The Ingenium Books Podcast: Author. Publisher. Changemaker.

Surprising Facts about Reader Reviews

November 03, 2021 Ingenium Books Season 1 Episode 41
The Ingenium Books Podcast: Author. Publisher. Changemaker.
Surprising Facts about Reader Reviews
Show Notes Transcript

What if there was a way for you to help more readers discover your book? To determine whether your book will help them, whether that's by entertaining them, exposing them to new experiences or ideas, showing them how to do something new, or otherwise to enrich their lives. Wouldn't that be great? 

Well, there IS just such a way. It isn't necessarily an easy or quick fix, but it is tested, tried, and true. What is it? 

It's the reader review. And today we're discussing all things reader reviews — how to get them, and then what to do with them once you get them. Joining us today is Roseanne Cheng from Evergreen Authors. 

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Introduction (various voices) 00:05

Welcome to the Empowered Author podcast.

Discussion, tips, insights and advice from those who’ve been there, done that, helping you write, publish and market your nonfiction book. 

Being an author is something that you’ve got to take seriously.

I’m proud I’ve written a book.

What does the reader need, first? What does the reader need, second?

What happens if you start writing your book before you identify your “why”? What’s the problem with that?

If you’re an indie author, you take the risk, you reap the rewards; you are in charge of the decisions; you’re the head of that business.

Know that every emotion you’re feeling when you’re writing is felt by every other writer.

The Empowered Author podcast. Your podcast hosts are Boni and John Wagner-Stafford of Ingenium Books. 

Boni Wagner-Stafford  00:08

What if there was a way for you to help more readers discover your book to determine whether your book will help them whether that's being entertained by your book or exposing the reader to new experiences or ideas? Or maybe it's showing them how to do something new or otherwise enrich their lives? Wouldn't that be great if there was a way to do that? Well, there is just such a way. And it isn't necessarily an easy or a quick fix, but it is tested, tried and true. What is it? It's the reader review. And today we're discussing all things reader reviews, how to get them and then what to do with them once you get them. Joining us today is Roseanne Cheng from Evergreen Authors;  little bit of a mouthful there. Hi, Roseanne. Hi, everybody. And welcome back. We just love having you on this podcast.


Roseanne Cheng  01:03

I love being here. You're awesome. I love being here.


Boni Wagner-Stafford  01:07

So reader reviews, I kind of, you know, it's a bit of a tongue in cheek intro. It's really no secret that reader reviews will do all of those things. But let's face it, just in case, we have a newbie or a wannabe author that needs to be convinced about the importance of reader reviews, tell us why they are so effective.


Roseanne Cheng  01:31

Well, I'm actually probably going to surprise you with my answer to that question. When I get… Yes, when  new authors, or first time authors come to us at Evergreen Authors to ask about reviews, they usually come to us with a preconceived notion that reviews are the holy grail of authorship, the more five star reviews, the more successful you are as a author and as a human being. So what we try to say is, yes, reviews are moderately important, they can be really helpful to you, you can use them as a marketing tool for sure if you want. But they're also not the be all end all of your author career, you will get negative reviews, you will be surprised at how many people you ask for reviews and don't leave them. You will be pleasantly surprised by amazing reviews that come in from strangers, you have, probably,  and if control were to be 100%, you probably have about 5% control of that process. The other 90-95% of that control is with the readers themselves, whether they choose to write a review or not. And oftentimes it's in the hands of, you know, these platforms like Amazon, where, you know, they used to let anyone and everyone post reviews, but now that's changed. So what I'm trying to say is yes, reviews are great, you should find ways to seek them out and use them to your benefit. But don't sweat them either.


Boni Wagner-Stafford  03:16

Which makes sense. If you know, I mean, there's so much involved in the author journey on the creation side, and then on the marketing post published side that if we start to sweat every little thing, we're doing nothing but sweating. And that's no fun. But let's talk about what reviews do for potential readers. So reviews come from people who have read the book, or at least that's the idea behind them. But what role do they play in how other people both discover and make a determination about whether the book is right for them?


