By Jodie Cain Smith
I know, I know, in a perfect world we the writers would write, and they, the consumers, would consume without any effort from the writers to bridge the two worlds. But this world is far from perfect. Upon the launch of my novel, The Woods at Barlow Bend, I discovered the most evil of marketing tools, the Amazon Customer Review. Yes, whether five stars or one star, the customer review is evil.
It has been known to inspire evil acts. Type “sock puppet reviews” into a Google search bar and read what unethical lengths authors have gone to for an Amazon page filled with customer reviews. Desperate authors, under the cover of Internet anonymity, have created faux personas in order to get the review ball rolling. Despicable.
It has been known to cause obsessive behavior, forcing one new author to check her Amazon book page daily with fingers crossed. “Oh please, oh please! One more review!” No, she is not looking for her next illegal fix, just one more Amazon Customer Review. “Come on, man, I just need one more!” Sad.
So, why am I acknowledging this evil as necessary? What should we, as authors, do? Why would I encourage all of you to go to Amazon and begin typing immediately after reading this post?
The Amazon Customer Review is necessary because unless you are of J.K. Rowling author status, your book’s life depends on Amazon, and Amazon factors customer reviews into the algorithm they use to decide whether or not they care about your book more than the 3,000 (Forbes, 2013) others published that day. Yep, your book’s page will be highlighted by Amazon if filled with customer reviews or sent to the dark corners of the Kindle virtual warehouse if not.
So, how do we increase the number of reviews we receive without getting that dirty, begging-ain’t-pretty feeling? First, you realize that you want your book read and that royalties are awesome. Next, you buck up and beg in a classy way. Every copy of my book that I sell directly, I place a small card in the book encouraging the reader to review the book on Amazon. If someone comments on any of my social media platforms that he or she enjoyed the book, I thank them for their kind words and ask if they would post a short review on Amazon. I publish customer reviews from Amazon to my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I am currently reading Theo Rogers How to Get Good Reviews on Amazon in order to learn how to approach the Top Amazon Reviews. Yes, they are real, and they are powerful.
The most gratifying measure I take in order to boost the number of reviews on my Amazon page is reviewing other authors’ works. My goal for this year is to review two books per month on Amazon. This will increase the amount of time I spend reading in the evening rather than crushing candy on my Ipad and forces me to read critically, which will make me a better writer. Finally, it will increase my tribe; my circle of authors who actively support each other, good writing, and the dream of becoming a slightly bigger fish is this gigantic ocean of books.