An Amazing Book Review & Why This Matters

lonestarLone Star Literary Life is a superb organization I discovered while producing and marketing my new children’s picture book, Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car. This group connects readers with Texas writers and Texas books. I recently submitted my book to them for a review, and what I got in return is wonderful.  CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL REVIEW BY LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE.  It was published in their Jan. 31, 2016 online newsletter, and I’ll clarify that I paid for this professional review. Some people don’t even realize paid reviews exist, but they do! It’s not always recommended for self-publishers, but in this case, it was part of my specific marketing plan. I was delighted that they praised my illustrator, Bill Megenhardt, for his original, crosshatched, hand-drawn technique.

“Mr. Zarr grows from his grisaille existence into a citizen of a diverse, polychromed neighborhood.” – Lone Star Literary Life book review.

READER REVIEWS ARE IMPORTANT. Why? I’ve been researching this topic for a long time, and here’s what I’ve learned. For all authors—but especially for indie authors like myself—reader reviews are vital to the success of our books. I’m not talking about paid reviews; I’m referring to a non-paid review from someone who read the book. Positive reviews can increase sales, increase visibility, grow an author’s newsletter, increase social media engagements, and much more. For example, HERE’S ANOTHER POSITIVE REVIEW I received by Paul McRae of Artcar Nation, a spectacular website dedicated to art cars. I didn’t pay for Paul’s glowing words, and I’m so grateful to him for the publicity. I wrote a fun blog about it, too.

Reader reviews help get the word out and can create a buzz about a particular book. They also give potential buyers an idea as to what the book is about, which in turn might generate sales. Reviews can influence contagious behavior. I learned in my college marketing classes that it’s psychological. When products appear to sell a lot, they go on to sell even more. People want to know why something is popular, and they’re often willing to buy it to find out.

There are also these mysterious processes that create suggestions on Amazon such as, “You might also enjoy this.” I’m still learning how these algorithms work. I’ve read that I need at least ten reviews on Amazon so that my book might pop up with “also bought” and “you might also like” phrases. At the time of writing this post, I have received 23 Amazon reviews in two months—all of which are positive. This brings up another issue: apparently it could look “fishy” if all my reviews have the highest five-star ratings. Readers might not trust the reviews if every single one is glowing, and I’ve heard it might help to have a few negative ones.  Well, please don’t go post an unenthusiastic review! I’m quite sure those will arrive organically over time, because no book is universally loved by everyone.

So sales are one thing, but there’s another reason why I might need favorable reviews from some respected groups like Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. I’m trying to submit my book for a few different publishing awards, and some of these contests require favorable reviews from specific key sources to even be considered. Many of these professional reviews cost money, however, and authors should cautiously weigh the cost vs. return on investment.

THE PROBLEM is obtaining enough non-paid reader reviews. I would never stoop so low as to pay for a reader review on Amazon or Goodreads; plus, it’s considered unethical, so don’t go down that path! Authors run the gamut from gently suggesting to outright begging everyone they know for reviews. It only takes a few minutes, but getting someone to actually sit down and write a review is not easy. I’m batting about 10:1. Meaning, for every ten people I’ve asked to write a review, I’ve gotten about one person to follow through. I’m not complaining; just stressing how hard it is to get book reviews. I don’t plead; I ask once and leave it at that. If you want to learn more, you can google “Why Book Reviews are Important,” and you will discover a wealth of information.

To those dedicated individuals who posted honest reviews about my book: Thank You! I sincerely appreciate the time it took for you to sit down and finish this task. I don’t take it for granted, and I am grateful to my two dozen or so reviewers (with that number growing, I hope). If you’re reading this blog and haven’t written a review yet, please do so. I know your time is valuable, but it matters so much!

In case you’re not sure, I’ll explain here, “How to Post a Review on Amazon.” It’s easy:

  • log into your account as usual;
  • in the search bar, type Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car;
  • click the book title to get onto my book page;
  • scroll down to the Customer Reviews area;
  • click the white rectangular box that says “Write a Customer Review;”
  • choose a number of stars, hopefully 4 or 5;
  • begin writing your review in the available box;
  • even a few positive words will help, it does not have to be long and complex;
  • give your review a title in the next box;
  • in the upper right corner of this page you can even change “Your Public Name;”
  • don’t forget to hit SUBMIT!

Thank you so much, and I hope you enjoy the attached book review by Lone Star Literary Life as much as I did!  Here’s another link for you to read the whole review.

by Cathey Nickell

Houston-based author and elementary school speaker.

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