How To Get Amazon Book ReviewsGetting Amazon book reviews is hard work

It’s no secret that the more reviews a book has on Amazon, the more likely it is to sell. While there are countless other marketing tools that can be used when promoting a book, reviews are, and have always been, the most important element in promoting a book. In days past, publishers sent out hundreds of advance copies to beta readers, newspapers, television and radio stations as well as well as well-known authors to gain reviews that very often ended up being quoted on the back of the book when it was finally published.

The same process is being used today, however with the advent of ebooks and Kindle, in particular; these reviews now need to be gathered and published on a book’s page on Amazon and other online retailers as well as book-related websites such as Goodreads. So how do publishers get so many reviews for a new book?

When scanning reviews for books released by the large publishers on the Kindle Store it’s worth noting how many reviews were actually posted by readers who bought the book. Amazon makes this easy by identifying those readers who bought the book by labelling the review with ‘Amazon Verified Purchase’. While I didn’t spend weeks analysing lists of reviews, I did sample about twenty books that were listed in various bestselling genre lists. The one similarity was that on average only a very small proportion of reviews were posted with the ‘Amazon Verified Purchase’ tag. The other similarity was that among the first twenty or so reviews there were next to none of these verified tags.

It doesn’t take a lot of brain power to figure out what’s going on here. These reviews were posted by the publisher. Either by their own staff, their teams of beta readers or by reviewers who are paid to post. Book marketing is the same as any other form of marketing. It’s all about hype and gaining exposure, not about independent and unbiased opinion.

For self-publishing authors, though, the process of gaining reviews for a new book can be a long and arduous process. Relying on paying readers to post reviews can take years to build a decent list. Very few paying readers have the habit of posting reviews, so reviews have to be sought by other means. While social media offers the possibility to gain some reviews, it’s usually friends, relatives and a few online buddies who are the best source. While book bloggers can be useful, I’ve found them to be a bit hit and miss and often too genre specific. There is also the option to pay for reviews. I did a quick search and found the going rate now to be $5 -$10 for this service.

The other practical method, of course, is to exchange reviews with other self-published authors. ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours‘ as the old saying goes. Simply write your own reviews for your own books and post them for each other. Dishonest? Well, perhaps a better label would be hype, marketing, building your brand and competing with what the big publishers are doing.

If you were selling dishwashing detergent instead of a book, how scrupulously honest would you be in your product marketing? Of course, it gives your hands a skin rash.

How To Get Amazon Book Reviews
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73 thoughts on “How To Get Amazon Book Reviews

  • 30/06/2012 at 5:19 pm
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    Derek,

    I mostly rely on friends like yourself and online acquaintances, who have read my work. I neither have the money to pay someone to write a review, nor the inclination to seek them out.

    The only form of self promotion I find myself engaged in is when I make my work known via my own blog “Have We Had Help?”, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, Google Bookmarks, Stumbleupon and Facebook. Having a working relationship with Angelica Pastorelli and her Ezine Angie’s DIARY helps as well. :)

  • 30/06/2012 at 11:41 pm
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    Like Jack, to kick start the review process, I ask friends and others who have actually read my book . Their comments are genuine, although of course I only ask people who have expressed positive responses to the book.

    I like the idea of exchanging reviews with other authors but not to write each other’s reviews. Why not genuinely review each other’s books? In that case I would have to exchange reviews with a writer whose work I liked because one of my rules is not to write negative reviews of the work of fellow writers. JB :-)

  • 01/07/2012 at 12:38 am
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    There is a big hole in your reasoning here. You fail to consider the thousands of books given away free with the Kindle Select program. It doesn’t say “Amazon Verified Purchase” for Aa review for a free book and yet this is the greatest form of distribution for ebooks on Amazon.

    • 01/07/2012 at 9:46 am
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      I have to disagree about free books not qualifying for “Amazon Verified Purchase” Rick. I have one book that is always free and all almost all the reviews are marked with “Amazon Verified Purchase”. You can check them here. http://amzn.to/KLyqwg

      • 02/07/2012 at 8:10 pm
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        That book is grandfathered in. Amazon will no longer allow you to sell free books and promotional freebies through Kindle Select do not say “Amazon Verified Purchase” when reviewed.

        • 02/07/2012 at 11:19 pm
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          My Ebook, Whisper My Secret, was published at Amazon.com in March 2012 and the ‘Amazon Verified Purchase’ appeared on reviews posted by people who obtained it during a free promotion in May this year.

    • 04/07/2012 at 7:40 am
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      “It doesn’t say “Amazon Verified Purchase” for Aa review for a free book ”

      I have found the opposite. I have reviewed many books through NetGalley (a major source of free review books for bloggers), and posted my reviews accordingly. Some of these then went free on Kindle. I ‘purchased’, and the AVP tag showed up on my review – even though my review predates my ‘purchase’.

      • 07/07/2012 at 3:41 pm
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        You guys are right I just checked and they do say Amazon Verified purchase even if they are a freebie.