Roseanne Cheng  03:56

Yep. So I think we talked about this before, but I have a very love-hate relationship with Amazon. And so let's just use Amazon as the king of booksellers, which they are right now. Right? Now, Amazon is a search engine. We talked about this at Evergreen authors all the time. Smart authors understand that evergreen is that Amazon is a search engine for readers for people who are looking for any specific content. So if I love historical fiction, I'm going to go to Amazon. And I'm going to use that search engine like it's Google, right? It's like Google, my business partner always says Amazon is Google for readers and, and people who are looking for stuff, right? So I love historical fiction that takes place in Paris in the 1920s. I'm going to go into the search engine. I'm gonna say historical fiction, Paris 1920s. Now here's the deal. We're working with creatives here. So all the creatives, I love you so much. And I say this with love in my heart, but a lot of times Creative People feel as though their book is somehow on an island of its own. Nothing has ever been written that is remotely close to the genius that is in the pages that they have created. And in some ways, that's probably true. But realistically speaking, there are going to be other books that are similar to yours, very similar to yours. We know how many books come out on a daily basis on Amazon, right? So there's no way and the most voracious reader in the world is not going to read all the books, right? So if you're using the search engine on Amazon, to find historical fiction that takes place in Paris in the 1920s, you are going to get a slew of books that you can choose from. Now, whether you order from Amazon or not, it doesn't matter. People are still using that review for search engine capability. That's where the reviews come in. Because all you have to do is be a consumer yourself and hop on Amazon and search for something today. How do you choose the right thing? on Amazon? Probably through reviews. So that's where it gets interesting, right? That's where when I'm looking at books, and I see historical fiction books that have beautiful covers, okay. And I can't decide between them, how am I going to decide it's through the reviews? Now, again, people don't, we don't have a lot of control about what's written there. Right. So we don't have a lot of control. Exactly, exactly. So what do you do? Then you have one book that has three reviews, and they're all five stars. You have another book that has 3000 reviews, and they're all over the place? How do you make a decision? How does a reader make a decision? The answer is, I don't know. For me personally, the more reviews, the better. I don't care if they're positive or negative, the more reviews tells me a lot of people put their eyeballs on that book. And that tells me something that's good. For fiction. Now, for nonfiction, I have a totally different approach, right? I look at that,  I don't care how many reviews are out there. If I'm buying a nonfiction book, I'm looking for a review that says this book is going to solve this specific problem I'm wanting it to, right. So I look at positive and negative reviews, I look at the negative reviews with a gigantic grain of salt, right? Like is this business? Right? You know, like, I can talk about that in a little bit. But sometimes, you know, people, people will give you a negative review, and then write this really positive text and you're like, Wait, I don't understand, I thought you liked the book, right? This is where it gets maddening. And is not a great use of your time. But what I'm saying is, start with being a consumer yourself, see how you use reviews, and you will suddenly understand how reviews can be, you can kind of reverse engineer that process, so to speak.


Boni Wagner-Stafford  08:11

Makes total sense. Back to your search term, just for a moment, that is a very good exercise. I would suggest whatever genre or keywords you have in your book, when you're thinking like a consumer and you're doing that search, thinking about how you might search for your book. Make sure that you've got that in your keywords, make sure that you're that you're I mean. So if you're doing the search to find other books that might show up that are similar to yours, and you're noticing that you're typing in something that you didn't include in your keywords in the listing or, or that your publisher didn't include in the keywords and you shouldn't be able to ask your publisher what the metadata is around your book, if you're curious about that. But so,  two things. One is if you're self publishing, have you used that search term? And the second thing is, did your publisher use the search term? And the third thing is, did your book show up? So that's that, it's a little bit of a digression from reviews, but I just wanted to take the opportunity to because you're in that process. There's a couple of things to think about as you're in that process. Okay, back to reviews. So what are some of the ways that we can encourage people to generate reviews for our books? And I, you know, we could probably spend several days talking about this because there are many ways but we'll try and kind of hit the high points.


Roseanne Cheng  09:49

Yeah, you know, there are many ways but I actually think it all boils down to one very specific phrase and that is a call to action. So, however you as an author are communicating with your readership, whether it's through a newsletter, through social media, through your speaking events, however, you're putting yourself out there, there's myriad ways that you're doing that. At the end of the day, the way that you get reviews is by asking for them explicitly. So you say that you will, you know, you have you have this book that's come out, you would really like to, you know, share that or I'm so glad all of you purchase this book. Thank you so much for reading. Reviews are important.







