4 Important Review Tips for Authors by guest Amazon Top Reviewer @TracyRiva via @BadRedheadMedia

By Rachel Thompson | Author Marketing

Jul 20

4 Important Review Tips for Authors by guest Amazon Top Reviewer Tracy Riva 

I’m honored to have Top Reviewer and friend Tracy Riva here today to offer an expert reviewer’s advice to help all authors. Thank you, Tracy, for visiting and sharing your wisdom! 

 

 

Rachel, I’d like to start off by thanking you for having me today. As you know I run my own website, Tracv Riva Books & Reviews, but I also run my reviews in the Midwest Book Review and I am an Amazon Top Reviewer. Also, as a courtesy to the authors whose books I review, I also place a copy of their review on Goodreads. I also recently spent several months as a judge for the Second Annual Global eBook Awards because of my experience as a reviewer and as an editor. The reviewers who contract under me also place their reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as on my site. I run a very professional organization and we are in demand by authors, publishers and publicists.

 

How do you tell reader reviews from reviewer reviews on Amazon?

The easiest way to tell a reviewer review is by clicking on the reviewer’s name. This will tell you how many reviews the reviewer has written if it is less than 25 or so you are generally safe in assuming it is a reader review. Also look to see the reviewer’s Amazon standing; if they have Top Reviewer status then they are definitely a reviewer.

The other way to tell is to look at the way the way the reviewer talks about the book. Does he or she use words like storyline and plot development? Does the reviewer speak of character development, round and flat characters, grammatical or spelling errors? These are often points the seasoned reviewer will speak of but the casual reader leaving a review will leave untouched. Also, if it is a “negative” review how is it presented? Does it mention any strong points the book had and then go on to mention the problem(s) the reviewer had with the book. Is the negative review done in a professional manner or is it a scathing review of the book? Most reviewers understand that books are kind of like the author’s baby and no one wants to hear they have an ugly baby, so we try to word our criticism constructively rather than flaming the author or the book.

Are there guidelines reviewers should follow?

The first guideline reviewers should follow, and in fact are required to follow by law, is to report any compensation, including free books, that they receive in return for giving their review. On my website there is a page labeled “Notice” and on that page we state that with a few exceptions where reviewers purchase books for review, books are supplied by the author or publisher in return for an honest review of the book.

On my website we have a policy that if a book is really bad, we contact the author and tell him or her what the problem is and make suggestions on how to fix it. We tell them any review we write on the book will be negative and why, and ask them if they still want us to go ahead and write the review. If they say yes, we write the review, but if they say no, we simply forget about the book. We only do this for books we would give a two-star or less review to. That may sound a bit dishonest, but I have discovered that indie authors in particular travel in packs and when one gets a negative review at least ten other authors jump on board to say they didn’t find the review helpful or write a negative comment about the review, so to preserve my reviewers standing on Amazon I suggest they contact the writer for reviews that would less than three stars. As for myself, the only time I won’t publish a review is if I find myself unable to finish the book for one reason or another. There has been one exception to this rule; I haven’t published a review of a good book by an indie author who got her historical facts wrong because I know that when I publish that criticism the pack of vultures will descend. I actually have the review written, I just haven’t published it yet.

As for other guidelines, I think the most important one is to be honest, which my previous guideline seems to contradict but we are always honest about our opinion of the book and the author knows our position, we just don’t always publish the review. It’s also important to give an approximate timeline for a review and do your best to stick to it. If you do have a delay you should try to let the author know about it, for example I am having unplanned knee surgery sometime next month which will push my review schedule back by a few weeks to as much as a month, depending on how long I am on strong pain medication. I have to inform all the authors in my queue, which stretches to Thanksgiving of the pending delay.

Another guideline I think is important is to stick to genres you really like because if you are reviewing a genre you can’t enjoy then it is going to be really difficult to give an honest review of the material because you won’t be able to truly appreciate it.

Don’t be afraid of saying your schedule is full and do not overcommit yourself – this is something I still struggle with. You will fall behind on your schedule and you will be viewed as unreliable. Try to always contact an author if there is some reason you don’t do a promised review to avoid the same problem. Generally speaking I write all the reviews I promise unless I can’t manage to finish the book.

Why do I think authors are behaving badly?

I’ve actually been extremely lucky in this respect, 90% of the writers I work with have been great, but there is that other 10%. I’ve been told off a couple of times for not wanting to review a book and I was told by one author whose book I wasn’t even able to finish that I had no taste.

I think part of the reason writers behave badly comes back to the idea that their books are their babies, they’ve poured their time, energy and in the case of indie publishers, their hard earned money into their books. They simply don’t want to hear that their work isn’t good or interesting or needs editing.