  • 01/07/2012 at 12:55 am
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    I often post reviews on Amazon for books that I’ve bought elsewhere. In fact, I avoid buying books from Amazon whenever possible, preferring to support small publishers and Smashwords. An author makes much more money on a low-priced book bought from Smashwords than if it’s bought from Amazon. So Verified Purchase doesn’t mean anything, really.

    • 01/07/2012 at 3:12 am
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      Thanks for that! My books are on Amazon for print and Kindle, but also on Smashwords and on my author site, too. We Indie authors appreciate your stance, and for all the same reasons you mention. Amazon has its place, but it gets a little too big for its britches, being all proprietary about everything. And on Smashwords, you can download all the formats for the book on the same page. Thanks again for you support of authors!

      • 01/07/2012 at 3:47 am
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        I’m an indie author, too. My books are on both Smashwords and Kindle. I’ve pretty much given up on Smashwords for sales (two in June, as opposed to 23 on Kindle for the same period), but I have a list of favorite authors there, and that’s my first choice for buying their books.

        • 01/07/2012 at 9:25 am
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          Just to make things clear here, both Derek and myself are also Indie authors Kellie Jai. In my own case, I divorceed I divorced from a trad publisher to go it alone – a decision I do not regret. I now publish via Kindle Direct. and with the system I outlined above, I am creating interest in my written word – far more than when I was with a publisher. :)

          • 01/07/2012 at 9:44 am
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            Hi Jack. yes i know Derek is an Indie author. I respect anyone who decides
            to do that. Traditional publishing is no longer the only option and we’re all better
            for it. As for Kindle, most of my electronic sales come from there, so i still depend
            on them, but i have great admiration for Smashwords. The problem there is that a
            all those reviews gathered on Amazon, aren’t ON Smashwords, so i have to build
            the reviews there before i can expect more sales. But my royalties through them
            are picking up great speed, so I’m okay with that. Between David and Goliath, I’ll
            side with David.

    • 05/07/2012 at 2:15 am
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      I wanted to point out the same thing: just because a review does not say ‘Amazon verified purchase’ does not mean it’s a review from the publisher. I own a Nook. But when I can, I’ll submit a review at Amazon for the book as well, especially if it’s an independently published book. My reviews won’t say they’re ‘verified’ because I didn’t buy the book at Amazon.

  • 01/07/2012 at 4:23 am
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    At my company, we have the Advance Reader Program. Those who sign up get to read our books (in ebook format) free of charge approximately two weeks before the book is launched. Then, when the book’s launched, they have two weeks to write an honest review for it on Amazon, BN.com and GoodReads.

    That’s it. No strings, no money, no quasi-ethical practices. Just free books in exchange for reviews. While it’s been a hit-or-miss proposition for us thus far, mainly due to the low number of people in the program, the theory is sound, and we have unfortunately had several lackluster reviews, proving the system does work.

    This, combined with our Slush Pile Reader program (another way to get free books) allows us to maintain the excitement about our books before they even come out, which I think is the biggest factor to seeing those reviews on Amazon. I just wish I’d thought of it before publishing my own book!

    Jason
    Executive Director
    Grey Gecko Press

    • 01/07/2012 at 10:10 am
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      I think your Advance Reader Program is similar to what the big publishers use Jason. The only difference being that they have had decades to build their membership lists, so have literally thousands of advance readers to help in their pre-publication marketing.

      For lone self publishing authors though, building a list of advance readers is something that is extremely difficult to achieve.

      • 01/07/2012 at 2:47 pm
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        Jason, Derek,

        We do the same thing. Offer free copies of ARC’s in return for reviews. It is, as well, hit or miss on the response from potential readers.

        I did a bit of an analysis on a book we released earlier this year. We’ve sold more copies from book signings than from online sales. I also read this news article:

        http://www.businessinsider.com/you-probably-shouldnt-take-amazons-reviews-at-face-value-2012-6

        And this one too about consumer book purchasing trends for Q1 – 2011. On slide 26 it shows book reviews come in last except for biographies and cooking on why people buy books – and on slide 27 it shows book reviews are in the middle of how the reader becomes aware of of a novel.

        http://www.slideshare.net/PubTrack/pubtrack-consumer-the-magic-and-mystery-of-book-consumer-research

        For us, we’re not fans of Amazon and their long running strong arm tactics. We also believe for authors who go it indie style, Smashwords is more Indie friendly than Amazon. We put the books we release there because some insist Amazon is the end all be all of the book trade outlets.

        I think there would be more reviews on novels, especially for indies and small press companies if there was a code of conduct for reviewers to follow. I used to do post-production reviews for novels. Now, we have a company policy – reviews are pre-production reviews only with release given to use for marketing purposes. I also used to enjoy having open discussions with fellow readers about novels. That no longer happens either.

        From the consumer trends it appears liking the author is the driving force of why people buy books.

        Kortney Gessler
        Unforgettable Books, Inc.

        • 07/07/2012 at 3:52 pm
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          There is a code of conduct for Amazon reviews. If you buy a review from Createspace for $329-$549 it OK.
          If Amazon thinks you bought one somewhere else they delete it without verification.
          So you better copy any reviews on Amazon you want to keep, they could disappear any time.

