Respect the Reviewer: How to Find, Contact, and Stay on the Good Side of Book Reviewers
Here’s the second Respect the Reviewer article I’ve written (the first can be read here). This is for all authors out there. While some tips might be obvious others you may not have thought of, either way I hope some of these tips will help you find a reviewer and go about contacting them the right way.
All authors know the importance of getting book reviews. Not only can a good book review encourage others to buy your book but if you get enough of them your book will be listed higher on amazon (or so the rumor goes). But how can authors go about contacting reviewers? And what’s the right or wrong thing to say and do when asking and waiting for a review?
I’ve been reviewing books for some time now and take this ‘job’ very seriously. I recognize the need to give an informative and honest review to potential buyers and I also understand and respect the authors for giving me their work and trusting me to deliver that review. However in my time as a book reviewer I’ve had a few problems with several authors. So I’ve created the following article. What you’re going to read are some of my tips and ideas on how to go about asking for reviews. Tips on how to respect the reviewer and at the same time I’ll also add some tips I’ve learned since becoming an amazon UK top reviewer.
If you enjoy reading the following and wish to share it then please feel free to reblog or share on various social media, but please credit this post as being written by me. And please feel free to comment at the end.
BEFORE CONTACTING A REVIEWER
1. Finding reviewers – Apart from the obvious amazon’s top reviewer list there are plenty of places to find a book reviewer. Plenty of sites will list book bloggers like the directory I’m in or you may just happen to come across and follow a blogger and enjoy their reviews.
You can ask other reviewers if they know of anyone who could review your book but if you do this and someone does give you some contact details YOU must contact those reviewers yourself, don’t expect a book reviewer/blogger to do that work for you. – I’ve been asked by some authors whether I know of other reviewers for their book. I’ve sometimes been able to refer them to some people but one author wanted me to seek out these people and recommend the book to them myself. Not only time consuming for me but something an author should be doing.
Finding via a review – A clever way to find reviewers can be if you spot a review they’ve written on a similar book to yours. You can then contact them adding ‘I saw you reviewed and enjoyed xxx, I have a similar book you might be interested in…’. BUT make sure your book IS similar before you contact them. – I’ve had an author ask me to review their fantasy novel and compared it to a child friendly fantasy I had reviewed. The author’s book was very different, had very adult themes, violence, etc. The only thing similar was the fact it was a fantasy book. This showed the author had clearly not bothered to read either the book’s description or even my review of it.
2. Check out their website/blog if they have one – So we’ll assume you’ve found a reviewer be it via amazon or other means. The first thing you should do is check out their blog or website if they have one. This is particularly important if you target an amazon reviewer as many will have additional information about book reviews available only on their website – Amazon doesn’t like people’s profile information to contain anything that could be seen as promoting a reviewing service so if they have a website visible on their profile, check it out!
3. Read their submissions guidelines – Many book reviewers with a blog/website who accept new books to review WILL have some form of submissions page for book reviews. Make sure to read a bloggers ‘About’ page for details of this or their guidelines for review. DO NOT just read their email address and send a message you must read all their submissions information. – I ask for specific information to be included in any book review request as well as list things I won’t accept for review.
Despite being clear on my submissions page I still get emails sent to the wrong address (I have a separate one for book reviews) as well as missing information. This results in me having to contact the author back for additional info which wastes both my and the author’s time and makes the author seem as though they can’t be bothered to spend two or three minutes reading my page, not a good start.
4. Have your book in multiple formats – BEFORE you contact an author you should have read their submissions policy. Many will have stated what formats they prefer to read the book in, pdf, mobi, epub, physical book, etc. Make sure you have whatever format the reviewer stated available. Even if you’re a new writer it’s a good idea to make sure you can send out your book in a variety of formats as different reviewers will have different devices for reading. If you don’t have the available format then you could still contact a reviewer but add a statement saying this and asking if they’d be willing to still review in the format you have available. – I state clearly which formats I can read but still I’ve had authors send docx. files which my ereader just won’t open and it again wastes both our time as I have to contact them back to sort this out.
5. Get the name right! – This might sound ridiculously obvious but make sure if you’re going to send a request for review that you get their name right. – A personal request to me is always appreciated and I love it when people call me by name rather than my username or website name, it shows they’ve taken the time to read both my about page and review submissions page, however make sure if you are going to address someone specific that you get their name right. I’ve had authors call me different names, mix me up with others they’ve seen. It shows that once again they can’t be bothered to take the time to read my about and submissions pages which doesn’t take long. If in doubt as to what to call someone it’s better to say ‘Hi’ and nothing more than give the wrong name.
