These days, we hear a lot about book discovery. As more and more books hit the market, readers are deluged with choices and authors are struggling to get in front of new readers and even existing fans. Recently Bowker announced that the number of books published each day in the US is up to 3,500. This does not include all eBook data since many eBooks are published without ISBN numbers that Bowker can track. What this has done is create a strong need for a reader's voice. Reaching these readers, however, is another matter entirely.
What's an aspiring publisher or author to do? Well, it's time to get serious about being seen in places where your reader will find you. It's time realize the things that are important to your reader: reviews and engagement. Authors who focus on those two things alone are head and shoulders above the rest.
More Reasons to Love Reviews
The other reason to love reviews is that the more reviews you get on Amazon the more visible your book becomes. This is largely due to the Amazon algorithm which is based on a few things, one of which is the number of reviews you get to your page. It's called Social Proof and Amazon loves it. More reviews on your page push your book higher in search ranking when someone enters your book's search term into the Amazon search bar.
Different Types of Reviewers, Do They all Matter?
Reviewers, like anything in marketing, are very relationship based. That's why it's often easier to get reviews for your second or third book, but first-time authors, don't worry - I'm going to show you a tip in a minute that can help you double or triple the amount of reviews you get.
There are a few different types of Amazon reviewers. Let's look at each:
Top Amazon Reviewers: These folks can review anything, not just books, and they often do a lot of reviews. I had one reviewer tell me she once posted 100 reviews a month on Amazon. These reviewers also get a lot of credibility in that their reviews are often accompanied by attributes such as Hall of Fame Reviewer, Vine Voice and Top Ten Reviewer.
It's a great thing to get a top Amazon reviewer to consider your book but they are tough to target. Does it mean you should ignore them? No. We'll talk more about how to creatively target them in a moment.
Amazon Reader Reviewers: These are readers who just love books. They aren't part of the top list like the high profile Amazon reviewers, but they can also review a lot of books. Their reviews are thoughtful, insightful, and thorough. They tend to be very genre focused, which means that they stay true to one genre, possibly two. Many of them are also on Goodreads, which is another reason why it makes sense to be on that site, too.
Consumers: Do consumers review books? Yes, but according to a review statistic I read recently they don't review a lot. Often only 1% of consumers will review a book they read, but I'll show you how to quadruple that number for your next book.
Bloggers: We love bloggers. They have this tireless passion for books and if you can get them to review yours, this relationship can last the length of your career. But keep in mind that while book blogger relationships are great, not all of them review on Amazon so if your goal is to really populate that page with reviews, you'll want to make sure they do.
Curious about how to find great book bloggers? You can search for many of them on Google and search "book blogger" + Your genre. You can also go to sites like: http://bookbloggerdirectory.wordpress.com/ or http://www.blogmetrics.org/ to find bloggers in your genre.
Different Ways to Find Amazon Reviewers
A quick Google search will take you to this link: http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers. The problem is that this link takes you to an endless list of reviewers you now have to ferret through.
As you will see, the list has two tabs on it, Top Reviewer Rankings and Hall of Fame Reviewers. The Hall of Fame list is really the top of the top. If you can get picked up by one of those folks, you're golden. Not all of them review your genre, and some don't even review books. There are other ways you can reach them, though.
Some authors I know will just find reviewers based on other, similar titles. You can do this by going to books that cover the same or a similar topic and see who has reviewed their book on Amazon. You follow the reviewer's link to his or her Amazon profile page, look for an email address, and send a pitch. It's a very time-intensive way to get reviews, though it's 100% worth it. If you start this process early (i.e. before your book is published), you'll be able to target these folks as soon as your book is ready to go.
The other way to find reviewers is to use the following search string, which I've seen a few times in various formats. Keep in mind that this search string isn't an exact science, and I've also found that it works better for some genres than for others. First, let's take a look at the search string structure:
Search String in Google:
http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers "Top 500 reviewer" "Romance"
Or you can also use:
http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers "Top 1000 reviewer" "Romance"
The string is broken down as follows:
1. First is the site you want to search: http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers this is the profile link on the Amazon page--that's the URL you are searching from so you must include this in your search string.
