Reading a novel is, for many (myself included), a personal experience.
We get lost in a story, experience pain, loss, anger and victory along with characters that we (hopefully) come to care about, as though they were real. And when that experience ends, we miss our new friends and want their fictional lives to continue. Like, now. With the characters and plot still fresh in our minds we *might* tell a friend about it. You know the one. That rare breed who reads novels as voraciously as you do. And then…
The subject might come up again six months later, when your reader friend finally gets around to reading the novel, but your excitement is waning because you’re still waiting for a sequel that may or may not be on the way. A year passes. Then two. What is taking the author so frikkin’ long to write the next book?! It was amazing. How could there not already be a sequel?
Eventually you decide to take matters into your own hands and e-mail that author. He/she probably won’t reply (I will), but maybe your e-mail will spur them into action.
I get these e-mails. A lot. For Jane Harper. For Refuge. For Flood Rising. I even get them for books that were never meant to have sequels. And my response is always something like this: (Insert book title) needs to sell better before I spend a LOT of time and money writing and publishing a sequel. The best way you can make that happen is to post a review on Amazon.
Seems like a simple thing, too simple to have any real-world effect on sales, but it’s the truth. Here’s why. In the good ol’ days of publishing (10 years ago and earlier), the #1 way books were sold was by word of mouth. That’s still mostly true, but word of mouth has gone digital. Most of my books, around 80% of them, are sold via Amazon. And most people buying books on Amazon are discovering new books and authors thanks to the website’s robust recommendation system. Thanks to Amazon, I’ve found a number of great reads that I would have never discovered on my own.
The engine running the recommendation system is algorithms. And a large part of the fuel that powers those algorithms is reviews. A mountain of computers, somewhere in the world, is breaking down what you look at, buy, and most importantly: review. It then takes all of that information, digests it, and ponders the question: who else might like this book?
Amazon then starts recommending the book to similar readers, and if those people buy and review the book, the net it casts grows wider and wider. The more people post reviews, the more fuel the algorithm engine gets, the further it can take a book.
I know my sales figures. And I know, roughly, how many dedicated readers I have. That number is vastly larger than the number of reviews my books receive. Does that mean the majority of my readers don’t like my books? If that were true, I wouldn’t be able to publish nine books in a year. I think it means that most readers don’t realize how important reviews are to sales these day. It’s the new word of mouth, and the #1 way you can support an author you enjoy, and a book/series you want to see continued.
With the release of Apocalypse Machine, I’ve been paying close attention to the correlation between reviews and sales. There is compelling evidence that they are directly linked. On the days when Apocalypse Machine received 10 reviews, sales jumped. I believe that’s because it was also recommended more. On the days when Apocalypse Machine received no reviews, sales dropped. Amazon algorithms are all about momentum, and a large part of that is reviews, each one adding more fuel to the engine.
So if you love a novel and want to see more people reading it, post a review. That friend you recommended it to? Tell them to post a review, too. If you want to see a series do well enough to justify continuing…post a review! You could also chat it up on Facebook, or Twitter, or by the watercooler. That’s all fantastic. But nothing has more word-spreading power than posting reviews, especially when a large number of people are doing so.
A quick note on reviews. First, I’m not looking for a review handout. If you didn’t like a book, feel free to post a less than flattering review. I read them all, and if the points are valid, I apply them to future books. Second, reviews don’t need to be anything special. No need to feel intimidated by posting. Just say what you thought of the book, even if it’s just a single sentence. Third, this really is your chance to make sure a series is continued. I have received far more e-mails about Jane Harper than the series has reviews. If you want to improve the chances of your favorite series having a long life, post reviews!
And now that I’ve pleaded my case, if you’ve read Apocalypse Machine (or any of my books, or any books by other authors you love), and this blog post, you know what to do. Make with the clicky, and tell the world what you think. And if you haven’t read Apocalypse Machine yet, check out the reviews!
I have to agree about the Amazon recommendations, I never would have found these amazing books without it.
Excellent article! Hope it gives some people a greater awareness of the importance of posting reviews.
Can I have your permission to repost this? I have posted something similar over the past few months and your post gives a slightly different perspective. I fully support your perspective and the other author’s post that I posted recently and it is precisely what both of you have written that I created my review blog (amoungst other reasons as well!)
Absolutely. Just do me a favor and leave in the link to Apocalypse Machine. 🙂
When I formatted my post, everything copied over really well but the link to the book at the end did not. I copied the link address and all it gave me was the link as a URL as the title and not as a book image with the Buy and Preview facility as it is in your post. However, when you click on the title URL it opens in a new tab with the same features as the Buy/Preview feature that is on yours.
I went to the Amazon book page and pressed the Embed link but it said that the content was not available.
What I have done is instruct readers to click on the title URL to read a preview or buy and have added the book image that also takes the reader to Amazon if they want to buy.
Are you happy with that?
Ahh, yeah. That’s kind of a custom link/preview. Your solution is fine. Thanks!
Yeah I am a guilty party on reviews. I refer people to these books all the time but I never do reviews. To fix this issue am going to review all the books I have read today.
Very cool. Thanks for putting in the effort! Really appreciate it. 🙂
Just wondering if rating the books counts or if they have to be written reviews? (even if it’s just one line)
I’ve only previously rated so I may have to change my approach!
That’s a good question. I don’t have a definite answer, but my guess would be that they give more weight to written reviews (and people see them). Even a sentence would probably help.
I never would have discovered your books 10 years ago if it wasn’t for Amazon recommendations. But all you out there. Don’t only post reviews on Amazon, there are many more sites you can post on.
This post is not really about writting reviews, I write them all the time on Amazon and goodreads stuff like that, but mainly about the first paragraph in Mr. Robinson’s post. Persaonal experience is an understatment. I read a lot of books during the year for one I regret not reading very much growing up and two there is a lot of awesome writters out there who write multiple awesome books in one year (I’m looking at you here Jeremy), but after I finished the hardcover omnibus of The Last Hunter I was just so heartbroken. This story is over? There is so much to know what happened? So many questions. Because of this I have STILL to write a review on this book. How can I even do it justice. This was the same case with the Refuge book. I finally got it done, but it was brutally hard. Almost like a eulogy for a funeral. I did not, could not really, read anything for like two weeks. It was just that the story was over and I knew I would miss that world and those people so much. How could I go on to something else? Why would I put myself through this again? How can you do this to people! (I’m just kidding all these books are great; please continue to write as much and as often as possible. Hopefully we are working on a technology to map your brain with a computer then have both you and the computer write books all year.) Looking forward to Empire! Thanks for all you do.
I have read quite a few of your books. The Last Hunter series being my favorite. I find myself rereading them over and over and each time I find things that I missed on previous reads. Thoroughly enjoy all the other books I have read. (Too many to list) By far my favorite author…..
I’m a truck driver and I get books from audible. If I post a review on there does it help you? I just bought and listened to Infinite. Fucking outstanding! I had bought Nemesis a while ago. I enjoyed it. When I listened to Infinite, I didn’t know it was you. I did a double take. Your Kung Fu is good. Please take that as a compliment. It’s like you raised the bar, backed up and jumped over it. You still did you, the whole “FB” nickname and all, and so much more. Awesome writers enrich their readers imagination. Infinite did that. It made my long drive seem like I went down the block! Thank you.
Thanks, Jason, and YES, posting reviews on Audible and Amazon helps a ton. And I agree about Infinite. It was one of those books that when I finished it, I thought, “Well, I’m never going to write something this good again…” We’ll see. 🙂