You can tell
your cash-strapped friends who are looking for a last-minute holiday gift idea
for you, or any of the other book authors in their lives: there’s an
always-appropriate present that won’t cost them a thing.
They can go to your book’s entry at amazon.com, click the “write an online
review” link, and enter a couple of lines in praise of your great opus. It helps
if they’ve actually read the book, but with a quick glance at the publisher’s
“book description,” they can fake it in a pinch.
Remind them to give the book five stars — especially if some other customer
has recently shredded your work with a one-star review. One bad review reduces a
book’s status from five stars to four, but something between 12 and 15
five-star reviews are required to restore the lost rating. Even if the bad
review comes from a customer who is obviously semi-literate, semi-conscious,
and/or the author’s recently-dumped ex-boyfriend.
I confess I was unaware of the importance of the Amazon review until a friend
with a critically-acclaimed, soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture bestseller phoned
me, tragified at the loss of one of her Amazon customer-review stars.
Some reader, apparently off his meds, had leveled some creative
conspiracy-theory accusations about my friend’s Hollywood connections in an
incoherent one-star review.
She could endure the nonsensical rant, but his one-star rating had robbed her
book of its former five-star status. This was serious. She was forced to beg all
her friends and relations to write five star reviews to undo the conspiracy
I was happy to oblige, once I got the hang of the Amazon-reviewer culture.
Registering as a reviewer is not a big deal. The biggest challenge is deciding
whether to use your own name or a pseudonym. Using your real name earns you a
Writing helpful reviews earns you more badges. (Customer reviews can be voted
“helpful” or “not helpful” by all customers, not just registered reviewers.)
Reviewers voted especially helpful are eligible for very special badges like
“top 100 reviewer.”
If, like me, you don’t need no stinkin’ badges, it’s still kind of fun. You
just have to follow a few rules:
1) Be over 13. (There’s a special kid’s review form for the
Harry Potter set.)
2) Keep your review short, but use more than one word: 75 to
300 words is ideal.
3) Don't reveal crucial plot elements.
4) Don’t comment on other reviews by page position.
(Positions change often.)
5) No profanity, obscenities, racism or spiteful remarks.
6) Tell why, as well as whether, you liked the book.
7) Don’t advertise another bookseller or promote
Allow time for the 'Zon elves to check your work for compliance with the
above code, and in five or six days you’ll be online, stars blazing.
Best of all you can ask your author friend to promise she’ll do the same for
you when your next book comes out.
Other online booksellers, like Barnes and Nobel in the U.S. and W.H. Smith in
the UK now make use of the customer book review. They have pretty much the same
rules, as do Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk. (Although the .uk site prohibits
pre-publication reviews and comments directed at other reviewers. The Brits also
allow reviews of up to 1000 words.)
Amazon reviews are important enough that book-marketing guru Dan Poynter is
establishing an “Amazon review exchange,” where authors can sign up to review
each others’ work. He details his plan in his December ParaPublishing
If you want your book reviewed, send your request and description to him at
You need to be willing to send a book and promotional materials (review-book
package) to everybody who contacts you. He asks that you make sure the book is
listed at amazon.com and supply a current email contact address. There’s no
charge for the listing. More info is available at http://ParaPub.com.
Customer reviews give you an excuse to visit your amazon listing that’s more
gratifying than a simple check to see if your sales rating has slid from last
month’s high of 78,217.
Of course, you could discover that you’ve been accused of teaching Tom Cruise
to jump on couches, but you also might find a star-studded review submitted by a
complete stranger who wrote simply because she liked your book.
It does happen. Thank you, Marie d’Inglasses of Linconshire for your
unsolicited, positive reviews of Food Of Love on the Amazon and W.H. Smith sites
last week. You gave me the best holiday gift possible.
Anne R. Allen is a California
novelist and book editor who has been living part time in the UK. Her latest
comic novel, The Best Revenge, An Historical Novel Of The 1980s, (Babash-Ryan)
debuted in the UK in 2005 and is available from amazon.co.uk and most UK
bookshops. Her first novel with Babash-Ryan, Food Of Love is available from
amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com as well as amazon.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org