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Book Promotion: How Not To Annoy A Book Reviewer

Book Promotion: How Not to Annoy a Book Reviewer

Debbie Young making notesSome heartfelt advice about how indie authors should – and should not – go about soliciting book reviews for their self-published books from Debbie Young, who as both an author and a bookblogger can see the issue from both sides.

“Do you read any book or are you particular?” 

This question came from a middle-aged lady who had only just discovered the joy of reading for pleasure. Her query reminded me that some people simply do not realise just how many books are out there to choose from, waiting to be read. As a book reviewer, I sometimes wonder whether many authors don't realise that either, when approaching potential reviewers. They're sometimes astonished when I turn down their offer of a free book, as if I'm a book-starved reader, pathetically grateful because I'll never fulfil my hunger in any other way.

Some are also startled when I ask for a paperback rather than an ebook. I tell them I'm less likely to lose a paperback than an ebook in the black hole that is my Kindle, and therefore more likely to read and review it sooner. They react as if I'm being unreasonably greedy, complaining that it makes the process too expensive for them, forgetting that they're asking me to give them many hours of my time for free. Er, free books don't pay my bills, folks, and my time, charged at my normal commercial rate, will be worth far more than their paperback plus postage.

Actually, I'm facing a glut – a surfeit of books way beyond my capacity. The most books I am likely to read in a year is about 150. Some of those will be old favourites I'm rereading for fun, others will be birthday or Christmas gifts, or books that I'm reviewing for work purposes. (I review for various magazines and organisations such as Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the Historical Novel Society). This leaves maybe 100 openings for books offered to me by authors.

So many books to review, so little time...

So many books to review, so little time…

As a member of ALLi and an advocate of indie books, I read a lot of self-published books. As a highly-ranked reviewer on Amazon UK (currently hovering around the #1,300 mark), I get approached many authors of all kinds who are working their way down the list of their top reviewers. Here's the link to the list of top Amazon reviewers in the UK and in the US to help you do the same.

That's a great way to find potential users, if you use it wisely, and many do, approaching me with a personalised email, mentioning my other reviews, and demonstrating that they've hand-picked me for all the right reasons. Sadly, some still make some highly avoidable gaffes that are guarantted to make any potential reviewer's heart sink:

1. “I'm sure you'll love my violent pornographic political thriller set in a country you've never heard of and don't care about.”

When you're choosing who to approach, first make sure that they already read and review your genre. It is very easy to do this: you simply click on the reviewer's profile on Amazon to see their other reviews. Those with book blogs will probably also publicise their own review policy and preferences. Lots of erotica? Then don't offer them a children's picture book. All chicklit and historical novels? You're unlikely to convert them to sci-fi. Even if you persuade them to accept your book out of their comfort zone, remember that they may not enjoy it, because they're not familiar with your genre's conventions and standards, so are more likely to leave a less favourable review. There will be more appropriate reviewers out there. Find them.

Moral: Don't waste your time or reviewers' time by trying to fit a square book into a round hole.

2. “Please post your review on Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, and tweet/Facebook the links.”

Book reviewers are volunteers and should not be taken for granted. We are not the authors' paid PRs. We have other lives and other priorities. Book reviewers call the shots on where they post their reviews.

My usual minimum: Amazon UK, as that's my home territory, and often the US site too, if I have time. If I particularly like a book, or if the author is in a different Amazon territory, I'll probably copy it to their local Amazon sites too. If I like a book so much that I really want to promote it to my friends, I'll also add it to my bookblog, which I recently set up to write longer and more personal reviews, and to include links that would not be allowed on Amazon: www.debbieyoungsbookblog.com. (I'll be adding my back catalogue of reviews over the coming months.)

So when I gently reply “Sorry, I only post on Amazon and on my bookblog”, authors should not come back to me to say “Oh, it won't take long, you only have to cut and paste”. Book reviewers are not slaves to authors' commands, no matter how breezily they phrase their directives. If they're rude or presumptious, it's our prerogative not to post a review anywhere at all.

Moral: Don't look a gift reviewer in the mouth.

3. “Why only 4 stars? You clearly didn't interpret the book properly.”

