Where Did the Amazon Reviewers Go? [Updated]

by | Dec 6, 2018

By Amy Collins

Dear Readers of The Book Designer,

I have seen some great comments below which I have responded to, but I wanted to add a few new lines to my suggestions as I have written them below.

In the spirit of DO THIS NOT THAT, I was trying to say that I USED to SPAM readers (unintentionally) by grabbing their emails from Amazon reviews of similar titles and emailing them to ask if they would like a free review copy.

Both Amazon and the rest of the world realized that this was not a good practice and Amazon stopped publishing email addresses of readers.

What I was trying to say below is that writing to readers you find on Amazon and asking them to review your books is not a good idea.

HOWEVER, Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites which publish reviews from BOOK REVIEWERS are still great places to find book reviewers. A book reviewer has a website or a blog and if they want to be contacted, they leave the URL in their Amazon bio or Goodreads fields.

Reaching out to book reviewers who present themselves as professional book industry contacts and finding them through sites such as Amazon and Goodreads is what I was suggesting.

I hope that helps. Next month, I will be a little more careful about my terminology!

Amy Collins


Two years ago, it was so easy to find the top Amazon.com reviewers and approach them and ask for reviews. There was software that let authors and publishers find the name and email addresses of the thousands of Amazon reviewers who had already written reviews of books in a similar vein.

I had written a self-help book for women about lowering stress, so it was easy to find the bestselling books on stress reduction and find the contact information on Amazon of those who had reviewed those bestselling books.

Then, I put together a BULK email using MailChimp and emailed THOUSANDS of reviewers all in one afternoon.

It. Was. Awesome.

Then, for some reason, in March of 2018, Amazon made a decision to hide the email addresses of reviewers on their profiles. Speculation was they did this because of the new GDPR rules and regulations but no one really knows why. This completely stopped authors from being able to email potential reviewers–even if the reviewers didn’t mind being contacted with their information public on their profile.

Does this mean it’s the end of finding targeted reviewers for books? Absolutely NOT! But it is a lot harder than it used to be.

Amazon is REALLY working hard to hide the contact information of book reviewers, and GoodReads only lets you message a few readers every day before shutting you down for the day. HOW, then, can you reach the reviewers and readers who write reviews?

That was the long, painful, whiney question I asked Debbie Drum last week on the phone. I was complaining about the lack of reviewer emails available and how easy it used to be to mass-email folks.

Now, I have to write each email individually or I get hit by Gmail or Earthlink with a blacklist mark. (I DO NOT want to be considered a “spammer”!)

Debbie has a program called Book Review Targeter that pulls data on readers and reviewers of specific books. I LOVE the idea of using software to find readers and reviewers of books written by authors in my community. There are authors out there who have already written books that appeal to MY readers. Finding readers and getting them to consider my book is SO much easier when I start by knowing my fellow authors and reach out to THEIR readers.

With this idea firmly in place, and knowing that it is no longer “cool” to mass email folks. HOW CAN I REACH THEM?

Well Debbie agreed to jump in and answer exactly that! So welcome Debbie Drum as she answers some of my biggest questions:

Amy: Debbie, is there any way in today’s world, to email readers in a way that does not “spam” them?

Debbie: The good news is YES.

When researching comparable authors to find books that have a lot of reviews online, look for bestselling books to start. When a bestselling author releases a book and they have done “everything right” – meaning

  • they have done the market research,
  • their cover is beyond professional,
  • their description is spot on and convincing,
  • and their content is killer,

then that author will probably have a lot more reviews and you will get better review response results from mass cold emails.

I would say first test out in a small segment to see if mass emailing will work for you. If it doesn’t, don’t give up. There are certainly other ways to get the reviews you need to sell more books.

Amy: So what other options do we have? That’s the next question.

Debbie: Social Media is also a great place to find reviewers. When looking for book reviewers, and influencers that can share and promote a book, I like to start with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.

All of these amazing platforms have direct messaging and commenting components to them.

What’s so great about this? A lot of these social media platforms are listed on an Amazon reviewer’s bio page.

Not every profile on Amazon has this social data present. It’s only if the person WANTS to provide this data publicly. But it is a great place to start.