Boni Wagner-Stafford  11:48

So let's talk about where those calls to action can be used and where you want to send people, obviously, Amazon is one place, but let's get the front end first. Where do you make that ask? Where can you make that ask?


Roseanne Cheng  13:13

Yeah, I would say I see people doing it the most creatively and the most effectively through either social media, through a newsletter, or when they're in the middle of an actual speaking or educational event. And it's usually coupled with an explanation of a few words of how that review is going to be meaningful to you as an author. So before and this isn't true anymore. But years ago, there was this, once you reached 50 reviews on Amazon, it sort of tripped the algorithm. So you would get seen, your book would get seen more, it was included in some separate page. I can't remember but it's not like that anymore. Amazon changes things whenever they feel like it. But at the time, I saw authors go on social media and say, Hey, guys, guess what I found out today 50 reviews is the magic number. If you have read my book, it would mean so much to me, if you posted a review on Amazon, then now again, this doesn't work anymore. Because on Amazon, you have to be a verified purchase, you have to have purchased the book there. So that's why it kind of goes back to seeking more and more reviews,  a goal of yours, it might not be, um, you can encourage people to leave reviews on Goodreads. If you find that you're getting a lot of readers there. I find that for fiction that's a great place for people, for readers to go and search for their next book. So you know, I would say just get instead of going out in front of people in whatever way you do it and say please leave me a review. Really get smart about where you want that review to go and why? How that really is going to serve you and then tell your readers that it is important to me, for nonfiction books, people read these reviews and understand that I have something valuable to add, it would be so great if you could leave a review. And you'll find podcasters do this a lot, too, because I know it's the same on iTunes, you know, they'll say, put, you know, please rate and review at the end of this podcast, because they know that it matters for them when it comes to the algorithm. And sometimes they'll say, Please rate and leave a five star review. Right? And you can do that too. It's kind of your comfort level, I would never tell somebody, they had to leave me a positive review. But hey, you can.


Boni Wagner-Stafford  15:47

Yeah, and so I would say if you're listening to this right now, definitely rate and review this podcast, that would be super helpful for us at Ingenium Books. But that's an important point which is that you know, whether you're asking for an honest review, or you're asking for a positive review, I always like to say an honest review is more helpful. I was having a conversation with one of our authors recently, Yvonne Caputo. And, and she's been working on her book Flying With Dad, first published a couple of years ago, and she you know, she's doing the work and doing the heavy lifting and reaching out and speaking engagements and, and asking for reviews. And she's over 5060 reviews at this point. But one of the things that she discovered, and it's not necessarily a new book, but that the apparently, and I wish I could remember the name of the author, but I don't but there was a book written a couple of decades ago about the actually the best average review rating is like 4.7, you actually don't want all five star reviews because it's not authentic. It's not real, it's not true. And it's not, it's not a reflection of the quality of your book, it's a reflection of the suitability of your book based on what that reader is looking for. Your book can be an outstanding quality in every aspect. But if the reader isn't looking for that kind of memoir, their review probably shouldn't be a five star because it isn't what they were looking for. And that is the value to other readers as they're trying to make the determination. Is this the right book for me? Well, so and so was looking for this and it didn't fit. So it'll trigger, you know, a reflection. Boy, I digress. Moving to the next thing now, which I think can be some of the most fun, two more things in our last 15 minutes or so. One is, what about putting your request and your call to action? Right? In the back matter of the book? Yeah, how does that work? And is that a good idea?


Roseanne Cheng  17:58

Great idea. Yeah, I love that I, I've seen I wouldn't put it probably on the back cover of the book. But you know, if there's, if you have an acknowledgments page, or if you have a, you know, bonus materials, I've seen authors get super creative with stuff back there. You can put, you know, discount codes, if you're offering online courses. We do that with our book, The Evergreen Author. You know, we didn't ask for reviews there we could have, you certainly can. I mean, I think any way that you can engage with the reader on a personal level in the back of your book is a great idea. Go for it.


