I must admit, I never thought that getting reviews would be the struggle it has been. I thought my friends and family, my biggest supporters, would throw me a bone with some glowing (albeit biased) reviews. I (as of this writing) have four reviews, only one of which came from a person I know personally.
This means that total strangers are more willing to offer something nice to say about my writing than people I know.
Some of you are probably enjoying a laugh at my expense right now. I'm ok with that. I didn't know any better. (Or you may be a person who's struggling with the same problem.)
You'll hear a ton of different excuses: I don't have time, I forgot, I never write reviews, people will know that I know you and I'll get in trouble with Amazon...I could fill this whole post with the different things I've heard.
Those who know me personally have no issue whatsoever telling me in person what they think of my writing, so it's not like they don't have an opinion. But getting them to offer it to the rest of Amazon, well, that's totally out of the question.
I've learned that this really isn't limited to people you know, reviews in general are a rare animal. You have to evoke a strong reaction (in general) to push someone to the point of writing a review. They love it. They hate it and curse the day you were ever born, rue that you learned to write in their native tongue and admonish the world for giving you paper to write on. Those people write reviews.
Occasionally, you get someone who just likes to offer their opinion on something. One of my reviews is from such a person. His review is neither detailed, nor scathing, nor helpful, nor anything, really. I still appreciate it because he at least put in an effort to say something. (Seriously, mom, you can't write a short sentence?)
I've also tried giving away my short stories on Twitter, in the hopes that some of the readers (who are mostly indie writers such as myself) would post a review. No such luck. In their defense, I've never asked. There's something that doesn't feel right about asking people to review your work. I wish it were a common courtesy among writers, but that isn't the case. I don't really have a problem with people getting my work for free and not reviewing, in the end I'm happy that they show enough interest to go out to Amazon and get it.
Lately, I've tried a different tack. I do the reviews. I don't ask for quid pro quo, I think that is a little underhanded in terms of how Amazon wants the system to work. I have noticed people that offer money to get reviews, or offer to write a review for a nominal fee. I don't feel either way does much of a service to the writer. I am certain that it increases the likelihood that you will eventually get a terrible review that calls the paid ones into question. I wouldn't want that sort of thing associated with my work, it is strong enough to generate positive reviews on its own.
So what have I learned about reviews?
It's a numbers game. You have to have a lot of readers to generate one review. It's hard to pin down a ratio for me, in terms of how many readers I have versus the number of reviews, but I would say that it's a safe bet to count on 25 sales at a minimum to get one review. That doesn't guarantee a positive review, just a review in general. The number is probably double that or even triple to say for sure that you'd get at least one 5-star review.
From my own reviewing experience, I've also learned that I am not too inclined to leave terrible reviews if the writing is bad. I've had at least one work that I had to pass on in terms writing a review, because I couldn't find anything in particular to praise about it. I don't want to crush someone's spirit, even though I know not everyone is cut out to be a writer. Even bad writers sell books, some even have fans. There's a market for everything, even terrible writing. Giving a bad review isn't going to accomplish much other than to deflect a sale or two away from someone.
I don't know if I will ever reach a point where I actively go out and ask people to review my work, I feel like it will happen organically as I build an audience, or perhaps a fan base.