Reviews: Still a crucial part of the marketing plan

Last Friday I talked about why my marketing plan for Rite of Revelation will not just be a rinse and repeat of my last plan. But today I want to talk about one aspect of my plan that will not be changing. Reviews.

When I set my publication goals for Rite of Rejection, I decided I wanted to get 50 reviews in the first month. If I can be honest, I pulled that number out of the air and my own perceptions. If I was looking at a new book, by an author I'd never read, seeing 50 reviews left me with the feeling that this was probably a pretty decent book (unless of course there was nothing but one and two-star reviews).

So I picked 50 based on a gut feeling.

Now, before we go any further, let's just get one thing out of the way. Everything from here on out is pure speculation, based only on my own experience and the anecdotal evidence of other authors. Amazon is super secretive about how all their algorithms work and everyone there is tight lipped about numbers and metrics. So anything I say (or that anyone else says) about how Amazon works should always be assumed as our best guess. Unless Jeff Bezos is your BFF. If that's the case, you can believe him (also, you should call me).

Here's the deal.

I haven't done any real marketing work for Rite of Rejection since February. But here we are, nine months after release and the book is still selling moderately well. There's been a slight slow down, but given the lack of marketing that should be expected.Still, the book continues to sell without any extra effort on my part.

And if I'm not the one selling it, it can only be Amazon.

Ah, Amazon and their crazy secret algorithms. I'm pretty sure one day alone with their data guys would be all I needed to completely rule the world. Thanks to consistent sales and a good number of favorable reviews, Amazon includes Rite of Rejection in their fantastic marketing machine. That means it periodically is included in customer "You might enjoy this" emails that are sent out and it shows up under the "also bought" section for several other popular books. Recently, my Kindle tried to sell it to me.

Readers are pushed in the direction of books that Amazon thinks they are most likely to enjoy and buy. Trust me, it isn't out of a desire to help me to sell more books. They have absolutely no idea who I am. Amazon just knows that if they continuously send book recommendations to readers who then buy those books and do actually enjoy them, those same readers will be more likely to buy other books Amazon recommends.

But none of that happens until you hit enough reviews.

How many is enough? Again, your guess is as good as mine. But I will say that right after those first 30 days when I hit 50 reviews, my book sales increased dramatically. Maybe that was a result of a successful blog tour, or it could have been from all my early readers recommending the book to their friends and family. And I'm sure those aspects helped. But I'm guessing the biggest factor was Amazon flipping the switch on their book buying machine.

When that happens, Amazon tells other people about your book, which in turn increases your sales, which then improves your bestseller ranking, which makes them recommend the book even more and the cycle continues. And the best part of all of this is that there aren't any hoops to jump through. All of this happened without me even being aware of it.

So before all of this, I would have said getting 50 reviews was a nice to have goal for your book launch. I'm ready to revise that opinion. Getting 50 reviews is a crucial part of a book launch. Not only is is just plain impressive for readers browsing your book, it churns your book into the Amazon machine, which means you'll have less marketing work to do later and more time after your launch for writing that next book.

Speaking of the next book, today is the last day to sign up to be part of the Rite of Revelation street team. The fun will be starting soon.