I post long, detailed and considered reviews demonstrating my experience of a book. I tend not to include plot summaries because they're easily available elsewhere – I just share my honest response. Each reader's reaction will be different, and the author does not have the right to tell a reader that their reaction is wrong. My reviews are usually generous and upbeat, and any criticism is very constructive e.g. “the story was good enough to make me turn a blind eye to the odd typo”. (If I don't like a book enough to give a good review, I don't review it – that would spoil my pleasure.) Yet I've had some very odd and even aggressive responses, demanding to know why I've given “only” 4 stars, for example. I usually tell myself this is only the author's self-doubt speaking, and I reply courteously and assertively, already clear in my own mind that I will never review a book by that author again.

Moral: Respect your reviewers' views – and if you can't accept them, don't solicit them.

But now I'll get back to my reviewing to-do list, which today includes deciding how to respond to the oddest review query I've received to date – an email asking me my timescale for reviewing a book that the author hasn't finished writing yet!


Please feel free to share any top tips you have for finding book reviewers – or, if you review, any advice you'd like to offer authors.

#Authors - #toptips on how not to annoy #bookbloggers by @DebbieYoungBN Click To Tweet




This Post Has 37 Comments
  1. This is a great post! I ignore most requests, but the truth is if they email several times I may be annoyed, but I’ll also read their email (personally when I reach out to reviewers, I only do it once and don’t follow up, but a little persistence could improve results).

    Sometimes authors who review my books expect me to write them one in return, which can be awkward if I try to read their book but it’s low quality (if you’re pestering someone who said they’d review and they are making excuses or not responding, it may just be that they can’t endorse your book honestly – remember their reputation is on the line too, and maybe your book just isn’t a good fit for them).

    Also – Amazon just removed contact information from reviewers on Amazon (as of March 2018) – so it may be harder to find their emails now.

  2. One phrase comes to mind when I read your article: ‘Self-aggrandizement of epic proportions!’.

    Dear Debbie, I am sure there was a time when you were a first time author who was eager to get her first work reviewed.

  3. A very good point. Time is precious to writers and reviewers alike. Gently wooing the right reviewers into making time sounds much more effective than stalking a reviewer who isn’t going to find my work remotely interesting. 🙂

  4. This blog posting hits home too many points. In an online critique group I’m a member of, more often then not I run across some very rude authors who don’t appreciate the time and effort that it takes for some one to write a critique or a review. Authors as a whole need to behave in a mature and courteous manner, not act like a bunch of spoilt brats who’s egos have been pricked. (Not me mind you, some critiques can sting, but I find those ones tend to be the best kind in that they point out flaws without mollycoddling.

    You sound like a nice and fair reviewer. 🙂 When I finally finish my book and you have the time would it be alright to ask you to be a beta reader? Or if not anyone that happens across this comment and knows of a beta reader? I need all the help I can get. My book is a fantasy adventure in Third person limited.

    1. Hello,

      I don’t know if you are still looking for a reviewer/beta reader , but I would be happy to learn more details of your book!

      Please feel free to contact me on my email:

      [email protected]

      My book reviews are posted on Amazon U.S. and on my WordPress blog

  5. […] I have learned recently that one of the best ways to get publicity for a book, whether independently or traditionally published, is to have it read over by some legitimate book reviewers. It’s a terrifying experience (as I can tell you in detail here) but absolutely worth it. Here is a terrific Q&A from ALLi’s Debbie Young, a reviewer and self-publishing advocate, on how you can charm her into reading your book–and loving it. The article is originally from the ALLi self-publishing advice blog, and you can see the original here: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/how-to-get-book-reviews/ […]

  6. Dear Debbie,

    You were incredibly restrained in dealing with certain authors who clearly didn’t deserve your time and efforts.

    Personally, I have found that most readers were generous in their reviewing of my book Glaston Town.
    For that, I was most grateful. However, one should never take any reviewer for granted. If any of them happens to read this comment, know that you were appreciated.

    My only sadness is that your taste in literature might not suit this particular novel (e.g.: a gritty Dickensian novel). Otherwise, I’d be on to you like a shot. Bless you for all that you do to encourage writers.

    Again, thank you for educating the renegades.

    Céline La Frenière

  7. As a writer and reviewer myself, I’ve got your back with this post! The tips offered here are at the top of my list as well. I even have a page on my book blog which is clearly marked “guidelines” but no one reads them. Sigh….

