What Do Book Reviewers Really, Really Want?

come hither beauty reviewer -422700_640When we submit our masterpieces to a review site or blog hoping for some feedback (and of course a 5 star review on Amazon and Goodreads), there are rules. Each site has its own submission guidelines. We have to follow these of course, but sometimes, even when we stay within those parameters we’re still unable to attract the attention of those elusive reviewers. Well, they are busy. They’re all trying to wade through the virtual piles of eBooks that are submitted to them. I wanted to know, other than following the rules and presenting a professional product, what entices professional reviewers to check out a book.

I polled a few reviewers and I asked them one question (well, two actually):

Other than being attracted to a book because it falls within your favored genre, are there other factors that sway you in picking one book over another? If so, what are they?

Cathy Speight / Cath ‘n’ Kindle Book Reviews

The synopsis has got to grab me.  Maybe equally importantly, it has to be well-written and above all, not too long.  Anything more than two shortish paragraphs and you’ve lost me.  I don’t want a shortened version of the story; I want a snappy, attention-grabbing outline.  And it’s got to be well-written:  it’s the window to the quality of the book’s writing.  If it’s full of grammatical errors, then it’s a deal-breaker.

I believe I can tell a good deal about the book and the writing/writer by the way I’m asked (or told!!) to review a book.  A polite, well-written request to read a book, as long as the book has filled all the other criteria, will most likely seal the deal, even now after I’ve ‘closed’ my list.  I have even been known to accept books outside my ‘comfort’ zone because of the way in which I been very politely, articulately and persuasively been asked to review a book.

Al Kunz / BigAl’s Books and Pals

I’m going to give the book a closer look if the author’s name is familiar. I get emails all the time that say “I’ve been following your blog for a couple years, blah, blah, blah…” If the name isn’t familiar (meaning they haven’t commented on posts, or at least not enough to stick in my brain, or anything like that, I assume they’re saying that hoping it will help, but it isn’t true. But if they have commented on posts, maybe liked something on Facebook, done an IndieView, or something like that, their name might stick. That gets them a closer look. It’s at that point where I’ll decide if the genre interests me, the plot is interesting, etc.

Misty Rayburn / The Top Shelf

It has to be from the start. I’m shown nothing else. Especially with the big six. Sometimes they just send me lists with nothing but format, blurb and release date.

They (authors) don’t have to act so scared in emails. We won’t bite!

Debb Lavoie / Debb’s Reads

It’s something unique, maybe a weird use of POV.

I need the story to move swiftly and not lag or I get bored and find it hard to continue the book. I think most of all I have to be interested in the characters and the story they are telling me.

Linda McKinney / BigAl’s Books and Pals

A great cover always pulls me in. But once I open the book I am looking for a unique voice that is mentally stimulating. I love to be able to get into the psychology of the character by learning what makes them tick.

Stephen Kozeniewski started his campaign for Braineater Jones. He created a Facebook page for the book and posted clever teaser comments on FB from Jones himself. He hooked me with those snippets by giving me insight into Jones’ personality. I had to read it.

Marni Graff / Auntie M Writes

For me it’s the first five pages. That’s my rule of thumb. I’ll give any book that long to hit me and if it does, I usually finish it. What hits me? Characters I want to follow or a storyline that grabs me.

Nothing drives me crazy with self-pubbed books more than a smattering of typos that pull the reader out of that fictional world.)

Fiona Mcvie / Authors Interviews

I start with the cover and the blurb, if the cover looks good then I will check the back of a book to see what is written. I never read a review as everyone thinks differently.

Brenda Perlin / Author Brenda Perlin

I like an eye-catching cover but that doesn’t get me to buy the book. Of course if it is not professional looking I will most surely pass. The cover says a lot about the integrity of the work.

When I am looking for something with the hopes I will love it the synopsis has to grab me but not only that but the reviews have to be good. They have to be believable. I do count on reviews (like I do when I am buying a hair product or something) to give me some feel of the book so from there I can make a semi-educated guess. Sometimes it is a crap shoot. Then there are times that with no expectations I am pleasantly surprised.

When considering my question, one of the respondents told me what I’d been thinking myself for some time now – reviewers and their submission requirements have become similar to literary agents’ submission guidelines. We need to follow the rules to get their attention. Most of us are willing to do this, and we want to build that relationship, and once we’ve gained the respect of a reviewer there’s a possibility they may check out any new work we produce. And, that’s all we’re really striving for.

