While getting your book into the hands of readers is a great way to convince people to take a chance on your books, there is one more thing that you have to still do in order to increase your chance at getting a sale. And it is by far the most frustrating part of publishing. More than dealing with all the files and distribution outlets. More than trying to set up your ISBNs, taxes, and banking information. Probably more than even editing.
Why you need them
This probably doesn’t even need to be a section, but let me tell you as someone who has been at this for a while. Getting positive reviews on the sale page, whether that’s Amazon or Kobo or wherever, will boost your sales. People will still purchase your book without them, but it is much easier to convince someone to take a chance on your book if they see that other people like it already.
For the most part, reviews are there to convince people who have stumbled onto the page to give the book a shot. This is less for the folks to have already gotten the free copy, which is probably the majority of the people.
How high you need them
You should try to keep your reviews above 3.5 stars in order to continue selling, in my experience, though you will get more sales if you keep them at least at 4.1 People will still buy books with no star ratings, but if you do have a rating, it is best to have it high.
White Noise had a noticeable drop in sales when it dropped below a four star rating.2 After Destiny, on the other hand, has dropped from a sale a week to zero sales total upon getting the one two star review on Amazon. The rather perplexing one-star-that’s-supposed-to-be-four-star review on Return to Wonderland hasn’t had as much of an impact on sales because it’s been balanced out by the higher rating and free copies.
How you get them
This is tricky, because you also want to keep a generally high level of reviews. If the only review you have is a low review, then your sales will plummet. Which means you have to be sure to solicit reviews from people who are more likely going to like your book.
Friends and family
I don’t do this. If any of my friends and family want a free book, they are free to one, but it’s nearly impossible to get them to read the thing and leave a review. Some of them have,3 but for the most part it’s more like throwing a fish in the air and expecting it to fly. They might buy the book to support me, but most of them probably won’t actually read it. And even fewer will review it.4
So this exists. And I have had less than pleasant experiences with it so far. So here’s the thing: Goodreads is its own book reviewing platform. Many people don’t cross-post their reviews to Amazon. Which turns out to be a good thing for me, because they are much more critical of books on Goodreads than they are just about anywhere else, I’ve found.
When you can get them to actually leave a review at all.
Seriously, hundreds of free books given out, six reviews back from those. It was really not worth the time sink. And on top of that, Amazon tends to purge reviews that came from free copies, so it ends up being kind of a useless venture if you’re looking for reviews to boost sales.
NetGalley helps get your books into the hands of professional reviewers and is considered by some to be a test for how good your book is. It’s also hella expensive, so I got mine in via Broad Universe in order to give it a shot. It was… less than fruitful in the end. At the end, you get a sheet telling you the revies and there were not as many reviews back as expected. Those that did come back did not all get posted to Amazon, instead posted on their individual blogs.5
And at least one of them posted a lower star rating on Goodreads than they did on the feedback sheet I got and I’m still salty about it.
So what do I do?
Nothing. I’ve stopped trying to pursue reviews at this point. There are services out there that will help you get reviews in the NetGalley sense, or that will just give you positive reviews for your page,6 but I’m unwilling to pay for these.
In the end, I’ve found I get more positive reviews from people who have just come across the book on their own and decided to leave a review than from people I have solicited reviews from. Unfortunately, this means I have far fewer reviews than I probably should, but actively pursuing reviews is a part of marketing that I’m just not all that keen on continuing with given the experiences so far.