One of the best things for an author are reader reviews. Most people shop online these days through digital retailers like Amazon and those websites/apps use algorithms to determine which items to display in what order when shoppers perform searches or want to view a specific category. Well, those algorithms often base those results not only on sales but also ratings and reviews. This means that the more positive reviews and ratings an author has that the higher in the searches their material will appear.
But it goes beyond that. It is not only the number of a reviews and the overall rating but also the frequency of reviews. If a product had 100 reviews that were all 5 stars but were 1-2 years old, they would be placed lower than a product that had maybe less reviews but whose reviews were more recent. There is no age limit on a product review. Even if the product has been out for years, if you like it, review it!
Not only do reviews help the authors find better placement in searches that might lead to more sales, reviews can help other readers determine if that book might be something they would be interested. Reviews can be very personal for the readers and can come in a variety of viewpoints with a wide range of content. Just because someone else left a positive review doesn't mean that their review will be the same as yours or that someone else wouldn't connect better with your review than someone else's.
That said, I have struggled as an author to get many reviews on my books. I have provided numerous books, both physical and digital, to many people as part of various marketing promotions, giveaways, and whatnot. Sadly, I have only received a fraction of reviews from those who received books.
I do post calls for reviews on social media regularly, just as I routinely post for free book giveaways hoping to attract readers with the promise of free books but neither has netted the gain I had hoped for. I do get some random reviews on retails sites from people who actually purchased the book but the bulk of my reviews, as few as they are, have come from a small percentage of those who have received free copies through my promotional efforts.
I wish I knew a better way, a legit way, to get more reviews. I know there are groups out there that I can pay for reviews but that seems shady and dishonest to me. If I'm paying for a review, it had better be a good one but if I'm paying for a positive review, is it really an honest one? I want my books to sale on their own merits. I don't want people to buy them because I snookered them into buying a book through fake reviews or only because I paid others to say things about the books that maybe weren't true. I love my books and think they are good but I'm supposed to think that. I want others to honestly feel that way too, not to simply say that because I paid them off.
It seems that to be a starting author with a conscience is a double whammy to getting traction on sales. Nobody knows who you are so you don't have a big following, sales are slow because nobody knows who you are, because sales are slow there are only a few reviews for your undiscovered book, and because you refuse to pay for fake reviews or throw your money at scammers you are forced to rely on what trickles of reviews and sales you have in hopes that they steamroll into something larger eventually.
I will continue to ask the community to review my books just as I will continue to give books away in hopes that some net reviews. My goal is to get reviews, a lot of them, so that more people are encouraged to read them. This whole marketing thing is new and bewildering to me but I'm going to keep muddling through the best I can.