Why Book Reviews Matter

will work for reviewsRecently, someone I know received one of my books as a gift (thanks, Mom!), loved it, and was kind enough to leave it a five-star review on Amazon. YAY! So, I emailed her to thank her. I told her that I appreciated her taking the time to do it, and that reviews were very important. I received an email back asking why.

That really got me thinking. One reason authors may find it such a struggle to get reviews is because readers may not realize how important they actually are.

As authors, we know the answer to this question is complicated. Of course, the obvious, simple response is that reviews are important because they help convince potential readers that this book will be enjoyable and they should buy it. Reviews, even critical ones, are valuable, as they help set reader expectations.

There is much more hinging on reviews than just that, however. Authors know that many advertising and book promotion sites require a certain number of reviews in order to use their service. They want to know that the book is decent quality, and reviews play a major factor in how they determine whether or not a book is accepted for promotion. No reviews on a book? No promotion. No advertising. In this business, if you don’t advertise, you don’t sell any books. See the image below:


That screen capture is from one of the best book promotion sites on the internet. They’re not going to risk their reputation on books that could be awful, and they don’t have the time to read every one that is submitted. Reviews are a convenient way for them to cull books that are poorly rated.

It has been rumored that the number of reviews on Amazon impacts a book’s rankings and visibility, making it easier for readers to find when they search for a book. We have not been able to confirm that. However, we do know that the number of reviews does affect the visibility during a promotion, as Amazon has a Top Rated section for each category. We believe that books on the bestseller’s list that have a lot of good reviews land on this additional classification. See the screen below:

PGF top rated best seller 042014 0710 pmYou will see in the screen capture above that Mr. Pish Goes to the Farm was a #2 bestseller (shortly before he went to #1!) in the Elementary School category. (See above, top right corner.) You will also notice that the Elementary School category has a Hot New Releases segment as well as a Top Rated segment. Books with a lot of reviews make it into the Top Rated section. Mr. Pish was #7. Yes, 1, 2, 7. That’s “new” math. New to pretty much everybody. In any case, having a lot of reviews got Mr. Pish Goes to the Farm added visibility, for which we are very grateful!

PFP east coast goodreads adReviews are also good marketing tools. Quotes from reviews make great ad copy, tweets, and posts on social media. Readers shouldn’t worry about leaving “quotable” reviews, though – it’s easy enough to take bits from two different reviews as is done at left in this ad on Goodreads. One reviewer’s comment is in all caps, another is in quotes. It would feel weird saying that stuff about my own book; I’m so grateful that a reviewer said it and I can quote them.

Many readers seem shy about leaving reviews. They feel like they will say the wrong thing, or they won’t say enough. Big Al wrote a great series called Reviewing 101 that I highly recommend to anyone who is unsure about writing reviews.

Hug an author today by leaving a review. It really does make a difference. And I thank you.

Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer, and photo-journalist, author of over 30 titles, and executive director and administrator of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is currently a photo-journalist and chief copy editor for two NE Washington newspapers.  She teaches self-publishing and writing topics for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page.

43 thoughts on “Why Book Reviews Matter”

  1. I love getting reviews because it means someone took the time to read my book and felt strongly enough to let the world know. That is gold to me.Of course a good review is that much more appreciatiated.

  2. I know I read it somewhere, I just can’t remember where, I’m sure that number of reviews and review rating are a factor in Amazon’s system of determining your ranking. So, yep, reviews are totally important.
    Good article, thanks.

  3. So true, Kat. Building review base could best be seen as an early stage of the promo process.
    And it’s not easy to figure out how to get people to review you. I include a “call to action” on that in some promo, but gingerly. I’m considering incentives.

    1. Thanks, Lin. A few years ago I held a contest – each reader who posted a review was entered in a drawing to win a Mr. Pish library package for the school/library of their choice. Since then I know Amazon has tightened up with rules about receiving reviews “in exchange” for anything – which means we now have to be even more careful about what we offer in exchange for reviews.

