So you can read my books

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Why do authors want you to review their books so badly?

Think Lightning Rod.

Over and over you hear that success in book sales is elusive.  It comes when it will ... like lightning.

With Amazon Kindle books, you can draw the lightning with reviews.

These figures are what the conventional wisdom say is true about reviews and Amazon:

1.) Around 20-25 reviews,

Amazon starts including the book in “also bought” and “you might like” lists. This increases your chances of someone finding your title.
2.) Around 50-70 reviews,
Amazon looks at your book for spotlight positions and their newsletter. This is HUGE.
This is my personal goal.  Of course another personal goal is to get a date with Olivia Wilde, too. :-)
3.) Number of reviews may affect Amazon sales ranking. (I have no actual proof of it.)  Amazon Sales Ranking is so arcane that killing a butterfly in South America could affect it!
4.) Some websites will not consider or promote your book unless you have a number of reviews on the page
Interested in writing a review for a friend's book? 
Here's how you can do it painlessly:
That's all you have to write.  You highlight the number of stars you want to tag the book with and write a mere 20 words. 
 Think TV GUIDE summary.  Think what you would want to hear about you were considering to buy and write that.

Say something you liked about it. Things that you could focus on could include the plot, a particular scene, characters, how things changed during the course of the story, etc.
If a bit of dialogue tickled you, say so. 
Do not give away all the punchlines. But one is allowable and give the prospective reader an idea of what to expect.
If the short chapters helped you in reading the novel, say that. If the humor was just your cup of tea, say so as well.
If there was a moment or character that personally impacted you in some way, don’t be afraid to say so.
Put yourself in the review.
Authors love to know their readers and I know that I’m always moved when I can tell someone made a personal connection with something I wrote.
If you're reviewing the book, SIXTH SENSE, do NOT write:
"I couldn't believe at the end when you saw the psychologist was really a ghost!"
You're not being graded for this review. Have fun with it. Relate how you felt during the read and afterwards as well.
That is up to you. 
I file such a book under the heading, LIFE IS TOO SHORT.
 You know when your mother told you:
"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all?"
  There is wisdom to those words for reviews.
What I find to be negative, others do not.
If I cannot find enough merit in a book to recommend it, I remain silent, reluctant to harm another's dream. 
Pinpointing areas needing improvement is for critique partners.  Life truly is too short for me to spend valuable time being negative. 
If an error is glaring enough but the majority of the writing sound,
I write the author a polite, hopefully helpful, email that does not blare to the entire internet community what I believe to need fixing.
Ever stand in a store and witness a child being publically chastised in front of the whole place? 
Negative reviews to me are like that.  They call it the WORLD WIDE net for a reason.
You may think differently.  Many believe in negative reviews.
If you decide to write a negative review, be specific and give a way to improve the flaw in the writing.
Being specific will help the author know where to start. Being specific helps the prospective reader decide if those details that bothered you would bother him/her.
Not reading the book but slamming it because of the genre, the title, the cover, or the sex of the author
while making it plain that the novel was not read is sure to get your review disregarded.
{Gwen Perkins wrote the excellent post that provided the skeleton around which I wrote this post:


  1. Sorry, if only I had an Amazon account! Best I can do is Goodreads.
    Didn't know that about the amount of reviews. Whoa...

  2. I promise to review the two I'm reading right now on Amazon and on my blog. Nearly done on Burnt Offerings and already started on Ghost of a Chance. Should be in a day or two, since I know they're perfect for Halloween.

    I don't review books I can't recommend, and I agree, don't want to be the dream-destroyer. Just the storyteller.

  3. I am learning so many things now that I'm doing this whole "please buy and review my book" without trying to do it exactly like that lol!!

    Now I see why some people made up dummy accounts and did fake skew the numbers. So not cool.

    Oh, and why did you have to add detail E up in the post? Actually, I know why you did. Because it's happened enough that it has to be addressed...but, geez...why?

  4. Alex:
    Yes, that is why John Locke paid $1000 for 50 positive reviews (he got 50 sales along with them, too - now, that skewed the rankings some!) THE NEW YORK TIMES revealed that about John Locke. Sigh.

    Thanks so much. I thought I would explain why I and other authors ask others to review. To get on Amazon's radar, you have to have a certain number of them. Weird digital world we live in.

    I know we two are kindred spirits: not dream-destroyers we.

