An Interview with an Amazon Top Reviewer

An Amazon Top Book Reviewer Reveals Best Ways to Get Reviews

Amazon Top Reviewer on asking for book reviewsAmazon’s Top 10,000 reviewers are an elite group of reviewers who are both prolific in the number of reviews they post and helpful to other customers, as measured by helpful votes on their reviews. Amazon publishes a list of their Top 10,000, some of whom have their email address listed right on their profile.  If you’re a self published author hoping for more reviews, you should approach these book lovers about reviewing your book. For detailed directions on how and what to say, see THIS ARTICLE.

Top reviewers are contacted for reviews on a daily basis, so insight into what makes a book catch a Top Reviewer’s attention can help authors get their books noticed and reviewed. This reviewer is only 1 of 10,000 but we thought it would still be helpful to find out what she looks for in a book submitted for review, and what authors can do to improve their chances of getting her and other Amazon Top Reviewers to write about their books. We are not disclosing her name or “handle” on Amazon so as not to have her deluged with even more requests than she normally gets.

RWJ: How did you get to be a Top Reviewer?

Accidentally, I guess. I’ve been using Amazon for years and rely on reviews, plus I always have a lot to say about everything, so I started writing reviews. And Amazon would email me when someone said it was helpful, and before I knew it, I was on the list.

RWJ: Where are you on the list?

It varies. I’ve been as high as 4,000 but right now I’m somewhere around 5,000.  I don’t pay much attention to the rankings, though I know a lot of Top Reviewers do. It can get pretty competitive, in fact.

RWJ: Do you have contact with each other? You and the other Top Reviewers?

There’s a special forum for us but I only use it every once in a while.

RWJ: You have your email on your profile, so authors can contact you.  How many review requests do you get?

It varies but probably about 15 to 20 a week. I review products too, so I get those requests.

RWJ: There’s been publicity about Top Reviewers getting all kinds of free items from Amazon.

Amazon Top Reviewers EditingNot from Amazon, but from people selling as Amazon Associates. Maybe the top 100 reviewers get showered with cars and houses, but I mostly get offers for free extension cords and selfie sticks in exchange for an honest review. Not so glamorous.

RWJ: Is there any one thing that will make you turn down a review?

I won’t accept a product that I wouldn’t normally use in my daily life.  In terms of books, there are certain genres that I don’t feel qualified to review in. I once got a request to review a bible, and I know nothing whatsoever about the bible.  I won’t review a book if I don’t feel like I have something intelligent to say about it that would help other customers decide whether to buy it. I also tend to favor writers who email me themselves, rather than having a PR person do it.

RWJ: We asked you in advance to think about 3 things that influence your decision to say yes or no to a book review request.Amazon Top Reviewers Advice for getting reviews

That’s hard because I think it changes. The genre matters, but sometimes I go through a period of reviewing thrillers and then get tired of them and don’t take those reviews for a while. But genre matters. I also think that what’s written in the email matters. If someone sends me a boilerplate email I am less likely to be interested, regardless of genre.  I’m not saying I want 500 word emails, but when an author tells me why she or he wrote the book or what it means or shows the passion behind it, I think I’m more likely to want to review that book.  I have a great respect for people who choose to write books, so that definitely helps. And last, and I hate to admit this, but I think that the book’s cover matters. It’s hard not to be influenced by it, even though I know the cover and what’s inside often have nothing to do with each other!

RWJ: You see hundreds of self published books. Do you notice any trends and what do you think authors could do to improve books and get more reviews?

I hate to say it, but lately I’ve been adding information about the book’s editing to my reviews. Because, honestly, there are some really badly written books on Amazon. Books with major grammar problems and punctuation that makes it hard to read. So my number one piece of advice is get an editor.  A professional editor. Seriously. You as the writer know the book inside out so you’re probably too close to edit it. Get someone else, who does it for a living. I’ve come across so many books lately where, in the middle of a scene, I have no idea who is speaking.  That’s an editing issue.

I also don’t think there is enough attention paid to book descriptions. I don’t know if the writers just burn out or what, but I will see some pretty boring descriptions for books that turn out to be very good. Or descriptions that actually don’t describes the book at all. Besides the cover, the description is what’s going to sell your book so I think you should put a lot of work into it or get a professional to write it.

RWJ: If you were an author, writing to Amazon reviewers, what would you say?

I think I would try to make my book and my email distinctive in some way, by including a quote or mentioning other books I’d written or even saying “Here’s why you should read my book: it’s funny or it’s the most inventive thriller since ‘Gone Girl'” Anything to stand out from the herd. Don’t be afraid to sell your book. If you believe in it, you should say why. And I would follow up with reviewers if I hadn’t heard back after a few weeks. I know that for me as a reviewer, I sometimes get an email from a writer and mean to reply, but forget. So sometimes a gentle nudge helps. And, really, you have nothing to lose by asking twice. The last thing is that I would try to personalize the email.  I understand that authors are probably sending out hundreds of emails so personalizing isn’t practical all the time. But if there are a few reviewers who are active in your genre or reviewers whose opinions you really want, then mention other reviews they’ve written or reference an interest they have listed on their profiles. So it doesn’t seem like you’re writing just because they are another name on the reviewers list.

RWJ: Has Amazon been good for books? For writers?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer that and you will get very different opinions depending on who you ask. Ask Hachette. Ok, well, the democratization aspect, yes, of course. Anyone can publish and, as far as I know, Amazon is really good about not censoring or limiting what books can be sold on their site.  But that means there is a whole lot of crap out there and it can be hard to tell the difference between the good and the bad. It seems like there is so much emphasis on marketing instead of writing. When you had to go through a publisher, the publisher had a marketing department and writers, for the most part, just wrote. I guess I’m troubled by the focus on packaging instead of writing. And I find the categories on Amazon strange. Is there really that much call for angel shape shifter fiction or, you know, all these micro-categories? Are there tons of people looking to buy books in those categories? Maybe. It seems like there is less and less Amazon Top Reviewers COVERS AND DESCRIPTIONSliterary fiction and more BBW romances set on a tropical island and featuring a werewolf. You know, these strange genres seem to be squeezing literary fiction out. Amazon, well I think that Amazon wants to not have to deal with publishers at all. That seems to be the direction they’re going and I appreciate the fact that they have opened up publishing and taken a lot of the elitism out of the process. But there is a place for publishers and editors. Great editors are on a par with great writers and big publishers have become curators, in a way. When I see a book published by Simon & Schuster or another respected publisher, I know there’s going to be a certain level of quality. I might not like the book, but I know at least the punctuation will be right and there won’t be typos. To be honest, I don’t buy all my books on Amazon. I live in New York City and we still have independent book stores. They’re great places and I try to shop there as much as possible.

Don’t tell Amazon that though!

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