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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

With Love For Reviews - Guest Post by Karen Long

The importance of reviews
by Karen Long

- There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. -

Oscar Wilde

How often do you make a completely random purchase that you know nothing about? By that I mean a manufacturer you have never heard of, in a shop you’ve never visited before, or with no written guarantee? I bet it isn’t often. Random purchases are exciting but they do require a certain legitimacy before you venture into your wallet. Legitimacy can be provided by selling from a recognisable outlet such as John Lewis, ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ or, Aldi, ‘Like brands. Only cheaper.’ You can conclude that if an item is on their shelves, it carries their slogan. Like pickled gherkins and tinned spaghetti, a book needs a degree of legitimacy before you buy it.

Some books can be picked up in paperback form from WHSmiths, Waterstones, and supermarkets, including those above. That they appear in printed form and are on the shelf means that they have been selected for their qualities by both publisher and seller alike. But what about eBooks? They can’t be handled, or seen on anything other than an Amazon page: to all intent and purpose they don’t exist.

So, how do eBooks sell and I’m talking about the eBooks that aren’t convenient versions of the bestsellers appearing on shelves in paperback form? You can’t see them unless they appear on a recommended or bestseller list because you don’t buy what you can’t see. So, not only does the self-published writer not have any way of presenting their work to you, they don’t bear any marks of legitimacy.

How do you sell any books? The answer is, sadly, that generally you don’t. As an Amazon author I have experienced the vagueries of selling in a marketplace controlled by algorithms, metadata and promotions. Unit sales are based around price setting, which is controlled by Amazon, which is controlled by algorithms, which result from sales, which are determined by reviews. There you have it, that last caveat. It all sounds very technical and believe me it is, but this is what I understand. If you get twenty reviews, which star your novel above a certain percentage, you are considered for a promotion.

A promotion can be inclusion in a ‘Daily Deal’ or ‘Monthly Deal’ or ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ etc. These place your book in a list that legitimizes its quality. Once your book is in that list it becomes visible to readers and therefore purchased, particularly if it is lowered in price, generally from £2.99 to 99p. Readers will risk a random purchase at 99p but, ironically, not if it is always at 99p because that indicates the author doesn’t value it. Now you can see how selection for a promotion is based on a mathematical formula and selling is also based on a psychology of purchasing.

So, where do the reviews come in to this? Without these reviews, no-one will see a reference to your book online, so how can you persuade people to write positively about your novel. The answer is, you don’t/can’t. You can send your book out to bloggers and hope they will read and review, but mostly you just have to wait. People generally review books because they were genuinely surprised at how much they enjoyed it, or angry that they spent time and money on something that didn’t appeal to them. Indifference tends not to inspire reviewing.

Can I advise other writers on how to cultivate positive reviews? Write honestly, thoughtfully and get it proofread before you submit. But to everyone who has ever read, enjoyed and appreciated that a novel, which has taken anything up to a year to write, is available for less than the cost of a coffee, please support your self-published writer by taking a few minutes to review. There’s more at stake than you possibly realised.

About Karen Long

Karen Long is a Midlander by birth and a Shropshire Lass by residence. Having studied English Literature and Drama at Bangor University, she taught both subjects at Secondary level for fifteen years taking up full time writing ten years ago. She has written numerous screenplays and articles but dedicates her time to writing crime fiction and observing nature.

She is fortunate to be able to travel globally, which is a great source of inspiration and pleasure. Toronto became the backdrop to the Eleanor Raven series of thrillers after Karen spent several months there.

A passionate conservationist and lover of the crow family in particular, she has rehabilitated and adopted ravens, crows, magpies and rooks, many of whom have become integrated into her family, much to the distress of household furnishings.

She loves to run and can regularly be seen thundering through the countryside, whatever the weather.

Her first novel, ‘The Safe Word’ was on the Amazon top bestseller’s list and has now been followed up by second and third books in the series, ‘The Vault’ and ‘The Cold Room’.

Author links


Books by Karen Long

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  1. Promotion seems daunting, yikes!


  2. thank you for giving us an insight on the importance of reviews for authors, i do try to review all teh books i read but sometimes i forget so this is a good reminder because when we loved a book we hope for teh author to write more and thus visibility is important

  3. I often wondered how it all works. Sounds daunting. I try to review every book I read. I've been writing reviews for 5 years now and having read thousands of books, I'll never get to all of them. I do sometimes at least rate books I read from years ago. Thanks for the wonderful post and your books look thrilling.

  4. Ah, so that's how Amazon does that. I've wondered why authors want readers/reviewers/bloggers to crosspost.

  5. Literature is big business. There's no getting away from the fact that the likes of Amazon are in it for the profit but that doesn't mean that quality has to suffer. That's why honest reviews are so important for both the reader and author.

  6. Very interesting. I check for reviews before I read or buy books and find them really helpful.

  7. Wow. This gave me a really good insight into the whole publishing e-books world! Now I'm even more motivated to write reviews. To help an author I like makes me very happy. I had just written a review this morning!! :D And as an aspiring author I can really feel the author side of things! ;)

  8. Thanks that was very informative.