A Short and Sweet Beginner’s Guide to Securing Amazon Reviews

hand gives five stars rating as product feedback with laptop

Today’s guest post is an excerpt from 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors by professional marketer Penny Sansevieri (@bookgal).


Reviews can be a tremendous help in driving the sale of a book. In fact, a marketing survey company found that 61% of online purchases were made after reading a review. Reviews on Amazon can also help your book turn up more often in customer searches.

How many reviews do you need? Well, ideally over fifty. If possible, you should have closer to one hundred reviews. However, you don’t need to get them all at one time. As a matter of fact, getting reviews incrementally can actually help boost your book’s exposure. Why? Because staggering reviews keeps your Amazon book page active, and a book with current reviews is much more attractive to a potential buyer than a book that hasn’t been reviewed in months.

So you want reviews—great reviews—but Amazon does not welcome planted reviews. They need to be authentic. Here’s how you can get great, honest reviews on your Amazon page.

First, approach the people you know

I often advise authors to use email pitching as a way to get the ball rolling on book reviews at Amazon, which can then be used to market your book. As part of this pitching process, you shouldn’t forget one of your most powerful groups: your friends, family, past reviewers, and existing readers. Take a few minutes to craft a pitch to this audience and reach out to them to ask for honest and unbiased reviews.

I stress the “honest and unbiased” piece of this because Amazon doesn’t allow an author’s mom to say, “My daughter has always been a gifted writer…” for obvious reasons. Your network should be encouraged to review your books just like they would any other product. Most everyday readers, however, aren’t familiar with writing Amazon reviews, or fully understand what makes a constructive, helpful review for other shoppers.

Oftentimes reviews consist of not much more than, “Loved this book!” And while it’s great to have fans, Amazon reviews like that do little to help convince others to buy. Also, shorter reviews are often frowned upon by Amazon and could get pulled if the review seems disingenuous. Read more about why Amazon reviews get pulled.

When a book has lots of great, detailed reviews, we tend to scan them for highlights about the things that matter to us. That’s how we often buy books. Both good and bad reviews can help us decide, and, frankly, I’ve often bought a book after I read a bad review because what the reviewer didn’t like was exactly what I was looking for. That’s why detailed reviews are not only helpful, they’re a must for your Amazon page.

So here are some tips you can share with people who want to post something about your book:

  • Whenever possible or appropriate, ask the reviewer to add their expertise on the topic—especially if your book relates to nonfiction.
  • If you have identified your keywords, share them with any friends who are posting and ask that, if appropriate, they include the keywords in the review.
  • Ask readers to post reviews that are between 100 and 450 words.
  • If a reader feels compelled to include a spoiler, ask them to post a warning first so customers can choose to read on—or not.
  • Never, ever, ever offer to edit a review. You want honest appraisals, not watered-down reviews that all sound alike.
  • It’s important that the reviewer cite why the book mattered to them. This also personalizes the review for the reader.

If your reviewer still isn’t sure how to craft a review, here are some start questions to help them along:

  • What did you like most about the book?
  • Did the book cover the content as described?
  • Do you think you got your money’s worth?
  • What could the author have done better?
  • How does it compare to other books in this category? Please cite any books you’d compare this one to.

What about “Amazon Verified Purchases?” A lot of people ask if the Amazon Verified Purchase has more clout than a regular review posting. The answer is: Not currently. However, this could change. Early reviewers don’t often pay for their own books—books are mailed or gifted. I have had authors ask a reviewer to pay for the book to get that “verified purchase” label, but that doesn’t always go over well.

Other people you should approach with a free review copy or early access

First, try your professional network: When I re-released Red Hot Internet Publicity, I offered the book (for free) to anyone who wanted to read it and post an honest review. I was very clear that I wasn’t asking for a good or bad review, just an honest one. I got close to 100 responses from readers who wanted to do it. So that would be my first go-to. Whether you reach out to your newsletter list, a big social media following, or perhaps even a local group you belong to (like a Meetup), my first point of contact would be to go after the low-hanging fruit.

To expedite this, I create a Dropbox folder for the ebook version of the book and then email the link to everyone who requests it. This method is very easy and fairly cost-effective. And since it’s an ebook-only offer, make sure your readers know it’s a digital book.

If you write nonfiction, your mailing list may be a mix of business contacts, and if you write fiction, it will be all readers, but in either case it should also contain your superfans. If you have fans, be sure to reach out to them early and offer them a copy of the book. I did this on Facebook with a personal note to fans via the Facebook chat app. In another instance, an author I work with created an exclusive Facebook group just for her superfans and invited them to participate. They got great goodies,
but, more importantly, they got early access to all her books, and were able to read them before everyone else.

