When you’re pitching Amazon Top Reviewers, have you ever wondered about the things they love, and the things that will absolutely get you shoved to the bottom of their book review consideration pile? We thought so, too, which is why we took some time to interview several of these top book reviewers. Each of them is anonymous in this piece (with the exception of one).
As authors, our number one goal is to get more book reviews on Amazon, and part of that goal, is also to seek out the Amazon Top Reviewer tribe. But what does it take to get a consideration, and possibly a review from this exclusive tribe? Well, as it turns out things like being thoughtful, being courteous, and never assuming you’re owed a review, just because you published a book. We often work with Amazon Top Reviewers, with some of our contacts having earned the elite Hall of Fame, Top 10 Reviewer, Top 50 Reviewer, Top 100 Reviewer, and Top 500 Reviewer badges. And while I know this may sound like some pretty basic stuff, it goes even deeper than that, have a look at what some of the Amazon Top Reviewers we work with have to say:
When authors contact you looking for book reviews, what do you find helpful or what do you really love?
One Amazon Top Reviewer says: “Things I love: authors who email an introductory letter, sharing their background, the reason they wrote the book, and particularly why they have selected to ask me for a review. I like courtesy, prompt response in sending mobi files, acknowledgement after the book review – a thank you note for taking the time to read and review and post the review. It all boils down to good old-fashioned courtesy of asking a favor of someone and following through with it in a genuine manner. I think it is appropriate to have the author vote that my review was helpful and have their friends do the same: most just forget about it.”
Another Amazon Top Reviewer who is a Top 50 Reviewer says: “If a hard copy is available, please send me that. I am a traditionalist, and although I will read a manuscript on my Kindle app. I prefer a hard copy. There is always the chance that I’ll find something really exciting. I was not into reading historical novels prior to becoming a reviewer. To my surprise, I found them quite interesting.”
Finally, this Amazon Top Reviewer says: “I love when authors are really personal and offer a book that they think I’ll like. It’s really fantastic if there’s a link in the email to download for free, so that if I want to, I can pull the trigger and add it to my Kindle right away. However, I prefer they not send the book itself without me requesting it. Those attachments get big and can clog my email. And, additionally, please include a link where I can find additional details and info. This is helpful not just when writing book reviews, but even when checking out books before I decide to request them. An Amazon or Goodreads link is best, but a link to the author website can be really helpful too! Just make sure your site is well organized enough that I can find what I want easily without digging too deep.”
When it comes to authors pitching you for book reviews – What do you really dislike?
An Amazon Top Reviewer who is a Top 100 Reviewer we talked to said: “Things I dislike: email request to ‘undisclosed recipients’ or a mass mail asking for a book review. Also if the author is doing a mass mail, it is a turn off when they type in your name in the greeting and use a different typeface (speaks of herd management). I dislike when authors take my time to read a request and then wait for days to weeks to respond with the material. Shows a lack of respect. I dislike pdf formats for book reviews – tough to read in a comfortable fashion.”
Another Amazon Top Reviewer said: “Sending out a request for book reviews and attaching the book is presumptuous. Some book reviewers might view it as rude. Without any previous relationship I personally hit the delete button, except in rare instances. This is the lazy person’s way to garner reviews, like throwing a hundred lines in the water and praying for a fish to bite. Suggestion: Make your pitch, be polite, and hope for a return email.
In fact, I had something like this happen over the weekend that was old with a new twist. The different versions of the novel (.pdf, .mobi, etc.) were attached on a book where I can find no info on GoodReads or Amazon…book is launched on 10/9/18. A few days later, I received another email from the same author, sending me towards a history book. He also offered to email a .pdf or .mobi. I then noticed a publishing company on his tag, though that website – even though I could google it – does not have any content. It is just a white page.
Here’s an actual quote from an author leaving a comment on my GoodReads account from a book I reviewed last month: “Based on your review of **********, I thought you might like *********, my dark psychological thriller set in 1979 San Francisco. Thank you and enjoy.” This happens more often than you would think. While GoodReads can be a great platform for authors, inserting your book in the middle of a conversation seems intrusive.
It’s okay to compliment, but don’t lay it on so thick that a second-grader could read through it. One author recently told me my bare-bones website was FANTASTIC! This led me to believe the email was a form letter and while I understand what the author was trying to accomplish, the less than heartfelt compliment reduced the author’s chances of me responding positively.