There is software such as Book Review Targeter that can pull these social media addresses, or you can do it manually. But be aware that for every 1,000 reviewers you look up, you will find perhaps 50-100 social media addresses. But that is GREAT!

Now you have 50 targeted people to contact and YOU have the upper hand. Now that you have the social links of reviewers, let’s go over some rules and what to say to get the reviewers to review your book!

Amy: What is the best way to connect with readers in this new world?

Debbie: There are only four rules to follow when it comes to contacting reviewers.

Here they are:

#1 – Be Brief

This is the most important that’s why it’s FIRST. Don’t write paragraph after paragraph after paragraph. This is a HUGE mistake. In a couple of sentences you can explain what your book is about, why you are contacting them, what they will get out of it (more about this in #3) and what to do next.

People will tune you out if you go on and on.

The conversation will continue in a natural fashion through the direct messaging channel if a good connection is made.

#2 – Add Something Personal

In this day and age, it’s OK to “stalk” your prospects. If you are contacting someone on YouTube, watch their videos and make a comment on what you like or what your favorite video of theirs is.

If you are contacting someone on Facebook, take note of a picture they posted or something you might have in common with that person.

Another thing you can do is read the review they wrote of the other book. Make a comment about their review.

The point is you want to add something personal to your message to make it stand out and not look so spammy and cookie cutter.

Does this take a little bit more time? Yes, but it will pay off a lot more than blasting the same message in 500 emails and “wasting” them to get little to no response.

#3 – Talk About benefits for THEM

Remember, these reviewers you are reaching out to are strangers for the most part. Do you think they care about why you need more reviews? Or where you are looking to take your career as an author? NOPE THEY DON’T.

What do they care about?

They care about what your book will do for them. So TELL THEM!

Instead of talking about you and what their review will do for you, talk about them and what benefits they will get out of reading your book. Your message should not just include your book description. Copying and pasting your book description will not work and it also breaks rule #1 on brevity.

Make a list of 3-5 bullet points of what outcome they should expect. Compel them to respond. The review process is a part of marketing so put on your copywriting cap to convince the reader they should spend time with YOU. Get help with this if you need it. IT’S THAT IMPORTANT!

#4 – Have the ability for them to get your book for free

The worst thing you can do is cold message someone and then ask them to buy your book. Have a way you can get them the book for free either as a PDF or with a program like Book Connect.

That’s it. Those are the rules. They aren’t that hard to follow but each one is important so make sure you follow them!

Amy: What are some other ways of getting reviews in today’s publishing atmosphere?

Debbie: You could be doing more to get organic reviews (reviews that come naturally).

Once you get about 10 – 15 reviews under your belt, that’s enough to get you enough social proof for your book to sell. With those reviews, you will get more sales and more readers.

First and foremost be sure to ask for a review inside of your book so readers understand it’s important for you to hear their feedback.

You can do more inside of your book as well.

Before you publish, set a specific hashtag for all of your book marketing. For example, one of my hashtags for a book was #readbetterfaster.

After I requested a review inside the book, I also asked my readers to use the hashtag #readbetterfaster in any social media posting they did. So, if they reviewed or said anything about my book on social media, I could easily find it and connect with that reader and either make a connection and/or ask them personally to post their review on Amazon if they didn’t already.

Lastly, I’ll give you another big tip. Amazon is now offering prime real estate for video reviews. You get the real estate as a reviewer (Hint: This is a great way to market yourself.) and your book will stand out more if someone leaves you a video review for your book or product. Video reviews will give your book extra oomph. Once you have enough reviews under your belt, try to get some folks to leave you a video review. It will go a long way!

Times are changing and as authors we have to adapt. Getting reviews is tough at first but you cannot ignore the process.
 
Photo: BigStockPhoto

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

17 Comments

  1. Gisela Hausmann

    @gaele

    You are very gracious. I have switched “Don’t call us, we call you.”

    I watch TV only at the gym, and I read a lot. As it is I learn about more good books than I have time to read without even trying.

