Reviews – the good, the bad and the scams!
I recently wrote a guest post called Indie Authors—Getting Those All-Important Reviews for Mystery Writing is Murder. Reviews are important for both readers and authors, but it is so very important that they are genuine – which is why I devoted a whole post to how to get those all important real ones and I’ve decided to bring it forward in my schedule on this blog, as it is a topic that is quite hot at the moment due to the number of scams that are sadly around. If you’ve read it on Mystery Writing is Murder this is a similar post, but with maybe a few extra angles.
As an author, I love getting a review. It’s a sign (usually) that somebody has read my book, because although I know how many thousands have bought it, I don’t know how many have read it. So it’s great – especially, of course, if the reader has loved it.
But bad reviews are good too – in an entirely different way. I think that most authors, if they are honest with themselves, know that their book probably has some flaws. Indie authors are particularly sensitive to this, because they haven’t had some super-experienced editor crawling all over it. I generally know what are the strengths and weaknesses in my writing, and sometimes a bad review points these out. Fair enough – and it just reminds me how much harder I need to work.
But reviews really do matter, and it’s normally not enough to just sit there and wait for them to come along. They will arrive eventually – but it takes time. When you first publish on Amazon or anywhere else for that matter, you have an excellent opportunity for getting your book in front of millions of people by being popular in the “new releases – last 30 days” section, so trying to get some reviews then is so important.
In an ideal world, you would hold off on the publication of your book until you had a lot of reviewers ready and willing to post their thoughts. That would be perfect, because you could start off with a number of reviews which could drive you straight to the top of the “when viewed by average review” chart in the new releases. (I’m assuming they would all be good ones, here!)
In reality, most of the authors that I’ve been chatting to have already published and are wondering what to do about getting more reviews. There are literally thousands of reviewers out there, waiting to get a copy of your book. Most of them do have a very long waiting list – so get on it, and do it quickly.
Is there a right way to ask for a review?
As somebody who is often asked to review books, I have to say that the quality of the requests that I get is not great. I have honestly had requests that say :
<link to book>
So if I am going to find out about the book, I have to click on the link, read the blurb, possibly look at the tags to find out what the genre is … Your reviewer shouldn’t have to do this. They should be provided with all the information in a highly professional way.
Compare the above with this :
This is the review request that I send out accompanied by a polite email requesting that the reviewer considers my book. The one above is a bit out of date, but you get the idea. It takes a bit of time to create the review request (although I also use it for interview requests) but once it’s created, it just needs to odd tweak before it’s sent out each time.
If it’s difficult to read like this, you can download a PDF to have a look at here.
I know for a fact that I have been bumped up a number of queues, because reviewers have assumed that my book will be as professional as my review request. They start reading with the right impression.
Once you have asked for the review, you hope for a positive response from the reviewer. I don’t think you should send a copy of your book with the initial request, because first of all it is presumptuous – it suggests that you think they are going to want to review it. Secondly, you don’t know what format they will want, unless this is stated clearly in their submission guidelines. So in the email that you send with your review request, you can ask them the question. Offer them as many options as possible – mobi, epub, PDF etc and ask them to let you know which format they would like. Of course, make sure you have checked their submission guidelines thoroughly, because if they have stated a preference, you need to say that you are happy to send the format they’ve requested.
When you (hopefully) get a positive response, you need another little set of goodies ready to go. Ask yourself what reviewers need when they are going to write about your book? If it’s just on Amazon, they don’t need anything. But if they have a blog, it would be so much better if they have a copy of your book cover, possibly your photo (although I try to avoid this myself!), and links to your books. They shouldn’t have to find this information! You need to send it.
So when you respond with the copy of the book, include a short note that thanks them for agreeing. Say you hope they like it, and that you have included some additional resources that they may, or may not need. Then list them, and attach any images. I would LOVE it if people always did this. If they don’t, I have to grab an image off Amazon, save it, and then load it into my blog. Okay, it’s five minutes – not too long – but then I have to go back and get the link, and to Amazon.com as well as UK – and I sometimes put off writing a review because of the faffing around (British term!) that I have to do. So make it as easy as possible.
Now – where are you going to find those reviewers?
At the bottom of this post you will find a truly massive list which has been put together by author Greg Scowen, and he’s kindly allowed me to use it. I haven’t checked it out, and he admits that it’s not a finished list, but these are all clickable links – so it’s not going to be a massive job to find out which ones work!
And the scams?
The title of this post was The Good, The Bad and The Scams – so what is that all about?
One reason for bringing this post forward was that I had been reading on various forums about the frustration that some authors have at not being able to get reviews. Possibly because they are not going through the process of asking for them – but nevertheless, some unpleasant facts were mentioned.
Some authors swap reviews with other authors. Many of them say that their reviews are always going to be honest – but hang on … would you really give somebody a terrible review if you knew they were going to review yours? I sincerely doubt it – so it’s not a good idea, and if people cross check they will discover this.
I also learned that people are buying reviews from that famous site where you can get anything for a fiver. Three good reviews, all in different names. Or three bad ones, if you want to be nasty to somebody who’s doing better than you. All for just a fiver. Horrible.
I’ve had a couple of interesting scams recently. The first was a very nice 4 star review. It didn’t say much, but it was a 4 star. It did say “if you enjoyed this book, you might also like …” and named another book, but I didn’t think much of it until a fellow author tweeted me. “Check out his other reviews,” she said. And there they were. The top six books on Amazon that day all had an identical review, all mentioning this other “great” book. And guess what was the only other book he’d reviewed? The one he was telling everybody to read, of course, and he’d given it 5 stars. But the clincher was his name. His Amazon pseudonym was an anagram of the name of the author of the 5 star book! Oops!
Yet another one was a nasty 1 star. When I looked at all the other reviews from this person, there were five books. But all by the same author, all with 5 stars. When I checked out the books, she was the ONLY person to have given the books 5 stars. Could this be the author, I thought? Could she be hoping that a bad review of my book would drive people to find out what she did like, and so drive people to her books? Amazon actually deleted that review – I don’t know why. But I suspect that she was sussed!
Getting real reviews from experienced reviewers is so very important. They stand out a mile. My top rated review (on the “most helpful” scale) is from one of the Amazon top 1000 reviewers. She has reviewed 34 books, and her review is a couple of decent sized paragraphs. My bottom five (which all came after my book became more prominent) are one sentence long, from reviewers who between them have not reviewed one other book – just two pairs of fake Ugg boots and a roll of clingfilm! I am sure the majority of readers are smart enough to work out the difference!
So if you do get bad reviews and they’re not from a sensible source – do not despair – you are not alone! Just make sure that you put in the time and effort to get the good ones, and they will make all the difference.
Here’s that list from Greg. More details about Greg and his writing is given at the bottom of the list – but he’s written what sounds like an excellent book which I can’t wait to read.
As always, I would love your feedback!
The Spanish Helmet – Two men, separated by centuries. Two adventures, destined to rewrite a nation’s history. Trailer: The Spanish Helmet on YouTube
Support the translation of The Spanish Helmet into German!
The debut novel from Swiss/New Zealand author Greg Scowen. Available in Kindle and paperback formats. Find it on: