I read a fascinating booklet on Amazon “reviews” which had some amazing (to me) statistics. As one who has never gotten closer to the “Top 100” than about 286, I found out that I am not so bad off as one might think. And the same goes for you. Did you know that Amazon has 2.7 million titles in their library? And that 97% of those authors sell one or less books a year? Those are either really bad books, or they were written by someone who just wants to call themselves an author at the next cocktail party.
Most of those are such a waste of space that Amazon only lists 600,000 titles for their new subscription service. But even at that number it still means that the majority of sales come from only 3% of the authors who are offering their books on Amazon. The top sellers, and that would be the Top 100, make up 1% of all sales. That also means that if you sell only one or two books a day (which I do) you are in the top 2% of sellers. I was blown away by that statistic. In fact, it made me feel that maybe I wasn’t doing so badly after all.
Another thing I learned was something that we all already knew. Reviews are vital to sales, but not necessarily 500 five-star reviews. Readers are (and rightly so) suspicious of a ton of five-star reviews and tend to think that those are fake, and often they are. Also of interest was the fact that the first 10 to 20 reviews are what seem to influence buyers the most. So a variety of reviews in the three to five star range are your best bet. And, of course, you are going to get that occasional one-star review from some grouch, or maybe a disgruntled author who is jealous that you are a better writer than he is.
Amazon has rules and regulations about reviews and some authors will do anything to “work around” them to get more reviews. There are even those who “buy” reviews which is strictly prohibited as are reviews from your friends and relatives. I have some reviews on my novels from friends who say something like, “John mentioned to me over dinner that he has another terrific (whatever) series” and if Amazon sees that they will remove it. Their rules prohibit any connection between author and reviewer. Of course I appreciate my acquaintances doing reviews of my work, but strictly speaking it is not within Amazon’s rules. I can understand that. They feel that a friend or acquaintance cannot be objective, and they’re probably right. However, at the end of your book (or the beginning for that matter) it is quite legitimate to ask the reader to leave a review if they like the book. You can also “gift” your book to any number of people. Buying your own book cuts into your royalty, and you can’t give a book with the stipulation that the receiver write a “good” review in return. That’s known as a “bribe.” But you can certainly ask them to give an honest review, if they enjoyed the book.
Your best bet for getting lots of good reviews is quite simple. Write a GOOD book. If you do that, the reviews, and then the sales, will follow. So quit worrying about your rank and get back to writing.