We all know that reviews are important for authors. If you didn’t know that, then allow me to tell you that reviews are important for authors. For many new and lesser-known authors (like me) they can be the lifeline to new readers and to sales. That means that authors spend way more time than they should worrying about and analyzing reviews. There’s many platforms that people use to rate and review books, but three of them (at least for me) stand head and shoulders above the rest. So today I’m going to discuss the Big Three sites as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
No big surprise there. Amazon is the largest bookseller in the world and for most indy and self-published authors is the main platform used to sell their books. Amazon reviews are critical for authors there. Amazon uses the classic 5-star system and requires that every rating be accompanies by a written review. These can range from page-long in-depth reviews, to short “It Sucked” or “Great Book”. Obviously some are more helpful than others. Amazon also requires that each review have a title, which some reviewers find a bit stressful trying to come up with something “punchy”.
Currently, my debut novel Dämoren has 121 Amazon reviews.
Amazon flags reviews from people that purchased the book on Amazon with a nifty “Amazon Verified Purchase” tag next to them. These are great for potential readers to assess if the reviews are from actual customers. However, since Amazon still permits non-verified purchased reviews, it allows professional reviewers that receives ARCs (Advanced Reviewer Copies) to leave their opinions as well.
However, the Amazon review system is very lacking. The ratings/reviews do not allow a person to easily gauge the reason for the rating. If they are rating it poorly because of the shopping experience versus the book itself, the rating is lumped in with all the others, either raising or lowering the total average accordingly. It also doesn’t differentiate which version is being rated (Kindle, hardback, audio, etc.) which means that someone rating it based off of an audio performance they did or didn’t like, or a buggy Kindle version, skews the overall rating. Another thing that I’ve noticed is that if a title is purchased off of Audible (an Amazon company) a review on Amazon does not get the “Verified Purchase” tag, even if the sale was directly linked through Amazon.
Again, no big surprise. Goodreads is a massive and highly popular database for readers to find and rate books. Readers are not forced to leave written reviews as to why they like or disliked a book, so it allows more people to simply leave a 1-5 star rating and move on. Also, it doesn’t differentiate whether the book was purchased new, used, borrowed, or pirated. This allows a much wider snapshot of reader demographics.
While Goodreads still uses the simple 5-star system, it is considered by many to be the main judge of a book’s popularity. I’ve been told that a book is considered “obscure” by many readers until it breaks the 5,000 rating mark. Some readers will delay even looking at a book until it meets their personal minimum number of ratings.
Dämoren has 654 Goodreads ratings.
You can easily see that while the number of ratings is much higher than on Amazon , because Goodreads doesn’t require users to leave a written review for each rating, then number of reviews (a.k.a. What I liked and didn’t like) is lower. 79 vs 121.
Users can break it down to which version of the book they read, however the user interface to select editions is poor at best and most Goodreads users don’t bother. But at least there is the option. Users are also not forced to title their reviews. Reviews are a simple blank box to write in with zero prompts.
I’m a massive audio book fan. Over 90% of my reading now is audio and Audible has been great platform for me to find and purchase audio books. With the ease of streaming and downloading, audio books have evolved from the giant folders of tapes or CD’s that contained a highly abridged version that we once knew. In fact, abridged audio books are almost non-existent now. All of this has opened the fastest growing market of readers, and amazingly they’re almost completely independent from conventional readers.
My Audible edition, which was released four months after the other editions, currently has 667 rating.
You’ll notice that unlike Amazon and Goodreads, Audible uses three tiers to rate a book, breaking it down to Overall, Story, and Performance. This gives potential customers an immediate way to gauge if the book might be right for them. Furthermore, in order to rate a book, it MUST be a purchase from Audible. That means that 100% of the ratings are from paying customers.
Like with Goodreads, Audible does not require users to leave a review, which encourages more people to rate a book. However, unlike the other platforms, Audible provides optional prompts to encourage reviewers. Prompts include: “What made the experience of reading _X_ the most enjoyable?” “What did you like best about the story?” “What about the narrator’s performance did you like?” and “Who was your favorite character and why?” Of course many reviewers skip the questions, but because Audible tries to encourage reviews, they’re very helpful for people to explain why they liked or didn’t like a book instead simply stating “I loved it”.
Because Audible is very good at not only encouraging reviews, but also good in using reviews to recommend new books to customers, more customers are using Audible than the other two platforms. So even though my Audible edition has been around for less time than the other versions, it has more ratings on Audible than it has on Goodreads (which theoretically should have the most because Goodreads includes all platforms and has had four months longer to accumulate ratings).
Here are some other examples of novels with more Audible ratings than Goodreads and Amazon.
The Rules of Supervillainy: The Supervillany Saga Volume 1
Written by: C.T. Phipps
Amazon Ratings: 86
Goodreads Ratings: 763
Audible Ratings: 1,471
No Such Thing as Werewolves: Deathless Book 1
Written by: Chris Fox
Amazon Ratings: 202
Goodreads Ratings: 413
Audible Ratings: 660
The Dragons of Dorcastle: The Pillars of Reality Book 1
Written by: Jack Campbell
Amazon Ratings: 88
Goodreads Ratings: 1,652
Audible Ratings: 4,714
Of course this isn’t always the case. Most novels appear to follow the classic trend of more Goodreads ratings than any other type. So as they say, “Results may vary.”
Even then, self or indy published authors should strongly consider releasing Audible editions of their books in order to find a completely new niche of potential readers.