    Yes, GHOST OF A CHANCE and BURNT OFFERINGS are truly in the Halloween Spirit! I look forward to reading your reviews. Victor and Mark Twain, too! :-)

    Yes, #5 is necessary because I've read so many reviews of other books and thought they couldn't have read the book to write the things they did.

    And John Locke and his infamous paid for 50 positive reviews from that site that sold reviews. They paid $15 to people to write positive reviews and bought the book for them to read.

    If they couldn't write a positive review, they were paid $8. Guess how many wrote negative reviews? LOL.

    Between those 50 sales in a matter of hours added to 50 positive reviews, no wonder John Locke rose up in Amazon Sales Ranking like he did! :-(

  5. I'm really behind on my reviews. Lately I've felt like the only reading I do is to write a review.

    And, you may find this hard to believe: but my Kindle broke. Really really! I've snapped the back cover into place several times over the last about 4 months; but the one place that won't align is near the power charger.

    It has been charging, but doesn't hold for long. Last week it "went to sleep" on the Kindle screen saver, and hasn't come off the setting. No amount of charging or button pushing or cursing has helped. You don't know how much I'd like to scream and cry about this loss.

    And yeah, I know your books have been sitting on my Kindle longer than this, but as I said, I am so far behind in writing my reviews - let alone reading books, that even if I spend my entire two month blogger break writing reviews, I'll still not be caught up. You produce about a book a month? My other blog buddies about one book every three months?

    Speaking of Kindle reading . . Hmm, I'll send you an e-mail.


  6. Donna:
    Amazon is usually very good about replacing Kindles. If you contact Kindle Support, I am almost certain they will replace it for you.

    I had a similar problem with my charger, and they gave me a credit for the price of a new one, sending it to me quickly. I had a friend crack the screen of THREE Kindles, and they replaced it all 3 times free of charge. Contact them and see if they will not send you a replacement.

    I am your friend. I would rather you just read something you enjoy than read to write a review for me. If all you do is read for assignments, the joy of reading for pleasure alone leaves you.

    I know it seems I write books quickly. But two of them have short story collections. And the latest is a compilation of my blog serial already written long ago.

    THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT is going slowly and growing in ways that slow me down even more.

    My job as rare blood courier is draining me so I feel a bit frazzled like you may be feeling.

    Have peace in some way this week, Roland :-)

  7. Loved this post Roland. I published my first last month, and have had a hard time explaining to people EXACTLY why reviews are so import.

    I'm going to share this on my Facebook feed, because you say it far better than I could. Plus, I thought most of your thoughts were just dang funny. :-)

  8. Thanks, E.J.:
    It means a lot that you liked this post enough to Facebook it. Reviews are important. Sadly, if the first reviews for an Indie book or Small Published book are negative, it usually tanks that book. Happy that I made you laugh, Roland :-)

  9. Makes you think twice about stepping on that butterfly, doesn't it?

    For all its weirdness with ranking, Amazon is still more accurate than the NY Times Best Seller list because that is affected by how many books are printed and shipped. And by publishers' $$$.

  10. L. Diane:
    Those butterflies had just better watch where they're going! :-)

    I have long ago concluded that the world is mad so Amazon's and THE NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER lists weirdness just blends in with all the other insanity.

    I just left a blog where a woman advised if you want to write, quit your job like she had done ... of course, she had savings acquired from $120 K a year job she'd had for years ... and an understanding boy friend ... after having divorced the unsympathetic husband.

    I shake my head.

  11. I'm in love with your post today. I've wanted to understand what Amazon does after a number of reviews. I have 21 reviews on my first book. I guess I'll hope I hit 50 before I die. :)

  12. It's a great reminder that it doesn't have to be very long. I always feel compelled to do a 'real review' but don't always have time. And I mostly agree with you on negative reviews. I can see doing a negative one one a multi-millionnaire bestseller who has put out a sub-par book, but not a new author.

  13. Brinda:
    21 reviews! That's quite a feat. My Stetson's off to you. Who knows what the future will bring, right?

    New authors and their books are so vulnerable to negative reviews. Sometimes the short reviews have the greatest impact as they are first read. Have a great day, Roland

  14. Sharon:
    I'm so happy you got something useful out of my post. :-)

  15. I didn't realize reviews played this much of a role on Amazon! I have started writing reviews on Goodreads but now that I know this I will do it on Amazon as well. I've also said several times to myself that I don't really know how to write a review so this was a very helpful post. Thanks for sharing!