by Dan Walsh, @DanWalshAuthor
This past month I reached a new milestone with one of my novels, Rescuing Finley. It broke the “800 mark” on Amazon, meaning it had received over 800 customer reviews. And it did so, maintaining a 4.8 Star average. It’s particularly satisfying for two reasons. First, the book has been out for less than 2 years. And second, it was the very book my publisher had rejected (after publishing 12 others), saying they didn’t think the story would sell very well. And the book which solidified my decision to start writing as an indie.
But this post isn’t about me or some important personal milestone. It’s about the importance of customer reviews for authors. And why you should actively seek to increase yours (but only if they’re good ones). I am convinced, they are a big factor in growing book sales.
I mentioned my decision to start writing books as an indie. One of the reasons I did was to be able to market my books more creatively and effectively. To have the freedom to try things my publisher wouldn’t do. Which introduces my first suggestion or tip. I’m a big advocate for the importance of Back Pages. For anyone who doesn’t know what these are, I’m talking about the pages that follow after the reader finishes the last page of your story.
To me, these pages should be all about keeping your reader engaged with you while their level of interest is high. If they loved the book, and you make it very easy, many will do things like leave a positive review and/or read a sample chapter of your next book, and order that one, too (if they like it and there’s a link provided right there). So, one of my FIRST back pages is titled “How You Can Help This Author.”
On that page, I take a few paragraphs to thank them for reading the book and explain how important reader reviews are to book sales, and how important book sales are for me to be able to keep writing more books. Then I politely ask them to consider writing a brief review (even a few lines will help) and provide a link for them to click on, so they can do it now (again, while the interest is high).
Does this work? Apparently so. Rescuing Finley is Book 1 of a 3-book contemporary series. Book 2 already has over 200 reviews 11 months after its release (also averaging 4.8 Stars). I started a second series in 2015 (romantic suspense – a brand new genre for me). Book 1 in that series, When Night Comes, has received 529 reviews so far, and Book 2 has 457 reviews. Book 3, Unintended Consequences, just came out in May and already has 88 reviews (avg 4.8 Stars).
Now, in an effort toward full disclosure, I must admit…many of my traditionally published novels have received over 400 customer reviews, some over 500. They don’t have the back pages in place I’ve talked about. But this is also true: those novels have been out for 5-7 years, or more. My indie novels (with the back pages) have been out for less than 2 years. I think this idea of a specific page asking readers to write a review really matters.
Why is this so important? Because readers PAY ATTENTION to these reviews in a big way, especially when evaluating a book by an author they don’t know. I know I do. I don’t read them all, but I always read at least a dozen or so reviews to help me get a sense of whether this book will be a good fit for me, before I click on “Add to My Cart.” And I don’t just read reviews of books, but everything I buy online. Recently, we were shopping for a spa to help my wife with chronic lower back pain. I must have looked at 15-20 spa models online, and the decision about which one to buy (as well as ones to avoid) was heavily influenced by reading reader reviews.
Another thing I do (besides the back pages), is to always include a graphic that highlights these reviews in any ads or promos I create (see the jpg I created for Rescuing Finley). And I make a big fuss about reaching these milestones on social media.
The final tip I’d like to offer is this: The best way to insure a reader will want to leave a positive review is to work hard to craft a great, climactic ending for your book. Nothing will generate strong motivation to leave a good review than a good book with a great ending. But I’ve run out of time to explain anything more.
I’ll pick up here next month.
Jack and Rachel leave Culpepper for their long-awaited honeymoon trip, a driving tour through New England. On day three, they stop at a little bayside town in Cape Cod to visit Jack’s grandmother. After he gets called away to handle an emergency, Rachel stays and listens as Jack’s grandmother shares a remarkable story about how she and Jack’s grandfather met in the early days of World War 2. It’s a story filled with danger, decades-old family secrets, daring rescues and romance. Jack is named after his grandfather, and this story set the course and direction for Jack’s life to the present day. After hearing it, Rachel is amazed that anyone survived.
Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 18 novels including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times), 3 Selah Awards and 4 of his books have been finalists for RT Review’s Inspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Word Weavers International, Dan writes fulltime in the Daytona Beach area. He and his wife Cindi have been married 42 years. You can find more about his books or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Pinterest from his website at http://www.danwalshbooks.com.