By C. Kevin Thompson
As many authors know, good, critical, honest reviews are important. Future readers often base their purchases on them. Therefore, reviews are gold when talking bottom lines.
Because Amazon uses the review system as one of its major marketing arms, keeping reviews as pure as possible is paramount to good customer service.
To prevent others from manipulating this system, Amazon has vowed to pronounce an author anathema if they seek to manipulate reviews. The consequence? Banishment from the Amazon kingdom. They sued four companies for doing exactly that: contaminating the overall quality of the review process. One of them had a very inconspicuous name: buyamazonreviews.com.
Then, there was the not-so-blatant, in-your-face 5-star review scandal. A company was manipulating reviews via a buyer-friendly return policy, proving there is more than one way to skin the proverbial cat.
We know book companies have used the method of “giving away books for honest reviews” for years. So long as the reviewer stated in the review he or she received the book for free in exchange for an honest review, most people were okay with it. Even that game has changed a little with Amazon upping their purchase requirement from $5 to $50 per year. In other words, anyone who receives books for free and reviews them can no longer do so if they do not spend $50 a year on Amazon. This is actually a good thing on multiple levels.
However, what hurts authors as much as a one-star or malicious review is the poorly written one.
Assuming the reader is being honest and would give the product an honest review, how the review is written can make a 5-star review seem either real or fake. It’s all in the syntax.
For example, let’s say the reader–we’ll call her Carol Critique–reads her favorite author-friend’s book–we’ll call her author-friend Wynona Writer. There are two ways Carol can write the review. A good way and a bad way. The bad way is to write it like she knows Linda:
I haven’t read Linda’s newest book, Can’t Buy Me Amish Love, but I know it’s going to be one of the best Amish romance novels ever written because I read her last book as soon as it came out. Better than Beverly Lewis! I can’t believe she’s not on the New York Times Best Seller List! All I can say is, When’s the movie coming out?????!!!
If you’re a reader who does not know the author, is that how you write your reviews? I hope not. I’ll wager there aren’t too many reviews of Debbie Macomber’s books wherein the reviewer speaks as if she knows Debbie like a next-door neighbor. Phrases only a mother could write, like, “I’ve known Debbie for years, so I can vouch for this book!” or “Everyone must read this book!!! It will change your life!” garner the same respect as a political ad with the disclaimer at the end: “This message is sponsored by Who Cares PAC NSCF and not associated with any political candidate.”
The good way is to pen a professional-looking review:
In her latest book, Can’t Buy Me Amish Love, Linda Writer has crafted a wonderful sequel to the first book in this series, I Want to Hold Your Amish Hand. The story of Yenta Yoder continues when she…(blah, blah, blah…you get the picture).
To simply write it in a more professional manner makes the review seem more “honest.”
But wait. Rumors abound concerning Amazon searching your social media sites, looking for friends and relatives who also review your works. “Shills,” they call them. If the Amazon Review Board thinks the reviewer is related or a good friend, she will get a Nastygram stating her review has been removed. If Amazon thinks you’re recruiting reviews in a nefarious manner, your author page could be history.
So, what’s a writer to do? Well, first off, we can’t (nor should we) discourage friends and family from writing reviews. Writing them honestly and professionally should be encouraged, though.
Second, to garner more reviews, you could:
• Employ the likes of a buyamazonreviews.com? I wouldn’t advise it, though.
• Give away massive amounts of books to targeted reviewers who will, no doubt, give you nothing lower than three stars? They may help you get to the magic number of 100 faster, but at what cost?
Or how about this for a third option? Simply write the best book you can muster and allow God to work? From there, it’s in God’s hands. Of course, we’ll travel down the free eBook giveaway avenue and all those other four-letter marketing streets we introverted authors just can’t wait to travel. And sure, some people won’t like what you’ve written. Others might even boldface lie about your book (and Amazon has an abuse policy to address this, too). Don’t fret, though. Even the Bible has its detractors. The point is, we live in a fallen world. Enemy territory. And we write Christian fiction.
It’s a wonder we don’t get more one-star reviews than we do.
C. Kevin Thompson’s novel, The Serpent’s Grasp, won the 2013 BRMCWC Selah Award (First Novel category). His second novel, 30 Days Hath Revenge-A Blake Meyer Thriller (Book 1), was also an award winner and is available in second editions! Visit Kevin @ www.ckevinthompson.com: “Where imagination meets eternity.”