One day, I woke up and discovered that I was an Amazon Top Reviewer. This isn’t that big of a deal, not to me anyway, but it seems to be for prospective authors looking to get some respectable reviews (I surmise from the increased number of review requests I receive). Since I enjoy reading, I’m inclined to oblige…if certain basic conditions are met first.

This morning, I received a review request which made me think, I should write a blog entry to help other prospective (especially indie) authors not make the same mistakes.

(Email is as-is; edits noted within brackets.)

From: Amazon Author <[REMOVED]@gmail.com>
To: <undisclosed-recipients>
Bcc: reviews@mildinsanity.com
Date: Sun, Dec 11, 2011 at 4:53 AM
Subject: Can you please Review my new Romance Novel

Hi,

I got your Email address from the list of Amazon Top Reviewers.

I hope you will accept my new release on Amazon titled as
“[REMOVED]” which comes under Fiction » Romance » General.

If you think you might be interested in checking out my e-book
and posting an honest review of it on Amazon.

I’ll gladly send you link to complimentary copy of my e-book.

Best Regards,

At first glance, you might wonder: What’s wrong with that? He seems earnest and polite.

But, if you look closely, you’ll notice the flaws:

  • The author used a dummy email account and didn’t sign his name;
  • The author  sent a mass mailing likely to all the email addresses he scraped from the Amazon website (the big tip-off was the “undisclosed recipients” with my email as a Bcc)–this is basically SPAM;
  • The author didn’t take the time to browse through even a few of my book reviews because he would have learned I rarely review general romance;
  • The author can barely craft a proper sentence.

Ultimately, by sending this email, he’s wasted his time because 99% of the reviewers won’t even respond, and the ones who do will probably decline. How do I know this? Reviewers chat, and a few pet peeves often come up.

If you’re an author looking to get your book reviewed by any reviewer, here are a few things that might endear her to your cause:

  • Make sure your book jives with her interests: Browse through her review history to make sure she even reads and reviews in your genre. If not, move on to the next reviewer. (Proselytizing rarely works.)
  • If she has a review policy, read it and abide by it: Some reviewers will tell you in which format they prefer their books, or whether they’ll accept review requests at all. If you can’t (or won’t) meet the posted requirements, move on to the next reviewer.
  • Include a brief synopsis of the story: Reviewers are people, too. They have lives filled with obligations likely to include a huge stack of other books to read. They don’t have time to read several pages of story overview. As a rule of thumb, the reviewer should have a complete idea of your book in 500 words or less.
  • Don’t bash your book in an effort to appear self-deprecating: If you don’t think your book is worth the read, how can you expect a reviewer to? Make sure your book is as polished as it can be before releasing it into the wild.
  • Have a sample chapter or two ready: Assuming your overview hooked the reviewer, rather than have her track down a sample of your book, include a link to it somewhere in your email. Make sure it’s an ample sample (1-2 full chapters) and that it’s not in some weird proprietary format (eh hem, .mobi or .lit, etc.)–PDF or HTML are generally good options.
  • Exclude the author bio unless it’s relevant or useful: I don’t care how old an author is or where she’s from unless it’s relevant or can open a dialogue (i.e. a CIA operative that went rogue to pen the world’s best novel; or we attended school together; &c.), otherwise, it’s just more cruft to read in an otherwise busy life.
  • Go the extra mile: Anyone who reads my Amazon profile can learn my first name, and that I’m not a “Mr.” , in about 10 seconds if they truly cared to find out. I’m more receptive to the authors who go that extra mile and address me by name, or at least, a proper salutation. Maybe include a personal detail or compliment (I enjoyed your review of XYZ because of ABC). It’s small, but can get your foot in the door.
  • And, of course, proofread your email: This one should be rather obvious.

I’m not saying that if you do everything on this list that every reviewer you contact will read and review your work, but it might just improve your chances overall.