By Amy Collins
Over the last month I’ve spoken with several authors who have all asked the same question:
Why don’t I have more Amazon reviews with all of my friends telling me they loved my book?
This month’s edition of Do This Not That is all based on one of my most important don’ts.
What They Did
They expected their friends to write reviews online for them.
This is not just a fanciful imagination or wishful thinking – there are thousands of examples of authors who have expressed confusion to me about the fact that their friends tell them they all bought the book and loved it, told friends about it who LOVED it, but when the authors look up their sales the numbers don’t match up.
I hate to be the one to break this to you if this is news: but a lot of the people who told you they bought your book on Amazon didn’t. And a lot of the people who told you they read your book and loved it, didn’t. They meant to! They were going to buy your book, they really meant to read it. And when they run into you at the supermarket or your local church, and they tell you how much they enjoyed it, they fully intend to go out that very day and buy your book and read it because it was always their true intention. But life gets in the way family, work, bills to pay – so many things come between them and reading your book. So, the next time they see you they can’t very well admit they haven’t read it yet can they?
While this is a small social faux pas or white lie while standing in the middle of your supermarket, this expectation can spell disaster if you’re depending on friends, family, and acquaintances to start the ball rolling on your sales and review process.
Word-of-mouth, personal recommendations, and reading the reviews are where most books find new readers. Getting reviews online, and getting people to talk about your book with others is the keystone to a successful marketing campaign. It then follows that if a big chunk of your friends won’t actually have read your book, perhaps we should think of another way to get the ball rolling.
What They Should Have Done Instead
First off, it’s time to accept that our friends are well-meaning but not a reliable source for helping us succeed in our book marketing. We need to forgive them and move on because there’s a better way!
Instead of asking people who may or may not even enjoy reading books and are not prepared to write an effective review, why not go after readers who have already proven themselves to be enthusiastic readers and are willing to write reviews? Getting reviews online:
There are already people on these sites who are active readers and avid reviewers. Ask them instead! Finding them is easy!
What You Can Do Now
- Take ten minutes a day and go to the site where you want your book reviewed.
- Look up the books that your book could most closely be compared to.
- Then go into the reviews for that book, and click on the names of the reviewers that seem most enthusiastic about that competing comparable book. In many cases, the reviewer’s name, email and even blog will be listed. It’s a simple thing to reach out to them and ask them if they would like a review copy of your book. They’ve already shown themselves interested in the topic and willing to write reviews and it can’t hurt to ask!
There are a few genres where this technique won’t work as well. Any genre or topic where the book is trying to solve a problem may not work as well. For instance, if you’ve written a book on how to train a puppy, reaching out to people who wrote review books on how to train puppies may not get you the same number of reviews as reaching out to people who enjoy mystery novels. Why? Because they’ve already trained their puppy and most likely don’t need to read another book on the subject.
This is not always the case. You may stumble upon a whole group of reviewers who are dog training experts and are always looking for the latest book on dog training. But this technique and process will gain you many more reviews, far more success, and get you a lot more readers then depending upon your friends.
This leads me to my second Do This Not That that seems to come up a lot: not knowing who your competition is, and what your comparable titles and authors are.
What They Did
They did not have a long list of authors and books that could be used as comparisons for their own book.
I cannot count the number of authors I have spoken within the last year who were unable to answer this basic question: “What authors and what books are most like yours?” Very often the author will say to me,”There is no other book like mine…” or, my personal favorite, “I like to think my writing is completely unique.”
Yes, we all like to think that. And in many cases, it’s true! That does not mean that you’re off the hook when it comes to comparable and competing research. No reader in the history of the world only reads one of them. That’s not what readers do and that’s not how it works. Everyone who wants to read your book already has a stack of books on their bedside table or in their Kindle.
Who are those authors? What books are they reading? When I ask what books can be comparable to yours I’m not saying that your book isn’t unique and your voice isn’t special – I’m simply asking you in what market does your reader shop? This is a question that all authors need to know how to answer.
What They Should Have Done Instead
Instead of assuming that all our readers are like us and read the same books we do, or instead of assuming that our books are so unique and so special that there are no other books or authors out there that would appeal to our readers, we should’ve set aside our assumptions and done our research.
I’m as guilty of this as the next person – but when I set aside my feelings and the pride in my work I’m able to see that there’s an entire industry and marketplace already in place that caters to my potential readers. My job as an author is to find the authors and the titles that most appeal to the readers who want my book.
What We Can Do Now
There are lots of ways to discover the authors and books our readers are reading.
Amazon has wish lists. Why not look up some of the books that you think are close comparisons and see what other books are appearing on the wish list of people who want the books you’ve listed?
Goodreads is another terrific research source. If you can find one title or author that you can accept is a close comparison to your book then you can look that book up on Goodreads, find the people who have read it, and then find what other books they’re reading!
Book clubs are a great resource for fiction authors as many book clubs post their reading lists online. For nonfiction authors, a simple stroll through Amazon will allow you to look up books by topic and subject. You may have written a completely unique book on how to deal with the effects of chemotherapy. Your book maybe unlike any other book out there – but there are a lot of books out there on how to deal with the effects of chemotherapy and those readers would be interested in hearing about your book too.
So there are my tips for this month’s Do This Not That! Setting aside what we think and instead delving into what actually is, is difficult and, I’ll be honest, I don’t like doing it any more than you do. But once I put aside what I think is going to happen, I often find myself in a greater position to make things happen. It’s a much better place to be.