The 5 Most Common Mistakes Writers Make When Seeking Book Reviews

Today’s guest post is by top Amazon reviewer Gisela Hausmann. This content originally ran on the Huffington Post, and it is reprinted here with her permission.

The day before yesterday, I received an email asking me to review an indie author’s book. Somewhat ironically, this request email stated, “As you liked (title of book), you might also love my newest book, (title), because it’s in the same category as the book you already reviewed . . .”

I remembered the book I supposedly “liked.” I didn’t like it at all; I had awarded it with a negative review.

Obviously, this indie author made a mistake; most likely, because he rushed trying to find as many top reviewers as possible to whom he could offer his book “in return for an objective and unbiased review.”

Desperately Seeking Reviews

Seeking reviews from Amazon top reviewers is a common practice among indie authors. Since only about one percent of readers review the books they read, indie authors, who don’t have a huge marketing budget, try to build up the number of reviews their books receive by asking top reviewers like me to read and review their books.

In doing so, indie authors’ marketing skills are ahead of Fortune 500 companies’. Today, eight out of ten customers consult online reviews when making the decision to buy. Trying to get as many reviews as possible is the “Next Great Thing” to boost sales.

As a result, Amazon top reviewers’ in-boxes are flooded with request emails. On average, the crème de la crème—Amazon’s Hall-of-Reviewers—receive more than two hundred requests per week.

Consequently, indie authors need to put in extra effort to make their case.

For instance, if this indie author would have written, “while checking out reviews at Amazon, I noticed that you weren’t quite happy with ( the competitor’s book) . . . My own book takes a different approach; it . . .” he would have had a much better chance at succeeding.

Here are five major mistakes to avoid:

Never Tailor a Template—Use Your Own Words

You are a writer. Most likely you want to make a living off writing. So use your own words to show off!

Tailoring a template is the direct opposite of making something look interesting and remarkable. Since almost all reviewers receive dozens of request emails per week, they are able to spot a template faster than you can say “template.”

Make Your Case for Your Book

Book reviewers enjoy reading outstanding books. Therefore, avoid worn-out phrases like “my book is similar to a book you have reviewed.” Instead, dazzle potential reviewers by telling them why your book is different from any other book they have read.

Avoid writing a Me-Mail!

Always remember that your request email is about your book. Writing “I have written a book about . . .” or “I was wondering . . .” and “so that can get some feedback . . .” suggests that your email is about your needs rather than about your book.

Instead, rephrase and write “you’ll love my book’s storyline/protagonist/setting because . . .”

Don’t Waste Words

An effective email is about 150 words long. To make your case convincing, don’t waste words. There is no need to write “I found your name on the list of top reviewers.” All top reviewers know that their name is on this list.

Don’t Give Up, and Don’t Ignore the Bottom Line

Without a question, an author’s worst mistake is giving up. Authors often stop contacting reviewers, and they don’t interpret rejections as signals to improve their emails. The bottom line of the whole process is this: top reviewers cannot read and review all books they get offered. Therefore, they see request emails as writing samples.

The most effective request emails are personalized emails that demonstrate that the author has done his homework. They will almost always get a reply, even from Hall-of-Fame reviewers.

Sometimes it helps to look at a reviewer’s profile for clues to personalizing the request. Relatively recently, I contacted a top reviewer myself and wrote, “Saw that you write lyrics for operas. I certainly appreciate that; I was born in Vienna . . .”

This is not flattery. The Vienna State Opera is one of the most famous opera houses in the world, where stars like Maria Callas, José Carreras, and Luciano Pavarotti sang. Certainly this reviewer would know that.

The reviewer took well to that approach and replied in less than thirty minutes. He began his email with the words “I appreciate your taking the trouble . . .”

All of us open our in-boxes in the hope that we’ll receive unexpected, awesome, or interesting news. We want to be surprised by emails from people who tell us that they can deliver what we want or need. The people who send us such emails receive our undivided attention.

Gisela Hausmann head shotGisela Hausmann is a top Amazon reviewer and the author of Naked Truths about Getting Book Reviews and Naked Truths about Getting Product Reviews.  She is also a PR coach and a Huffington Post contributor. Gisela Hausmann graduated from the University of Vienna’s Film and Mass Media program.

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      1. I’ve just started following you on twitter and goodreads and purchased your book on writing effective emails. I couldn’t find your blogs or I overlooked them. Could you please list them here?
        Thank you in advance.
        Shalom aleichem,

      2. Thank you so much, Gisela, for posting this! I will follow your advice as best I can, the next time I ask for a review. I hop tut means more posit responses. What you say makes so much sense.

