Reviewing eBooks only takes a matter of seconds, but so many readers don’t do it and the harm it causes to their favourite authors is immense.
In this digital age, the process of product consumption is so fast it’s easy to not associate any real value with the experience. But whatever that experience, you have an opinion – and that opinion has significant value. For example, imagine you’re looking for a good new book to read to your child or grandchild one evening. A couple of clicks and a couple of dollars later you're downloading that book. A few minutes after that you’ve read it, tucked junior into bed and gone about your evening. (Hopefully in peace and quiet.)
Did you enjoy the book? What about the child; did they enjoy the read? If someone asked you what you thought of it, what would you say? Or if another parent asked for a recommendation, would that book come to mind?
You can probably answer all of these questions in a handful of sentences and seconds. But would you consider tapping on the review button after you’ve read the book and passing those thoughts on? Or even just tapping the star rating? It takes such a small amount of time, but it can mean so much to the author and illustrator who spent months – even years – working on the title. And I’ll explain why, but first a sobering statistic.
On Amazon, most authors get one review per 500 sales. Not a good review; any kind of review at all. So imagine you are a small indie author like us. You are competing in a marketplace where there are major publishers bankrolling books towards 50 or more reviews. Do the math. Now think about the sales required to get enough reviews to get noticed in that landscape.
8 Reasons Why Reviewing eBooks Matters
1. It Impacts Search Algorithms
Let’s imagine someone lands on an online retailer like Amazon or iTunes. They type something into the search bar like “children’s book about cakes.” That store then looks through its list of books and pulls out all those with keywords or titles that match that search function. But which does it display first? It’s here that reviews really matter. The more you have, the more likely those search results are pushing you to the top. Hopefully, My Birthday Cake Needs a New Home, will win that race one day.
2. Store Position is Defined by Reviews
As you’re aware, online retailers like iTunes and Amazon are businesses that want to make money. When someone lands on a product or buys something, these stores show off more items that might be of interest. Our recent survey showed that its recommendations driving 66% of children’s book purchases. Reviewing eBooks is providing a recommendation and the retailer knows this. So the algorithm in these stores is setup to show the most likely like-minded product that will be bought. And the easiest way to determine what is most likely to sell for a computer, is for it to look at how many times it has sold and received positive reviews previously.
3. Media Use It to Determine Coverage
Outlets reviewing eBooks get bombarded with requests from authors and publishers all around the world. Well known traditional publishers and PR specialists get a queue jump right to the front of editor’s eyes due to existing relationships. Everyone else needs to campaign, sing, dance, wave their arms furiously and more to get noticed. When faced with such overwhelming options, editors of these review sites will often select books with positive reviews for coverage. The existing interest in the novel can increase their chance of driving traffic to the story.
4. Promotional Opportunities Depend On It
We’ve encountered a lot of websites and online channels where you can put forward your book for a promotional opportunity. Perhaps you want to have a special weekend where you drop the price, or provide some other special. These places get more requests than they have days to run them, so many use reviews as the deciding factor. They don’t want to be seen to promote lacklustre or unpopular experiences, so giving that space to a picture book with many positive reviews is the safest bet.
5. It Will Help Greenlight a Sequel
For an indie author to create a children’s book, there is a huge investment. Not only is that financial in terms of creating art, editing stories and designing layouts. But it’s also time consuming and emotionally exhausting. If there are plenty of positive reviews and comments on a book, it indicates an interest and a love in the story and the characters. As an author, when you see this you’re excited by the idea of working on a new experience in that world. Especially because you know that there is an audience who want it. Plus, the store algorithms will ensure that those customers who find the first book (because of its reviews), will also find the second.
6. Reviewing Puts People Before Corporations
Large publishers are the gatekeepers to the world of physical books, and they wish to be the guardians of the digital world, too. We frequently come across creators of children’s books who encounter bullying tactics. Paying ridiculous amounts of money to get their books released and seen. This is largely due to the arbitrary traditions set by major publishers in an age before digital. With the power of well-known, established print books behind them, they can dominate the algorithms that drive the online stores. These companies get a big slice of the pie for their troubles, too. By reviewing eBooks of self-published indie authors, you are putting your weight behind an individual, not a corporation. There is a direct, one-to-one interface there, which gives the little guy a valuable leg up.
7. It Offers Valuable Feedback
The creative process never stops and with digital books, nothing is set in stone. Reviews are a great place to leave feedback and point out what you liked and where the experience could improve. Updating and republishing most digital books takes just 24-hours; it’s a relatively easy process. And your feedback could have an instant and positive effect on the book, which is kind of cool. It makes you a part of the project.
8. It Results In Better Books
If we could spend as much time creating books as we do trying to encourage readers into reviewing eBooks, we’d be five times more productive. And for many independent authors, they're forced into spending money trying to get noticed with companies that prey on this review-shy mentality. They should be spending this money on better images, covers, goodies and physical copies. If book readers reviewed books even just 10% more than they do, the time it would free up to focus on being creative would be incredible.
The Headache of Getting Reviews
Obviously I have a vested interest in writing this article: I’ve written many children’s books. They are available on Amazon and iTunes and every day I invest plenty of energy trying to solve the review conundrum. It’s heartbreaking when even your best friends and family don't even leave a star rating. Yet it is the single biggest threat to all self-published authors push for even a modicum of success.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter how awesome your book is, or how much money you spend on marketing. It just comes down to whether you can grind enough reviews together that the machine can takeover. That the algorithm that drives these online retailers has reason to take notice of your book and push you into the sphere of discovery. So hopefully, after reading this, next time you pick up a digital product and have an experience with it, you can take that extra step. It only takes a couple of seconds.
In fact, why not be a superstar and share it on your social feed, too!
How To Review an eBook on iTunes
- Once you’ve downloaded the book in iTunes or Apple Books, you can then go back to the book in the store to rate it.
- Click on Ratings and Reviews (to the right of Details).
- Give it a star rating.
- Click on Write a Review.
- Choose a nickname and type in your review.
- Click submit.
How To Review an eBook on Amazon
- Once you’ve downloaded the book from Amazon, head back to the book’s page on the store.
- Alternatively, click on Your Account, and select Your Orders from the drop down menu.
- Just under the Book and Author name, you should see some stars and a link to customer reviews. If nobody has previously reviewed it, you should see “Be the first to review this item.”
- Give it a star rating.
- A box will open up so you can write some further details on your thoughts.
- Click submit.