The Importance of (Good) Reviews

How important is a review? In today’s publishing world, especially on and its international sites, a good review (four or five stars) is worth quite a bit. Dozens of them are priceless.

Shock Totem does most of its sales through Amazon, the bulk of which are digital sales. That’s a great thing, particularly for our authors. Readers are their lifeblood. Ours as well, but while readers keep us afloat on a pride level, we need revenue to sustain us for years to come.

We’ve been around for five years and each of our issues costs around $1,500 to produce. They say most businesses take five years to become profitable. Thankfully, we’re almost to the point where we’re paying for each release with profit from sales. Our last issue, Shock Totem #7, cost $236 out of pocket, which is wonderful.

We’d love to get to a point where we’re not only paying for issues with profit but also making money, enough to expand, raise our pay rate.

And that’s why we still need your help.

The debut issue of Shock Totem is our biggest seller. This is typical for every month. On Amazon, where it matters most, our debut has 28 reviews. That’s eleven more than the closest second, which is issue #2, with 17 reviews.

Our latest issue, however, has just two reviews. And we’re having a hell of a time getting review sites to respond to review requests these days. Not sure if there’s so much self-publishing going on that they’re overwhelmed with review material or if we’re so established they don’t think we need reviews; but whatever the reason, the reality is, we do need reviews.

Why? Beside the obvious reasons,, where sales are highest, has a ranking algorithm (among other things) that helps authors and publishers sell books. One of the biggest theories, and it’s a good one, is that the more four- and five-star reviews a book has, the more it is shown to potential buyers.

Again, our debut issue has nearly a dozen more reviews than any of our other issues and it’s our biggest seller. Signs point to Yes, the algorithm is real and that issue is being put in front of more potential readers than our other issues.

So how can you help? By posting reviews of our work. They don’t have to be long or have literary flair; they just need to be honest.

The more our sales increase, the longer we’ll be around. When so many publications are using Kickstarter to fund their projects, we’d like to earn people’s money. So if you’d be so kind, please consider reviewing anything of ours that you have read. We’d be very grateful.

In parting, and this applies not only to our books but any book, please note the difference in ratings between sites.

Three stars on Goodreads is not the same as three stars on Amazon. (There is another theory that any review given with less than four stars on Amazon seriously impacts a book’s rankings—kicks it right into the gutter, in fact. Again, this is a theory, but based on authors’ experience, it’s a good one.) For instance, a two-star review on Goodreads should be a three-star review on Amazon, as both mean it was “okay.” Therefore, a three-star review on Goodreads should be a four-star review on Amazon, which helps the author quite a deal more. Again, in theory.

And finally, thank you! Five years strong. We’ve lost some staff along the way, but we’re still dedicated and committed to the long haul. It’s been a hell of a ride so far. Help us keep the wheels on!

About K. Allen Wood

K. Allen Wood is the editor/publisher of Shock Totem. For more info, visit his website at
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11 Responses to The Importance of (Good) Reviews

  1. Marzioli says:

    I’ve posted 5-star reviews for ST #2 and 3. Nothing fancy, just my honest opinion. Hope it helps!

  2. Thank you, sir. Very much appreciated! =)

  3. Alan Baxter says:

    Interesting comments about the ranking algorithm and the effect it can have. I’ll share this post around.

  4. robert says:

    For some reason I feel like I’ve seen the issues priced at $2.99 previously, but if not, have you considered doing that to capitalize on the 70% royalty? Each issue has enough content to justify the cost. Plus, you could always run special promotions where you make the issues 99 cents. Just a thought.

  5. At one time, yeah, they were $2.99. We made money, but sold less copies. Maybe I was impatient and those sales would have continued to increase. Not sure. I’ve thought about raising the price again, but I’m torn. What’s more important, less sales and more money, or more sales and (possibly) less money?

    I could argue for each. Yes, we’re a business so profit is very important, but we also started with the desire to promote and support small-press authors. There’s a bit of altruism in that. Which of course rarely mixes well with business. Haha.

    I don’t mind pricing the magazine at 99 cents, though. It’s done well. With a little help from our readers, I think we can make enough money through sales to fund each issue.

    Or maybe it’s time we turn ourselves into an antho-mill and churn out shitty anthologies and half-assed reprints. BIG DOLLAZ!

  6. Lee Thompson says:

    “Or maybe it’s time we turn ourselves into an antho-mill and churn out shitty anthologies and half-ass reprints. BIG DOLLAZ!”

    Ha! Not that you’d ever do that but if you did I would kick you in the balls.

  7. Haha. Noted.

    Thanks for those reviews, Lee. Really appreciate it.

  8. Pingback: The Importance of a Good Review « A Broken Laptop

  9. Four years! That’s crazy. Congratulations!

  10. Red Tash says:

    I will gladly share this post with the world. It’s so important, and I’ve found that there are those who just patently don’t understand. I always put a “please leave a review” request in the back of my books, but recently I got a complaint about doing so from a reader (of a free download, no less). Obviously the mysteries of Amazon need to continue to be espoused to Readerdom. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. A review takes only moments of one’s time. Maybe there should be a monthly “leave a review day” or something.

  11. Gabriel Novo says:

    There are sites that give certain reviewers more weight (like Yelp’s Elites), but Amazon has a pretty good system already in place. You have an upvote/downvote option with the “was this review helpful to you?” and you also have the ability to comment directly to the review. Bad reviews from idiot readers typically get bumped down by the fans.

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