Five Reasons Why Readers Don't Leave Reviews and my Big ASK!
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As I evaluate my progress over the past two years in the world of independent publishing and mark off checklists (website –check, blog – check, email capture – check, newsletter – check, professional cover designs – check, copy-editor – check, beta-readers – check) there is one area where I am sadly lacking – book reviews.

There is a simple formula for getting reviews, ASK! The reviews I do have are because I personally asked those individuals. I also include a note to readers requesting a review at the end of all of my novels. But if it is so simple, why do I find it so difficult?

Because it takes time and effort that I have placed elsewhere. Just because something is simple, doesn’t make it easy.

There are professional reviewers that I’ve yet to hunt down and ask to review my books. First I have to find them, then I need a compelling email request and I have to wait for them to respond and then send my book in the format they prefer. Because these reviewers are busy and deluged with requests, many won’t get back to you. This means you have to send to many more in order to get the desired number of reviews.

How do I know this? Not through experience, but through webinars and blog posts of others who have done this, which have basically discouraged me from even attempting because . . . who has the time!!! I have been putting this daunting task off until I have the time I need to complete it, which may be never.

Another route is giving your book for free to all takers in the hope that some will return your generosity by writing a review. One of the nice things about Amazon is that anyone can enter a review and they are all treated equally. This means a review by a well-known reviewer counts the same as one by your average Joe or Josephine.

So why don’t these average readers flock to your book pages to write a review. Here are five reasons I’ve come up with and my responses to those reasons.

1. They don’t know what to write. “I’m not a writer,” they insist. “What do I say?” They fear appearing stupid amidst other well-written critique. I understand this fear. I have it too! Every time I write a comment on a website, send out a blog post, write a facebook post, and when I write reviews. This fear compels me to agonize about comments, until I tell myself, “Get over it! You aren’t writing the great American novel here. One little post isn’t going to make or break your career!” I’m nicer to other people experiencing similar fears. To them, I say, don’t worry about it. The review doesn’t have to be long. Just say whether you liked the book and why. Or just click 5 stars!

2.  They are afraid to give you anything less than 5 stars, especially if they are friends and acquaintances. To them I say, I’d rather have an honest 3 or 4 star review that explains why, then no review. (If all you have are 5 star reviews, readers will suspect that the only people posting the reviews are your friends and family. It’s actually better to have some 3 and 4 star reviews.) Sometimes a book isn’t a genre you like. Say so. This lets others know. When I write reviews, I try to give potential readers information they need to make a good decision before they buy. If a book is geared to middle-school aged readers, or young adults, I state this. If it has a strong Christian basis, I state this as well. Better to let readers know up front rather than buying a book, being disappointed and writing a one or two star review. If the reason they are not writing a review is because they would give it a one or two stars, then I say thank you for not writing.

3. They haven’t read the book yet. How many unread books do you have on shelves at home or filling your ereader? One of the problems with giving away free ebooks is that they are easy to download and forget about. There isn’t the same investment as when you pay for a book. I try not to do this, but I have a number of books on my ereader that I just haven’t gotten through yet, some I’ve paid for. If the reviewer hasn’t read your book or has only read part of it, then again I say thank you for not writing a review. It’s amazing to me the people who start a review by saying, “I haven’t read this book, however . . . I saw the movie, or I heard . . .” The minute I read that I ignore whatever follows.

4,  They don’t have time. I can certainly understand that. Time is precious. I can understand not wanting to give up too much of it to do something they aren’t comfortable with doing anyway. To this, I encourage them to keep it short and sweet, something anyone can do in five minutes.

5.  They don’t have an Amazon account. It may be hard to believe, but there actually are people in this world without an account on Amazon. Or maybe they share an account with their spouse and it is in his/her name. I don’t expect people to open an account just to write a review for me, so again, I just say thank you.

Now that I’ve written about my dilemma with getting reviews of my books and listed some of the most common reasons I’ve heard from people for not writing reviews, it’s time for my big ASK!

Please, if you have read any of my books, consider writing a review on Amazon! If you haven’t read any of my books and would like one, let me know and I’ll get you a copy with the understanding that you will write a review when you finish.