  4. It is always nice to see info on reviews. Thanks K.S. Here is a fact–not rumor: Amazon has an algorithm that counts and ranks reviews. If it didn’t–you would not have that little bar of review stars. Click on it and a viewer learns how many 5,4,3,2 and 1 star reviews. How fast four and five star reviews arrive on a title after a promotion gets attention from Amazon, too. Martin is correct. Reviews are ranked–it has nothing to do with seller stats–but Amazon keeps a title that is racking up reviews visible somewhere–and I’m going to go out a limb here and say–as long as the title stays below 10,000 in Best Seller Rank. But there is caveat because: Every genre has a top 100 list. Once a book falls off of say, the top 100 in Technothrillers–it loses visibility. I have a title right this minute with a Best Seller Rank of #47,031 Paid. It is #81 in Literary Humor. Unless I promote it, the title is going to slip off the TOP 100 in Literary Humor–and be out of site of Amazon viewers. I have another title sales rank 11,901–it has fallen off of Literary Humor. However, it has garnered over 200 reviews in less than 45 days. There are four other books with the same/similar title. But if a reader types in the title–my book comes up first–even though it’s sales rank is far higher than one of the other books with the same title–which happens to be in promotion right now. My title is gonna be knocked off the fence.
    A really good post today K.S. Thank you!
    I just learned this tidbit from an author on Google +. If 15 readers put a title on their wishlist within 24 hours, Amazon starts putting the book in also viewed. A group of authors tried it–found it happened.

    Jackie Weger

  5. I’ve learned to ask. When someone comments that they loved a book I tell them how much it would mean to me to have a review – an honest one. They oblige about fifty percent of the time. I appreciate every one of the reviews so much.

    1. I ask, as well. One time, a person responded with: “I don’t know what to write. Why don’t you write it for me?” *sigh* Perhaps if the other 50% realized how important the reviews were, you’d see more. Who knows. I’d say your average is pretty darned good.

        1. I hear that. I usually say, “I’m so glad you liked it! I’d really appreciate it if you’d leave a review on Amazon, just pointing out why you liked it.” I’m not saying that works. I’m just saying, that’s what I say LOL.

  6. Hi K.S.,

    thank you for sharing. Good stuff.

    I most enjoyed your phrase: “Hug an author today by leaving a review.”
    That’s so fitting.

    We have about 4000 readers receiving our daily newsletter now… I’ll send them an email to raise awareness about the importance of reviews for authors. Pretty sure most of them don’t know just how important they are.

    – Jay :o)

  7. Excellent post, Kat. I also now have a statement at the end of all my books asking people to write reviews if they can, and saying how important reviews are. It’s always a treat to go check my books and find a new review has been added; kinda like getting a Christmas present in July. I thought that was interesting what Jackie said about Amazon’s wish list. Just one more piece of the algorithm to consider.

    1. Thanks Kat for an excellent and timely post.

      Melissa, you most likely knew this, but for others wanting to check for recent book reviews –
      Go to Amazon Author Central and click on the ‘Customer Reviews’ tab, and click sort by ‘Newest to Oldest’ and you will get any new review for any of your books. (Note; Make sure ‘All Books’ is checked).

  8. I just got my fifty-first review on Amazon for Ripple. Not one of them has been solicited – all were freely given by readers. I have 44 five-stars and 7 four-stars. I’m yet to receive my first negative review. I got one once but my fans challenged the negger and she felt pressured by them and quickly removed her review.
    HOWEVER! I can promise you that the only thing that ever changes my sales rankings is another rare sale. Sad but true. The book is to be released in translation any day now in Europe so it will be interesting to see if that has any effect.

    1. It almost seems that in my case, reviews don’t matter – all those great reviews and I still don’t sell that well.

  9. This makes me feel virtuous since I posted four reviews in the last week. I write reviews because I think it is only reasonable if one has enjoyed a book to say so. Doing this publicly gives a little boost back to the author as my thanks for a good read.

    At the same time, I am also aware that reviews written in your own name can attract attention to your own books. I’ve had a number of readers contact me saying they enjoyed one of my books, but only discovered it by reading a review I had written about someone else’s book. A bit convoluted? Maybe, but that review found me another reader, who went on to buy copies of all my books and told his friends about them. Sadly he has yet to post reviews on any of them, although his e-mails suggest he enjoyed them.