Another reason writers behave badly is a sense of entitlement. They don’t seem to realize most reviewers are volunteers and use what free time we have reading and then reviewing their books. Most of us are overwhelmed with review requests, we have our favorite authors we want to review for, our personal to-be-read piles, and lives and families we often neglect in order to read and review books. While we appreciate the author donating his or her book in order for us to review it, the value of the book, be it ninety-nine cents or twenty-five dollars, doesn’t buy a good review – it simply provides us the means to give an honest review. If your storyline is great, but your characters are flat or stereotypical, we’re going to tell you that. If your storyline meanders, we’re going tell you that too, and a reviewer telling you that is a sign of respect for you as an author. We respect you enough to be honest with you and we believe you are mature enough to handle the truth.

If you don’t like what we say it doesn’t mean you get to badmouth us, either where your review is posted or on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. It is a sign of immaturity. We are only offering our educated opinion of your work. Other people may love or hate it, everyone has different opinions and writers need to respect that.

I mean, how many books have you bought thinking they sounded terrific and then either never finished them or wished you hadn’t bought them? The same thing happens with reviewers and books, and writers need to be aware of this.

Even big name writers get some bad reviews of their work. It isn’t something most of them take personally. They don’t get their friends to gang up and go online to refute the review. They simply take it in stride and move on. It is part of the business of writing and writers need to realize that just because their friends all love their book, it doesn’t mean everyone else will. Writing is a business and just as you wouldn’t criticize a co-worker who gave constructive criticism of a report you had written, even when you disagree with them, neither should you criticize a reviewer. It looks unprofessional. I think that writers need to learn some professional etiquette.

What tips do I have to help writers connect to reviewers?

That is actually a tough question. I find most of my business comes by word-of-mouth, so my first suggestion is to ask around and see whom your friends are using for reviews. Join Goodreads and look for reviewers on the different groups that are within the site. Do an online query for book reviewers. Check for reviewers on The Indie View. Ask writers groups about who reviews in the area. And never be afraid to tell a reviewer “so-and-so sent me” because if we have had a good experience with that particular writer and his or her work then it gives you a leg up over the query from a writer who we know absolutely nothing about. Look at the list of Top Reviewers at Amazon and query them as to whether or not they would be willing to review your book. Most importantly don’t give up, it may take some time but given some effort on your part you really can find quality reviewers to examine your work.

 

Thanks Tracy for your comprehensive answers to questions authors often ask!

Follow @TracyRiva on Twitter!

Tracy and I welcome your comments and experiences below.

Follow

About the Author

Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month – created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs,  #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Leave a Comment:

(43) comments

Amanda Taylor July 20, 2012

Wonderful post Rachel and Tracy! I am thankful for knowing both of you ladies. It’s also great material for future reviewers and authors alike to know the straight and narrow for both sides of the equation. There are other kinds of bad author behavior I’ll cover on my blog http://www.newbieauthorsguide.com next week other than being mean to reviewers, but this is the cardinal rule.

Just wanted to stop by and say hello!

Reply
    Rachel Thompson July 20, 2012

    Thanks Amanda! Terrific having you here.

    Tracy covers such critical points in here with honesty. I love having this insider’s view. She rocks.

    Reply
    Tracy Riva July 20, 2012

    Thanks for the wonderful comments Amanda. I will be looking forward to your post next week.

    Reply
LJCohen July 20, 2012

I was fortunate enough to have my book reviewed on Tracy’s website by one of her reviewers. I have also had 4 amazon top reviewers grant me reviews.

It is a difficult task for an indie author, especially, to obtain reviews. When I was searching for appropriate reviewers to query, I studied the Amazon top reviewers list looking for reviewers who used tags similar to my book. Then I read their reviews. After that, I would look at their guidelines. Only then would I send an email query.

[authors, repeat after me: follow the guidelines!]

I have been very grateful for those reviewers who have taken the time to read and review my debut. They don’t get paid for this and they review books because they are passionate readers. It makes me cringing mad when I see authors behaving badly when they get any sort of critical commentary on their work.

Whatever any reviewer has said is only one opinion and (IMO) the only appropriate response to a review is ‘thank you for your time.’

Reply
    Rachel Thompson July 20, 2012

    Thanks for your comments and insight, Lisa.

    Tracy IS amazing and I love that her advice is right on target for all authors (and reviewers). You clearly went about it the right way and have a terrific attitude.

    Reply
    Tracy Riva July 20, 2012

    Hi LJ,

    You give perfect advice for finding a top reviewer to look at your book and working with you has been a joy for all of us at Tracy Riva Books & Reviews.

    Reply
      LJCohen July 20, 2012

      Thank you–that’s very kind of you to say so.