My personal pet peeve: Stating you will send me a copy of your book “…in exchange for an honest review.” At face value, that statement is insulting (as in, why wouldn’t I be honest in my book reviews?). More importantly, you have just run afoul of the Terms of Service (TOS) of one of the major retailers, Amazon. Previously, I used to gently inform authors of their error, and it was amazing how many wanted to argue with me about it (if you don’t know, Amazon allows books to be sent to reviewers, but specifically states the book is not allowed to be traded for a review nor may the author or publisher attempt to influence the review). You can find the exact language by going to Amazon and in the Help section, search for Community Guidelines.
I’m not sure how other Amazon Top reviewers and book reviewers do this, but over the years I have developed a system of checking retail sites for more info about a book, seeing if there are any other reviews, reading a few sample pages if someone like Amazon gives me that opportunity, and so on. I don’t like to post negative reviews, and I try to avoid reading poorly-written books by using the above procedures (that said, if I make a bad choice and end up with a bad book, I will post a three- or two-star review).”
And this Amazon Top Reviewer added: “Basically things I hate include when an author doesn’t use my name in an email. Like they call me “Sir” or a name of another book reviewer. This happens when people are sending out lots of emails and just get confused. If they can’t remember my name, I wonder about the quality of the book.
Unedited books are also a factor. I found 88 mistakes in ONE book. I normally will alert the author to the mistakes I find while reading. So you could say I edit for free (but don’t tell anyone that or I’ll be swamped).
If an author can’t afford to have the book professionally edited (which can cost a lot) they should at least be willing to read their own book ten times at a minimum. If a book gets published with lots of mistakes in it, it ends up getting bad book reviews. So, a little care at the start is worth the great reviews later.”
Another Amazon Top Reviewer who is a Top 500 Reviewer said: “Things I hate and which are sufficient to keep me from considering doing book reviews. I am a stickler for proper grammar and proofreading. When I receive a request for a book review that is ungrammatical or has misspellings I immediately reject that request. Second, please do not send a manuscript file (or hard copy) without my go-ahead. During the time I was actively reviewing I received scores of books unsolicited. Generally speaking, I don’t read them.”
Finally the last Amazon Top Reviewer we spoke with adds this important point: “Please don’t ask me to buy your book (or product) for reimbursement later. If you want me to consider something for a book review, be willing to send it to me at no charge to myself up front. Or, if for whatever reason, that isn’t an option, gifting it via Amazon works really well. You wouldn’t believe the amount of emails I get that are poorly written and ask me to purchase a product (that I probably am not even interested in) up front at my own cost. Those get an automatic no from me.”
What do you wish every author knew when pitching their book to Amazon Top Reviewers for book review consideration?
The first Amazon Top Reviewer said something that a lot of people seem to echo: “I wish every author knew that they are asking a major favor in the way of time, input, and commitment to read their book and write a considered book review. Too few show proper appreciation – just a ‘thanks’ one-liner after all that time spent for them for nothing.
Though I understand that if the reviewer gives a positive review it opens a door, I find it rude to barrage the reviewer immediately with requests to review all of their books immediately after the initial book review is posted.”
Another Amazon Top Reviewer adds: “Every book reviewer is different. Folks running a blog take a lot more time to write entertaining articles than those like myself who primarily write book reviews. And some of us are branching off into video reviews.
PLUS – there are retail sites who now make it more difficult to obtain a book reviewer’s email address. You would think that authors who gain these addresses would treat them like gold, right? Well, some do and some don’t.
Other issues once the book is accepted:
- You self-edited, and there are tons of spelling and grammar errors.
- You’ve written a serious book but haven’t bothered to research anything (i.e., your heroine carries a gun but you don’t know the first thing about weapons, so you rely on what you have seen on television to get you through).
- You write back and bug the reviewer. Suggestion: If you have soft and hard dates, tell the reviewer these dates IN YOUR ORIGINAL EMAIL. Start your marketing early rather than rush a reviewer because you didn’t prepare properly.
A polite letter is a great start. Link me to where your book might already be for sale. Tell me a sentence or two about the plot (I can click your link if I want more info). Share any important dates I need to know, like when you would like the book review posted. I’ve started reading emails knowing I had too much on my plate already but accepted the book because the letter was politely persuasive.
