I have written before about what a thrill – what a tonic – it is for authors to get reviews. It tells you that people are reading your books (phew!) and not just buying them. (I know that you still get the money, but it’s sad to think of someone buying your book, reading a couple of pages and then abandoning it – much nicer to know that they have finished it.) And it gives you invaluable insight into what is working and what is not. “Plank 5” now has much more about Martha in it than I had originally planned, because the overwhelming call from reviews (and other feedback) is “we want more Martha”. But I don’t think I had quite grasped the mathematical significance of reviews.
I can’t find the original source of this picture, but it is being widely circulated by authors and writing websites:
As you can see, Amazon – and most self-published authors (including this one) rely heavily on Amazon sales – decides which books to promote based on how many reviews they have received (and, I assume, how positive those reviews are). This seems to me an entirely sensible approach: if lots of people have bought a book and enjoyed it enough to say something about it, chances are that others will enjoy it too.
So where are Sam and I with our Amazon reviews? On the Amazon UK site, “Fatal Forgery” has 27 reviews, “The Man in the Canary Waistcoat” has 13, “Worm in the Blossom” has 10 and “Portraits of Pretence” has 11. And on the Amazon.com site, the numbers are 8, 1, 0 and 3 respectively. (No, I don’t know why the reviews aren’t shared across all Amazon sites – they’re the exact same books, after all.) In short, I have a way to go before I start troubling those “you might like” lists too often.
What many readers don’t realise is that you don’t have to have bought something from Amazon to be able to review it on Amazon. Of course you need an Amazon account before you can post reviews, but if you’ve bought one of my books in a bookshop, or direct from me, or have read a library or borrowed copy, you can still review it on Amazon.
So can I put out another plea, please? If you have read any of my books, could you take a minute to put a short review on Amazon? Honestly: a star rating and a single sentence will count to the total – this re-post from last year shows how simple it can be. It really does seem that on Amazon, points mean prizes.