  8. Thank you for writing such a kind, thoughtful post about reviewing. I have to say I get authors who are not quite aware of all the little things it takes… not to mention the time and THINKING. I love how you say you sent boundries and make suggestions. And your out-take-quotes are priceless.

    Thank you for keeping it light heated and informative.

    Karrie Ross

  9. Your blogpost was an eye-opener, Debbie. People really are exceedingly bad mannered, or incredibly insensitive. These kinds of people never seem to put themselves into the reviewer’s shoes and ask themselves, ‘Would I mind this approach?’

    It’s rather put me off asking anyone for a review (other than people I know who’ve already bought it), but I might gather courage in a week or two. 😉

  10. Very useful tips. The main challenge I’ve found with using the Amazon list is that many book reviewers who appear to include my genre (contemporary romance) don’t provide any contact details. In fact, some specify that they don’t want to be sent books for review. It can be discouraging. Indeed, for relatively new writers, it can seem a bit like a conundrum with no solution: in order to get sales, get Amazon reviews, and in order to get Amazon reviews, get sales (so that you’re moving up the rankings). I’m reminded of the advice that “If I was going there, I wouldn’t start from here…..” 😉
    I have hard very, very mixed reports of the likely efficacy of blog tours – and it’s difficult to sort out the good from the bad, unless you’re in the know.
    I’m happy to send out paperback books to potential reviewers – but I’d like to be sensibly selective in this, since well-produced paperbacks plus postage are a considerable expense.
    For those starting out along the self-publishing road, the whole business of getting reviewed can SEEM like esoteric knowledge available only to the select few!

    1. Hello there,

      I’m not sure if you’re still interested in a reviewer but I have read and reviewed genres in rom as nice and contemporary romance.

      I would be more than delighted to read and post a review on Amazon U.S and my WordPress blog.

      I would not mind receiving a paperback or if it’s easier for you, an e-book copy (preferably mobi format )

      Please feel free to contact me at :

      [email protected]

  11. As an unpublished author, and a disabled writer, it is a challenge to create a “Perfect” book.

    I’m only able to “Polish”, edit and grammar the best I am able to. manuscript services which could make a so-so book a wonderful read are out of my budget greatly.

    So what I am stuck with is to do the best I can.

    I hope from reading all the articles I can that I can become a better writer.

    Raymond Cook

    1. Hi Raymond, it’s a key thing that any self-published book is as professional on the exterior and interior as a traditionally published one – it is the only way we can claim equality with more traditional and often-exclusive publishing systems. However, paying in money is only one way to gain extra eyes to look over your work. There are other options that only cost you in time, not cash, such as face-to-face or online critiquing groups. Have a look at some of the groups here for ideas – I’ve heard the communities can be very supportive, and it will really help with improving a work. You pay it back by reading and commenting on other people’s work, which also teaches you a great deal and makes you more reflective about the craft of writing. Hope that it useful! Karl

  12. Rosalind, you made me chuckle. I love your attitude Debbie, that if you don’t like a book it would spoil your pleasure to write about it. Only once or twice have I disliked a book so much that it gave me a thrill of schadenfreude to write about it.
    My only disappointment as a beginning reviewer has been that I met an author who was absolutely lovely. The subject of her novel was original and interesting and she’s put in a grand effort. But the book just wasn’t that good. Poorly enough written that I gave up after the first 2 or 3 chapters, I felt badly because I liked her enough to promise a review. Lesson learned on my part and I trust she is learning also.
    It was a little bit of the same feeling you had when you took the romances to the op shop, Rosalind, except that I had, at least, increased her sales by one.

  13. I tend to think that most of the time the best reviews to get – as in the reviews that are most likely to sell more copies of your book – are 4 star reviews. Reviews that maybe talk about one or two issues the reviewer had with the book, but still endorse it overall. Especially now that we all know how many of those 5 star reviews are bought and paid for… Ironically enough, on fiverr!

  14. I absolutely love this post and can only agree to every single point you mentioned. I still don’t understand why anyone would approach a reviewer whose style they’re not familiar with. My policy is extremely precise and yet the majority of inquiries I get are for books that I would never read and/or pick up in a book store.

