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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Whistle blowing - Why it's so hard to find book reviewers + 7 hints



I haven’t blogged best tips about getting book reviews in a long time because things have become very complicated. Rightfully, many indie authors are frustrated.

So, as a ranked Amazon top reviewer who really knows the ins and outs, let me explain how frustrating things are for reviewers, specifically Amazon top reviewers who still review books.

ISSUES:

1) Internet marketers give away the email addresses of top reviewers which they pulled years ago - as a free bonus for their buyers and followers.

So, we reviewers work and they "make money"? And, they give others the opportunity to flood our Inboxes with emails?
It's a violation of the law. The top reviewers published their email addresses on Amazon. They did not give any of these people permission to "give away their email address as a bonus."
Considering that Amazon deleted the email addresses from their site 15 months ago, one could probably sue these guys. 


2) 95% of all “influential book marketing industry experts” who blog about how to get book reviews" do NOT REVIEW books themselves.

I did and do.
They don’t.
Why do they blog about “how to get reviews?” Probably, because it helps them to collect indie authors' email addresses.
So, we top reviewers work and they collect love and fame for "shuffling the work our way"? Hmm...

3) Also, a lot of these “book marketing industry experts” publish nonsense, even in books. Probably, they don't know that these things don't work because they themselves don't review. E.g. On my Kindle I have three ebooks from “industry experts” who recommend “tailoring templates.” They also provide templates.

But, none of them reviews books.
That advice is nonsense. The minute somebody publishes a template, thousands of authors use it. All of these emails “tailored from templates” end up in the same Inboxes, the reviewers’ Inboxes.
When I surveyed quite many Hall-of-Fame reviewers in Spring 2016, most of them received an average of 230+ review requests per week. That's more than 11,000 emails per year.
Can you blame the top reviewers for getting tired of receiving "emails tailored from templates"? It's not like any of us doesn't know how this works. 

4) “Book marketing industry experts” who publish "easy advice"  don’t suffer any setbacks even if their advice doesn't work. If reviewers quit or make themselves unavailable the “book  industry marketing experts” just blame Amazon and blog about something else, like

How to create Fb ads that sell
Bookbub ads that sell
or advise on buying paid review services.

5) Then, there are the review clubs. Everybody knows that concept was abused. The system lends itself to abuse. Authors who seek reviews aren't likely to trash the book from another review club member who might review their book.
Please, nobody try to tell me that Amazon didn't notice. 
I recommend reading "INSIDE AMAZON'S ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE FLYWHEEL How deep learning came to power Alexa, Amazon Web Services, and nearly every other division of the company." 

This illustrates one of the main problems book marketers create. They don't read these articles. They promise every author that they'll help them get what they need and they create features that seem to help. But, because they don't do the research, they create a host of new problems.


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THE WORST

Whereas all these organizations are trying "to use the top reviewers" for their purposes, if something goes wrong, only the reviewers pay the price.   

Many of these marketing experts never understood that Amazon is a leader in AI (artificial intelligence). 

Remember the days when many of these "experts" advised to assemble street teams to "improve one’s ranking, position, or whatever else - on Amazon."

I think it was in May 2016 when Amazon required people to log in, if they wanted to (1) buy, (2) review, and even when (3) they wanted to "like" a review.

So, here is an example of what happened probably one hundred times per day, on Amazon
Picture a book ranked #987,654 that received 16 reviews in a time span of six months. Suddenly, out-of-the-blue, 100 “Amazon customers” (a street team) swoops in and finds all positive reviews helpful. At the occasion none of the 100 “Amazon customers” buys the book.
Do you think that Amazon’s algorithm registered these 100 votes as votes from "random visitors"?
Neither does anybody else.  
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So, that's how Amazon collected millions of data bits. Because people had to log in, Amazon  collected "facts."

Meanwhile, many of the same "book marketing experts" who recommend the use of street teams blogged that Amazon is spying in Facebook groups for which there is no evidence at all.

[It's a habit of certain people to blame Amazon for everything that happens. In reality, "blaming Amazon" often translates to "I didn't do any research, I just wanted to blame somebody."]

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Then, Amazon tightened their algorithm according to what their AI delivered.

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Obviously, the names of Amazon top reviewers who review a lot come up more often in these vast data accumulations; an obvious statistical probability.

Since March 2018, Amazon is kicking out reviewers by the hundreds. I don’t always have time to study the data but here is what I have:

On Feb, 20, 2018, Amazon kicked out 27 reviewers out of the top-1000. (2.7%)

On March 11, 2018, they kicked out 21 reviewers out of the top-1,000 (that's 2.1%), and altogether 163 reviewers out of the top-10,000 (1.6% overall).

So, thanks to all the unqualified advisers and the cheaters who prompted Amazon to tighten their algorithm, once again, Amazon top reviewers pay the price.
Things have gotten so bad that every time I review a book I wonder if my name gets pulled, even though I never did anything wrong. 
For instance: In five years, I never reviewed Sci-Fi and romance. What would happen if I suddenly reviewed a romance novel, or a Sci-Fi novel? Would Amazon's algorithm 'think' that I am doing a review exchange?
It's noteworthy to point out that once a top reviewer's review privileges are removed, everybody loses, because all reviews will be gone.
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Can you see how people who don't review have shifted all problems to people who review a lot? 


