What I Do and Don’t Know about Amazon Reviews and Rankings

Way back I said I would share some stuff I learned about publishing a book. A lot has gone on in my life in the past couple of months, so I got a little behind in my spring plans. Nevertheless, I will share the little I’ve learned about the subject of Amazon reviews and rankings with you. I was so ignorant that I didn’t realize how important reviews are to book sales.

Actually, this post is more about what I don’t know about Amazon.

But I used to know even less. To those of you I had to be asked to write an Amazon review for, I’m sorry you even had to ask. If I read your book, and particularly if I reviewed it on here, I should have known to go write a review on Amazon. All it really takes is one or two sentences and a star rating. Mea culpa. Or maybe it’s my bad today.

I’ve heard–and so far this is merely rumor because how Amazon really operates is a mystery even to those who purport to have figured out the formula–that one has to have 25 reviews on Amazon for one’s book to attract any attention from Amazon and perhaps be moved up where a stranger might type in, say, “turtles as pets,” and see the link for your book that rhapsodizes on turtles as pets.

I’ve also heard that it’s important for people to click that “why, YES, this review was extremely helpful to me” (or whatever it’s called) button on Amazon after each positive review.

I have seen many books without any reviews. How can that be? After a writer puts all that effort into writing a book, not one person can write a review of it? I’m having a hard time getting my mind around this phenomenon.

A writer is also supposed to create an Author Page at Author Central on Amazon. Do you know how many writers don’t bother to do this? I guess the idea behind this feature is that someone can use the information on that page to help decide if they want to purchase your book. It’s also helpful for when you publish your second book–and I would imagine that a book in a different genre might make it even more important. As readers, we want to know what makes a writer the right person to write that book.

Here is my Author Page. What else, if anything, should I share on this page?

When Doll God first came out it was on the list of Hot New Releases in Poetry for a few weeks. It was kind of exciting, but what did it really mean? I wonder if I sold even one book because of that list. And how would I know? Here’s the rub about Amazon: if you’re not self-published you’re not necessarily privy to much behind-the-scenes information. What I get is a graph that gives me an idea of the up and down of sales, with the ranking among 8,000,000 books. I’ve checked it out exactly three times. I just looked again and mine right now is 246,886 365,098 (changes fast). But then you know that because this is information that is available to all Amazon readers. You can see it on the page for Doll God under product details. By the way, that number doesn’t seem that terrible to me, especially for a poetry book (although I’d love it to be lower), but if my book was a novel or memoir I would like a much lower number/higher ranking. And besides, it’s a number that will continue to change. One day, when I am no longer doing anything to promote the book it could wind up at 7,999,999.

I would like to hear from people who are self-published. What does your information about sales, etc. look like? How detailed is it? Do you know what motivates a sale?

Do you have any other information about Amazon that you can share?

Lost MaryGold

 Lost MaryGold



Filed under Book promotion, Book Review, Books, Doll God, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing Tips and Habits

56 responses to “What I Do and Don’t Know about Amazon Reviews and Rankings

  1. I find this interesting, since I know nothing about how it works. I regret I have not yet purchased your book, but I did report some reviews as helpful, hoping to be helpful.
    I think your About the Author is good. (I had to look up what a javelina is, but that’s pretty neat!)

  2. It doesn’t take a great number of sales to reduce your ranking. Mine was at 500K and I sold five books. Now it’s down in 80Ks and on one top 100 best sellers list…so they can be misleading. Before I do a big promo…like with ENT at a sales price, I like to see the ranking down a bit. For improved exposure, that usually means I have to spend money to make money. OUCH! Other ways are to get out and do interviews before a promo. It’s definitely labor intensive. I had pretty much stopped promoting RC&R until my dad died. Many ad companies won’t even touch your book until you have a certain number of reviews and manage to maintain a ranking of at least four stars. REVIEWS ARE CRUCIAL to marketing. (Plus, they just make you feel good and help you learn about yourself.)

  3. This was interesting. I do reviews for books but never realized clicking that a review was helpful was…well…helpful. The world of selling on Amazon is like a black hole to me.

    • Black hole is a GREAT description of it, IMO. There is so much I didn’t know before and I still feel as if I don’t because Amazon keeps the information fairly secret.

  4. Thanks for all this helpful info, Luanne! My book was published in January 2015 and my “numbers” on Amazon have been all over the map. I’ve asked my readers to post reviews, trying to not be too pushy, but It’s just a hard thing to get people to do!

    • It is hard, and I’m not sure why. I think a lot of people are intimidated by trying to come up with the right thing to say, but actually it’s just better to say something and give some stars than to do nothing, in my opinion. My kids wanted to give my book reviews, and I asked them not to because 1) they have my same last name LOL, and 2) they ARE my kids.

  5. Thanks for sharing this, Luanne. It’s been a learning experience. I had no idea about clicking that a review was helpful.

    • I didn’t either! That’s it, Jill. We just don’t know these things. Here most of us use Amazon all the time and we don’t even know how it works.