  • 01/07/2012 at 9:16 am
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    Writing my own reviews and getting someone else to post them sounds awful, a terrible idea.

    I’d be happy to cooperate with other indie authors writing genuine reviews, although I will not write a bad review of an indie author’s work.

    • 04/07/2012 at 7:43 am
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      “Writing my own reviews and getting someone else to post them sounds awful, a terrible idea.”

      Yep, terrible. If Amazon caught you doing it, they would likely delete both the reviewer’s account and your author account.

      • 04/07/2012 at 8:08 am
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        Unfortunately Iola, Amazon don’t seem to monitor reviews at all well. As Andrew noted in his comment:

        ‘I ran across someone on the KDP forums who has a new title with a ton of glowing reviews. The funny thing is, some of them are exactly the same – word for word – with different reviewer names. Others are generic in the extreme. “I really enjoyed this book. It gripped me from the start and I just couldn’t put it down.’

        There is also the ongoing problem of ‘trolls’ who are regularly posting very nasty and often spiteful reviews on books. This is also not monitored at all well by Amazon and if an author is unfortunate enough to get one of these, it’s a long battle with Amazon to have it deleted.

        • 04/07/2012 at 1:08 pm
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          If you find this, use the Report Abuse button at the bottom of each review. I tend to also leave a brief comment detailing why I think the review is against the TOS (e.g. “This reviewer has the same name as the author” or, in the example you give, “This review has been posted x times by [names]”).

          Amazon regularly delete reviews that breach their guidelines (as these do), and today they deleted the accounts of four posters who had been trolling the discussion forums (well, might have only been two trolls, but they were using four names).

          You can also visit the Badly Behaved Reviewer thread in the Kindle Book Forum. Post a link to an offending review, explain why you think it is against Amazon’s TOS, and the participants will also Report Abuse (no one is sure how many people have to click Report Abuse before a review is deleted). But get your facts straight – if you are trying to get a negative review deleted off your own book, no one will really be lining up to help, as that can be seen as sour grapes.

          The more people (readers, reviewers and authors) who report dodgy reviews, the better for the customer. (Perhaps not so good for the dishonest authors, but I’ve never been keen on standing up for the rights of the dishonest.)

        • 07/07/2012 at 4:01 pm
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          I got a one star review that violated the guidelines for reviews in two ways. One if you got the book reviewed as a freebie you have to say that, the reviewer didn’t, and second, it directed people to an outside site to get the information in the book, Amazon says you cannot include URLs in a review. Yet I complained to Amazon and pointed this out twice and they told me it didn’t violate the guidelines. Finally the reviewer changed it to be compliant. Amazon refused to do anything although I clearly pointed out the violations and quoted their guidelines to illustrate. Amazon simply does not play fair on many levels.

  • 01/07/2012 at 9:18 am
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    Sounds like a good idea to me. My Ben Jordan thriller has 9 reviews with another one promised (for several weeks) And the book’s been out for a year, now.

    I’m not in favour of writing my own reviiews and getting others to post them. That’s a terrible idea. But I’d be happy to write genuine reviews of others’ work in exchange for genuine reviews of mine. Having said that, I am reluctant to write bad reviews, like JB Rowley above.

  • 01/07/2012 at 9:21 am
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    Sorry about that double post. Serious problems with my Internet connection.

  • 01/07/2012 at 10:42 pm
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    I’ve been trolling twitter and websites and asking for reviews. It’s a slow process, but gradually they are building. I review all books I read, Indie or not . I tried the author exchange idea a couple of times and it backfired on me. I wrote a review for the author and she wrote back that she read my book while watching the Super Bowl. She didn’t even remember the heroine’s name. No review there.

  • 01/07/2012 at 11:19 pm
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    I have been trying to get reviews as well. I do have one review (unsolicited) and think I might have some more forthcoming. The tough part for me is that a lot of people want to trade reviews, which is fine in theory. The problem is that while there are some very good Indie authors, there are also those who are not so good. I don’t know how to write positive reviews for books which I really don’t have much of anything positive to say about. I don’t want to write or even receive false reviews. It just seems very unfair to the reader.

    I don’t mind reading others works at all, and I have done so multiple time already, but I always let them know that if I don’t like the book I will just not write a review, but after that I don’t really expect them to write a good review for me even if they actually liked my book.

    So, I like Darlene mostly just troll twitter and other websites trying to find people willing to read my book. I guess it would help if my book were less controversial. :)

    Best of luck to all of you and if I can help any of you (in honest ways) please feel free to let me know.

  • 02/07/2012 at 9:59 pm
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    I don’t believe they are paid (or bogus) reviews in many cases. As an Indie publisher, I give away free copies periodically, to strangers, for the express purpose of promoting the work. Some review the books, and show up without the “verified” tag. Others post their reviews on multiple sites, but don’t purchase through Amazon.

    What the verified tag represents is not an “objective” review, but Amazon’s success at marketing itself. It you are going to pay a reviewer, I imagine you’re smart enough to have them purchase the book, and provide a voucher to reimburse them when they do.

    You cannot prevent a lack of ethics. You can, however, convince people that anything without your stamp of approval is bogus. Frankly, the people I solicited to review my work give my books precisely the same average rating as those I’ve never met.

