Buckle up, book buddies! We’re going to talk about all things book reviews. I chose to do this deep dive into this topic because I want to do my part to address the disconnect between authors and readers. As a personal example, I’ve sold more than 160 copies of my books but I don’t even have 30 reviews on Amazon.
If you don’t learn anything else, know that authors need reviews but we aren’t always the best at explaining why. So I’m going to explain all of that for you so authors and readers can be on the same page. My hope is to encourage readers to keep rating and reviewing books, especially indie reads. I want to show readers how their participation can literally make author dreams come true.
1. Why Authors Need Reviews
The majority of people likely already know why authors need reviews; anyone who offers products or services thrive on word-of-mouth references. But it’s easy to think “I’ve bought the book—isn’t that what they want?” Well, authors need both: sales and reviews. How do you decide to buy a book? Likely a review or recommendation, right? More reviews (regardless of rating) can push authors to another level.
For example, Amazon rewards authors who reach a certain amount of reviews. Amazon is more likely to recommend books to readers when those books have ample, legit reviews. If authors reach 25 reviews, they can start to take advantage of this free advertising. Some sources say authors should shoot for 20 reviews within a month of the book’s release and then shoot for 50. The attention a book gets before, during and after a release is crucial for lasting success. And the average reader or supporter might not know that.
Overall, authors are already doing their own marketing; they don’t just release a book and hope for the best. You can help expand their reach (for free!) by submitting your reviews. Authors can reach monetary goals, earn awards, and become bestsellers, y’all!
2. Why Readers Need Reviews
Readers need what’s actually contained in the reviews. Authors (especially sensitive ones like me) ought to learn at some point that the reviews are messages between readers. The reviews themselves are basically ways that readers can find new books to read.
I’m starting to see a trend where reviews are becoming more important than ratings. For the most part, readers want to know if the book offers certain elements—not so much about the star rating. It’s true that all your 5-star faves have also gotten their fair share of rotten scores. And often times, a book could get a 1 or a 5 for the exact same thing! Overall, readers are looking for certain themes or elements in their next read—reviews help them know if XYZ book fits their interests. There really isn’t enough time in the world to get through our TBRs but we will sure as heck try.
3. Who You Should Ask for Reviews
Not just any person can write a helpful review. Amazon and other platforms inspects reviews closely to avoid publishing fake or trolling reviews. While authors will take what they can get, it’s better to get reviews from ideal readers. For example, if you’re breaking into the romance genre, reach out to romance readers in the community instead of people who turn their noses up at anything with a spot of smut in it.
If you want to get those 20 reviews within a month of publishing, this means that people should be reading and reviewing your work before pub day; preferably a month before your big day so they have time to read. It’s ideal to work with people who know the power of reviews and spreading the word. You can do some research on setting up a launch team to learn more about this tactic.
It’s not enough to reach out to “readers.” It’s wise to go as specific as possible. For example, if you’re writing middle grade fiction, reach out to younger readers since they’re your target audience in the first place. The next adjacent groups are legal guardians and educators who buy books for kids. Here’s more ideas on who should review your book and how to ask for their help.
4. What to Mention in Book Reviews
Time is ticking by; the average reader wants to avoid as many DNFs (Did Not Finish) as possible. Therefore, book reviews will reach more people if you use the right words. Think of this as a whistle that is so high-pitched that dogs hear it but humans don’t. You’re hoping your future fans will hear you loud and clear. Anyone else who supports you is just a happy surprise.
I tend to roll my eyes at reviews that give a summary of the book and that’s it. We can read the summary on the book or product page. What else is there to know? Instead, try listing out things you like while avoiding spoilers. For many readers, they know what they need to know just be reading something like “enemies to lovers.” If that’s your cup of tea, you’re adding it to the pile! If not, you’re moving on to maybe “friends to lovers” or “lovers to enemies.”
It’s also appropriate to list things you didn’t like or any trigger warnings. If you do mention trigger warnings, consider explaining how the author handled it, too. Did they handle a sensitive topic well or was it all to grab attention?
Should we be transparent about how we know the author? Should we say we got a free book in exchange for an honest review? I’ve personally seen this or similar language backfire on the author. I personally don’t think it’s necessary to mention how you got the book because you’re here to review the book and not the author as a person.
5. Whether Authors Should Pay for Reviews
In doing research on book reviews, I was reminded of several ways you can pay for reviews. Now, I generally advise authors to avoid paid reviews as your first option. If possible, do your author budget a favor and ask for free, legit reviews. There are many people or services who prey on new, unsuspecting authors and I want you to avoid that as much as possible.
