By: Desiree J. Villena
In this day and age, all it takes is a few clicks to be exposed to an onslaught of products your heart may desire. So how do you get your product — the book you’ve worked tirelessly to get out into the world — noticed? Perhaps the most important answer to that question is: reviews.
If you’re a reader, you’ve probably used reviews to decide which of the slew of books out there are deserving of your precious time. Perhaps you liked a book so much, you even wrote a review before. And as an author, you’ve undoubtedly heard people talking about the importance of book reviews.
There are several good reasons for this: as it happens, book reviews are more than just the icing on your book marketing cake — they’re actually part of the batter. So before you start cooking up selling strategies, check out why book reviews are an integral part of the marketing process. It’ll help put into perspective why they should become a keystone of any book-selling plan.
Reviews drive sales through customer trust
More reviews equals more sales. There’s no getting around it: people trust word-of-mouth recommendations more than even the best advertising. I know I do. Why would I necessarily believe when an author says their book is great? Of course they think their book is great — they wrote it!
But if someone else says that author’s book is great? Someone with no skin in the game? Someone who’s just come across it, read it, and cared enough to post a review about it? I’m automatically going to trust that more. People trust other people’s opinions, and reviews have become a reputational shortcut that signals quality. In fact, a recent survey showed that online reviews had an impact on 93% of consumers’ purchasing decisions. That’s a percentage that cannot be ignored, proving that reviews push readers through the door.
Reviews build social proof
Social proof is a fancy way of saying that people will instinctively "follow the crowd" and like what's popular. From there, the equation is simple: if your book has a lot of reviews, it appears to be popular, boosting its social proof. The power of social proof is not to be ignored. If you scream from the rooftops that your book is worth reading, but your readers remain silent, their peers will take note.
This is also a good time to remember that bad reviews will happen! But even some bad reviews can be beneficial. For instance, if someone trashes your book because it has an extended metaphor, that may attract a reader that actually enjoys extended metaphors. Take note of what the bad review is critical about, but take it with a grain of salt. All press is good press as they say, and the same attitude can be adopted for book reviews.
Reviews determine SEO and Amazon Algorithms
There are also the technical reasons. This might not be the sexiest thing to worry about, but considering how much of our sales, buying decisions, and lives are ruled by search engines, there’s no avoiding how much it matters. The truth is that no one is going to buy your book if they can’t find your book — and the more reviews your book has, the higher it appears on the list when readers search for new reads on both Google and Amazon.
Even outside of Amazon, the number of reviews a book has will factor into things like whether you can land a spot in BookBub’s advertising emails, which can make-or-break the success of a promotional offer. Reviews also affect recommendation features on many sites (“If you like this book then why don’t you try....”). But perhaps more than anything…
Reviews boost visibility
The more you see something, the more likely you are going to think about it. You want your book to be seen by as many readers as possible, and reviews are the catalyst for visibility.
If you’re publishing the traditional way, you can’t be certain that your manuscript will get seen by anyone beyond the editorial assistant. However, if you’re self-publishing, the world is immediately your audience. Reviews get eyeballs on your book and start a self-feeding cycle: books with more reviews gain more visibility, which leads to more traffic (and maybe a few copies in libraries), which leads to more reviews.
Keep in mind that visibility is about more than just sales for any one book. Visibility is the cornerstone of the call for more diversity in all popular media. It’s about building familiarity, empathy, and understanding. In the book selling world, being different often times means becoming obsolete. No matter how many rhetorical devices you use to rope readers in, if it doesn’t align with the mainstream, it might not get noticed. But reviews can help raise up marginalized authors, which in turn can help prove the “buying power” of their stories, which in turn can lead to more diverse books being written and sold, and more voices being heard. Your reach may benefit more than just your particular book, but also those readers and authors who are looking for something a little different than what the mainstream sells them.
Book reviews have an expansive effect in the world of book sales. So before you start on your book-selling journey, think about the factors outlined above so you can start raking in the reviews that’ll get your book the attention it deserves.