  • 03/07/2012 at 10:45 am
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    Hmm, I’m not sure I’d ever support an indie author who asks others to post their own reviews for them. I review Indie books, and sometimes their authors review my books. That, I believe, is fair.

    But lying to the readers… is something that will backfire in a big, big way one day. The only way to recuperate from such loss of credibility could be to change your name and re-launch yourself.

    I’ve happily received many reviews in two ways:
    – By giving away hundreds of my book copies for free on LibraryThing and asking for reviews in return (those turned out to be the most comprehensive, thoughtful reviews);
    – By running Kindle give-aways on Facebook and GoodReads, as in “post an impartial review by June 30 and win a Kindle” (these ones turned out to be the most shallow reviews I’ve got, but still genuine).

    I’ve also participated in paid sites like BookRooster – I don’t think I got anything from them, but I could be wrong. Maybe their readers have posted something.

    Still looking for the best practices…

  • 03/07/2012 at 5:53 pm
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    Marketing a book is especially tough for indies. There are tons of readers out there who are fed up with the fake reviews on amazon and, unfortunately, they tend to associate the phenomenon with Independents. Large media corporations can be as blatant as they like and get away with it, but if an indie book has a review that seems slightly suspicious…

    I just saw an ad, last night, for the hottest new hit TV series. It debut’s sometime next month. How the (expletive declined) is it already a hit series if it hasn’t been on the air yet? That’s about as blatant as you can get. ‘Nobody has seen this show, but trust us; it’s a big hit!’

    One of my recent titles spent two and a half months on a Sci Fi genre best seller list at Amazon, but I wouldn’t dare say that on the book page. Someone would see that it currently sits at a lower ranking and assume that I’m full of it – unless there was a publisher logo on the cover to lend some ‘credibility’ to my title.

    • 03/07/2012 at 7:18 pm
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      Very true Andrew. It’s ok to be a fake if you’re a major media organisation, but frowned on if you’re an Indie. Your example is probably brought about by the production company being owned by the television network that has already classified the yet to be broadcast program as a hit. But that’s called marketing and not being fake.

      It’s also easy forget that book reviews have traditionally been the province of newspapers over the decades. As most of the major publishers in the world owned both newspaper, magazine and book publishing empires, it doesn’t take much to figure out that it was all cross-promotional for their own marketing ends. News Corp are a prime example of a media empire that owns huge print, publishing, television and cable networks. So when they cross-promote, it’s not fake? No it’s marketing.

      While I really admire the honesty and integrity expressed in the many comments on this post, it really has to be understood what is happening in book marketing and in particular with book reviews.

      Book reviews over the decades have rarely been unbiased and honest. So why should they be any different now?

      For this reason Indies do have to become smarter to compete. Waiting for unbiased and unsolicited reviews from honest readers takes a very long time to accumulate.

      • 03/07/2012 at 10:07 pm
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        True enough. I think the hardest part of getting the unbiased reviews is taking the good with the bad. I’ve had some readers praise my character development while others complain that I waste their time with it. At least the reviews do show that balance. Potential readers tend to be leery of a four month old title with forty reviews (I only have nine). I think the best marketting tool an indie can have is patience. Once you stat down the five dollar review path, your title is permanently tarred.

        I ran across someone on the KDP forums who has a new title with a ton of glowing reviews. The funny thing is, some of them are exactly the same – word for word – with different reviewer names. Others are generic in the extreme. “I really enjoyed this book. It gripped me from the start and I just couldn’t put it down.” It could be about a romance or it could be about a physics text.

        One of the ‘reviewers’ had other reviews that ratcheted my eyebrow up a few notches. One product cleared up the reviewer’s yeast infection while the very next product she reviewed did wonders for her erectile dysfunction. I tell you, that author is a real hit with the hermaphrodites.

        • 03/07/2012 at 11:18 pm
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          Another interesting insight Andrew is to check out the ‘top reviewers’ on Amazon. Some have posted over 20,000 reviews of products. I don’t think anyone posts that many reviews out of the goodness of their heart.

          • 03/07/2012 at 11:56 pm
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            There’s never been an honest review system, aside from word of mouth.

            I shoud amend that a bit…
            Some book bloggers are pretty good. Big Al walks softly but carries one heck of a big stick. I would love to get a review from him, but I hear his next available slot won’t come up until the continents come back together.

            Oh well. Back to good old fashioned patience…

          • 04/07/2012 at 7:47 am
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            Only Harriet Klausner has published more than 20,000 reviews (as far as I know), and she is no longer on the Top 1000 list (last I checked). Amazon basically reworked the entire review ranking system to remove her from #1.

            And, yes, it is one of the big bugbears of Amazon that they don’t remove her reviews (or those from her employer, Midwest Book Review).

  • 04/07/2012 at 8:42 am
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    If there is any doubt about major publishers using fake reviews (um, marketing?), then one book I noticed this morning is a prime example. A book published in 2012 by HarperCollins has 79 reviews. The majority of these reviews contain either the author’s name or the book subject within the first six words. This is called ‘keyword stacking’ in SEO language and in my mind is clear proof of the publisher posting their own reviews.

