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You’ve heard it a lot. Reviews and their importance. If you’re wanting to support your favourite Indie authors and are completely in the dark as to why reviews are so important, I’m hoping this post may shed some light on the topic.
After witnessing a bunch of false reviews on Goodreads and on Amazon and seeing a lot of misinformation about who can place Amazon reviews, I’ve decided to set the record straight.
Let’s start with Goodreads versus Amazon for benefit for the author. Goodreads is not an online book retailer. It is purely social media and as such the reviews, while a nice bonus and a nice way to spread the word, are not essential for authors when it comes time to promote.
However, Amazon is THE biggest online book retailer and reviews on that site are what enable authors to really make a splash in the market.
A word about promoting that you may or may not know. When authors give their books away for free via Amazon, and they want to reach a large number of readers, they PAY a promoter to give away their books.
That’s right. In order for you to download that free book, the author has probably paid for you to do so.
Here is the catch 22. In order for authors to promote with the best providers, they need a certain number of reviews on AMAZON.
Because Amazon owns Goodreads (Yes, they do in case you weren’t aware), there is a chance that one day they may decide that you have the option to directly upload your Goodreads review to Amazon. Until that day, Amazon has a very simple rule as to who they allow to place a review.
You need to have spent $50 with them.
For a lot of younger readers, that’s a lot of money. And to make things trickier, Amazon wants to see a record of purchases. This means that you can’t just buy something via Amazon that costs $50 and go place reviews.
There is a lot of confusion as to who can place a review. Amazon occasionally goes nuts and cracks down on reviews, and we hear horror stories about legitimate reviews being removed.
From what I have found (please correct me if I’m wrong) Amazon’s review policy is all about transparency.
As long as you are honest there is nothing to stop you reviewing on Amazon.
However, if you stand to benefit financially in any way and do not disclose a personal relationship, your review may be removed.
To contribute to Customer features (for example, Customer Reviews, Customer Answers, Idea Lists) or to follow other contributors, you must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card in the past 12 months.
Anyone may post comments on Customer Reviews or Questions and Answers as long as any financial or close personal connection to the product is clearly and conspicuously disclosed.
For more information on Amazon review policies visit: www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201929730
Now we’ve covered who can and can’t place reviews, let me explain in detail how giving away free books away works for Indie authors.
Listing with a book promotion site costs anywhere between US$5 and can run into thousands if you are one of the chosen few to land the holy grail of book promotion Book Bub who can reach millions.
One of the more affordable sites costs around US$40 to list a book, and they can reach approx. 40,000 readers.
This next part is where Amazon reviews come in.
Most of the good book promotion sites won’t accept a book with less than 10 reviews with an overall four-star rating on Amazon.
There are a few who will accept them across multiple books. But if you are an Indie author struggling to promote, it is impossible to get the best book promo sites to accept your book with one or two reviews.
It becomes even more of an issue when the only reviews you get are low. Amazon considers a three-star as a negative review. So, while a three-star means I liked it on Goodreads, placing a three-star review on Amazon, contributes to drag factor, lowering the overall review rating and making it harder to promote.
This is where frustration sets in for a lot of Indie authors with limited budgets.
On top of managing multiple social media accounts, trying to produce, edit and market, we are effectively hampered by the simple misunderstanding of why positive Amazon reviews aren’t just important, but why they are the very thing that enables us to go on publishing.
Something that Indie authors rarely discuss is how much money it takes to produce a single book. I spent well over NZ$2,000 on producing Disowned. Most of that went on editing and cover design. There is no way I will make that back. That is the reality of Indie publishing. Professional editing, cover design, proofreading all take a lot of money.
Getting Amazon reviews is essentially what makes and breaks an Indie author and enables them to reach a wider audience. It is also why it is so heartbreaking to see false reviews squandered either to disparage or show support.
All false reviewing does is reinforce Amazon’s desire to micromanage, and the authors trying to conduct themselves with decorum and play by the rules are the ones who lose out.
This is something to consider if you recognise that Amazon is slowly changing how Goodreads functions and with a possible merging of the two companies in the future.
If they do link up, reviews may be under more scrutiny than ever before and you may find your reviews pulled on ALL the books you’ve reviewed.
So, I’m asking you, not just for myself, but for every Indie Author out there, trying to stay afloat and trying to compete.
Please consider placing your reviews on Amazon as well as Goodreads.