  10. Wonderful article. So many readers I talk to express a fear of writing reviews. “I don’t know how to write a review,” and “I would sound silly,” are what I hear most often. I encourage them to move past their fear; I tell them to write how the book made them feel, and I assure them it isn’t hard. I am so grateful to readers who are willing to leave reviews.

    1. Thanks, Donna. I get exactly the same comments, and I reply exactly the same way. I hope this article will help readers push past their fears – and Al’s series should show them how easy it is to write the review. 🙂

  11. Great analysis, Kat. We know reviews are critical, but explaining why is not easy. You’ve just made it a bit easier. 🙂

  12. Great discussion. Reviews are so important. I always ask a buyer to leave a review, but I would say that the response is probably less than 25%. Most readers have good intentions, but busy lives in which writing a review is low priority. I try to remind readers when possible, but you can only do so much reminding before it starts to become nagging. You don’t want your fan base to see you as a pest!

  13. Now think of it from this perspective: a reader PAYS for your book, then does free advertising for you by taking the time to write and post a review.

    1. Hi Marti, thanks for your comment. Before I was a published author, I was a reader, and I have always looked at leaving a review as the opportunity to share the joy of what I read with others – or spare them from making the same mistake I made. I never thought of, and still don’t consider, the act of leaving a review to be “free advertising” for the author. If I went around and posted my review all over social networking, then I would consider that free advertising – depending on why I was doing it. One of my all-time favorite books is The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. I don’t know Mr. de Becker, and I probably never will, but I believe his book to be one of the most important written in our day. I believe all people should read it, especially women. By sharing my enthusiasm for this book, does that mean I’m advertising his book for free?

      All that said, I can understand where you’re coming from. The purpose of my article is to explain to readers who are on the fence – those who want to write a review but who are unsure of how important it is – that it is actually important and their voice does count.

  14. Thank you for this article. I am sharing it with my connections as I want reviews for my self-help memoirs on personal growth through travel.

    Two ideas I got from the comments have motivated me to ask for a review at the end of my books, and go onto my website and ask for reviews after the free chapters.

  15. S o what if your review gives the book a bit of free advertising? Did you enjoy it? Then why not say so? As an author you should know that we rely on other people’s positive opinions to share the word about or work. If nobody ever spoke or wrote about it how would others get to know of it, except by chance? And how would they get other opinions of it except by reading or hearing what others say?
    More than that; how would we, as authors, get some of the valuable feedback that reviews give us? So is it too much to reciprocate and write reviews of books we have read, We are, after all, writers. So get on and write reviews! For anyone facing writers’ block they can be a great and liberating diversion.

    1. Ian, you have some interesting points. The person for whom I wrote this article is not an author, however, she’s a reader. I think lots of readers hesitate to write reviews, or don’t think their reviews matter. Some probably never write reviews, which is their prerogative. Their are not obligated to leave a review by any means. However, for those readers (who are not authors – authors already know the importance of reviews) who do take the time and effort to leave a review – I wanted them to know what a big difference those reviews can make to us authors – and how much they are appreciated.

      1. Whilst I fully accept your points about how important reviews can be to readers looking for a book, I wonder if on this site you aren’t preaching to the converted as the vast majority of those who read these words of wisdom are likely to be author who also reads rather than simply readers.
        This has, nevertheless, been a very fruitful discussion with some interesting perspectives aired from which I’m sure we all learn. Good topic.

        1. Thanks Ian. We do have lots of “readers” as subscribers. They don’t tend to comment much. We’re just glad they’re here. P.S. if a reader ever asks you why reviews are important, you can just give them a link to this article. That’s what I intend to do for the person who asked me.

  16. As a reviewer who takes my reviewing very seriously, I appreciated this article, which, by the way, is quite good. Sometimes I wonder if my reviews are even read much less, make a difference. I see reviewing as not only a hug to the author, but also as a way to express my support and thanks to authors who share their talent with the world. Again, Thanks, to all the authors out there!

    1. Hi Lena, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. And thank you so very much for all your reviews! They are like gold to authors. 🙂

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