      Reply

I just wanted to thank both of you for this informative (and sane) post. Tracy, as a relatively new reviewer/book blogger, I found your responses very reassuring and helpful. Thank you!

Reply
    Rachel Thompson July 20, 2012

    Quite welcome, Kelly. Tracy’s advice is great. I hope the word gets out to lots of authors about these best practices. Appreciate your comment!

    Reply
      Tracy Riva July 21, 2012

      Hi Kelly,

      Welcome to the reviewing world. I think you will find you like it and that most of the authors are easy to work with.

      Reply
Justin Bog July 20, 2012

I love this post. You are right on target. Amazon is a Big Brother machine without any checks or balances. Going through the motions of self-publishing is daunting. Producing a book of quality, and then letting it fly free for readers to talk about. Isn’t that what authors want? It’s art, let people have different reactions to it. One of the strange things I’ve also noticed about Amazon (and happening to me) is that I have what I call a “review stalker” who hits the NO button for every review I leave, saying my reviews are not helpful, and my lovely stalker just hit the NO button on all the 5-star reviews for my own book within the past day or two. This “stalker” I actually find mildly interesting and I can’t do anything about someone who my mom would say must have sore feet. It’s sad though, but makes me wonder if one of my characters has jumped off the page. I’ve never given a negative review either. I also don’t review books that are below a 4 star in quality.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson July 20, 2012

    thanks for sharing your experiences, Justin. I, too, have experienced people hitting NO on positive reviews & YES on negative. It is what it is.

    What I encourage you (and other authors) to look at is that this type of behavior is a win in a way (love the sore feet analogy, though), in that you’ve clearly gotten under someone’s skin w/ your work and that’s great.

    Just keep writing your amazing stuff, my friend.

    Reply
      Justin Bog July 20, 2012

      I thought this was fitting today, especially after your last two posts (the one on handling negative reviews), Rachel. Today’s Tarot reading had this to say: The most ineffective response to criticism is to become angry, insulted and defensive. When you do that, you actually give a lot more power and credibility to that criticism. Today, focus on what you can do to change for the better, not on what others say about you.

      Reply
        LJCohen July 20, 2012

        @ Justin–that is so true. Negativity just breeds more negativity, and considering all the truly awful things happening in the world, that’s the last thing we need.

        Reply
        Rachel Thompson July 20, 2012

        That’s awesome. I just won a Tarot book in a Twitter thingy. It’s awesome. How perfectly appropriate the reading is today! Thanks for sharing.

        Reply
        Tracy Riva July 21, 2012

        Justin,

        I am so sorry this is happening to you, but as people start actually reading the reviews they will realize the guy is just a jerk. Your work will shine through in the end and he’ll look like the troll he has so appropriately been named.

        Reply
      Amanda Taylor July 20, 2012

      What this sounds like is a close cousin to a “revenge review”. These don’t have to be written (in your case downvoted) as a response to a critical review; they can be written (downvoted) to sabotage either another author’s work or peer review work for whatever reason. All it amounts to is doing something bad with an ulterior motive in mind.

      Like Rachel said keep going and remember not to feed the trolls!

      Reply
        Rachel Thompson July 20, 2012

        So true, Amanda. We all have a right to hate something and we all have a decision to make on how we want to express that. When people intentionally affect another’s work, the justification goes out the window.

        There’s just no excuse for bad behavior.

        Reply
Barb Drozdowich July 20, 2012

Hi Tracy & Rachel!
Great interview Tracy! I’ve enjoyed reading your answers. I certainly agree with most if not all of your answers. I’m impressed with your honesty and commitment to the promotion of authors.

Great comments also! There are too many trolls out there 🙂 What happened to “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all?” I feel a great deal of sympathy for authors that are the target of these attacks.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson July 20, 2012

    Thanks Barb. It is sad but there are authors out there who bully or freak out over a poor review.

    I just read about the whole #StopTheGRBullies issue. It’s very sad–the whole thing.

    Reply
Phillip A. Ellis July 20, 2012

I have reviewed quite a few books, and all the tips you give are spot on, and they work. One thing that I’d like to ad is a saying I tell new writers — it doesn’t matter how you write so long as you remain professional when submitting. The same with reviewers and others helping you sell your books: be professional, always.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson July 21, 2012

    agree, Phillip. For me, and many other writers, this is our job. Our source (or one of anyway!) of income. I liken it to being in a corporate meeting and calling your boss on the carpet in front of everyone. Most people (w/ half a brain) would not do that. Why do it in a public forum?

    If someone hates my book THAT much, email me, tweet me, FB me, or come here. There are plenty of other ways to get the point across.

    That said, some negative critical reviews are extremely helpful, if pointing out what Tracy mentioned. Nobody’s work is perfect. Even John Irving (one of my all-time favs) gets 1-stars.

