Let’s face it, Amazon’s dominance is complete, both for the traditionally published and self-published book author. While a contract with one of the Big Six will ensure some retail placement and trade reviews, most book readers these days seem to buy their books online and, in particular, at Amazon. The adage is true: Amazon is the largest, small bookstore in the world, with ratings, low prices, and recommendations to boot. Like it or not, they are here to stay.
With the understanding that most online sales will come through Amazon, and most Amazon customers are going to place heavy weight on a book’s star rating and customer reviews, any author would be foolish to not see the procurement of positive Amazon reviews to be a savvy marketing focus. And that’s just what this article helps authors and publishers to do.
What follows are five surefire ways you can use to obtain Amazon book reviews:
1: Ask Friends and Family
For most self-published or small press published authors, their most reliable source of customer book reviews is going to be their family and friends. While not the most ethically upstanding manner of obtaining Amazon customer reviews, these people care about the author and, thus, are motivated to help. So, ask. It’s free to do and anyone you ask will probably do so because they want to become part of your project; to do their part to help you succeed. This can include immediate family members (although there is some evidence that Amazon will delete such reviews at a later date), friends, colleagues, editors who have worked on the project, and so on. All it takes is an email, and that’s free.
2: Ask Readers
A recent self-publishing and small press publishing innovation is the review page at the back of the book. Some books these days come equipped with a page which thanks readers for buying a copy, and suggests that if they liked the book that they could post a review to Amazon. By providing the exact URL for the book’s product review page, the conversion rate can be significantly increased. This is perhaps the most ethical manner of obtaining book reviews since it comes directly from readers who have reviewed your book and are not providing the review for any type of incentive.
Along these same lines is asking non-book readers to write reviews. If you have a blog, engage in guest appearances, or otherwise have a healthy author platform, you can use these as opportunities to solicit reviews. A simple Facebook message stating “Need to get your fiction fix on? Try __________ by _____ _____.” and link to the Amazon sales page. Then, once the recipient of this message buys a copy of the book and reads it, in the back they will see the call to action of placing an Amazon review. It really is that simple.
Of course, this means that the author will need to put in the initial legwork of creating these profiles and growing a fan base. As to my own efforts, for both http://prisoneducation.com and http://prisonlawblog.com, we have Facebook and Twitter profiles. The beauty of these two platforms is that updates can be automated so that whenever you publish a new blog post, the title and link is automatically tweeted on Twitter and shared on Facebook.
3: Offer a Free Gift for Providing a Review
Offering free gifts is the bread and butter of online marketers. The key is to create something of value for the reader. Recently I read a book about Search Engine Optimization — the art, or science, of making a website rank higher in the search engines. Toward the end of the book the author offered a series of SEO tutorial videos for free to all who post a review on Amazon (what he claims is a $297 value). Well, it got my attention, and I’m sure that it did so for others, too.
For the novelist, perhaps a novella ebook could be given away as a thank you gift. And for the nonfiction author — in particular the nonfiction author who now consults for a living — the gift could be a step-by-step guide on how to engage in something relevant. Of course, in the back of these free ebooks should be a call to action. This could be a buy-my-service or buy-my-next-book type of thing. When delivering this free product, ensure to have an email collection mechanism in place like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp so that you can be growing your target marketing list in the process.
4: Amazon Top Reviewers
While all Amazon customers — who have purchased at least one product, that is — are allowed to post product reviews, there are many product reviewers who make it their passion to review as many products as they can. As the number of their reviews increase, and fellow customers affirmatively click on the “Was this review helpful to you?” icon, the particular reviewer climbs in the ranking algorithm to points of prestige. This prestige is fulfilled through a reviewer a rank; a number for the reviewer’s place amongst all Amazon reviewers.
Once a reviewer has reached a certain stature, they can have badges assigned to them which appear next to all of their reviews and on their reviewer page — where they specific what types of books or other products they like to review. These badges include Top 1000 Reviewer, Top 500 Reviewer, Top 10 Reviewer, and #1 Reviewer. Not only will having these badges on a review for your product help in terms of credibility, but the reviewer’s followers will also take note, and this could very well increase book sales, if not visibility alone.
To find a list of the Amazon Top Reviewers, navigate to www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers. Once there, you will be able to browse the profiles of all of the reviewers. These profiles will indicate what they have reviewed, what they like to review, and how to contact them via their Amazon account. Go down the list and print off each reviewer’s profile that fits the bill. Once you have 10 or 20 targeted profiles printed out, connect with each of these reviewers to see if they would be interested in receiving a copy of your book. While most will not be interested, or will accept a copy but not provide a review, this outreach project is worth it for the few who will.
5: Trade Reviews
Amazon allows authors and publishers to post up to 10 trade reviews on each book’s product page. These are reviews published by major review outlets (e.g., Publisher’s Weekly, New York Times Book Review, Kirkus Reviews, etc.), either in print or online. Since Amazon does not own these external reviews, you might have to limit your post to an excerpt from the review. This could be a 20-word excerpt, with the publication’s name next to it. In fact, you should consider distilling each review to just a line or two of the most favorable text in the published review. These small bites are easier for consumers to scan and digest on the fly, not to mention allow for more glowing trade reviews to be included on your book’s Amazon product page, which makes the book look like that much of a better buy.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00IW3BHNQ]