    Unfortunately you are so right – authors are taking us reviewers for granted. This is exactly why I refrain from reviewing any more self-published books. I only had negative experiences with self-published authors. Not necessarily due to the quality of their work, but due to their reactions to my reviews. I’m a picky reader. If you offer me books that are out of my comfort zone, there’s a 70% chance you’ll get a one-star review.

    At this point I’m not even replying to pitches for books that are obviously not anything that I’d pick up. I’m all about mutual respect and I think it’s very disrespectful and impolite to just scroll through my blog to find my contact address and spam with a pitch, regardless of my preferences. It literally takes five minutes to read a policy. It definitely takes more than five minutes to read your book.

    Loved the line about the book-starved reader – it’s so true. Free books aren’t paying my rent 😉

  15. I love the potent message delivered with just a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. Laughing as we learn is always a welcome experience.

    – damon

  16. Thanks for informative post. When I worked, I wrote reports as a part of earning a living. Now I write for fun with a goal of entertaining readers. After years of query rejections and a few solicited ms rejections, I tried the indie route. At last people that buy books read mine. I jumped from genre to genre, writing for the joy of creating stories (including a memoir). Except for a brief paid marketing attempt, I am in effect the king of my freebie kingdom, so to speak. My screenplay on Amazon Studios site remains free on the Cloud (adapted from Atlantic City Nazi my most popular novel among readers that are friends, classmates, and fellow dog-walkers. The novel I had the most fun writing is based on experiences watching employees and customers while sitting in a bookstore for hours. (Redirects to all Amazon markets) http://bookShow.me/B008CQUY5K/ — title: Slush Pile Inspector. Next in popularity is novella, http://bookShow.me/B00GZ9CBU2/ — Pirate story (all ages). Best regards, Charles

  17. This is really interesting, many thanks. In the past I got early reviews via things like Goodreads Giveaways, but they tend to hand all responsibility for selecting appropriate people to an algorithm, which is not often good. I’ve often had people requesting the book who looked ideal, who read and enjoyed similar books – then Goodreads will send me a list of who to send copies to, and I’ll look at their profiles, and wonder why on earth they were chosen, because they seemed to be people who requested every book in every giveaway regardless of genre/topic, just to get free books, and rarely reviewed or rated any of them… This time I am interested in spending time researching reviewers and making polite contact with a very short list of those who seem like they’d be most interested in reading a copy (whether electronic or print!)

  18. These are all great points, and I wish writers would keep them in mind. The one that resonated most with me (being a writer) is the “only 4 stars” point. A 4-star review is a great. I can’t understand why writers feel they must get a 5 or the world is coming to an end. Time after time, though, I run into writers who complain to me that they got “only 4 stars”. I tell them anything 3 or above is something to be thankful for. A 3-star is a C, and a C is passing.

  19. You have certainly had some cheeky writers. Generosity is sometimes awkward too. Like the woman who offered you a book you felt too able to refuse, I was not actually pleased when a large carton of Mills and Boon were gifted to me – left outside my front door with a little card, ‘These are all for you. You’re the only writer I know.’ Unfortunately, romance is not a genre I write or read. It was a heavy haul for me to take to the charity shop.

  20. Very good points made. My worst problem was when I offered to help out someone who was looking for reviewers. He then told me that his book was available on kindle unlimited. I said I don’t have kindle unlimited, but I’d be happy to receive an electronic copy. I never heard any more.
    I’m usually happy to review a book if asked, but please don’t expect me to buy a copy or source a copy myself in order to review it – I have plenty of books I’d choose to read already.

  21. I’m going to be organising a book blog tour for my second book soon. The last time, I had organised for four reviewers and a couple more contacted me to ask if they could review. I’m going to ask all six again and also contact some female farming bloggers (farmers are my target market) that I’ve got to know over the last few years.
    I have to admit that I only accept books to review that I know I will want to read. There’s nothing as bad as feeling you have to read a book while you have lots of other books there that you want to start.

  22. Good tips!

    My other tip would be that if you approach a lot of reviewers and none of them want to review your book, there are probably issues with the cover, book description or opening pages. I check out the Amazon book page and Kindle sample before agreeing to review, and any book I turn down usually has issues in one of these areas (like the “contemporary romance” with a picture of Jesus on the cover).

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