Boni Wagner-Stafford  18:34

Yeah. And then the question is, and that we won't get into the technical aspects, technical aspects. But you know, there's, I know that online, you can find tips and tools and tricks to, you know, click this link to be taken directly to this books review page on this retailer and this retailer and this retailer, or you can have specific files created for ebooks in particular, where if somebody buys a book on Kobo, you can have the Kobo file link, provide a link directly to where you could review that book on Kobo. So, you know, Amazon certainly is the behemoth of book retailers being the search engine, but I think it's little over 60% which means that 40% of the people buying books are still buying them elsewhere. So we don't want to forget those other other platforms. Okay. So, what do you do? When you are looking at your reviews? Do you engage with people who have left reviews whether they're five star four star, two star, or absolutely trash one stars?


Roseanne Cheng  19:52

So again, I'm gonna probably surprise you with my answer here. I would say the conventional wisdom around this is do not engage, do not ever, do not engage. And I think from a mental health perspective, that might be good advice. But I think that I have seen authors engage in ways that are not just, you know, four year olds bickering back and forth, that are really positive. And really get to a place of understanding where the negative review came from, and, and showing potential other readers that you are a human being on the other side of this, who are actually reading your reviews. So I have several stories around this. But I do think that it boils down to you, the author, understanding what is going to be the best use of your time, if you are engaging with, you know, if you get 10, one star reviews, and they're all just trolls, we all know trolls, right? This is the worst book I've ever read, one star, right, and there's nothing in there. Don't, don't write. But if you get a two star review, and someone says, you know, I liked this, this and this, but then when I got to this point, I really had a hard time. And here's why you might have an opportunity to go to that person, because they took the time to write that review. I mean, people, the authors are always like, I don't understand why people don't write more reviews for me, but then they never write reviews for other people, because it's time consuming. And they don't have time for that. So it's the same thing, right? So somebody took the time to leave that review, that was probably thoughtful, it might have stung a little bit, but maybe you can engage and say thank you for that review. That's really, that's helpful to me going forward. Maybe I don't agree. Or maybe that's, that's not how I see it. But I just want to acknowledge and appreciate the fact that you took the time to leave the review. And oftentimes those humans on the other side will say, thank you so much. Thank you so much. Now, here's the deal, those bad reviews are now out there in the ether, right? So that kind of stinks. But to your point earlier, we're not going for perfection here, right? Like you don't want to get 3005 star reviews because that looks inauthentic. Everybody can smell a rat, right? And so when having a few negative reviews on there, having people pop on, see what they said and see your response to it. And assuming they're not a terrible troll. I think that is a good review, honestly. I mean, I think it works. So.


Boni Wagner-Stafford  22:41

So a couple of things about that. And I was expecting you to say the conventional wisdom about you know, you don't engage with negative reviews. But certainly what I find most often coming out of my mouth when I'm talking with our authors at Ingenium Books about that. So that's really good advice. And I would say that, to know whether it is right for you. To engage with negative reviews, before you take your very excellent advice about how to make sure that that exchange that you're going to have with someone who's left a negative review to make it productive, I think it requires a bit of an honest assessment about what your own ability is going to be to have emotional distance and not be, not engage in a way that is going to be emotionally inflammatory. And you're the only one that knows that. Or if you know, if you're, if you work with a publisher, your publisher might be able to say, you know, that's probably not for you. But if you're going to be emotionally vulnerable at all, in the exchange, it's probably not a good idea. Because you're going to be triggered through that exchange and risks devolving into something that's not helpful.


Roseanne Cheng  24:02

Oh, and it's a complete waste of your time. And that's where I know that you and I talked about this before. And it goes back to every single important conversation that a creative needs to have with themselves is being honest about who you are in this process and what your goals are. And so if you can honestly say, you know, I, I can disengage. I really just want constructive feedback. I'm open to that, then you have an opportunity there. But I think a lot of authors say that they're open to feedback, but they're really not. And so I can't help you there, like you as the author and creative have to get to a point. That's why it's chapter one in the book, The Evergreen Author, you need to create a book you can stand behind. It's easy to stand behind it when you have everybody telling you how great you are But when other people start saying, Oh, this wasn't for me, I didn't, I didn't love the story and didn't connect with the characters. I didn't love the message, that doesn't resonate, you have to still be able to stand behind your book then and that doesn't mean fighting anybody who disagrees. But it all it means to your point of just being like, Okay, well wasn't for that person, moving on. And that's hard to do. I'm not saying it's easy, it isn’t.


