As part of my promotional efforts for Pathfinders, I decided to contact Amazon Top Customer Reviewers to see if they would be interested in reviewing my book.
The reason? As a regular customer of Amazon, my purchasing decision is influenced by the strength of product reviews, and their source.
Some context for those who don’t know me. This was my first novel.
I didn’t want to adopt tactics that some self-published authors use – buying reviews or getting an extensive network of social contacts, friends and family to leave glowing praise with very little substance.
I’ve bought self-published books and soon regretted it, buyers remorse kicking in soon after I spot the first typo (usually on the first page). The quantity of the reviews on Amazon help inflate the average score, so I always look for the hallmark of a quality reviewer that, at the very least, has a name and identity, who, in theory, takes the responsibility and review seriously.
Using the following method (which I’ll admit might not be perfect) I received reviews from two Amazon Top Reviewers – (in the Top 500 and 1000 respectively).
Here’s what I did.
- Check the Listings here.
- Click each individual profile in turn. Be warned, this is a LONG AND SLOW process.
- Check for four things – Is there an email provided? – Do they review self-published books? – Are they open to reviewing books in your genre? – Glance at the history and check if they have been active in the past few months.
- If all the above boxes are ticked, create an email template which will be modified slightly according to each reviewer. The template I used is below.
Because of how long this process takes, trawling through 1000 Amazon Reviewer profiles (it probably took me 16 hours in total), we want to make the process as quick as possible.
However, mass emails are a big no-no! Other big no-no’s include:
- Long winded emails.
- Not doing research. Certain reviewers prefer delivery of a book in paperback format – is that something you can provide?
- Self-praise. You aren’t the best thing since J.K. Rowling. If you were, you would outsource the marketing of your book to someone else.
- Sending attachments. This should be a relatively short intro email pitching your book. If the reviewer is interested, they will message you back.
- Bad spelling. If you can’t edit your email, it’s not going to reflect kindly on your book.
- Pushy. Your offer of a free book is nowhere near as valuable as an endorsement from a Top Reviewer. Remember, they’re doing you the favour.
With that being said, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time we create an email and send to individual reviewers.
My email was made up of three parts.
Part One – About them. This is a tactic I used successfully canvassing for new business when I was working in sales. People are more likely to read on if the first line speaks to them (especially if its a compliment).
Part Two – Get to the point. Short pitch of your story and genre.
Part Three – Make the offer. Ideally have more than one medium available for the reviewer to choose from. A discount code, PDF download or coupon are all out. If you’ve done your research, you should have identified someone who is a book reviewer on Amazon, at least some of the time. He/She probably has a Kindle or digital reader so a .mobi file should be easy for you to send.
In the case of my emails, only the 1st part changed. Typically, I praised them about a book review they had recently made. Usually I would look through their recent history on their Amazon author profile and find a book that was similar to mine, in my genre, or one that I had read and could make an educated point about in the email.
Again, this takes a little extra time and effort but I would hazard that most first-time authors slip up in this respect. Remember, Amazon Top Reviewers are bombarded with products and book offers. We’re trying to stand our from the crowd and that opening line is important to hook them. It’s worth taking the extra 60 seconds to see what they’ve reviewed lately.
A note to be made here. My subject line and genre pitch might differ slightly based on the Amazon Reviewers profile. In some cases, the reviewer mentions an interest in Irish literature and I’d include in the subject line ‘Sci-Fi Thriller from an Irish Author‘. Others may be turned off by sci-fi yet enjoy thriller so I’d drop the sci-fi tag in the subject line.
Note that I’m not being completely dishonest. Many books don’t fall neatly into one genre – we’re just putting our best foot forward and choosing one that resonates with the Reviewer.
Getting down to the stats then-
- 1000 Profiles Checked
- 87 Profiles which match criteria above
- 87 Emails sent
- 15 Responses (17%)
- 5 Reviewers agreed to receive a free copy
- 2 Reviews posted
Those that responded in the negative were polite about it. A stacked reading list or disinterest in the genre were cited as the main reasons.
Three reviews are still out there and pending, two months on. Whether they’re sitting at the bottom of the book pile or dropped off the radar, it’s hard to say. I’ll probably follow up with a polite email in due course, though it’s important to be respectful and not piss people off.
Has it been worth it?
One reviewer told me that their review, regardless of whether it was positive or negative, could help boost your visibility on Amazon. I’ve yet to see that, to be honest. Many self-published authors have become runaway bestsellers without the endorsement of a power reviewer, but from a consumer perspective, I would feel a lot more comfortable about buying a product if it received a stamp of approval from someone that wasn’t nameless or a first time commenter.
Worst case scenario, you receive a great review that doesn’t shift sales of your book but which you can use on a blurb or in the Editoral Reviews.
Actually…worst case scenario is the review is scathing and those two entire days you spent canvassing for opinion have been a waste.
So I guess you need to ask yourself, how confident are you in what you’ve written?