Why indie presses need your Amazon reviews
In the five years since starting this blog I’ve posted reviews on Goodreads and Library Thing but I never gave much thought to putting them on Amazon. It’s not that I’ve consciously ignored that site or decided to make a stand over the way they allegedly use strong arm tactics to squeeze discounts from publishers and authors. It just never occurred to me that there was any real need to post reviews or comments there.
But then I got an email from an indie publishing company late last year which has caused me to rethink my approach with books I get via NetGalley. Anne from Le French Book www.lefrenchbook.com provided a reality check on the economics of book publishing and why, for small publishing houses Amazon reviews really do matter. Apparently publishers have to pay to get their books listed on NetGalley – they give these copies away in order to promote their authors. The reviews we put on our blogs don’t bring them any income however though they are important in word of mouth promotion.
On average, there are about 260 people who click to read our titles on Netgalley. If they actually all bought the title, we could pay our Netgalley subscription, but they get it free. If we actually got 260 (or even 200, or 150, or 100) reviews online, it would have a real impact on our sales. Amazon’s algorithm would do the work.
Despite an aversion to Amazon that I’ve noticed among some bloggers, the reality is that this is the site where visibility matters. This is still the biggest market place for potential buyers, they go there in their hundreds of thousands and they use reviews to help them make decisions on which books to buy. A handful of reviews per book, simply isn’t enough for readers to start noticing – these publishing houses need well beyond 30 reviews for them to make the promotion efforts worthwhile and help them keep generating enough profit to bring out new books.
How we can help
The appeal from Le French Book is really simple. It’s just requires each of us to take these few steps:
- Visit the Amazon website page for the books we read on Netgalley.
- If you are able to buy it, the publisher would be extremely grateful
- Either way, leave an honest review of the book. Even just a few lines could make all the difference but of course a few paragraphs are even better one line or five.
- And a step that never occurred to me – if you are A UK, Canadian or Australian reader, don’t just put your review on the local version of Amazon. Cut and paste it to the US page, too (that’s the one the publisher refers to when they try to book advertising and promotions).
Not difficult is it? It doesn’t take much time but when publishers are feeling the pinch it seems only fair for us to show our appreciation of the free copies we receive.
One other thing I’ve learned from this publisher is to avoid getting over enthusiastic when requesting books from NetGalley. I have too many sitting unread on the e-reader and for every one of those, there is a cost impact on the publisher. So from now I am going to request only those books I am committed to reading. And to make sure I upload the review to Amazon.
|Now it’s over to you
Do you put reviews on Amazon? Will you consider doing so for books you get from indie publishers in the future?
51 thoughts on “Why indie presses need your Amazon reviews”
Thank you so much for this post. I already knew that reviews on Amazon are important, but I had no idea how much our requests cost the publisher via Netgalley. I will also be more careful when requesting from now on.
Im sure the small publishers will thank you for that Irena
Reblogged this on alisonbrodiebooks and commented:
Essential reading for readers and reviewers. For all authors, Amazon.com is the site where visibility matters. If you like a book, post your review on Amazon.com. Thank you! xx
Thanks for the re-blog Alison. I know there are differing opinions and some bloggers are concerned they would lose copyright protection for their work if they do an Amazon review but I thought it was an important topic to raise
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As an indie author I know the vital importance of getting a review on Amazon.com. 99% of book bloggers know it, too. Some don’t, unfortunately. Sometimes when I get a fantastic 5* review on Goodreads, I have to chase the reviewer to beg her to post on Amazon.com. For me, getting a review on Amazon.com is far more effective than getting the same review on Goodreads.
This is a great post. Thank you! x
That’s such good insight Alison. I am going to try and do this more often – probably not posting the same review as on the blog but at least something…..
Reblogged this on The Belgian Reviewer and commented:
A very insightful post about the impact and importance of Amazon reviews.
Thanks for the repost on this important topic
Interesting post and discussion. I’m not a fan of netgalley since I tend to find the free review copies start driving my reading instead of my own tastes, but I do buy small press books a fair bit and I often buy them from Amazon. It hadn’t really occurred to me to leave reviews there, and I definitely wouldn’t have thought of cross posting them to Amazon US.
The copyright issue doesn’t much bother me as I wouldn’t put a blog post up, that would be far too long. I’d just write a para or two about the book and frankly they’re welcome to that.