2. Next you want the Top X reviewers, in this case I recommend putting in 500 or 1000. You won't pull up that many, but it's a nice high number to shoot for. Why the difference in the number? Because I recommend that you search it both ways. Oddly, though you're just changing a number, each of these searches may produce different results.
3. Next up is the genre. I put in romance here but yours might be mystery, sci-fi, etc. Whatever your genre is (fiction or non-fiction), put it there.
When you do this, you still have to sift through the results. Keep in mind that not all Amazon reviewers list their email address on their profile so you may have to hunt for them by searching their name and their blog (most Amazon reviewers have blog sites they repost their reviews to).
If you're willing to continue your search, you can also try this search string:
http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers "Top 500 reviewer" "Young Adult Fiction" "E-mail:"
Note the spelling of the term e-mail. For the purposes of finding the right reviewers, we want to mimic how the term e-mail is referenced on the reviewer site.
This process, while time-consuming, can help you start building your top Amazon review list.
How to Double the Amount of Blogger Reviews You Get
You've now identified the bloggers you want to pitch and they also review on Amazon. You know that they get a lot of review requests, so how will you make yours stand out?
Last year I conducted an experiment. I wanted to see if there was a way I could double or triple the amount of reviews I could get if I were an unknown, newly published author. If you've ever attempted to get reviews, you know it's never easy as a first-time author. You're lucky to get one or two at the most. I always tell authors to personalize their pitches whenever they can because it'll net more review requests. Most of the time authors sort of nod in agreement, but I suspect that very few actually do this. I mean let's face it; it's a big time suck to personalize pitches, right? You have to go to their blog, find their name, look up some of the books they've done reviews on, see if they're right for your book and then pitch them. Seems like a lot, right? Now I'm going to ask you to take this a step further. I want you to include some personal information on them, too. I did this anytime I could and, as I said, I tripled the amount of review requests I got for this unknown author. In some cases I quadrupled the amount.
Turning Your Book into a Review Machine
We all want to turn our book into a sales machine. Now I'm not taking about turning your book into a cross-promotion tool (though that's good, too) I'm speaking about getting your book to work for you in other ways.
We've worked with many first-time authors, but earlier this year I had an idea I wanted to try. I wanted to find a way to encourage readers to review the book by adding a specific request. We asked the author to include a letter in the back of her book asking for reviews. She reminded readers how important their voice is. Did it work? Yes. In fact she's got well over 70 reviews of which only 10 were solicited. Remember, this is a first-time author with no history online and this book was self-published. All of these things worked against her and still she succeeded in getting tons of reviews. Were they all five-star? No, but that's not the point. Let's face it, a book page that's populated with tons of five-star reviews is pretty suspect anyway. All of the reviews are authentic, written by real readers the author engaged with. Want to know another secret? These readers are now part of her "tribe;" she stays in touch with them and lets them know when her next book is out.
How did she ask for reviews? She crafted a letter to her readers. Here's a sample of the letter we included in the back of her second book. You can see the letter here: http://www.amarketingexpert.com/getting-reviews/
Keep in mind that as I mentioned earlier, generally only 1% of consumers review books on Amazon. Using this letter helped to beat that average by a lot.
A Little Known Amazon Tool
Did you know that you can respond to a review on Amazon? Using access to your Author Central account you can now write a note thanking the reviewer, or, you can let the various reviewers know that you have another book out and ask them if they want a free copy for review. To gain access to your Author Central Page, go here and log in using your regular Amazon login: https://authorcentral.amazon.com
Once you're inside you'll see a header. Click on Customer Reviews. Once you click that button, it'll take you to this page where you'll see a bunch of your reviews. Under each review you'll see "Add a comment"--this is where you want to click. That will let you respond to the reviews. It's a great way to connect with your readers on Amazon!
Reviews and the process of getting them has gotten more challenging and time intensive as new books continue to flood the market. Reviewers have a lot of choices. But if you're smart about your efforts, and leverage Amazon's features wisely, you can really boost your book's exposure, and your sales. One final note on Amazon reviews. Sometimes in order to get reviews, you need to become a reviewer. I'm not suggesting you compete for their top review spot, but instead help other writers in your market by reviewing their books. It's not only a great way to pay it forward, but they may offer you a review, too.
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