If you’ve read my books, you know that at the end of each book, I ask readers to post an honest review on Amazon. I make this request because reviews can be critically important to a book’s success. Here are some thoughts on why that’s the case.
If you see two books with catchy titles, great covers, and intriguing descriptions, and one of the books has two reviews (mostly positive), while the other has two-hundred reviews (mostly positive), chances are you’ll pick up the book with two-hundred reviews. This seems to be true even if the average review score of the book with two-hundred reviews is slightly lower than that of the book with only two reviews.
This reader preference for numerous reviews ties back to a concept called social proof. According to Wikipedia, social proof is “a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.” The thought process is: If two-hundred people liked this book, I’ll probably like this book.
Amazon knows this, and has trained its software algorithm accordingly. If a customer enters a search, and the algorithm identifies two books that meet the search criteria, one of which has two reviews, and the other two-hundred, the algorithm is likely to place the book with two-hundred reviews above the other one in the search results listing.
The more reviews a book has (assuming they are reasonably positive when averaged), the more social proof attaches to that book. Social proof influences not only what a potential reader is likely to buy, but also which books an online marketplace such as Amazon is likely to show the reader.
Another reason reviews are important is that they provide writers with feedback from a wide range of readers. Some writers avoid reading their own reviews, and I’ve come across books and websites for writers recommending this practice. Personally, I think doing so is a mistake and a missed opportunity for both the writer and his or her readers. I try to read all my reviews.
Reviews, taken collectively, often highlight the aspects of a book that are connecting with readers and the flaws of a book that are turning readers off. Reviews can also help a writer, and other readers, see a book from a different perspective.
One of my favorite reviews of Burnout included the following statement: “I like Jessie because she is strong, smart, intelligent, not afraid to follow her intuition and push for the chance that will allow her to follow through and bring justice for the victims and their loved ones.” Wow! Aside from being very flattered, I was floored by how concisely this reader pinpointed the core of Jessie’s character. I wrote this sentence down and I keep it on my desk. It’s a handy guide when I’m outlining a plot for a new Jessie Black book, or even when I’m writing a scene and trying to figure out how Jessie would speak or act.
In other words, by posting this thoughtful review, this reader subtly influenced my writing. Think about that. It’s powerful. Readers should not overlook the opportunity to use reviews as a feedback mechanism, and writers should not overlook the value of such feedback. (Of course, negative feedback is more painful for a writer to read, but a bad review, if specific and thoughtfully written, can also be useful.)
Have you reviewed the books you’ve recently enjoyed? If not, consider going to the book’s Amazon page, clicking on the “Write a customer review” button, and posting a short review. The author (whether it’s me or someone else) will be thankful!