My guest , marketing expert Phyllis Zimbler Miller has been answering marketing questions on my blog under the heading ASK PZM (5th day of every month) since January 2010. Thanks, Phyllis! If you have a question you need answered, please submit it before the 30th of each month and I'll make sure she gets it in time. If you'd like to read all Phyllis' Q&A's, type ASK PZM in the search window on the right just below the eBook cover of Dead Witness.
Q: Could you discuss the importance of reviews as well as what to do about negative reviews?
Let’s start with the importance of reviews.
Are they important? Heck, yes!
But, as I have discovered 4 ½ years after the publication of my first novel, MRS. LIEUTENANT, all reviews are not created equal.
Today, October 2012, I would recommend that an author selling her books on Amazon (and if you aren’t on Amazon, are you even a serious author?) focus on getting reviews on Amazon for her book.
Why is getting reviews on Amazon so important compared to other review sites?
For the last few months I have been tracking the rankings of my books on Amazon. And while the Amazon search algorithms (complex mathematical formulas) are secret, I can say with confidence that both the number of reviews and the number of purchases of your book affect your book’s ranking on Amazon.
In general, the more good reviews and the more purchases a book has, the better ranking Amazon gives that book. And the better the ranking, the more often Amazon apparently recommends that book to prospective buyers in a specific category.
Now the most reviews does not mean you get the best ranking. The Amazon categories in which your books are placed have a lot to do with the ranking.
Okay, the above explanation may have confused authors, including myself.
Let’s take an example:
The thriller LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS that I wrote with my husband is NOT my best reviewed book on Amazon. (MRS. LIEUTENANT has approximately twice as many reviews and a higher average.) But MOLLIE SANDERS sells more ebooks.
I believe this is because MOLLIE SANDERS fits into a much more specific category – sea adventures – than does a “general” novel like MRS. LIEUTENANT. (I talk about Amazon book categories in my ebook TOP TIPS FOR HOW TO MARKET YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON AND FACEBOOK.)
By checking my KDP reports frequently (kdp.amazon.com), I see the correlation between an ebook purchase and the book’s improved ranking. And by checking for new reviews on the ebook’s Amazon sales page, I see the correlation between another review and the book’s improved ranking.
(Improved rankings are temporary. I have noticed that, if a book goes without new purchases, the ranking worsens. Also note that improved rankings are actually smaller numbers – 20,000 is better than 200,000.)
Attached is a screenshot of MOLLIE SANDERS ranking taken at 9:18 a.m. Pacific on October 4th. As this ranking could change in the next moment, it is only here for illustrative purposes. (To find this ranking for your own book, scroll down your book’s Amazon sales page until you get to the bottom of PRODUCT DETAILS.)
Now the goal of a book author is to sell her books, right? Amazon reviews help you sell books in a very specific way, and this is why I am currently focusing on Amazon reviews.
How to get reviews:
First, do NOT pay for reviews. When I started out 4 ½ years ago and knew no one, I admit I paid for a couple of reviews from companies advertising this service.
And 4 ½ years ago that was okay. Now it is NOT okay. Amazon really, really frowns on paid reviews in most cases.
Caution: Although I give people free copies of my books for review purposes, Amazon “rewards” reviews from people who have purchased the book on Amazon. This is the “Amazon Verified Purchase” you see next to some reviews, and I strongly suspect this also figures into the search algorithms.
Second, you can ask for reviews. You can ask via Facebook, Twitter, wherever you have connections online. And please do NOT ask for a five-star review. Ask people to write a review if they like the book.
(Many reviewers who read a book that they do not like do not write a negative review. They write no review – and sometimes contact the author privately with suggestions.)
Asking for reviews includes looking for books on Amazon similar to yours and checking out the people who reviewed these books. Click on the names of the reviewers who interest you. Often their Amazon public profile will include contact information if they are open to reviewing other books. Then you can contact them with a politely worded request to review your book.
What to do if you get a negative review:
That’s right – nothing.
While Amazon allows comments on reviews, you do NOT want to comment on a negative review as you may only be opening a very nasty can of worms.
If there is useful information in the negative review, do keep it in mind. But if it is simply someone being mean, ignore it. Other people reading the review can probably also figure out that the reviewer is just being mean.
Now if the language in the negative review is so offensive that you would be embarrassed for people to read this review, you can report it to Amazon. I did this once for an Amazon U.K. review of MOLLIE SANDERS because the review was so offensive I didn’t want other people to read it and be upset. And, yes, Amazon removed the review, although this outcome is not assured.
Although I strongly encourage you NOT to respond to negative reviews on Amazon, you can respond to positive reviews when appropriate, including people you do not know and whose Amazon username you may not even recognize. (The COMMENT button is located next to each review.) In conclusion, yes, reviews are important, and if you believe in your books, it is worth spending your time to seek out reviewers who post on Amazon.
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks. A new nonfiction ebook of hers is TOP TIPS FOR HOW TO MARKET YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON AND FACEBOOK and her newest fiction ebook is the thriller CIA FALL GUY.
Click here to visit her Amazon author page at amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller
She also has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the co-founder of the online marketing company www.MillerMosaicLLC.com