Hi, good to see you again! If you haven’t read the previous posts in this little series you can find part 1 HERE, part 2 HERE , and part 3 HERE. Read them first, then come back. I’ll just sink a few beers while I wait.
Alright then. First let’s talk about reviews, and the importance of getting some as soon as possible. Imagine your book has just been published and appears on Amazon. A week later, there’s still no reviews. Not one. How do readers know if they should take a chance on you, a new and unknown author? You need to get some reviews, right? But how?
Well, let’s think back to the beta readers I mentioned before. They have read your book, they are honest and unbiased (if they’re not they’ll be pretty useless as beta readers) so what you should do is ask them to post a review on Amazon/Goodreads and wherever else you think might be useful. You could even send them signed paperbacks as a thank you for their help (you never know, those first editions could be worth something in a few years!). Amazon say reviewers must mention they were given a free copy in return for an unbiased review so bear that in mind.
What you are not looking for is half a dozen gushing, 5 star reviews that might all have been written by you and your mother. Readers are not stupid, they’ll see through it right away and never give you or your books a chance again. You want genuine, honest reviews, and if that means 4 or even 3 stars, fair enough. I actually saw a fantastic paperback review on Amazon the other day then noticed it had been posted by the author himself! He even has a little photo of his smiling face beside the review! I assume he originally posted the review under a fake name, then added his photo years later, forgetting he’d given his own book a 5 star review. That kind of thing really doesn’t help anyone – it just makes people suspicious of the whole review system so DON’T DO IT.
Making up glowing reviews will also backfire if people buy the book and realise it bears little relation to what was suggested by the ratings. That will just make them angry and more likely to leave BAD reviews, so don’t try to game the system. Honest reviews only!
Ask your beta readers to post their reviews as soon as possible once your book has been published. That should hopefully let interested buyers make an informed decision on whether to read the novel and then those people might post a review as well. You can even ASK readers to post a rating, by including a line at the end of your book saying something like, “If you’ve enjoyed this novel, please leave a review on Amazon, it really helps. Thank you!” I’ve read authors who say they don’t like doing that, and some who say it doesn’t help, but I do it in every book and I think it DOES. Try it yourself.
On the subject of bad reviews – be prepared, because we all get them. Even the best writers in the world have 1-star ratings from readers who hated their books. The simple fact is, you can’t please everyone and, unfortunately, for some reason certain reviewers only post their thoughts when they have something negative to say. For example, I received a 1-star review for one of my Forest Lord books a while ago, in which the reviewer stated they had read, and loved, all the previous novels, but hated this particular one. So I checked to see their reviews for all those other books they apparently loved. Guess what? Nothing. The only reviews they EVER seem to leave, for any books they read, are 1-star negative ones, where they say they usually liked that author’s novels but not this one! It’s frustrating, but you just have to accept it and not let it get to you. Even if you do feel like hunting them down and…giving them a stern talking to.
The first time I got a really bad review it was so hurtful I almost felt like I’d been punched in the guts. You’ve put in all this work, polished and honed your creation, then put it out when you’re sure it’s really good, only for someone to shit all over it. Of course that hurts! But you just look at all the good reviews, shake your head and smile. Don’t let it get to you – not every book appeals to every reader, so move on and concentrate on the positives. And trust me, by the time you’ve had a dozen dodgy reviews, it doesn’t seem to matter as much. Only the people leaving good reviews know what they’re talking about, right?!
Should you comment on reviews? I would suggest not. What’s the point? Yes, it’s tempting to tell someone they’re wrong when they claim that your research is flawed, and you know it’s sound, but what good will that do? It might feel satisfying to get one over on the reviewer for a moment, but it could draw more bad feedback from them or even other people. It’s just not worth it. Again – let it wash over you, move on, and concentrate on the positives. Remember that self-belief I mentioned back in the first post in the series? Keep that in mind at all times – you know your book is good, so don’t let one person’s opinion ruin your day.
At the same time, however, if a reviewer tells you you’ve made a mistake and it turns out to be true – fix it! Self-publishing allows you that luxury. In the earliest version of my debut novel, Wolf’s Head, I had a character whose eyes changed colour from one chapter to the next. It was pointed out in an Amazon review, I felt a cold chill run through me when I checked and realised they were right, but then I fixed it and the book is better for it. As was my writing from then on, since I was more careful in future.
Okay then, you edit your book to add in the line asking for reviews, and join me again next time. I still have to talk about promos/countdown deals and some general tips so this series won’t be as long as I thought. Hopefully some of you are finding it useful anyway. As ever, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments or message me on Facebook. Hit the FOLLOW button on this page so you don’t miss the next post!