It is a truth universally acknowledged that good reviews sell books. And with online bookstores such as Amazon, everyone can be a reviewer. So who do you get to review your book to influence sales? Firstly, we are going to look at who not to ask for a review:
It’s almost universally considered bad form to review your own books. After all, how could your review possibly be unbiased? Having lurked in various online book review discussions, it seems that the only group of people who don’t mind authors reviewing their own books are… authors who review their own books. It also is specifically not permitted in Amazon’s Conditions of Use and Reviewing Guidelines.
And don’t use the excuse that the reviewer is from Australia and therefore couldn’t post a review on Amazon. I have seen that one used. Seriously. The internet is global. Anyone with an Amazon account can post a review, whether or not they have bought something. The same applies at Goodreads, Christian Book, Koorong, Smashwords…
Also, don’t think of getting clever and creating a fake account so that you can post a review under a made-up name. This is also against Amazon’s Conditions of Use. It’s been done before, most notably by the author of The Hacker Hunter, who posted 350 (count them!) five-star reviews of his own book on Amazon. They were all removed, proving that Amazon can track URLs to identify these fake accounts (often referred to online as ‘shills’).
Your Agent, Publisher, Editor or Proofreader
Again, no one who might benefit financially from the sale of your book should post a review. Your Publisher can update the information in the Product Description and About the Author sections of your book page to add reviews and information about awards.
Again, these are against Amazon’s Conditions of Use. The only payment a reviewer can receive is a free copy of the book or product being reviewed, and this needs to be disclosed in the review under US FTC regulations.
No reviews from Mum, Dad, Granny, spouse, child or anyone related to you. If they post an unsolicited review, it might be best to add a comment saying ‘Thanks for your support, Mum. I love you!’ to make it completely clear that there is just the slightest possibility that the review might be biased. These are not specifically forbidden (unless there is a financial relationship), but they can damage an author’s credibility if people buy a book based on a glowing review, don’t like the book and then realise the review was from a relative or enthusiastic friend (such reviews are often referred to as ‘sock puppets’).
Harriet was Amazon’s top reviewer under the old ranking system, which was based purely on the number of reviews posted (new rankings are based on a complex algorithms that take number of reviews, posting date and helpfulness). Just think about it: Harriet posts an average of 6-8 reviews each day, almost all of which are rated five stars. That’s more books each day than most people read in a month (and almost as many as my husband reads in a decade). I have no idea how you get a review from HK, but it doesn’t matter. They have no credibility.
So, that’s how not to get reviews. Next week’s post will be a little more positive – five places you can get reviews.