Making Amazon Work For You

Boost your Online Book Sales with Amazon Book Reviews

By Steve Weber, Author of Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing For Authors

Self-published authors have a unique challenge: They know reviews help sales, but most traditional reviewers won't consider self-published titles. It's right there in the submission guidelines of all the heavyweights, such as Publishers Weekly and the New York Times Book Review -- no self publishers need apply.

Fortunately, getting reviews from these big gatekeepers no longer matters all that much. In fact, many publishers believe that having a few good reviews on Amazon.com does more for your book than a rave review in any magazine or newspaper.

So rather than mailing out dozens of review copies to folks who probably won't read it, why not offer your book to 100 to 300 potential readers who can make a real difference? Ask them to consider posting an honest review of your book on Amazon.com in exchange for a complimentary copy. If you spend two or three days contacting about 300 potential Amazon reviewers, you can expect to receive about 40 to 50 responses, and wind up with perhaps 35 reviews, a quite satisfactory result.

Look for potential reviewers on Amazon’s Top Reviewers list -- which you will find at www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/top-reviewers.html -- and target the people who regularly post reviews of books similar to yours.

Top Reviewers have a special badge accompanying their pen names, such as Top 1000 Reviewer, Top 500 Reviewer, Top 50 Reviewer, Top 10 Reviewer or #1 Reviewer. Rankings of the Top Reviewers are determined by a point system based on the number of reviews written and the number of positive votes those reviews receive when people click Yes in response to "Was this review helpful to you?"

Clicking on a top reviewer’s pen name takes you to the reviewer’s Amazon profile. Some reviewers use their profiles to explain what types of books they prefer and whether they accept unsolicited books. Some provide postal or e-mail addresses.

But Amazon gives you a way to reach reviewers who don’t display any contact information in their profiles. At the top right of the profile page, click the link Invite to be an Amazon Friend. This generates a pop-up form where you can enter a message that Amazon will forward as e-mail.

Only a small percentage of the Top Reviewers are likely to respond to your offer. Some are inundated with review copies from publishers who already have their mailing addresses and know their reading preferences. And some make it a practice not to review a book from a new author unless they can honestly give it a rating of at least three stars out of five.

In addition to the Top Reviewers, you can find more potential reviewers on Amazon. Customers who have reviewed books with subjects or writing styles like your book's are also worth contacting. Click on the pen name displayed with a review to get the reviewer’s Amazon profile. Then use the Amazon Friends invitation to send a personalized message.

These readers may consider it a treat to discover a new book in their field of interest. And positive ratings from them can surface your book in Amazon’s recommendations to buyers of similar books.

Other good potential reviewers are:

  • acquaintances and colleagues interested in your book’s topic.
  • participants in Internet discussion boards and mailing lists relevant to your book.
  • visitors who registered on your Web site and people who read your blog.