6. Include all relevant information – When writing your request email to a reviewer make sure to include any important details such as what genre the book is, details of what it’s about, date of release if it’s an ARC, website link, etc. Use a submissions form if a website has one, it’s more convenient and you’ll be able to include all relevant information without forgetting what to put.- Every reviewer is different in what information they want but plenty will appreciate some details about the book and a website link to it on amazon can help especially if you ask an amazon top reviewer. It’s all about convenience and the more information we have in your initial email the less time we have to go looking for it and the faster we can respond. – Some reviewers will ask for a book excerpt and I certainly appreciate a link to amazon or goodreads if the book is there so I can use the ‘Look inside’ feature to see the author’s style of writing.
7. Don’t expect a reply – This is particularly important to remember when sending out requests to amazon top reviewers. It’s always nice to get a reply from a reviewer but many people uninterested in reviewing your book will simply ignore your email. – As a top reviewer in the UK around the 200s these days it’s very common for me to get 30+emails a day flooding my inbox from various sellers. While I try to reply to all emails sometimes I just miss some and I know that most top reviewers have taken to simply ignoring emails or worse, some have email filters so your message may never reach their inbox.
8. Got a reply? Reply back! – This might sound strange but some authors don’t stay in contact once a reviewer has replied to their email. You may have changed your mind about wanting a review (nervous new authors might worry about receiving a bad one) or may not have some information requested, whatever the reason though still reply back. You don’t want to burn the bridge with that reviewer if you want them to review your book at a later date. – While I’m quite easy going about this other reviewers might not be so check your emails and spam folders. There’s sometimes a genuine reason why an email doesn’t reach someone but if you just don’t want to have contact with a reviewer just kindly let them know that you’re not ready, it’s better than being seen as rude.
WAITING FOR REVIEW
9. Be patient with review times – Book reviewers will have long waiting times for reviews, some can have as much as a year. Be patient! It takes a long time to read a book and then write a review. Reviewers have their own lives and work and have to fit in their reading and reviewing around that and the more books they are asked to review the longer their times will be. Book reviewers usually make longer and more detailed reviews though, so it’s worth waiting for them.
However frustrating it can be to wait to have your book reviewed, respect the timescale offered and leave the reviewer alone. – Some reviewers will give a clear timescale and some won’t. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone how long they feel they need to review but do this kindly and never demand a review to be on time.
If it’s an ARC ask for it to be ready at around the time of release but don’t get upset if someone isn’t able to review it by that time. The longer time you give an ARC copy before it’s release the more likely someone will be able to stick to the review time, You should allow at least one month ahead.
10. Don’t bug the reviewer – While waiting for your book to be reviewed, don’t periodically emails or message someone asking when they’ll review your book. – One author kept asking when I had the time and wasn’t satisfied when I had told them they’d have to wait a while.
Even if you are friends with the reviewer don’t talk to them about the review just give them a copy of your book and wait patiently. And make sure to GIVE them a copy of the book and not promise to hand it over when they come to review it. – Strangely an author wouldn’t hand me a copy of their book until I was ready to read it.
Not only does this add annoyance and inconvenience as I have to again contact the author for the book but this shows very little trust and respect on the author’s side for the person reviewing their book. A reviewer treated in this way would still give an honest and possibly positive review (if they are an honest reviewer) but is unlikely to pass on other reviewers details to an author like that.
11. Be prepared for an honest NOT a positive review – This is a tough one for authors but you must be prepared to receive a review no matter what the star rating. Always request an honest review from someone and be prepared for any rating. It’s possible to ask kindly in your initial email whether a reviewer could contact you back if they didn’t like your book and wouldn’t rate it highly.
But NEVER ask them not to leave a review if it’s negative! – This is very important with amazon reviewers. Asking someone to not publish a negative review is like asking only for positive ones. Luckily most reviewers are nice people and will contact you back and some may not wish to post a negative review but you must be prepared for any rating.
If you are worried about how your book will be received by a reviewer take a look at the sort of reviews they write, especially negative ones (even product reviews if looking on amazon). Many reviewers like myself list both the positives and negatives in reviews and you can tell a reviewer who will give a decent review from one who is likely to ‘rant’ if they dislike something.