One Hall-of-Fame reviewer (not an author but a real reviewer) who reviewed a few of my books sent a mass email to "all his contacts" after his review privileges got revoked. I swear the man never did anything wrong.

His email was a story of being hurt, feeling pained, and the loss of nine years of work. Yes, I was a bit sorry for myself because I lost four reviews, but honestly, I felt a lot worse for him. I understood that losing nine years of work feels like getting knocked down in a ring and then being trampled on.

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Considering this situation you'd think that all indie authors handle reviewers with silk gloves. Not so. Check into any author forum and you'll find authors venting about reviews, reviewers, time it takes to get reviews... etc.

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WHAT STILL WORKS

1) Accept that free advice isn’t always the best advice. In the US, the First Amendment gives everybody the right to write whatever they want including about stuff they have no experience with.
The best advice comes from people who actually “do the task.” Because they have something to lose (for instance, 9 yrs of work) 

2) Always check whose advice you are following. I wrote this blog in 2016. My Huff Post profile clearly says that I am an expert in the field. I also published my reviewer rank in all my books so readers could see that I actually “do the task.” (Also, I review mostly books, not products like others.)
Always keep in mind that, courtesy of the Internet, today everybody knows "something." And, everybody can give some kind of advice. But, is it the best advice?
As an example from a different field: Certainly, a family practitioner can give some advice about treating various cancers. And, a friend who may have had cancer can give advice. Still, if you have cancer you'd ask an oncologist and you'd want to see data. 
It's the same with book marketing. Certainly, everybody who watched the industry for a few years can say something. And, an author friend can tell you what they did. But, if, in today's market, you want to score with reviewers it might be a good idea to ask a reviewer for advice. And, to start reading blogs that offer data instead of reading blogs that blame Amazon for every problem under the sun.

3) Educate yourself about applicable laws by reading real experts' (!!!) blogs. When in late 2016- Spring 2017, one of these non-expert bloggers came up with the BS idea that authors should send their books right away with their review requests, thousands of authors sent request emails with books attached.
That’s SPAMming! There are laws against spamming. Shortly thereafter, Amazon disconnected the top reviewers’ email addresses altogether. 
And - after it happened, not one author stood up up and said, "Ghee, you told us BS." Instead, again everybody blamed Amazon without realizing that this "glorious idea" was a violation of the anti-SPAM laws.  

4) Stop venting about reviewers and reviews and start praising reviewers. Americans criticize parents, teachers, and employers when they don’t praise their children, students, and employees.
Praising people for what they do is considered a leadership skill, whereas nagging is considered a sign of weakness.
So, DUH – Does anybody really think that venting about the unavailability of reviewers who work “for free” is going to get reviewers to the table? 

5) Be Nice!
Reviewers are NOT unpaid Kirkus services. They have families, jobs, and chores. If you want them to devote some of their precious free time to your book it’s time to start writing “book reviewers are the coolest people ever” instead of complaining. 

6) Try not to talk back when an expert tries to give you really good advice. For many years, I used to give free advice in four different FB groups. Starting 2017, I met authors who tried to challenge me with the words, "But I was told..."
It's an extremely unstrategic reply. Because once one hears these words one can only say, "That's so cool. It probably best you ask that person who told you "that" to review your book." 

7) Demonstrate thoughtfulness. Whatever you do, it reflects back on your work.
I met one of the authors whose book I reviewed this year (2018) when this author tweeted me that I overlooked a tiny but potentially costly mistake. I had never heard of this author or his/her book. Still, the author managed to impress me with his/her professionalism and thoughtfulness in less than 5 minutes. 
So, I checked out this author’s work. Coincidentally, he/she wrote about one of my favorite topics. Not surprisingly, the book was extremely well-written and well-edited. Obviously, an author who worries even about others’ mistakes applies even more thoughtfulness to his/her own book. 
Summing it up: 

Even if you are communicating with a reviewer for the first time, always keep in mind that, over the last few years, the reviewer may have

received thousands of ridiculous “tailored emails,”
gotten spammed by thousands of authors, and
read thousands of complaints about reviews, book reviewers, and related topics.

Hence -

Treat them well!
Speak nicely of them! and
Apply thoughtfulness to everything you do!

Success isn't always about greatness. It's about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come. -- Dwayne Johnson

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Gisela Hausmann is a 29 yr. self-publishing industry veteran, an email evangelist and a top reviewer. 

Her work has been featured in regional, national, and international publications 
including Success magazine (print) and Entrepreneur, on Bloomberg, The Innovation Show  a show for Square Pegs in Round Holes, "The Brutal Truth about Sales & Selling"-podcast, and Austria's Der Standard and Das Wirtschaftsblatt. 

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Gisela tweets @Naked_Determina


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© 2018 by Gisela Hausmann