Boni Wagner-Stafford  25:25

Yeah, it is totally hard to do. But really important. And so, a quick and you know, I'm trying to come back to the high points of our conversation in our last few minutes, but it is perfectly okay, regardless of what stand you take on, on engaging with your reviews. And what I mean by that is, if you say, all I'm looking at is the number of reviews, I'm not looking at anything else, I'm just going to look at the number of reviews and continue to encourage people to leave them, that's fine. If you're looking at the reviews and saying I'm only going to engage people with people who've left me one or two star reviews to see if I can, depending on what they are. And I'm going to read those in and if you know yourself, and you can, you know, not have your lights punched out through looking at these negative reviews and discouraging you from ever starting your next book or finishing your next book. That's okay, too. And it's you know, not everyone is going to be the not everyone is going to be suited for either choice, which is kind of a point. One other thing is reader reviews, so on Amazon is one thing, but there are some other places where people can both solicit and do solicit other reader reviews, and I want to talk about whether there are differences that we know about in the readers that give them,  you mentioned Goodreads. There's NetGalley, which is a platform publishers and some indies use to get readers too.  Usually, it’s advance reader copies, but not always. But are there differences in the kind of reader reviews that we can expect, based on the platform where it is?


Roseanne Cheng  27:27

Yeah, I mean, I think if I have experience on both of those platforms, and I will say that, it when people are in the business, of providing reviews, on books, they are going to be reading it from a very different lens than the person who picked it up because they were just really interested in the content. So oftentimes, you'll find that people will say in their reviews, I am providing this review, because I was given an advanced copy from Netgalley, or whatever, which is really helpful to me. Because then I know to take what they say I'm reading it differently. I'm not saying with a grain of salt, I'm not saying that they're wrong. I'm not saying that they're right, I'm just saying that they are in the business of providing reviews, for me that I don't, I just don't see the real point of that. So Netgalley is expensive. So I just, I can't remember the last time I suggested that somebody use NetGalley to solicit reviews, it just doesn't seem like a good use of time or money or energy to me. But you know, then again, maybe there are some authors who are like that, you know, NetGalley changed my life, it goes back to your goals, and spending money on marketing things that are meeting your goals, and is your if your goal is to just, I need to get 100 reviews, because that's going to make me feel successful as an author versus my goal is to get 100 reviews because I have a whole marketing plan around how to use the quotations from those reviews. That's very different. Right. So, you know, I tend to tell authors to avoid anything that's just going to stroke an ego and that's it. But if there's an intention behind that effort, then then go for it. See what happened. Yeah,


Boni Wagner-Stafford  29:24

That makes sense. I've also heard that reviews on Goodreads can be overall tougher than reviews on retail sites like Amazon.


Roseanne Cheng  29:33

Uh huh. Well, and I'll say I mean, I just got a review on Goodreads for the Evergreen Author from someone who gave it,  like two stars or something. And she basically said she loved everything in the book. But I had quoted prices for how much it costs to produce a book. And she was like those prices were astronomical. So she gave me a low like, two stars even though she liked the content of the book. She did not like the truth of how much it is to publish a book. And so I love to read it. And at first I was super bummed. I was like, oh, man, that stinks, then I just let it go. Because honestly, like, that's, that's fine, if that's your experience, and I would love for somebody to read that review, to be honest. Because they are there, they will know that that book contains truth for them. And not just a bunch of platitudes about how you know, you can do it, “writing is easy” kind of stuff, you know?


Boni Wagner-Stafford  30:34

Yeah, exactly. Okay, super valuable stuff. Great suggestions, insights and information on everything related to reader reviews for your book. I want to, we're gonna wrap up here. But Roseanne, quickly, where can people find you?


Roseanne Cheng  30:55

So, is where we are. I'm also moderately active on LinkedIn. That would be the only social platform I'm willing to put any time and energy into anymore. So website and LinkedIn is probably the best way to find us.


Boni Wagner-Stafford  31:12

Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us. And we'll be back with next episode. And because we're talking about reviews, I'm gonna say it again, if you're listening to this podcast, we would love it if you would subscribe and rate and review because it really does help others discover and make a decision about whether this podcast is right for them. So signing out. Until next time, bye

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