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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Why You Should Review Self-Published Books

Over the past few weeks, I've tweeted and Facebooked quite a bit, about the importance of authors encouraging reviews of their books, and of readers writing those reviews.

Why is it so important, though?

Well, in the first place, traditionally published books tend to get reviewed in major publications, sometimes long before release. This is because traditional publishing companies have massive clout when it comes to marketing, and can get these books into the hands of places like Publishers Weekly, The Sunday Times, the Mail and Guardian, The New York Times... the list goes on.

And it's no secret that these reviews work! When you bought the last big Stephen King blockbuster, how did you find out about it? Maybe you're on Stephen King's mailing list (so yes, signing up to your favourite author's e-mail list is important, too), but chances are you saw a review for it somewhere.

Well, we independent publishers operate on an infinitesimally smaller budget. We (most of us anyway) have day-jobs. True, most traditionally published authors do, too, but we have to split our already preciously limited spare time between writing new material, and marketing our backlist. We simply do not have the time or budget that the big publishing companies do.

We can't afford a billboard, and we can't rely on a professional review in the New York Times, to help readers discover our books.

Here's who we do rely on, though: you. 

Yes, you, dear reader, have the power to decide whether people find, read, and love our books, or languish in obscurity for the rest of our careers. Our lives, and our livelihoods, are in your hands - now doesn't that feel good? If you read one of our books and enjoyed it, but don't tell anyone, we starve.

And the best way to tell everyone how much you enjoyed our books? Write a review.

The second reason why we so desperately need reviews, is because most of the retailers (Amazon in particular, which is where the majority of most indie authors' sales come from) uses those reviews to recommend our books to other readers.

If you're an Amazon customer, you've probably received at least one e-mail from them, at some point, recommending that you buy books. Well, those recommendations are based on books in genres that Amazon believes you're interested in, which have the most reviews!

Reviews provide "social proof", so when you write a review for a book, and put it on Amazon, that review is helping people you never knew existed to discover that book, and not just your friends.

There's one final reason why you should write reviews, especially on Amazon, but it's a bit controversial.

If you buy a lot of e-books, there's a fair chance that you're on one or more e-book recommendation mailing lists (Like perhaps BookBub, ReadFreely, Digital Book Today... there are lots).

Well, the books that you see in those e-mails are books that authors paid to put there. I guess that's our equivalent of a billboard along the highway. Those spots are far cheaper, but there are often restrictions on the minimum number of Amazon reviews a book needs to have.

The more reviews a book has, the more likely it is that one of those sites will agree to e-mail it to their readers, and they will outright reject a book that has less than a minimum amount.

So when you review our books, you're not only helping your friends discover them, and random strangers to discover them through Amazon's recommendations engine, but you're also potentially helping millions more people through these book marketing companies/e-mail lists.

All from your one review! Is that not the most power you've ever had over another human being's future?

But what should you put in a review?

Many people shy away from posting reviews, because they don't think their writing is good enough, or they don't know what to say.

Well, it's true that you can write these beautiful, flowing reviews, if you like, and there are many tutorials out there, to teach you how to do just that.

But really, it isn't necessary. Truthfully, the star ranking that you give it means far more to the above mentioned algorithms, and those minimum requirements for book marketing, than the text itself.

You have to include some text in, of course, but honestly, all you need to say, is something along the lines of "Great book. I really enjoyed it!"

Type that into the review box, pick a rating from one to five stars, and hit publish.

You have now officially helped an author sell their next copy of that book. Easy, huh?

So, the next time you finish a book that you've really enjoyed, spare a thought for the poor, struggling author... especially if the book is self-published. Write a review!

More about me

I, personally, review every book I read, for the above reasons. I review most of them on Amazon, but I review each one on the social reading site, Goodreads. If you'd like to get an idea for the types of reviews I write (and the types of books I like), follow me there: http://www.goodreads.com/GrahamDowns/.

Also, if you'd like to sample some of my own books, please go take a look at my website, http://www.grahamdowns.co.za/, where you can find all the relevent links to buy them, and sample them without leaving my site.

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