For example, I once got an email from someone saying that they would give me a 5-star review for $500. First, they promise a review before reading—that’s already not an honest review. Second, they’re preying on my insecurities by convincing me that working with this one reviewer is the key to my success. I checked their social media following and it was pretty sad.
If you decide to use some of your author budget for reviews, it’s not wrong to pay. Just promise me you’ll be smart. Consider the service itself—will their credibility serve you? Will this be an investment as opposed to a scam? Since I haven’t personally paid for reviews, I can only share some of the basics:
- Ask your fellow authors if they’ve even heard of the service—they could share their experiences and help you avoid any potential scammers.
- Check to ensure they regularly review books in your genre—again, review what I’ve said about ideal readers.
- Look at their following—are they a part of the book community or sneaky-sneaky? Will people actually see their reviews?
- Do their prices fit within your budget? It’s not cheap to publish a book! I can’t tell you how much is too much but if Amazon or other sellers suspect that you’re paying for fake reviews, it could hurt your marketing plans.
6. Where to Share Book Reviews
The short answer? Share your book review wherever you get your books. The long answer? If possible, share the book review everywhere. Some ideas include Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, BookBub, Goodreads, Storygraph, Readerly, Youtube (aka BookTube), Tiktok (aka BookTok), Instagram (aka Bookstagram), and more.
Some resources are better than others but if one platform is working more than others, then keep encouraging readers to use that site. We used to hear that we needed to be on EVERY platform equally to catch all types of readers. However, that’s not sustainable for authors who, I dunno, wants to spend time writing instead of pretending to like their least favorite platform. Stick with the platforms that give you reliable results.
If you have an author website, I highly recommend updating it with links to places folks can review your books so it’s very easy for people to support you.
Okay, readers. We know what to do. Authors, we also know what to do. Let’s work together to share the books we love. Remember, this is not a competition to be the best. That’s why we review other indie novels—their success is our success, too. Regardless of how much time has passed since pub day, it’s still worth it to ask for reviews.
Make a habit of reminding readers monthly or quarterly to review your books. Readers, consider posting your thoughts within a week or so when you finish so the character names and other elements are still fresh in your mind. And then share, share, share! Authors get a boost and many readers open themselves up to more opportunities to be ARC or beta readers—super ideal if you don’t mind reading books for free!
Did I leave something out? Let’s talk more about the dos and don’ts of book reviewing here or on social media.
6 comments on “6 Things Everyone Should Understand About Book Reviews”
These are great tips! It’s also important to know the rules of where you’re posting reviews. Amazon, for example is incredibly.strict. They don’t allow and may remove reviews from friends and family. Paid reviews are also not allowed, and may get you banned from the platform. They won’t approve some posts if it says ‘I received this book in exchange for a review.’. I’ve heard some reviews were not approved because the words ‘the author’s was used instead of the author’s name. Most other review sites are not as strict, but there may be rules about whether or not you must or cannot explain if the book was a gift. Regardless, it’s always important to check.
All excellent points! It’s so important to check each platform (or do some light Googling) to ensure you’re not indirectly hurting the author. That’s why it’s so important to focus the review on the book itself instead of how you got the book or how you know the author. You tend to avoid issues that way. Just as you say, it’s worth keeping up-to-date on the dos and don’ts because they tend to change each year. Thank you so much for weighing in!
Great article! One thing, though… it’s actually widely considered to be highly unethical to pay for reviews unless it’s a legit editorial review like Kirkus. Otherwise, you should never ever pay for reviews. It’s not only unethical, it can get you banned from sales platforms.
That’s true, Julia. I’ve heard of Kirkus but only recently—and it costs quite a bit for them to review your books! That’s why I advise people to take a closer look at who they’re working with. But I tend to stay away from paid reviews for exactly the reason you state: it can backfire in horrifying ways. I really appreciate your thoughts! Thank you for sharing and weighing in.
That is so true. As an indie author who is TERRIBLE at marketing (and a little shy), it is seriously difficult as well as depressing not getting reviews. Those reviews will help me pay for advertising—which I might add, will not accept you without a certain number—and in turn, get me more reviews! It’s quite the cycle!
So if you see indie authors come out of their comfort zone and tweet a free book deal off amazon, PLEASE take the opportunity to R&R.
Yes! I second all of this. We’re authors–not marketing experts. It takes a lot to ask, ask, ask.