leads to a higher ranking, which leads to more exposure, which in turn leads to more sales and reviews. See how that works? And it all starts with the reviews.
The biggest impact for reviews is exposure: the more people who read the book, the more likely they’ll tell their friends and family, even if they don’t write a review (and most don’t). But that word-of-mouth is how great books find their audiences – just look at one of my favorite books ever, Wool, by Hugh Howey. Wool wasn’t his first book, or his second, but his fourth or fifth (depending on who you talk to). This book got read by his fans, who told their friends, who told their friends, and now it’s being made into a movie by Ridley Scott, of all people.
Word-of-mouth works. And reviews are the 21st-century’s word-of-mouth.
Indie authors like me and everyone else over at Grey Gecko Press depend on reviews to sell our books and get them in front of people who, in turn, tell others. So whether or not you liked our books, but especially if you liked them, take five minutes to leave an honest review. It’s seriously the best way you can support all of us, and we’ll thank you for them forever.
What to Write In Your Review
So you’ve decided to write your review, but you’re not sure what to say. Here’s some important points for you to keep in mind:
- Be honest. Authors who are worth their salt want to know if something about the book sucked, or why you thought it was great. With the advent of the ebook, we can now fix problems such as layouts, missing/double paragraphs, etc very quickly.
- Don’t include spoilers. No one wants to know the ending of the book before they’ve even read it. This would include major plot twists, character deaths, the big reveal, etc.
- Don’t advertise for other books or authors. We get that you might compare our books to others. But don’t go over the line to outright advertising. It’s no bueno.
- Don’t write the review if you haven’t read the book, or haven’t finished it. Caveat: If it was so bad that you couldn’t finish it, even though you tried, then by all means, let others know. Otherwise, how can you write an honest review if you haven’t even read it?
- Make sure you’re reviewing the right title. I’ve had to have reviews removed that had nothing to do with my books, at all.
That’s it. It’s simple. 4 clicks, 21 words, and you’ve helped to support an indie author and his or her small press publisher. Now take your warm fuzzy and go buy another indie book!
3. Seriously, y’all, this book is in my Top 10. Not Top 10 sci-fi, but Top 10. And that’s out of more than several thousand books. Get the omnibus edition so you can read the first five at once. You’ll be up till 3am, but it’s worth it.
4. If you have specific problems with typos, grammar, or editing choices, letting the author know – through email, preferably – is always a good idea. They’ll often be very appreciative, provided you approach them in a constructive – and not combative – manner. In the words of Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.”