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How reader reviews play an outsized role in the lives of books- and their authors.
It’s hard to overstate how much Amazon reviews matter in determining the fate of a new book.
In a crowded, super-competitive marketplace, books need to gain visibility fast and then sustain it over time. And of course the internet is where that happens.
I’m hardly complaining. Things were even tougher for authors in the pre-internet era, when you had pretty much one shot at getting your book to sell.
Either a major newspaper or magazine gave you a review when the book came out– or they didn’t.
Either a big independent bookstore or major chain gave you outward-facing prime shelf space– or you got lost in the shuffle.
Back then, unless something extraordinary happened, your window of time was limited. You had to sell well right out of the gate or your new book would head straight to the remainder pile.
The good news is that Amazon reviews have greatly democratized the process, giving the reading public a real voice and a real vote. The number of reviews posted, and their favorability, play a key role in determining your book’s search engine standing. This makes it easier for potential readers to find your book. And to find you.
Your standing also shapes perceptions of your book’s popularity, helping to sustain it and keep it selling over time. Of course, Amazon is not the only game in town. Other online venues, such as Goodreads, play an important and helpful role. But the algorithmic power of Amazon is overwhelming.
As a result, publishers, distributors, and retailers pay close attention. So it’s not unusual for an editor or agent to gently (or not so gently) nudge: “You need to work harder at getting Amazon reviews!”
Little wonder then that authors feel duty-bound to ceaselessly exhort readers, fans and colleagues to write Amazon reviews when a new book comes out. For example, I do a fair number of book signings at events. People who approach me for a signature (and a selfie) often say things like, “I’m reading your book right now, and it’s already helped me.”
Nothing is more gratifying. I write books because I want to have an impact on people’s lives. But rather than taking a moment to bask in the warm feeling this kind of exchange stirs, I feel as if I’m falling down on the job if I don’t immediately follow my heartfelt thanks with a request for an Amazon review. Which can feel pretty tacky at times.
But tackiness be damned. The world we live in has transformed online reviews into a powerful form of currency. So despite feeling funny about it, I’m taking this opportunity to beseech all of you who’ve read Rising Together, or participated in one of my workshops, or enjoyed a podcast on which I’ve been a guest: Will you please write an Amazon review for me?
Thank you from the bottom of my brazen heart!
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