I turn 60 this month. Age has made me bold. Your birthday gift to me could be a review of one of my books. It would be one of the best gifts you can give a writer! Thank you in advance!

Also, there are still free audio copies of my book, Magnificent Failure, available for signing up for my newsletter. Just go to www.patriciamrobertson.com and hit on the yellow box.

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Comments
  • Patricia Robertson

    Lol, Kelly! Yes, sales are also important! Best wishes on your book.

  • Thanks, Patricia, I appreciate your insight.  And I get the importance of Amazon rankings.  But, I imagine that sales would be more important than reviews?  Or shares in a drone factory, perhaps?  (OK, that was snarky.  Maybe I'm revealing my bias against Amazon determining cultural/literary tastes!)

    And, trust me,  the moment my book is set to be published, I'll be doing everything I can to court Amazon, so I really do appreciate your insights!

    Kelly Hayes-Raitt

    Mosey on over to my web site and sign in for your free gift -- an mp3 of me reading my book's first chapter about a beggar in Iraq! ...And a pre-publication discount!
    Columnist, The Argonaut

  • Patricia Robertson

    Kelly, I understand where you are coming from. I have struggled with this too. I don't do much with GoodReads because I've heard that a lot of trolls inhabit the space who delight in writing negative reviews. 

    However, if you want Amazon to take notice and get a better ranking, you need reviews. It used to be enough to have 50 reviews but now it has increased to 100. Ranking is important because it helps you be found by potential readers. Amazon routinely recommends books to customers but not if you rank 100,000 for your category. And I do check reviews before buying books. I like to check out both positive and negative ones as they give me a better idea what I will be getting.

    Does this help? Anyone have more reasons?

  • OK, I'm a writer and I'll admit I don't understand the importance of Amazon reviews.  I buy books that have been recommended to me personally or by authors with whom I have some relationship (which can be as tenuous as I'm a fan).  I rarely read Amazon reviews -- and would not really rely on them as I have no context in which to put their review.  Are they a good friend?  A snarky internet troll?  Another author?

    I have written a few reviews for friends who ask and I do it because it seems important to them.  But can someone please tell me why Amazon reviews really matter?  Or is it another Kool-Aid thing that authors are told they "need"?

    (Sorry if I sound a bit snarky myself, but I'm sincere in my ignorance!)

    Kelly Hayes-Raitt

    Mosey on over to my web site and sign in for your free gift -- an mp3 of me reading my book's first chapter about a beggar in Iraq! ...And a pre-publication discount!
    Columnist, The Argonaut

  • Patricia Robertson

    Thank you Mickie and Michelle! Getting reviews is definitely a challenge.

    Yes, Laurie, apathy is another reason. Thanks for adding it to the list!

  • Laurie Prim

    I am convinced the number one impediment is time, and think the most helpful thing is remind people it is not a book report like in school, just, as you said, a one liner and/or some stars. Because I think the second thing is apathy. People who aren't writers don't understand how important reviews are and don't care. Someone can be gushing about a book (not mine), and the moment I suggest they post a review their eyes glaze over. Sometimes- only sometimes- I don't blame them. I currently review pretty much every book I read, and most of the time I love doing it, but sometimes it's a PITA. Like anything else, what's in it for them? I think your idea of a review as a gift is a great idea!

  • Mickie Sherwood

    Hi Patricia,

    You have described my dilemma. Reviews or the lack thereof.


    I have a few reviews. No one enjoys a bad review. And a low star rating is just as bad. I'm talking about 1 or 2 stars with no explanation. I'm aware not all readers will appreciate my romance novels. However, I would also love to hear from those who do.

    Like you, this baby boomer isn't afraid to ask for what she wants.

    Happy birthday. Here's to many great reviews for your books.

    Mickie Sherwood

    ~~Sweet, spicy romance – a heartbeat away! ~~

    www.twitter.com/MickieSherwood

    www.mickiesherwood.com/blog

    www.bayouloveromances.blogspot.com

  • Michelle Cox

    Nice post, Patricia!  I have heard all of the above excuses, as well!  But I think you're right, a personal ask is sometimes the ticket!  Thanks for your tips!