Why Reviews are Gold Dust for Indie Authors

As an Indie or self published author you don't have the luxury of a book store presence or space on the hallowed turf of that bookshop table, but what you do have is a page on Amazon that can be seen my billions worldwide.
More and more readers shop on Amazon especially with the game changer that is Kindle and that has reduced the size of the handicap for us Indies.
However when we are successful at attracting readers to our book's Amazon page via book features, twitter and blogtours we don't want them to see a big fat ZERO preceding 'customer reviews'.   I know for me as a reader that would send out all the wrong messages ie no one is reading this; this is self published; why the lack of enthusiasm; even the readers mother didn't bother to read it - Ok the last comment was jocular, but you get my drift.
 Often the book blurb on Amazon does not do a book justice and reviews from varying readers perspectives can more fully encapsulate what the story is about and the strengths and highlights of the work.  Genuine reviews from experienced readers and reviewers are like food from a fine restaurant: full of flavour, satisfying, meaty and leaving you craving more.
It's jolly hard work getting friends and family to write reviews as more often than not the green eyed monster rears its head and they struggle to muster the will to help you out.  Even when you do frog march them to the laptop and diplomatically drag a review out of them it is likely to sound too contrived and perhaps even over complimentary.
Amazon readers are highly savvy and they can suss out the reviews which are written by friends and family.  Even when I read reviews of best sellers I can immediately guess which reviews were written by the agent, publisher or PR guy and believe me there are plenty of these.
So what we need are genuine reviews from genuine readers who will be both positive and critical within the reviews.  8 out of 8 five star reviews smell as off as a week old tuna sani.
I have spent years sending off books for review to interested bloggers and readers of my genre and have ultimately realised that despite diligent chasing up only about 50% end up reviewing; others drop off the planet or simply keep promising but never deliver.
So what is the struggling Indie author to do?  Paying for reviews is costly and I would not recommend it as Amazon is cleverly weeding out paid reviewers and they simply reject or cancel their reviews.  I imagine that paid reviewers quickly show up on Amazons radar and are zapped.
Reviews with Top Rated Amazon Reviewers have enhanced credibility and are deemed to be at arm's length and so they carry weight.  Many 'top reviewers' have a following and so a review they write will be potentially seen by thousands, meaning excellent exposure and they may run your review on their blog (if they have one) as well.
The risk of course is a bad review; but life is a gamble and it's certainly a chance worth taking.
So what is my strategy:
Get your friends, family and colleagues to read your book and to write honest reviews.   "Loved  this book, fast paced and excellent, can't wait until the follow up!  Amazing read!"  simply does not cut it as a review.  A good review should touch on elements of the story, quirks of the characters, the locales etc in order to demonstrate that the person really read it cover to cover.  The review should be so praiseworthy that it glows in the dark, there should be some constructive comments and criticism too.
Ask yourself who your book is similar to:  is it Ludlum, Grisham, Steele, Hooper etc.  Check out reviewers on amazon who have enjoyed books similar to yours and write to them with a press release about your book; they may be happy to review it.
Go to twitter and type in key words like: book blogger, book reviews, indie book reviews and you will be amazed at how many reviewers you will find.
If your book has a very specific hook ie location - a book set in a small town in Yorkshire; hobby - a thriller based on a chess game; religious - a Jewish detective etc get in touch with newspapers in Yorkshire, Jewish journalists or chess enthusiasts.  These people already like those subjects and are more likely to review.
Always get in touch with local papers and radio station and offer to give some books away.  They are bound to do an interview and review.
The World Literacy Cafe website has loads of reviewers, blogger and readers on their site and so it is worth signing up and getting involved in the community.
Blogtours.org is another interactive site where you can find bloggers who are happy to review your novel.
Persistence is the name of the game - be positive and don't give up.
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Self Publishing strategies that work click here
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Lastly if you are looking  for an unsual, gripping, thought provoking and sassy thriller, please give A SEALED FATE a try.
A Sealed Fate