Respecting that book reviewers are actually “working” or, at least, that they are doing you a favor, is usually shown by offering a complimentary copy of your book (either in hardcover, paperback, or eBook). Sending me a link in the comments section under my review (“If you liked this, you’ll love my book!”) is an expectation that I will run over and purchase your book. Probably not going to happen, given that there are other authors that recognize that being personable/sociable goes a long way who are willing to offer a complimentary copy.
I usually write an author back detailing where I have posted book reviews. Most authors/publishers write back, some don’t. Guess who gets a better response next time they contact me? It only takes a minute to say thanks.”
Another Amazon Top Reviewer with the Top 500 Reviewer badge says: “I wish every author could know how stressful it can be for a book reviewer to be in demand. Saying something like “no pressure/no obligation” can make a reviewer more comfortable with a request to review. Sending book reviewers notes asking when the book review will post is too stressful when you have 10 books lined up for review and are getting to them as soon as you can. One person can only read as fast as they can.
My best advice is to find a reviewer you like, to send them your email and be patient with the review posting. Expect a wait time of weeks or months if the reviewer is in the top 100 or even 500.
Two more things I thought of include: Sending a thank you note along with the book saying thank you for considering my book, etc. That helps authors make a personal connection. I love when I get those thank you notes before or after. I save some of them and they are on my vision board.
And if authors want to know when a book arrives, they can include a self-addressed-stamped-postcard with the words: “Your Book Arrived!” They can mail it back immediately and both sides know the book has arrived!”
An Amazon Top Reviewer who has recently cut back for health reasons says: “Be realistic as to what I can and cannot do. An active book reviewer is likely to have a number of books in the queue at any one time. I like to read carefully, which means that it may take a few weeks before I can get to the book. Don’t send me anything that you want me to review immediately.
An author can save himself or herself a lot of trouble by going over the types of books a reviewer has reviewed in the past. It is likely that the reviewer’s tastes have remained the same.”
And this Amazon Top Reviewer adds: “Be kind and understanding with email volume. I’m human and sometimes miss emails (or my email filters them into spam), so don’t be afraid to follow up if a week or two has gone by and you haven’t heard from me. An occasional second round of follow ups is okay too, but it should stop there. However, please don’t follow up every two days until you get a response. It’s most likely going to be “no” at that point. After I’ve accepted a title for book review consideration, if you don’t hear back from me confirming receipt, please do follow up to check in and ask if I need anything further. Most likely, everything is fine, but it never hurts to check. “
Finally, one Amazon Top Reviewer who doesn’t mind her information being shared offered some additional resources from her own website that you may find helpful: http://www.seasonedwithlove.com/how_to_get_and_keep_a_reviewers_attention.htm
http://www.seasonedwithlove.com/a_review_by_rebecca.htm – This page may be of interest as well.
She also wrote a book: Reviewing as a Lifestyle by Rebecca Johnson, released as a Kindle exclusive about her whole reviewing experience, which was, at least until recently, the only book by an Amazon Top Reviewer on reviewing.
The Bottom Line
So what are the take-aways here? Surprisingly, a lot of this has to do with some basic manners, respecting the Amazon Top reviewers’ time, and not getting too crafty when trying to solicit book reviews. As it turns out, a well-worded, not-too-long email pitch might be a better way to get your title considered for book review, rather than trolling their blog, posting a comment, or hounding them on Goodreads.
Also, relationships are front and center here, too. Because the more you build them, and the more you care about the book reviewer and that relationship, the more likely you are to get book reviews, and potentially the more favorable the Amazon Top Reviewer will see your pitches – sending you (possibly) to the front of the virtual line. And given how important a Top Reviewer can be to your book’s performance on Amazon, I don’t have to tell you how important that is. (If you need more tips on Amazon, I’ve created a video series to help you out!)
Personalization is another big thing, and I can attest to that from the pitching (and testing) we’ve done. Yes, relationships are important, but if you’re just starting out trying to get book reviews, you won’t have these relationships. You can start building them by writing thoughtful pitches, with personalized introductions.
Finally, though no one mentioned it here, I’m a fan of short is the new long. Keep your pitches short, don’t ramble, and don’t bury the lead. Get right to the point and pull them in with your message, and your book!
I’d love to know what your experiences have been pitching Amazon Top Reviewers, let me know in the comments!