    Another aspect of the reviews for this book was that ALL of the initial reviews posted through the Amazon Vine Program, the so called ‘Trusted Reviewers’ system on the same day! When I looked at the dates of the first 4 pages of reviews, it was staggering how many were posted in one day. The day of the book’s release!

    Honesty in advertising? No such thing.

    • 04/07/2012 at 9:02 am
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      The first book in my urban fantasy series has 38 reviews. I’d guess about 10 of these are book bloggers I gave an ARC to. All the others are purchases, but it appears only about half of the purchases say “Amazon Verified Purchase” on them.

      And about keyword stacking… well.. a lot of the reviews I’ve gotten on Amazon and other sites have my name, title, or genre in the first few words. I don’t ask people to do that, and I certainly don’t do it myself. I think your “proof” is a bit shaky.

      I’m not saying people don’t sometimes use unethical means to get reviews, but making accusations based on word choice or an OPTIONAL Amazon tag seems a bit harsh.

      • 04/07/2012 at 9:17 am
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        Thanks for your comment India. I don’t think my proof is all that shaky. The first 20 odd reviews for this book were posted in a two week period prior to the book’s release, and the next 20 or so on the very same day, Jan 3, 2012. The day of the book’s release. So that accounts for half of the 79 reviews listed. Clearly this was orchestrated by the publisher. There is just no other explanation. And of course, all of these first 40 or so reviews were very well written and SEO keyword stacked.

        • 04/07/2012 at 10:34 am
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          There is a little thing called beta readers. Publishers use them by the hundreds pre-release.

        • 04/07/2012 at 1:01 pm
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          Another point: on Amazon, most products can’t be reviewed until release date. Advance reviews are probably from Amazon Vine members, i.e. the publisher has paid Amazon to distribute free copies to reviewers. My main problem with Vine is that I’m not eligible, as I don’t live in the US!

    • 04/07/2012 at 12:59 pm
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      But that could be because those of us who blog use the same review on our blog as on Amazon… and we have to blog, in order to get the ARC.

  • 04/07/2012 at 10:48 am
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    One idea that works very well for me is a ‘trick’ I poached from self pub’ing expert David Gaughran.
    In the back matter of my book there’s a simply-worded request for the reader to review – words to the effect of ‘If you enjoyed this book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon – word of mouth is vital to help authors succeed, and it would mean the world to me! Thanks, Tony.’ Followed by links to the book’s sales page on Amazon UK and US. I get lots of reviews now, far more than before I added this.
    It’s a completely ethical reminder – no sneakiness required!
    Amazon don’t monitor all that closely, until someone points it out – then they’re only too happy to start chopping away at duplicate reviews. Likewise if someone reported scammy reviewing of the paid-for-without-reading-the-book nature – could potentially get a person in trouble, so I steer clear of that. My first few will always be from from friends and via ARCs though – it’s sound practice to have them up before the official launch, as general public are unlikely to buy a book with no reviews at all, even if it is new. Especially if it is new!

  • 04/07/2012 at 11:23 am
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    Thanks for this fascinating post. I always wondered how the big publishers did that. I don’t agree with review swaps but love the previous commenter’s ‘call to action’ idea.

  • 04/07/2012 at 12:25 pm
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    A registry for indie authors to exchange book reviews is not a new idea. It has been done before, several times. People invested a lot of time launching and organising such sites (e.g. the Indie Review Exchange), and they failed.

    The other problem is that this leads to fake reviews. Review swappers expect 5* reviews; many are outraged if you offer an honest opinion on their book. It also obliges you to read books you would not normally enjoy, simply because the other person has read and reviewed yours. In consequence, most participants of such schemes don’t bother to read the books. They simply churn out reviews of the “unputdownable must-read” kind. Is this desirable and ethical? You may think so. I think not.

    Regarding the pay-for-review schemes: Yes, there are people and organisations where you can buy reviews for $5 or 10 (or even in quantity – 100 reviews for $100) but these people don’t read the books. They’re in it for the money and reading a book takes too much time to read. So those are blatant fakes. Usually, they paraphrase the book’s blurb or previous reviews, add some bland phrase (“unputdownable must-read”). The results are often ridiculous. Do you want that for your books? I don’t.

    There are also agencies you can pay to post the reviews you have written yourself. Authors write glowing reviews about the unputdownability of their must-read books, pay a fee, and someone uploads it as an alleged customer review. Ethical? I think not.

    Besides, Amazon is deleting all paid reviews anyway. You can spend hundreds of $$ on getting reviews, bask in their glory for a few days, and find a few days later that they’re gone. A good investment? I think not.

    Let’s keep some sense and ethics.

    Rayne

    • 07/07/2012 at 4:09 pm
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      Another problem is that review exchanges are time-consuming. I simply don’t have enough time to write novels, post in my blog, write articles for assorted websites and keep up with my facebook groups to read books.