    Reply
  2. Gisela Hausmann

    This Amazon top reviewer published “Naked Truths About Getting Book Reviews” which won finalist in the coveted Kindle Book Review Awards 2015 to help indie authors.

    The book featured not only my own insights, I also surveyed Amazon’s Hall-of-Fame reviewers who were happy to help as soon as they saw that I was ‘one of them.” (Which I wasn’t really. My best ranking was #2,573.

    I also updated the book 4-times. In other words authors had the opportunity to learn from a real top reviewer best practices updates 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. For a price less than a cup of coffee.

    For instance I advised not to send emails tailored from templates b/c
    (a) an author who copies and tailors an email template does not make the impression that they like writing
    (b) people who copy and tailor emails templates, usually send out too many emails. This is not appreciated. The Hall-of-Famers told me that – on average – they receive more than 10,000 of these emails and they delete 97%. Who wants to receive 10K+ same sounding emails?

    Of course, I did not give away WHAT TO WRITE for free whereas the people who recommended to tailor templates, did give away “their advice” for free.

    In reality, the majority of reviewers had made their profiles invisible even before Amazon deleted access to the top reviewers. I believe Amazon removed access to the top reviewers in March 2017 because upon advice of some “unqualified expert” authors started attaching their ebooks to their request emails. (“To speed up the process….”) Needless to say, blogger who like to copy and rephrase others content, spread the message and thousands of authors began “attaching their ebooks…”

    Of course, that’s SPAM, which the “unqualified expert” who came up with idea just did not know. When this happened, Amazon’s legal department may have had to weigh their options, namely if they could be held liable for this insane SPAMming b/c they published the email addresses on their site.

    So, that’s what happens when people follow “free advice” from people who have no clue but want to show off and claim that things are easy. Expert advice is only expert advice is the person who gives it actually does the task.

    Reply
  3. Tony McManus

    It should be noted that Amazon have set up a financial threshold. They insist that a customer spend a certain amount of money in order to place a review. Amazon do ‘product’ reviews. They don’t differentiate between a an expensive Nikon camera and a digital book going for $2.99. See my blog.
    https://tony-mcmanus.com/2019/01/09/a-low-blow-from-amazon/

    Reply
  4. gaele

    email -? I toss them. I have a clear way to be contacted – to ask ONLY what I care to know – I don’t want personal info – I want your blurb – Who edited it, where you are sold, your social media links and a solid bio – I want to be able to check those out along with your book – when I make a decision to read for review or not. I’ll then tell you what the next steps are. I spend anywhere from 1 – 4 hours a week deleting unwanted email, requests, copies of titles, etc — hours I could use doing other things. Oh – and be sure to check /proof your email and your blurb – you don’t know how many emails I instantly send to trash because they are written in ‘text’ or are rife with errors and misspelling. Hey u want 2 rd my book – here it is… is not a request. Or at least not in my world. And after 5+ (going on 6) years of reviewing – I can choose what I think I’ll like, or am intrigued by.

    Reply
  5. Jan McClintock

    As a long-time book reviewer, I’d like to add several methods for finding reviewers for your book.

    There are specific websites, forums, and groups where reviewers gather and discuss books, and there are frequently sections devoted to (non-paid) review requests. That is true for Goodreads and LibraryThing, of course. For example, the Audiobook group on GR has a forum topic called “Free Promos for Review,” and LibraryThing has their popular “Early Reviewers” group.

    The IPBA (Independent Book Publishers Association) works with NetGalley to help independent authors and publishers get their work on the latter’s site for review. The prices are very reasonable, IMO.

    The site The Book Blogger List is set up specifically for authors to find matching reviewers. CAVEAT: Having participated in this excellent service as a reviewer, I strongly encourage authors to actually read and be guided by the potential reviewer’s preferences before asking for a review.

    Reply
  6. Jaq

    No one likes to be mass mailed and if we want people to review our books, we should show enough respect to treat them like individuals.

    Those who want to be approached generally have reviewing websites. If you Google search your genre + reviewer, loads of them come up! Yes it takes time to contact them individually. It takes time and work to review a book too.

