Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Self-Publishing--What Works--5 Star Reviews

I know authors who've been in the business for a long time are good at not looking at their reviews on publisher sites. Nor do they look at their reviews from professional reviews. (But that's another blog.) They've learned the truth about how you can't please everyone. I'm not able to do that yet, and don't see being at that place for quite a while. It seems all my self-published friends are the same.

Enough of my friends have examples of nasty, weird, or crazy reviews. There are some people out there who are negative and critical, and none of us are immune from their toxicity. I've read some of these describing a book I happened to enjoy, and I just have to shake my head and wonder why that reader didn't have the same experience. I know we're all different and have differing expectations, but I can't fantom giving any good book a 1 star.

Five star reviews are vital to the success of a self-published book, especially by an unknown or little known author. The 5 and 4 star reviews will make a reader stop and consider buying the book. For some readers, the positive stars are enough, and they don't bother to find out more. Other readers will read a couple of reviews, or they will carefully read through all the reviews before making their decisions. Then there are the readers that may be interested in the book, but wait to see what kind of reviews are generated before they buy.

I am so grateful for each person who has given me a good review--whether I knew them before or not. I'm not so grateful for the negative reviews (at this time, three 3 star ones for Wild Montana Sky) because they hurt when I first received them. I do try to focus on feeling glad that these readers gave the books a try. I also know this makes the book look more legitimate. If everyone loves the book then maybe all the reviews are written by friends and family.

For each 5 star review I received, my sales rose a bit--from a couple of book sales to ten a day. The rise in sales seemed to level out at about eight or nine reviews. I'll be interested to see what happens with my recently published book, Sower of Dreams, to see if that holds true for the fantasy romance series as well.

I have reviews generated from 4 different types of readers:

1. Author friends/acquaintances
2. Family Members and friends
3. General Readership
4. Fans who wrote me about the books

Let me expand:

1. I have author friends who are self-publishing their books, and I've been eager to read them, especially if I've known about the book for a long time. I know these authors feel the same about my books. When I read their books, I'm happy to review them, and they do the same for me. Through joining a group of self-published authors, I'm meeting more and more who have books I want to read. I have a bunch on my Kindle already. If I like a book, I'll review it. If I don't like it (which hasn't happened yet) I won't. A few have done the same for me.

2. My uncle played an important part in Wild Montana Sky. He helped with the scene where the heroine learns to shoot and also on the bear attack scene. He is NOT a romance reader, but after he read Wild Montana Sky on his Kindle, he wrote me the most beautiful email, which definitely made me cry. I asked him to use part of the email as a review, and he did. He went on to read Starry Montana Sky, and tells me to hurry up with the next one.

One of my friends, also not a romance reader, read the book and told me she really liked it. I asked her if she would post a review, and she did one for Starry.

3. Other reviews come from people whom I don't know, will never know, but will always wish I could hug and say a heartfelt "thank you." In many ways, these reviews mean the most of all because they come from strangers.

4. I was floored by my first fan email. She described herself as "spellbound" by the stories. I asked her if she'd be willing to post what she'd written to me as a review. A few days later, she did, although she didn't use the spellbound description, darn it.

Since then, I've received several other fan emails. I've replied to each one, telling the reader that her email has made my day. I answer any questions or respond to comments. Then at the end, I make my request. It goes something like this: "I have a request. Would you be willing to take some of what you've written to me and write a review on Amazon? Positive reviews mean so much to authors, and I'd really appreciate it." So far, each person has written a review.

I make sure to put in the point of reviewing for other authors. Most people don't even think to write a review. I certainly didn't. Most people (who already like your book) will be glad to do this for you. Once they start, they might continue to post positive reviews for others.

Since I've started self-publishing, I've been making a point to write reviews. I mostly give positive ones, although if I'm frustrated by a book, and I don't know the author, it might be a 3 star. But that's rare. (If I know the author, I'll email or tell her in person about what troubled me.) Writing 5 star reviews is fun, although I usually just make a few comments, I don't recap the book. I like thinking about how happy that author will be when she/he discovers it.


  1. Ah Debra...

    The review situation is sticky. I HATE to ask anyone for a review. I do like how you go about it, and will probably employ a similar line when I respond to the fans. (I love fan mail).

    I think the worst thing a reviewer can do is give a one or two star review and then say nothing about the book. I've had two of those types of reviews and, as an author, it is so frustrating.

    Good article and I look forward to reading more.

  2. Thanks, Kathy. Like I said, if the person has already told you he or she likes the book, why not ask?

  3. Great blog, Debra. It's fresh to hear such a candid perspective on reviews.

  4. Thanks, Carole. As you can see from what I've been writing, I think it's important to be candid. Otherwise, how can I be helpful? I know my self-published friends who've been candid have been invaluable!