What a 5 Star Amazon Review Means for an Indie Author

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Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

ne industry millennials definitely aren’t killing is the online review industry. We love reviews. We need reviews. We leave reviews for our Lyft drivers and our servers at restaurants. We’ll take a racist restaurant owner down with bad reviews — or we’ll spend hours uncontrollably laughing about sugar free gummy bear reviews.

For independent authors, we rely on positive reviews. It’s a simple way to support our work, and the more positive reviews we get, the more the algorithms on Amazon work in our favor and recommend our book.

Five star reviews help to promote books. One star reviews harm the book’s ranking on Amazon and it’s better to get no review than a one star review.

My only one star review is from a guy who clearly didn’t read the book and decided to leave a grumpy review based on the title alone. It’s moderately amusing when I don’t think about the fact that he’s kinda harshing my vibe.

Why reviews matter to indie authors

Reviews matter to all authors, but Stephen King does not have to worry about what nineteen people on the internet think about his books in order to sell more. He’s fine.

Whether an indie author is truly going it alone and self-publishing or is published by a small independent press, a lot of the marketing and promotion efforts fall to the author. This is a lot of work, especially considering that most of us aren’t full time writers who can spend hours on promoting their book, especially considering that we’ve likely moved onto the next fourteen ideas we had.

Word of mouth and positive reviews are critical to getting indie books in front of more people.

Tips for helping an indie author with Amazon reviews

First, please leave one! Leaving a five star review helps Amazon’s site crawlers select books for more promotion and attention. A five star review should reflect that you enjoyed the book and it fulfilled its purported purpose. A book does not have to be the singular greatest book you’ve ever read to deserve a five star review.

If the book got you from point A to point B in an easy to follow fashion without major plot holes or a stunning lack of continuity, five star reviews are the best way to say “I appreciate this author’s work.”

You can also mark other five and four star reviews as helpful, and mark needlessly low reviews as unhelpful.

If the book isn’t your cup of tea, you don’t need to punish the author for that with a negative review. A one star review basically says, “You should give up writing and go do something else with your life.” It costs zero dollars to not be that person.

I love this guide to what each star rating means from author Rachel Branton.

We are people, and so are you

Consider whether the small part of a book that you didn’t enjoy to the fullest is worth messing with an author’s rank on Amazon as they try to get their work seen by more people.

One person gave me a four star review because I used swear words in the book and he thought I could have gotten my point across without them. Luckily, I was able to talk to this person and explain the importance of a five star review since his overall comments were very positive — he updated his review to five stars.

By all means, if you feel like a book really missed the mark — if it promised to be a sci-fi murder mystery in space but it was a romantic comedy set in a forest in Oregon, for example — leave a review reflecting that.

Publishing a book is a hugely vulnerable undertaking for a new author. A five star review tells that author, “You took a risk and it paid off.”

Prone to sudden bursts of encouragement. They/them. Queer, autistic author of bit.ly/GaslightingMillennials

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