Try review blogs in your genre or category

5 Minute Book Marketing for AuthorsI know it’s hard to get your message out there through the noise of all the pitches bloggers must receive on a daily basis, but reaching out to bloggers in your genre, even just five per week, can make a huge difference. And here’s another thing: Authors often stop reaching out to bloggers once their books have been out for one or a few months. This is a mistake. Make sure you continue to pitch; many bloggers don’t care when your book released.

Your pitch should be short and sweet. If it’s longer than one paragraph, it’s too long. I recommend an intro paragraph that describes the book. Then you can invite the blogger  to request a copy of the book and let them know the available format(s). You should provide the book in whatever format they want—don’t make a fuss about it.

Ask at the end of your book for a review

I always encourage authors to put letters at the end of their books asking for reviews. Not a good review, just a review—good or bad. And to make it super easy, be sure to include a link to your book (the Amazon book page) in the letter. Oh, and don’t forget to thank your readers for buying the book, too!


If you enjoyed this post, I highly recommend taking a closer look at 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors by Penny Sansevieri.

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion.

Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, visit Author Marketing Experts (AME).

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Dr. MaryAnn Diorio

Thank you for this excellent information. I culled several new ideas from your post.

Dr. MaryAnn Diorio

da-AL

me too!

Caroline

Thanks Penny, very good points. Sorry this comment won’t be 100 words…(that was an interesting tip that I didn’t know).

Don Maker
Don Maker

I thought much of this was highly appropriate. Objective reviews, even by friends and family, can be helpful. They should indeed be where you start. However, I strongly object to ‘asking’ for reviews at the end of your book, or even thanking the reader. I’ve never seen this in any professionally published book, and it sounds quite amateurish. Be a professional at all times.

College Prof
College Prof

When my book was being published, the university press put it up on Amazon … and INSTANTLY, some anonymous person put a one-star review of just a few words, not even a full sentence. There was absolutely no way that at that early date, anyone could have even ordered and received the book yet, much less read it. Obviously it was a hateful smear, and to this day I don’t know who did it–a jealous professor-colleague, maybe? or someone violently opposed to the subject matter? For these reasons, the publisher immediately asked Amazon to remove the review. Haha, good luck… Read more »

Barbara Linn Probst

This is perfect! A keeper! Thank you so much!

Mary Zisk

I asked the followers of my FB book page to leave reviews on Amazon. When one of them tried, she was rejected because she hadn’t spent a minimum of $50 on Amazon in the last 6 months. Another roadblock in the self-publishing journey. 🙁

S.S. Mitchell

Reviews seem to be like gold dust! On approaching a large volume of book bloggers, they seem to be inundated with requests! I like your alternate suggestions and will definitely be trying them out. Thank you for this post.

Thonie Hevron

Some great, feasible tips here, Penny. I’ve long been a fan of your books and I still learned several methods to get more reviews.

Mel
Mel

Lots of good advice, here – thank you! But be aware that friend and family reviews are against Amazon’s TOS and will be removed if Amazon catches them, which they seem to do with some regularity. I don’t want to post a link here, but if you Google “Authors losing Amazon reviews” you’ll see this has been a fairly hot topic over the years. The second result will take you directly to Amazon’s TOS.

Kim Beall

One thing the article didn’t mention:  While it’s true the “verified purchase” badge doesn’t count as far as Amazon’s algorithm is concerned, people reading reviews have become cynical and might be suspicious if they don’t see it. If your reviewer didn’t buy the book from Amazon, ask them to tell readers how they did acquire it. I often get books from book fairs, book signings, or my local indy bookstore. Naturally, your reviewers should NOT say “the author gave this to me free!” But they can say “I discovered it during its launch promotion” or “I heard about it on… Read more »

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[…] Reviews, news interviews, public readings, and audiobooks can help. Penny Sansevieri serves up a beginner’s guide to securing Amazon reviews, Sandra Beckwith shows us how to find the hidden news hooks in your fiction, M.K. Rainey has tips […]

James Edison

Great info. I’m wondering what the rough average of unsolicited reviews might be for an indie author. In a little over two months I’ve had around a hundred people (yes, dismal) touch my book through purchases or reading on KU and my only review is honest but from a person to whom I provided my book. What have other authors seen – 5%, 1%, or justgiveupnow%?

Jane Friedman

Hi James: I haven’t seen any particular research on this, but if I had to venture an educated guess, less than 5% of your readers can be expected to leave reviews without any kind of prompting. I’m basing this guess on reviews of my own books (both traditionally and self-published), which I don’t avidly solicit.

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