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

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.

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