          1. Sharon,
            Sci-Fi is an immensely popular genre; plus, it seems to be getting more popular every month (which considering the reports about natural disasters is probably quite logical; not to talk about NASA’s “Journey to Mars” tests.)
            Personally, I am into nonfiction.

  1. This is great advice. Many top reviewers already state on their profiles that they don’t read indie books, so I kind of moved away from asking. Thank you for this personal message of mistakes and positive support.

    1. Thank you, Denise. Sadly, there is a lot of incorrect information floating around.

      A quote from one of my other blogs: “… Among indie author topics, the question “how to get book reviews” is hugely popular. Authors who google “how to get reviews” find 85 million blogs and articles.
      Quite obviously, there aren’t 85 million experts in this specific topic. If indeed there were that many expert book reviewers, who have insider knowledge because they review lots of books, indie authors would have no problem finding book reviewers. This implies that many bloggers’ articles are mere guesses or hearsay…”

      Which also implies that the authors who seek reviews the right away, increase their chances exponentially. Good Luck!

  2. I’m curious. When requesting a review, do you find it best to include an eBook in the email? A link to a site where the book can be downloaded for free? Wait until you hear back from them?

    I always feel so pushy when I ask, and including the work just somehow makes it seem worse. But maybe that’s a standard practice. I don’t know.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Great thinking @Staci. No, please never send a book with a first email. Only upon request. Unless you know the reviewer very well and have announced that you will send a book sometimes in the near future, sending a ebook with a first email is the equivalent of,
      “Oh, fabulous! You have a garage at your house. I’ll park my car here for the moment.”

  3. I always wonder how my reviews affect book sales. I enjoy reading and really love the review process. I don’t mind receiving review requests. I don’t always respond, but when a book catches my attention whether by content or author, I take a look. Reading and reviews is an art and I enjoy being part of the author community.

  4. Hi Gisela, thanks for your informative article. I’ve shared via Twitter, which also goes to my facebook timeline.
    I read your reply to Staci and like your analogy. After the initial email and a reply is in the affirmative what are your thoughts on offering an e-book to read, or should it always be a print copy?

      1. Thanks Gisela for your prompt response. My apologies for the delay in replying to you. I’ve had a number of article deadlines with heaps of additional (and rather exciting) research whilst coping with a flare-up of a health condition. Unfortunately, this has all meant that it’s only now I am able to catch up on some very overdue correspondence.
        I read blogs from the links that you gave earlier – reassuring and helpful articles. Thank you

        with best wishes 🙂

  5. As a new author just ready to launch, I’m so glad I came across your article. Very helpful! Thank you so much!!

    1. You are welcome Jenny It is my mission to help indie authors; after all indie author marketing is tough enough. Please also look for my other blogs at the Huffington Post. Yesterday I published, “1-Star Book Reviews That Help Selling a Book”

  6. @Ferris Robinson
    Clearly I am doing something wrong because I can’t find your posting.
    Just wanted to say, I just came back from a day trip and found your happy posting in my email. Thank you for sharing. It’s always so good to hear about a positive impact. Thank you for sharing. Hope yo are happy with my book and that it answers all of your questions. Thank you again

  7. @Ferris Robinson
    Maybe now this works 🙂 LOL

    Clearly I am doing something wrong because I can’t find your posting.
    Just wanted to say, I just came back from a day trip and found your happy posting in my email. Thank you for sharing. It’s always so good to hear about a positive impact. Thank you for sharing. Hope yo are happy with my book and that it answers all of your questions. Thank you again

  8. How many millions of books are there produced annually? Thanks for the sage advice. This elderly indie author will continue to trudge along, whistling away, seeking some itsy bitsy corner of the market, content to write but not consumed by the business of it all. Peace!

  9. Fantastic advice here Gisela. Here’s hoping I can effectively put it into practice. I hadn’t actually considered approaching the Amazon Top-Reviewers for reviews of my work–lightbulb moment to say the least!

    This marketing business will be the death of me, I’m sure.

    1. Happy that you liked it. :))
      Please wait for my next blog regarding Amazon’s latest changes. Pls follow me on twitter so you won’t miss my blog when I post it later this afternoon.

  10. Hello all, this is the author of the blog “The 5 Most Common Mistakes Writers Make When Seeking Book Reviews.” Just wanted to say, “THX for the many kind words!” Of course, all of you are aware that with Amazon tightening their community guidelines three times since October 3, 2016 things have gotten tougher again: for authors AND for reviewers!!

    I am working on publishing the concept “Blue Print 2017,” that will help getting reviews under the conditions. Please stay tuned. If interested in learning about it please follow me on one of my many platforms. Everything should be all finished in about three to five weeks.

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