This week, my team and I are supporting the launch of Mark Miller’s 5th book, Chess Not Checkers.

Since the book opened up for reviews yesterday, more than 100 people have shared Amazon reviews on the book. This completely exceeded even our best assumptions about the number of reviews we might see in a book’s first week. For context, I typically tell clients that receiving 50 reviews in the first month or so after launch indicates great success.

One of the key performance indicators we attend to is gaining Amazon reviews. In order to fuel early Amazon reviews, we work to get our clients’ books out into the world in advance of their publication dates/launch weeks, so that people have time to read and enjoy the content and are prepared to write reviews.

For the launch of Chess Not Checkers we had a distinct advantage in working toward Amazon reviews because we received advance, finished copies more than a month prior to the publication date. Additionally, Chess Not Checkers, written in business parable style, is a fast and engaging read, which increased the likelihood that people receiving early copies would actually read them in order to review them.

We also had the luxury of sending the largest number of books out, to date. We sent advance copies to over 1200 people in the US, including not only one print edition of the book as a gift — but two: one to read, and one to share. In effect, for every book we mailed, we hoped to reach at least two readers.

And, we send a digital download link to over 100 readers around the world, extending the international reach of the book.

In case you’re doing the math, yes, this represents a huge financial investment in advance reader copies.

Mark funded this generous outreach because of his deeply held belief that books are seeds. It’s his desire to make as big a difference as possible for leaders and organizations. From past experience, Mark knows that giving books away is a catalyst that actually results in more book sales over time. Since he gives the profits from his books to charity, he uses a gift of a book to fuel and fund more giving.

Here are four more reasons this tactic worked well for Mark and four ways you can set the stage for a successful book launch:

This is Mark’s 5th book. It’s far easier to gain traction for repeat authors than it is for first time authors. People who have enjoyed and bought Mark’s previous books will look out for his new books. Having other books give Mark credibility in the market as an author. Much of the loyalty of Mark’s online community comes from their interaction with and appreciation for his past titles.

Book launch success lesson: Be patient as a first-time author. The investment you make in your first book will result in greater success with subsequent books.

Mark has built a committed community of readers and followers. What I want to write is: people love Mark and the content he creates. Perhaps it’s a bit of his position as an executive at Chick-fil-A or his humble and kind interactions with others. Maybe it’s the accessibility and universal applicability of the lessons he shares. I have received so many emails throughout our time working with Mark from people who indicate the ways his content and example have made a difference for them. Mark consistently offers value through his 3X a week blog posts. He inspires, through his in-person life and online following, people’s confidence and commitment.

Book launch success lesson: Bring the best of who you have to the world, and people will respond to that.

Be strategic in your investment of energy in building influence online. In the 2 1/2 years that my team and I have supported Mark’s online presence, we’ve worked to see his Twitter following grow to more than 30X the number of followers he had when we began. His email list has grow to more than 7X its starting place. These numbers represent people who regularly read Mark’s blog content and appreciate the value he brings to the world. When we made the offer for the advance copies of the book, we reached out to anyone who had subscribed to his blog, downloaded a free resource, or purchased a resource in his store. More than 20% of those people requested a book. The only request we made was that if people enjoyed the book, they would leave a review. From past experience, we’ve seen that about 10% of people receiving a book will follow through to leave an Amazon review.

Book launch success lesson: Building an online community by consistently sharing valuable content is an important foundation for book launch success.

We made our request for reviews very clear. One of my basic assumptions is that people will not leave Amazon reviews unless you ask them to. We’ve been asking. We mentioned it in our original offer of a free copy; we mentioned it in the printed letter I sent out with books; we’ve repeated the request in subsequent emails and social media updates. While some authors are uncomfortable making an outright request, very few people will prioritize this unless you make a direct request.

Book launch success lesson: Ask for what you’d like. Help people understand the ways they can best support your book launch.

What does all this mean? Are Amazon reviews a strong predictor of a book’s success? To be honest, we’re still learning and exploring.

At a minimum, Amazon reviews provide substantial social proof. Gathering many positive reviews at the start of a launch positions a book well for sales. Additionally, the time and thought people bring to Amazon reviews demonstrates an important investment each reviewer is making in a book and its success. Someone who writes a review is more likely to tweet, share on other social channels, or blog about a book.

My team and I are going to be digging deeper into the data, analyzing trends, and will share what we learn with you.

Tell me something! Do you view Amazon reviews as an important metric? Why or why not?