I’m backing off netgalley quite a bit – a few of the books I’ve had that way have been worth reading and they’ve introduced me to new authors but I’ve also had a lot of disappointments. I’m ok with doing a short paragraph style of review too for Amazon if it helps some of the smaller presses that frankly need a lot of help. Without them so much of literature in translation would never see the light of day
This is a wonderful post, and so very very needed. Our son is an indie author and was very well received on Goodreads, but the sales are on Amazon, and it was awful trying to get reviews. They make such a difference! I don’t mind reading Indie at all, but I simply have too many books to read to take the chance based off from a promising paragraph, the synopsis.
Really, thank you for bringing this to our attention.
Interesting to hear your son’s experience – writing for a living certainly has its frustrations
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Great to get conversations going on this matter and to hear about the different experiences and positions and understandings. I neither shop from nor review for Amazon, although I have had many discussions with authors and small publishers about the matter, some wishing that I would promote there and others content that I do not. I’ve found Ursula Le Guin’s position most akin to mine (that I’ve found so far); there is a link to an earlier essay in this piece on ElectricLit. Stll, I do sympathize with the need to promote and reach an audience, and I’m glad there are a variety of responses to the matter, as more bookchat is definitely a good thing.
I haven’t thought about this, I must say. Thanks for providing a different perspective.
I will try and do what I can!
Important post! Thank you
I’ve been a lazy reviewer in the past and rarely if ever post on Amazon, but when you frame it like this it makes so much sense to post across to there too!
I don’t get books from Net Galley, but this still gives me something to think about in terms of what more I can do for small presses and books that I feel deserve more attention. Enjoyed the discussion!
I haven’t actually put reviews on Amazon. Not because of any beef with Amazon as such, but just because I like goodreads so much better, and I am too lazy to cross-post in multiple places. Your post does make me rethink my attitude though.
My netgalley ratio is still down around the 56% mark, and there are books I’ve had for a while now that I really need to clear off one way or another. I’ve pretty much stopped looking at the new releases pretty much for this reason
A very good call – and this is the case for indie authors as well; I rely on Amazon reviews to push my books back up the recommendations. I do try to give all books I get from NetGalley an Amazon review and not to over-request, but it’s brilliant of you to raise this issue.
A great post and a good reminder how important the reviews are to authors, especially when posted on Amazon – I started posting my reviews there in 2010 and I still do now.
I have occasionally put reviews on Amazon, but mostly when it’s a book that is written by an Australian author. I mostly look at reviews on other blogs and for a broad variety, Goodreads. I put all my reviews up on Goodreads, always reveal if I had an ARC, and also post to Twitter.
Hmm, I’m a bit doubtful about this. I haven’t ever had a book from NetGalley, I don’t like eBooks and only buy them when there doesn’t seem to be any alternative, so I don’t owe any of those small indie publishers in that way.
But as a reader, I don’t take the slightest bit of notice of any review on Amazon. There have been cases of fake reviews, authors getting friends and relations to rate the book five stars, vitriolic reviews from rival authors, authors attacking reviewers for bad reviews, and as Kim says above, trolling too. From what I’ve heard, there’s no system for dealing with any of this, they just let it happen.
So, the only reviews I take any notice of are those from my trusted blogging friends.
As for my reviews, well, I put in hours and hours of my time blogging the best reviews I can, and I put links to my reviews on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Library Thing (not ever the whole review because as Kim says, it’s my copyright). And I think that’s enough. I am not going to start working for Amazon without getting paid for it. (Well, actually, I wouldn’t work for Amazon even if they paid me anyway because I don’t like their business practices, and I dropped my affiliation with the Book Depository when they merged with Amazon).
When you think about it, calculating the time it takes to read a book and then write a review, and then probably interact with people who comment, each book you review on your blog is a gift of your time to the author and the publisher.
And at the end of the day, I’m blogging my reading because I love to do it, not because I am part of a marketing or publicity system.