  • 04/07/2012 at 1:54 pm
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    I guess I’m sort of a “by the book” gal. I want my reviews to be real. Authentic. From paying customers. I think you’re right when you say that most people who buy books don’t think of writing a review. I’ve had so many people contact me privately to say how much they loved my debut novel BABY GRAND. And I will often ask them if they’d mind writing an Amazon review. Some do. Some don’t.

    But I do have a question. All the customer reviews on my Amazon book page (http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Grand-ebook/dp/B0085YEUJ0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1339019868&sr=1-1) with the exception of the very first review, which was written by someone who had an ARC (and she clearly states it), have come from paying customers. But not all those reviews have the “Amazon Verified Purchase” notation. I wonder why. Did the customer perhaps not check a box? Just thought maybe you knew. :)

    Thank you for posting such an interesting discussion!

  • 04/07/2012 at 2:10 pm
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    Thank you for joining the discussion Dina. With regard to verified purchases, it is usually automatic if the reader bought the book. However, they do have the option to ‘unclick’ this label. I don’t understand really why anyone would do that, so maybe it’s just a glitch that happens from time to time.

    I agree with you about authentic reviews. I’m not a review chaser at all, which might sound odd considering how I started this discussion. But while most Indies are taking the honest route with their book marketing, they need to understand the underhand tactics that are being used by not only large publishers, but by many self pub pubbed authors as well. It would also be naive to think that Amazon would take any action against aggressive marketing as they benefit the most from successful marketing campaigns.

    • 04/07/2012 at 2:47 pm
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      Thank you for your reply, Derek! This really is a great discussion. I also don’t understand why anyone would “unclick” that label, but that’s the only thing I can think of as to why a portion of my reviews don’t have the “Amazon Verified Purchase.” Oh well. :)

      What’s weird too is that a few weeks ago, the daughter of a high school friend wrote a glowing review of BABY GRAND on Amazon. I was blown away. And totally surprised. A few days later, the review was gone. I managed to contact my friend’s daughter through FB to see if perhaps she removed it, but she hadn’t. Amazon deleted it for some reason. I reached out and contacted Amazon, and, although they were prompt in responding, I still couldn’t figure out what the problem was. After reading your discussion here, I thought maybe my friend’s daughter was flagged in some way? I don’t know. But, gosh, that had been a good one… Oh well. :)

      I guess I knew that all sorts of underhanded tactics were going on, but I’m hoping I can just keep doing what I’m doing and persevere. Maybe some of us good guys won’t have to finish last. :)

      Thanks again, Derek!

      • 04/07/2012 at 3:11 pm
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        You are not the first person to experience the disappearing book review. I’ve heard of this a number of times. And contacting Amazon with a ‘why’ is never answered with a ‘because’. Always a ‘copy and past’ generalised guideline statement.

        I suppose we also tend to forget that Amazon make the rules and can change them at anytime, or interpret them how they wish. And while self publishers have helped Amazon build their Kindle revolution, don’t hold your breath waiting for them to thank us or help us. It may sound cynical, but I really think we are just small content providing pawns in a much bigger game.

      • 07/07/2012 at 4:16 pm
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        Amazon gives vague and evasive answers or lies when questioned about disappearing reviews and they treat Indy writers like crap.

        • 07/07/2012 at 5:20 pm
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          I think it’s easy to forget Rick that Amazon is a business, and a very aggressive one at that. The bottom line is that we as Indies have been given access to something they created and own and need to keep in mind that they make the rules and they can break the rules. In fact there are no rules, as all of Amazon’s guidelines state that they are subject to change at anytime without notice. As for being fair with Indies, we are just very small fry content providers in their business and as Amazon have shown in the past, they will even ditch one of the Big Six publishers if need be in flexing their monopolistic muscle.

          The only way to stay sane when using Amazon is to use what services they allow you to use, but always be prepared for things to change and adapt to those changes as best you can.

          In a more general sense, almost all facilities and networks we use on the Internet are owned by private companies, so we can have our accounts and records changed, altered, wiped, erased, cancelled or suspended at any time. There is no fairness when it comes to a business protecting thier own product.

          • 08/07/2012 at 5:07 am
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            Good reply Derek. There are laws in the US that govern how businesses are allowed to act or treat customers and partners. A few things that come to mind is the RICO Act, Fair Business Practices and interference with business. Just as Amazon is a business so too are we Indy publishers. So when Amazon removes reviews that drive sales, and refuses to give any valid reasons for doing so, they are in fact interfering with our business. By having contradictory policies as far as reviews are concerned could be a violation of the RICO act. That is the primary reason Amazon is so vague and evasive when questioned about reviews. They know if they make a concrete statement they may be in violation the law. Clearly they are violating fair business laws by sanctioning some paid reviews and reviewers and not others. No matter whether Amazon is the Walmart of the internet or not, there are laws that govern what they can and cannot do and as far as I can see Amazon is very close to breaking some of those laws if they haven’t already.

  • 05/07/2012 at 1:08 am
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    Great discussion Derek and I agree with you that reviews are a major book promotion tool. I take away the notion that most people would like to belong to a readers/writers site where reviews are exchanged but only under certain rules, chief among them that there be no requirement to write a “return” review if the book doesn’t appeal (read: if it stinks).