  6. Very edicational.Thanks for sharing this information. I just went to Amazon and “liked” most of your reviews…because I really liked most of them. It didn’t take long, and I hope it helps. Re: what more could you add to your author page, I suggests looking at a couple dozen other author pages for poets and/or memoirists.

    It’s exciting to follow you on your publishing journey!!!

  7. Like you, since I’m not self-published, I see little of what Indie authors get to see regarding Amazon numbers. I don’t know how many books I’ve sold until my royalty check comes, and that’s always a quarter behind. Makes knowing what marketing efforts worked and what didn’t difficult. Of course, after two-and-a-half years out, sales of my book have trickled. Time for more product. Writing and publishing are such slow processes, aren’t they?

    Reviews are to writers what bones are to dogs–a wonderful treat. I’m always grateful for them, and as you say, a line or two is all that’s needed.

    Thanks for visiting my site. Much appreciated.

    • That’s it. I am starting to think that Amazon is more “indie author” friendly. If I am doing the marketing, publicity, book promotion, I am the one who needs access to more information, not the publisher.

  8. Very interesting post and comments!

    • The more I think about this stuff, Adrienne, the more I am moving into headache territory!!

      • I know. I read a book about moving up the ranks on Amazon and felt very stressed afterwards.

        I only published my novel thinking about friends and family reading it. I had no idea about blogs or rankings or marketing AT ALL.

        I waded in after gentle nudging and a good review at the Historical Novel Society and have had a lot of fun with it all, but I don’t think I’ll ever be savvy enough to keep up with the tricks people use to move up in sales. Algorithms make no sense to me.

  9. It is astonishing to learn that ‘liking’ a review matters. Maybe some readers of a review count up a review’s ‘likes’ to evaluate the review’s usefulness, although I’ve never evaluated a review that way. But I’ll ‘like’ useful reviews in the future. Thanks for telling us about that subtlety.

  10. Okay, darling… I had my eyes dilated today, and even so I HAD to read Doll God from start to finish. Just posted my review on Amazon, it’s a blazing five stars and deserving of every one. Also it’s under a different name because Vickie Lester is my nom de plume 😉 . Three cheers!

    • Thank you so much!!! I am beyond grateful!!! Re the nom de plume, are you going to use it for all your books? And is the next one about Anne or not?

  11. Well, you’ve shared a very important tip: to like on reviews that you find helpful! I’ve done that occasionally, but even then I’ve only clicked reviews that I found REALLY helpful (like they actually helped me make up my mind to buy). But what if someone clicks a review as ‘not helpful’? I’ve done that with 1-star reviews that I thought were not sufficiently critical. To simply say that one couldn’t finish the book doesn’t help me as a reader to decide whether to purchase the book. I have to see what other things this critic has read and liked, and often find that our tastes in books are worlds apart. In my mind, that reader had no good reason to leave a 1-star review except to be spiteful.
    Anyway, what an interesting experience you are having with Amazon. I know there’s some self-published authors out there who are pretty savvy with Amazon, yet even they can’t keep up with all the twists and turns of the Amazon’s ranking algorithms. And I do like your Author page on Amazon. The best part is I can click to Follow you so when your next book comes out, Amazon will automatically notify me 🙂

    • I like that last bit a LOT, Marie! LOL I guess I’ll have to get working on the next one! I know what you mean about 1 stars. First of all, I would never ever finish a book that I could only rate 1 star. Even then I can’t think of any 1 star books except one. They are rarely that bad. 2 is low for me. That said, I did give one 1-star review on Amazon. It was for that book about using Amazon LOL. That’s because it is an informational book and most of the information was inaccurate, out-of-date, or fantastical. Even so, I think reading it and critiquing it was actually a good experience for me. I learned from the whole thing.

      • In the case of the informational book that you gave 1 star, that made total sense. I hate when I buy a book for research or support and find that it’s outdated. If you see the book in a bookstore, you can at least leaf through and figure out if it’s worth your while. Not the same when you order from Amazon and then have to go through the hassle of returning it.

  12. I don’t know anything much about all this yet Luanne, but I’ve learnt a few things here from your post, so I thank you for that. I have seen books with no reviews and wonder about that too…

  13. I like your author page Luanne, looks great. Like you I didn’t know the value of putting reviews on Amazon – it’s interesting to try to figure out how these things work.

    • Thanks, Andrea! I didn’t either! I wish there was a way to really, actually, and truly figure out how Amazon does this stuff ;)!

  14. When my cross book was published, I learned the first reviews you get live on forever. Thankfully, I just happened to have a good one. So when the Door of Hope Writing Group book was published, I requested reviews ahead of time. But 25 views! That’s a lot. I have a friend who’s going to put the request for reviews at the end of his next self-published book: If you liked this, please go to …. It’s really something these days.

  15. exiledprospero

    Congratulations on the book. The cover is as inviting as a siren’s song. I clicked on a few ‘Was this review helpful to you?’ buttons. It’s good to know, as it is a way to support nascent authors.

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