Amazon, Author Presence, Post Publishing

Magical Number of Reviews

We’ve seen posts like this circulating on Facebook and Twitter. Authors holding hard to the line that there is a magical number of reviews when Amazon does these magical things.

“Also Bought” and “You Might Like” lists

These aren’t determined by a magical review count.

When your book has enough sales, Amazon’s AI determines, based on buying habits of every view and buy, that readers of xy & z are more likely to try your book and your book shows up in those type of feeds. It’s like a vin-diagram. Enough readers visited and read your book and these other books that they must be similar enough in readers’ taste for them to be interested in and hopefully purchase your book.

Example: Yasmin Galenorn—A Harvest of Bones (

Ruby Loren—Gardenias and a Grave Mistake

You’ll notice there are some overlaps between the above lists, but there are also some differences. The similarities and differences are based on reader habits. It’s constantly changing.

To Amazon’s AI, “A Harvest of Bones (Chintz ‘n China Book 4)” must be similar enough to these that when a reader finishes with this one or is browsing an author they enjoy, they might like the next book in the series or might decide that one of these other books look good enough to try.

Most readers will stumble upon your book because of Also Bought. It’s a nudge, a recommendation, and is influenced solely on buying habits.

Similar genre or even the same author, the also bought is a nudge, a recommendation, and is influenced solely on buying habits. Do not confuse that with Sponsored Product—these are controlled by AMS.

But there’s also a downside to the Also Bought. You can get what is essentially a closed circle. There are no books other than yours being offered and your books aren’t showing up as often in others. A good example of this is Louis L’amour.

Amazon’s Newsletters

Again, reviews do not determine if your book is sent in a newsletter by Amazon. There are only 2 ways for Amazon to send a newsletter featuring your book.

  • New release
  • Offered the author a deal

On new releases, Amazon sends a newsletter to all of your Amazon followers within 6 weeks of your book going live.

Offered deals are scarce, and reviews have nothing to determine if Amazon will offer one. They are determined by sale numbers. Amazon is a business, and if they help move an already moving book to move more, then they are getting a good payday from it. They’ve even admitted to this during conferences.

How Reviews Do Matter

Reviews are social proof on the validity of a book. 20 reviews are usually the key number because mathematically, the book is likely to have a good average spread of reviews, and a single 1 star or a 5 star won’t affect the rank as harshly as having less than 20 reviews. It also moves away from “friends and family” reviewing to unbiased opinions.

According to the various post on Bloomreach and cross-referenced by sites like USA Today, SAGE journals and Psychology studies, a good rating on Amazon is in the low 4s—4.1 to 4.6—according to surveys that were conducted on a national scale that looked at buyer perceptions and buyer habits.

Too many 5-stars and too high of a ranking, and buyers thought the product was rigged, decreasing social proof. (It’s another reason not to sweat the low star reviews, they help.)

In actuality

The vicious cycle that keeps writers chasing the magical review number is because they feel like it gives them an edge and a steppingstone to success. Realistically, for every 100 sales, you might get a review. Those reviews lead to more buys which increase rank which leads to more reviews etc. and solidifying the social proof.

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This post was edited/proofed by ProWritingAid.

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