    Putting a little of our own time into identifying and contacting reviewers individually, including writing something about what made you think they would like your book (check their guidelines!) is a much more polite approach. You can have the paragraph about your book in copy/paste format and still speak to the person, well, like a person!

    Reply
  7. Robert Nagle

    All this amuses and saddens me. I have been quite open about being willing to review ebooks (I mention contact information on my Amazon and Goodreads profile). Yet I have been contacted only rarely by people who look me up on Amazon. I think Amazon doesn’t recognize that reviewing books is substantially different from reviewing other products. Most people don’t have a connection with a company which produces a bluetooth speaker or refrigerator they review on Amazon; on the other hand, it is not uncommon for reviewers to have some slight personal connection with authors — maybe sending an email, meeting someone at a conference or posting something on a person’s blog, etc. Yet Amazon views both reviewers and authors with a kind of suspicion. Some of it is self-interest; they want to push people towards paid services like Amazon Vine. But I think some of it is simply paranoia. Amazon needs to chill out; their ebook products benefit by having more book reviews — especially given the fact that many indie titles have next to no reviews. (FYI, if you want to knock me up for a review, the URL above the comment lists my book review guidelines).

    Reply
    • Robert James Nagle

      One other thing. I know it makes sense to write a targeted email, but as someone who has had to solicit book reviews, I know how time-consuming it is to try to personalize this kind of correspondence. You don’t need to put together an elaborate sales pitch. A single paragraph is fine with a second paragraph about how to request an ARC.

      Reply
  8. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    I craft individual emails based on what I can glean from reviews and books read on Goodreads, but it had never occurred to me to think what a reviewer might get as a benefit from reading my fiction (#3).

    I would think that would work best for non-fiction, but will look into implementing that idea for what I write, mainstream indie fiction, because the mass methods don’t work for my kind of books.

    Thanks for the idea.

    Reply
    • Amy Collins

      In truth, mass methods do not work for anything in my life… If something is easy and does not take any time or money, I get verrrrrry suspicious!

      Reply
  9. Nate

    Speaking as someone who gets a lot of commercial spam I didn’t ask for, I actually don’t have a problem with what you were doing.

    I would want to get your emails. Sure, I’d probably delete most of them, but that’s okay too.

    Reply
  10. Richard Mabry

    I’m hesitant to leave a comment, lest you spam me with some of your mass emails. Sorry, but when it becomes necessary to do the things you describe, I think I’m through selling books.

    Reply
    • Amy Collins

      Everyone has to find their own practices and the activities that they are comfortable with. Mass emails are NOT a good idea and we all realized that a few years ago. Now, I do reach out to a few bloggers and professional book reviewers every day.

      Reply
  11. Ana

    This is crazy advice and it doesn’t matter how many times you spell I’M NOT A SPAMMER in capital letters, sending out mass emails MAKES YOU A SPAMMER.

    Reply
    • Amy Collins

      GDSR rules from Europe are a great way to run your outreach policies. I was in the wrong a few years ago (as were a LOT of authors). But today, we know to only reach out to book reviewers and bloggers who WANT to hear from us.

      I don’t mind when people reach out to me on social media, but I agree with you 100% on email. I feel NO obligation to look at emails sent to me without my okay.

      Reply
  12. Gabriele

    Amazon probably hid the email addresses of reviewers because what you, and many other people did, is the textbook definition of spam. Sending the same standard email to thousand of people that did not say explicitly that were interested in your content, this is literally the definition of spamming. I imagine that the response rate was abysmal and most people ignored your email.

    The public email address was meant to be used for humans directly contacting some specific reviewers that might be interested in their item with a personal message. This what happens with professional reviewers (e.g., people that make reviews on YouTube).

    It is not ok to do things just because they are convenient to you.

    Reply
    • Amy Collins

      Gabriele,

      I completely agree with you. I hope the clarifications I made above showed that. Amazon was correct to hide the emails and I was in the wrong to be so cavalier about using emails in that way. THat was what I was trying to say.

      Now, I ONLY reach out to professional reviewers and bloggers who put themselves out into the world as book reviewers and who make it clear they ARE open to getting review requests.

      It was my hope with this article to share the CORRECT way to reach out to people and use public bios.

      Reply

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