12. Don’t complain to a reviewer – This is an obvious one but some authors will complain or argue with reviewers over a less than 5 star review. – One author I’ve dealt with felt terrible about the 4 star review I gave them. They were less than pleasant in the way they dealt with me and have subsequently burnt any bridges to me reviewing for them again.
No matter how wrong you feel the review rating is you mustn’t argue back with a reviewer, they could warn other reviewers away from you and it does nothing for your reputation as an author. Whatever problems you have with a reviewer, keep the conversation civil.
13. Don’t expect a reviewer to buy or part-buy your book – This one may seem silly but some authors contact reviewers and expect them to buy their books. – I’ve been asked to review a book but was just directed to a buying page on amazon. A fellow reviewer was also asked to review a book and find others to buy that book to review it. You must always be prepared to give away a free copy of your book whether it’s in print or digital version.
14. Late review? Be nice! – If a reviewer has promised to review your book in a couple of months but they’ve failed to do so don’t go asking them on the first day of the third month. Reviewers have lives and there can be many reasons why they might be late with a review, it doesn’t mean they won’t still review it. However if it’s been a very long time, many weeks later you could contact them but remember to be nice.
Don’t complain and simply ask if they’ve had a chance to review it yet. if you complain that they are late the reviewer won’t bother anymore and chances are that either that person was busy and hadn’t gotten around to it or they may have even lost your email address and copy of your book. Make sure you keep on good terms no matter what the problem is.
Here are a few extra tips about contacting the top reviewers on amazon. (My knowledge is based mostly on UK amazon etiquette)
Finding reviewers – There’s a list of the top 10,000 reviewers on amazon. There are two main ways to find a reviewer on amazon. Either look on that list or find them via a review they’ve written. Whatever you do, don’t visit the top reviewer forums asking for a review. On the UK site this is a big no no and will gain you some nasty comments (as well as helpful ones) and some possible trolling behaviour in the future.
Using the top 10,000 list is time consuming but don’t be tempted to buy a book or online list of top reviewer email addresses. The top reviewer list changes very often and some people who may have previously been on that list may have removed their email addresses from their profile. Contacting them will only upset them and do nothing for your image as an author.
Don’t just pick from the top – As nice as it is to have a review from the #1 or someone in the top #100, you’re better off checking the entire list. In fact I’d advise you to check through the entire list even to those reviewers who have no ‘top reviewer’ badge next to their name. The higher a reviewer is on that list the more emails they are sent and the less time they have to review your book. While some may be perfect to send your email/book to, don’t ignore those near the bottom of the list.
Check their profile info – Apart from the obvious thing of checking if they have a blog have a look at a reviewer’s interests. Some clearly state whether they review books or don’t so make sure you don’t send your request to someone who won’t be interested. If their information doesn’t state whether they review books you can always try to contact them.
Check out their reviews (if they haven’t made them private) –Taking a look at the reviews they write is a good way of spotting someone’s review style. Some amazon reviewers will leave little more than a sentence while others like me will create a longer review with clear paragraphs. If the quality of the review matters to you make sure you don’t send your request to someone who won’t put more than a sentence. It’s also good to scroll down their review list to see if they have ever reviewed a book if they have other items there.
Be personal in your email – Some authors choose to mass email reviewers using a service like mailchimp or simply sending out the same email and copying lots of names into the recipient box of their email. There’s nothing actually wrong in doing this and indeed I have still reviewed a couple of books when I’ve been contacted in this way, however it’s very impersonal and the more I see emails from mailchimp the less interested I am in the offer as it feels I’m just any reviewer and the author doesn’t care much who reviews their books.
If you are going to mass email make sure you don’t make a mistake some amazon sellers make of adding email addresses using the CC button into the recipient box, use BCC instead. The first allows other reviewers to see all the addresses you’ve sent an email to and some reviewers don’t like the fact their emails are visible to everyone in this way. It will also show that you mass emailed everyone.
Don’t ignore international sites and check your profile – Most authors want to target amazon US and forget about the international sites. Worse still authors won’t update their profiles on other amazon sites. – An author I once reviewed for told me their historical novels sold better in the UK than in the US. Some books may sell better in a country if they are set in the same part of the world or have a certain sense of humour, etc.
As an author, you shouldn’t ignore your international sites and if you see a potential for your book to sell well in another country make sure you check your own profile there. Amazon doesn’t automatically update all author profiles internationally, especially not in the UK, and I’ve often come across a book who’s author is a little grey box!