    I can understand that (I feel uncomfortable writing a bad review too) but it sort of shoots down the author review exchange idea, doesn’t it?

    I really don’t know what the solution is. Book blogger reviews don’t seem to stimulate sales either. And paying for reviews is a bad idea – crassly commercial and works only in certain cases, though you could argue that if you give a free copy in exchange for an (eventual) review, you are paying for it.

    So it’s back to hoping for reviews and keeping your fingers crossed hoping that somehow you’ll emerge some day…

    Unless we could create a site where you accumulate points for writing reviews and need a certain number of points before posting your book and seeking a review for it? I’m not quite sure how it would work, but it would give you the advantage of being able to specify the genre you wish to read in, and if you don’t like a book, don’t write a review. Just pick another one to read and review!

    • 05/07/2012 at 6:46 am
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      Thank you for joining the debate Claude. You’re right that most of the available methods for gaining book reviews are problematic. Perhaps this is because in just the short time that self publishing has become popular, authors are trying to emulate a system that was developed by the major publishing houses over decades. Up until recently, book reviews lived in newspaper columns and on the back of books. None of which were written by book buying readers.

      So we are trying to change the behaviour of readers and now asking them to do something that doesn’t come naturally. I know in my case that I’m fortunate to have a few (not too many!) very loyal readers, who buy just about every book I publish. But of these, only one publishes a review occasionally. The others simply send me a message or email saying how much they enjoyed the read. It would be wrong of me to then demand a review from them as well.

      Just maybe we are focusing on a system that can’t work for self publishers and need to find an alternative approach other than copying a review system that is over 100 years old and was designed for the print medium.

      • 05/07/2012 at 2:01 pm
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        Hey, Derek! Just wanted to ask, Why do you think it’s wrong to ask for a review from someone who contacted you and said they loved the book? I think you’re right when you say writing a review doesn’t come naturally, but I think it’s perfectly okay to ask — not demand — that someone who reached out to you write a review. I find that some do, some don’t. And that’s cool. But I think it’s okay to ask. Most readers don’t realize how important those reviews are, especially to new authors.

  • 05/07/2012 at 7:00 am
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    Hello authors!

    I just had to add to this discussion.

    I love reading and reviewing books! Recently I have received emails from authors asking me to review their books because they saw me on the AmazonTop Reviewers list. Now this may not seem like a big deal to others, but I was thrilled! I didn’t even know I was listed there until receiving the emails!

    When I read and review a book, I take a lot of pride in signing my name to it. Whether it be one star or 5 stars. I post my reviews on other sites too, for example, Twitter and a month on Hoot Suite, my Facebook, Goodreads, both my blogs,Smashwords ( if an author gifts it to me as I can’t post a review there otherwise, their rules). Sometimes I can post on my public library site if the book is available there, but that isn’t often.

    I always write the author and attach my review with a thank you for allowing me to read and review their book.

    Authors are requesting my reviews because I am on other lists now too, I’m assuming because of making it to Amazons Top Reviewer List. Not really sure.

    I am so excited because these new authors and books (except for one) have been a step up from when I first started reviewing. I am having so much fun reading and learning things before I review the book.

    I feel terrible to see the hell authors go through. But please know, I’m sure there are others who enjoy and take pride in reading and reviewing books. I do not charge a fee, never have and never will. I don’t care what people think about this, I just choose not to. I know how hard authors work to write their books.

    It is so uplifting for me as a reader and reviewer to now tell authors who request me to review for them that I would love to if they don’t mind a bit of a wait. I actually have a waiting list! I love it!

    I am an eclectic reader, and authors find this appealing. I can’t imagine reading any other way. It is both new and challenging to read outside my comfort level.

    Anyway, sorry if I’m rambling, I just wanted to say I love to review and I hope you all will find reviewers you like and trust out there.

    Thanks for listening! Keep writing!

    Mary

  • 05/07/2012 at 4:00 pm
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    I’ve been reading these comments with interest as I have recently started a book website. I am currently working on a way for authors to create their own profiles and I was thinking of implementing a way for authors to provide copies of books for reviewers to review. I’d only make the books available to users who had previously posted a number of genuine reviews. I believe similar schemes already run on Librarything, Goodreads and Netgalley so any pointers about a system that would suit indie authors would be useful to me.

  • 05/07/2012 at 8:43 pm
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    I suppose it’s a cultural thing Dina. Being from Europe, it’s not something that comes naturally. When someone spends their money on my books, I’m reluctant to ask for anything more because we have completed our deal, to use an expression. Before the advent if ebooks, it would have been unheard of to ask a reader to write a review. It is only in the the last year or two that we as authors have decided that we would like more from our paying readers. While I was self publishing paperback only (prior to ebooks) I never bothered with reviews at all. So much has changed, it’s hard to know what the new protocols really are.

    • 05/07/2012 at 11:03 pm
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      I’m with you, Derek.

      I feel it’s a little rude to respond to a reader who has taken the time and trouble to communicate with me by asking them to do something else for me. That’s the time to give back to them, not to ask more from them. However, if I had built up a relationship with a reader over several books, I think I would feel comfortable about asking for a review then. (That hasn’t happened yet as I have only just started my Indie author journey.)