I hope the above information is helpful. Now, I’m off to work on my blurb and I should probably revise the opening paragraphs of my work in progress. Good luck!

Author: Martin Crosbie

Martin Crosbie is the administrator of BookDoggy.com and writer of seven published novels. His self-publishing journey has been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online Magazine, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. You can learn more about Martin on his Amazon author page.

47 thoughts on “What Do Book Reviewers Really, Really Want?”

  1. Yep – thanks Martin.
    All those pointers are obvious (especially the ‘be polite’ tip), but it’s always useful to have a reminder or two.


  2. Martin, once again you have provided a very helpful post. Thanks for doing all the homework. And thanks, too, to the reviewers who so willingly shared the factors that they use in considering a book’s worthiness of their review time. The big three appear over and over again: great cover, great blurb, and impeccable editing.

  3. Can’t always judge a book by it’s cover but I think it is a good indication of the quality of the work. Nothing goes further than great writing though but we have to open up the book first to get there.

    Nice post Martin.

  4. Very useful pointers here. I’m now going to sit down with my editor and do a serious review of all my covers, blurbs and approach material. Things like this need to be done regularly, to develop new perspectives, and to stop good work going stale.

    I like my covers, they tell a story, but that doesn’t mean everyone sees them the same way. It’s good to be reminded of this occasionally as sometimes a new cover can give a good book a whole new lease of life,

    Thanks for the prompts. 🙂

  5. Straight from the reviewers’ mouths: great cover, great blurb, writing that grabs ’em, and respect for the reviewers’ time. That’s what will get your book a review. Thanks for pulling this together for us, Martin. 🙂

  6. Great post! I’ve been reviewing for a couple of years–and you’re right–that TBR pile is HUGE! Personally, I read the blurb–have not ever been that interested in the cover. I think it comes from doing most of my book browsing at libraries or brick-and-mortars. If the title doesn’t get my attention, I pretty much bypass it. Even the letter font and color can make a difference. Then of course it’s genre–I won’t read romance or poetry. After that is the readability of the story–grammar and flow and all that. If I can’t get past that, if the narrative makes the editor in me cringe, I let the author know that it needs work before I can review it. I won’t post less than a four-star review. Public embarrassment does not help an author improve–but gentle guidance and advice from someone who cares does.

  7. Thank you, Martin. It’s great to see this coming from reviewers. The book’s cover and then the book’s description/blurb are the biggest problems the vetting committee sees when evaluating books for features. Many authors don’t seem to take it seriously when they get our recommendations about those two items. Maybe now they will. Thanks for taking the time, and thank you, reviewers, for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Great article! As a book reviewer, I agree with a lot that is said above. Another thing I would like to add is that an author should target their book to a reviewer who understands their genre and will give it a fair read. No point in trying to market your romance novel to a reviewer who reads sci fi. But at the same time, when that request is made, a good argument should be made as to why the author thinks this book is worth it for a reviewer to go outside their comfort zone. I love it when an author pitches a story that is outside my comfort zone and lets me know why it will be worth my while.

  9. For me to review a book, it must catch my attention by the synopsis and be placed on my read list. Even though it is not part of my favorite genre, I still am diversified in my reading enough to go to other genres. The only ones I am reluctant to read are books about vampires, werewolves, and living dead. I do read some but when another book comes along, I put it ahead of those that I do not care to read.

  10. I post a book review blog on The Book Marketing Network entitled ‘What I Am Reading’. Besides the book having to be in the genres of science fiction, fantasy or horror-I just need the author to hit me up on my page and send me a copy of their e-book.
    If the book is really bad and full of errors, I will let the author know that I am going to pass on posting the review rather than giving them a terrible review that would damage them.

  11. In essence, if you wouldn’t walk into a job interview in flip flops and ripped jeans with a resume written on a napkin, then don’t think about submitting your work to a publisher or a reviewer before you’re ready. Presence and relationship building are important factors no matter where you go, and you need to pay attention to the details. It seems so simple, yet how many times have I rushed to get things in, simply so I could say it was done? Too many. Learning patience and attention to detail at all stages of a project is an ongoing endeavour. Thanks for your very timely post, Martin.

  12. Thanks Martin. I am going to place my cover and synopsis with a group of beta readers and see if they would consider buying the book off the shelf.,

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