    Reply
Tracy Riva July 21, 2012

Thanks Barb,

It is sad that there are authors out there who think a review copy of a book automatically entitles them to a “good” review and then get upset when the reviewer is honest and doesn’t necessarily rave about their book. It is simply part of the business of writing and having your book reviewed.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson July 21, 2012

    So true, Tracy. That’s a big part of why I use, and recommend others do also, betareaders. There are too many books uploaded without going through the entire process and that’s too bad. It shows.

    Taking the time to have someone (and by that I mean a professional) edit, proofread, format, design, and beta read is critical. If people still hate it, then you’ve done all you can and maybe they’re just not your demographic.

    Reply
Ann Charles July 23, 2012

Thank you, Rachel and Tracy. A great reminder of how important it is to remain professional, and if you need to cry and scream and shout about a bad review, do it alone in the dark with a bottle of liquor in your hand … and then move on.

Ann

Reply
    Tracy Riva August 17, 2012

    Ann,

    I so agree, but if you get a bad review DM me – I’ll join you in that bottle of liquor.

    Reply
Alan Tucker July 26, 2012

Lesson one for authors should be to understand that nothing and no one is universally liked. There are plenty of genres/types of stories that I’m not interested in reading, why on Earth would I think that everyone will like my book? Equating books to babies is spot on, Tracy. Every parent thinks their baby is cute and perfect, even if they have three eyes, horns, and barbed tail. Great post!

Reply

[…] Webinars « 4 Important Review Tips for Authors by guest Amazon Top Reviewer @TracyRiva via… […]

Reply

[…] 4 Important Review Tips for Authors by guest Amazon Top Reviewer @TracyRiva via @BadRedheadMedia function resizeCrossDomainIframe(id, other_domain) { var iframe = document.getElementById(id); window.addEventListener('message', function(event) { if (event.origin !== other_domain) return; // only accept messages from the specified domain if (isNaN(event.data)) return; // only accept something which can be parsed as a number var height = parseInt(event.data) + 32; // add some extra height to avoid scrollbar iframe.height = height + "px"; }, false); } RachelintheOCRachel Thompson aka RachelintheOC is a published author and social media consultant. Her two books, A Walk In The Snark and The Mancode: Exposed are both #1 Kindle bestsellers! When not writing, she helps authors and other professionals with branding and social media for her company, BadRedhead Media. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. Buy Now : A Walk in the Snark * Mancode: ExposedMore Posts – Website Follow Me: […]

Reply
Tracy Riva August 17, 2012

I know. You put all that time and work into your books, certainly more than nine months, you’re entitled to feel like they’re your babies and this needs to be understood.

Reply
Tracy Riva August 17, 2012

Rachel,

Thanks for hosting this wonderful discussion. I think we’ve had some great dialogue and really shown respect for each other. Let’s hope it spreads!

Reply

[…] 4 Important Review Tips for Authors by guest Amazon Top Reviewer @TracyRiva via @BadRedheadMedia […]

Reply

[…] 4 Important Review Tips for Authors by guest Amazon Top Reviewer @TracyRiva via @BadRedheadMedia […]

Reply

4 Important Review Tips for Authors by Amazon Top reviewer @TracyRiva via @BadRedheadMedia http://t.co/DjuIQ2rP

Reply

4 Important Review Tips by Top Amazon Reviewer @tracyriva via @badredheadmedia http://t.co/yGieE8rO

Reply

4 Important Review Tips by Top Amazon Reviewer @tracyriva via @badredheadmedia http://t.co/YOpOmocf

Reply

4 Important Review Tips by Top Amazon Reviewer @tracyriva via @badredheadmedia http://t.co/ltyjgN92

Reply

#MentionMonday 4 Important Review Tips by Top Amazon Reviewer @tracyriva via @badredheadmedia http://t.co/ltyjgN92

Reply

#MentionMonday 4 Important Review Tips by Top Amazon Reviewer @tracyriva via @badredheadmedia http://t.co/IKnpMowG

Reply

Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post! It’s the little changes that produce the greatest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

Reply

[…] Get informed. Read this article (from Amazon Hall of Famer Dr. Bojan Tunguz on my blog for suggestions on what to do and what not to do). Here’s another one by Tracy Riva of Midwest Book Review. […]

Reply

[…] 4 Important Review Tips for Authors by guest Amazon Top Reviewer @TracyRiva via @BadRedheadMedia […]

Reply

[…] 4 Important Review Tips for Authors by guest Amazon Top Reviewer @TracyRiva via @BadRedheadMedia […]

Reply
Add Your Reply

Leave a Comment:

brhm-bad-redhead-logo
Sign up for the newsletter to get a FREE PDF of top review sites!
x