Fair points. I do think its somewhat different if you have purchased a book since that is really your contribution to the financial viability of the publisher. So no obligation to do anything further really but if you do reviews on your own site plus use twitter etc then you are doing even more to help them. So if amazon doesnt sound right, I dont think you need to feel guilty about that at all
when I request a book, I always cross-post my review on goodreads, amazon.com and barnes & noble. if the author/publisher asks, sometimes itunes and kobo.
many of our France Book Tours reviewers also cross-post their reviews on amazon,ca and amazon.co.uk, I do so when asked by author/publisher
It is very hard to get reviews on Amazon. If you sell 100 book you might get 10 reviews. Readers don’t really think about it I’ve found.
read Kimbofo’s comment as well – there are reviewers who do think about it, but want to keep their sanity and copyright. Sometimes, trying to help out authors is not worth the pain
I approached a Christian who had a strong interest in the Japanese culture about reading and reviewing my story and she said that her publisher would not allow her to review and non-traditionally published works. That’s the kind of control over my voice that I never want to lose.
It took tremendous effort to achieve freedom of speech and freedom to write and even now it doesnt exist in many countries. Hence the importance of protecting what we have as you say
Hmmm … interesting. I was once a “top 100” reviewer on Amazon but I deleted all my reviews because (1) I was trolled a lot by people not agreeing with my review; and (2) I found out that Amazon holds the copyright of anything you post on your site, something I’m not prepared to give up as a journalist. So, while I love to help small presses, I’m not prepared to use Amazon to do so for those reasons. I think my own blog and all the social media I do (Twitter, IG, FB & GR) more than makes up for this 😉
THis is pretty much why I dont post the actual reviews to Amazon. On a rare occasion i’ve posted the link to a review on there but not the actual text.
The trolling must have been a horrid experience. Re the copyright issue , I was t aware of this but I understand your point of view. I’m thinking the way around this for me is to just post a short review – not the one I do on the BBC,of and then copy the link to the full review. I know it’s slightly more effort but that way I keep most of my IP but still help out a publisher.
Can you do links on Amazon? Couldn’t in past, but may be they’ve changed the “rules”?
It’s so hard not being trigger happy on Netgalley but I try to keep only a few on there until I’ve read them. Aarrgh! I do try and review on a few sites now as having met so many authors and I’ve realised how important it is. Great to bring awareness of this here – thank you a great article! x
Thanks for the guidance and will follow it. Yes, I want to help out indie companies and that is an easy way. And some of their books are very very good and deserve more publicity.
I thought that I was following your blog and discover I wasn’t. Not sure how that happened because I think we share some interests and concerns. I am signed up now. Glad i was in time to get this messare.
Since I joined NetGalley, I’ve always posted my reviews on Amazon. Initially I was guilty of not appreciating that the US site was also a relevant site to post to, but now do both.
it never occurred to me that I could post on more than one site….
I had no idea that publishers had to pay to use NetGalley. Interesting.
Here’s my Sunday Salon.
I do post my reviews on Amazon (UK and US). It was a requirement at first when I started to review books for someone and now I do it all the time because I really want to recommend books to people. I have a list when to add them on their release day. I didn’t know it was this important though, now I feel even better :-).
Have you had any of the problems Kim has experienced?
There are quite a lot of indie authors who find me through Amazon, often requesting me to read a book entirely out of my genre (sci-fi or fantasy) so I nearly always politely decline. I haven’t had any nasty experiences with trolling though, but then the books I read are usually good reads and I stay polite too even if it wasn’t really my kind of read so I don’t see why they would contact me about it…
Hasn’t Amazon instituted the ‘verified purchase’ rule? I heard they were going to thanks to all the fake reviews of products.
for all other products, not for books. But they will delete your review if you say you got a copy in “exchange” for a “honest” review – trigger words.
You can just say you got the book free, from the author/publisher
thanks for sharing that insight with us.
I have tried without success to find their policy. They did accept my first attempt though
There’s been talk of making it exclusively ‘verified purchases’ for some time. The number of shill reviews on the site, including those of books, are ridiculous.
Easy to spot if you’re a veteran. A brand new book with many five star short reviews from people who’ve only reviewed this one book.
Great post, and it would never occur to me NOT to post on Amazon. I started posting my reviews there first, before Goodreads (back in 2008).
Since the NetGalley books are often not available on Amazon until after I’ve posted my review on Goodreads, my blog, and NetGalley, I have a list to remind me to go to Amazon once it’s released.
I had no idea, though, of the importance of posting there…so thanks for sharing.
Very insightful, thanks! I always put my reviews on Amazon and every other site I can think of. I had heard that they were extremely important in how Amazon’s algorithm will highlight that author. (Or something like that ☺). It’s great you are getting the word out!
A generous and thoughtful blog which will make both independent publishers and their authors extremely grateful to you.