Monday, February 15, 2016

The Not-So-Secret Secret to Reviews

If you've read my blog for a while, you know that I frequently complain about not getting enough good reviews.  So when I saw someone hocking a book called Book Reviews That Sell for a paltry 99 cents, I thought I might as well give it a try.  Maybe I'd actually learn some great secret to getting book reviews.

Reading it reminded me of this time I watched this 30 minute web video that promised to tell me some great secret to more job interviews.  The first like 27 minutes of the video was this guy just saying the same generic crap over and over again in slightly different ways.  After 27 minutes of vamping he finally got to the big "secret," which was:  I don't really remember.  Some stupid thing you put in the PS of a cover letter.  Then I just had to shake my head for getting taken, not that it cost me anything and actually after about 10 minutes of the dude's vamping I put the video in another tab and played around on Facebook or something.

I also remember reading an article about all those "One Weird Trick" videos you see advertised around the Internet.  Apparently the ones the author watched used a similar tactic of just vamping for most of a half hour and then giving you a "secret" that wasn't really much of a secret.  Like if you watch "One Weird Trick" to losing a bunch of weight it might after a half hour of bullshitting tell you to take some Vitamin D pills or something like that.

In the same way the first 2/3 of this "book" is mostly the author going on and on about Amazon's Terms of Service, which you could read for yourself if you felt like it.  And also that review swaps are bad.  You should never, ever promise to trade reviews with someone.  Sure.  I got that the first five times he mentioned it, but just to make the book seem more like a real book he said it five more times.  (Slight exaggeration.)

Ironically in the same way as that video or book, I've been vamping before giving you the big "secret," albeit not as long.  Here's the "secret":  Find books like yours, make a list of Amazon reviewers of those books who have email information, and then send them an email to ask if they'll review your book.

I think I literally started to laugh.  I mean really, that's it?  That's the secret?  Since this would actually take hundreds of hours to do on your own, he suggests hiring someone on Fiverr or something to help you track down leads in exchange for a few bucks.  Then you put them into an Excel sheet and go to work.  Chances are you'll send out hundreds of Emails and get only a few positives--and then even fewer who actually go through with it in a reasonable amount of time.

Basically it operates under the junk mail principle:  you send out a hundred thousand postcards or Emails and if even 2% of those buy your product or service--or give you their bank information in the case of those Nigerian prince email scams--then you've turned a profit.  Though in this case the profit is in terms of reviews.

Ordinarily I might try this because what the hell?  I mean, I tried that Reader Magnets thing, which didn't really pay off for me.  However, I'm in kind of an ethical dilemma because I am an Amazon reviewer and I have had people pitch me free copies of their books if I'll review it.  I did accept one or two, but then I gave up because it was annoying and taking time I could be reading books I actually wanted to read.  So sure I can go find some other people who have reviewed gender swap fiction and ask them if they'll review one of my books, but having been on the other side of it, I'd feel like kind of an idiot.  Also I don't want to waste money trying to hire a minion on Fiverr or whatever.

BTW, here's another "secret" for you from the book:  how to deal with bad reviews.  Basically you get a "street team" of other people who have Amazon accounts and you post comments on the bad review and vote it "not helpful" and hope the reviewer changes his/her mind or at the least it will seem to other people like it's not a good review.  (In a similar fashion Jay Greenstein goes to everyone who posts a bad review of his books to scream that they have a grudge against him because of his nefarious message board activities.)  If you're the author, you can promise to change things the reviewer pointed out in the hope the reviewer will decide to alter the review.

What's funny is after I posted the review to Amazon, the next day the author made one of those comments and had a couple of his "street team" making comments and voting it down.  They didn't seem to realize the reviewer has a nuclear option:  copy the review, delete it on Amazon, and then repost it.  I did that a few times with a review of a Sufjan Stevens album that for some reason really irked people.  I didn't get death threats, but close.  There was a Michael Chabon book too with a similar situation, to the point I finally changed the title of the review to:  I Don't Care What You Think, I'm Not Changing the Review!  So really the author of the review doesn't have to take bullying like that.  Right now it's actually at 5 of 7 helpful votes and just one "street team" commenter, so for the moment I can live with it.

Anyway, you can try this system if you want.  I'm sure other Amazon reviewers are a lot more forgiving than I am.

PS:  If the author of the book and his street team show up, this is my blog so if you try any of your tricks I'll go full Andrew Leon and make your comments mysteriously disappear.  And there's no "not helpful" button for you to press.


  1. The only true method is going around to any place you can find (boards on Goodreads, book bloggers, etc) and offer free review copies. Then only about 10% review if that. It's also good to request reviews at the end of your ebooks.

    I have also heard of the street team, but I thought it was just for reviewing.

  2. This is all very interesting. I haven't yet published anything but I imagine getting descent (honest) reviews is a challenge. My artwork has certainly received criticism over the years but I've learned to live with it.

  3. I wonder what Andrew would think of all this. I should tell him about it.



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