      • 05/07/2012 at 11:20 pm
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        Ack! Perhaps I should specify that I was referring to my friends, not people I didn’t know. LOL! My friends and colleagues had written me privately to tell me how much they liked BABY GRAND, and I felt comfortable enough asking them if they’d mind writing a review. But folks I didn’t know? Yes, I agree. I could never ask for a review. I’m just happy they read the book! Thanks for your response, JB. It made me realize I wasn’t being clear.

        • 06/07/2012 at 4:29 am
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          Ah, yes, that’s a different kettle of fish altogether, Dina.

  • 07/07/2012 at 2:51 pm
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    Wonderful post, Derek, and I hate to be the fly in the ointment but I’ve never experienced difficulty receiving quality reviews from book bloggers. Most of those bibliophiles happily post reviews on Amazon, GoodReads, B&N and other sites. I think more novelists would garner these unbiased reviews if they’d simply send out queries.

    Here’s another thought: recently Amazon has begun stripping reviews from some author’s books if the review was written by another author. Amazon Executive Customer Relations Chief Jonathan Norberg has stated, “We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product.”

    Now, I don’t think Amazon will halt all reviews posted by authors–we’re also readers, after all–but I do purchase an eBook before posting, thus ensuring my review appears as a “verified purchase.”

  • 07/07/2012 at 3:22 pm
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    Taking the discussion on a slightly different tack folks, in the unlikely event that a reader gains a copy of our latest when as writers, we take advantage of the promotional ‘free’ give away system KDP/Amazon currently have. Should they actually read the book and write a review, would Amazon still remove it?

    Just a thought…

    ;)

    • 07/07/2012 at 4:25 pm
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      Jack, since no-one can get a straight answer from Amazon, who could answer that question? I can’t, by the way, that email I sent to Amazon and you posted has not received a reply. It’s been a week or more.

      I have a catch-22 type of problem with paid reviews. I know that people think a paid review is biased and I tend to agree with that. But on the other hand I can’t understand why everyone thinks someone should do a time-consuming job and not get paid for it like everyone else does for work they do.

  • 07/07/2012 at 6:25 pm
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    This has been a really great wall to have been a fly on! Great information here, since deciding to leave my publisher and ‘go it alone’ I’ve figured out a small portion of what I just haven’t got figured out

  • 07/07/2012 at 7:30 pm
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    This is an interesting discussion. I review books (don’t review indies), and do review books from netgalley in addition to print. Aren’t tools like netgalley helpful in getting reviews? I believe many netgalley reviewers do post their thoughts on the book on their blogs/goodreads/amazon.

  • 08/07/2012 at 12:14 am
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    I offer pdf copies to anyone who requests and All my reviews on AMAZON are earned, even if there is no purchase verified. Some people may well mislead but I am certain many of us do not.
    :)

  • 26/07/2012 at 3:24 pm
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    This was very helpful.

    I have had a few family and friends read my book. They say they will write reviews, but they seem to be taking forever. :-) Exchanging books with other authors seems to be great, but I find there is a little pressure to give that person a good review. I’ve just recently sought out sites and people who will review for free or a fee. Some of them are booked up and others are more available. It just takes a bit of searching around and submitting the book’s information. But that is the plight of self-publishing. We have to pound the pavement and put our nose to the grindstone.

    Your post lets me know that I’m going about it in the right way. So, thanks a bunch for that! :-)

    Theresa

  • 28/07/2012 at 9:34 pm
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    Hi Derek, I went through this as an Indie author, too. I soon caught onto the fact that without 10 reviews, at least, potential buyers of my books would simply pass them by. So I started looking for and finding reviewers. So I now do what any self-published author can and should do, behave like a publisher and send out pre-published e-books to reader/reviewers. I have a totally free, no strings, PDF copy of a talk I did on this subject to my local Sisters in Crime Chapter. The handout has become so popular, I have requests coming from all over the world.
    e-mail me w “/PDF handout” in the subject line to: [email protected]

    I’mtwitter: @rpdahlke

  • 16/03/2018 at 1:23 pm
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    Hi everyone,

    I need to just point out here that a lot of what is suggested on this board in comments and in this post as marketing strategy will likely get your reviews deleted per Amazon’s new “guidelines”. I suggest googling “deleted amazon book reviews” so you are up to date. Too many to list here and I don’t want to turn this into a tome, but they have really become strict with their rules on what is and is not allowed insofar as posting reviews. As an example, reviews from fellow authors are not accepted, and too many reviews posted on the same day is considered “suspicious” and will likely result in reviews being deleted.

    The “Verified Purchase” tag shouldn’t be taken to mean that any reviews without it are not legitimate. My book is a business book and a large percentage of the book’s sales will come from appearances at conferences, and speaking engagements or book signings. So the reviews I get will come mainly from that audience. I also sell my book on my website and through my distributor. Many people will not buy through Amazon. So to say that reviews without the “verified purchase” tag are suspicious or don’t carry the same weight is not accurate.

    Just my two cents.

Comments are closed.