Working with book bloggers is awesome!
These passionate readers love finding and talking about the best books around, and that means they’re always looking for great new reads and for ways to support their favorite authors so they can write more.
For an indie author, there’s nothing better than building these relationships, which can help both you and your best blogger buddies grow your audiences and get the word out.
There’s an art to any outreach effort, though. You have to know how to reach out, how to ask for what you’re after, and how to follow up in ways that are supportive and kind, not demanding and snotty.
Most of it is just common sense—as long as you keep in mind that bloggers are busy folks with platforms and networks of their own that they want to support, you’ll be in good shape.
Be polite, be straightforward, be professional, and you’re well on your way to building some great blogger relationships.
But while you’re at it, make sure you’re not making these 9 mistakes!
1. Not Learning about the Blog
Not every blog is a good fit for every book. So the #1 rule of asking for reviews is: Learn about the blog!
Never ever ever just run down an alphabetical list of blogs and email every single one about reviewing your book. 90% of them probably don’t even read your genre!
You won’t get results by asking a paranormal romance reviewer to read your self-help book. You’ll just annoy them and waste everyone’s time.
Instead, target only blogs that actively seek out the kind of thing you write, then narrow your search down from there.
Once you’ve gotten a list of the blogs that seem like they might work—they’re active, they review your genre, etc.—click on over and spend some time reading their About page and a few recent posts. If there are any books that seem like they’re similar to yours, read those reviews.
What does the blogger like and dislike? How do they structure their reviews?
Is their writing high-quality, or is it kind of tossed together?
When’s the last time they updated?
Do they cross-post on other review sites? Are they active on social media? Do they offer other opportunities on their blog, like guest posts or giveaways?
Check out the blog thoroughly to make sure it’s going to be a good fit. This also helps you tailor your email introduction—you’ll be able to mention a few things you like about the blog and exactly why your book would be perfect for the blogger’s interests.
2. Not Following Review Policies
Once you have a sense that the blog you’re interested in will be interested in you, do a little more homework—read their review policies.
Not following the rules is just rude.
After all, you’re asking someone to take time out of their busy life to read your book, think critically about it, craft a thoughtful critique, jazz it up with some images, post it, and share it to their entire audience. That’s a lot of work…and it’s all for free.
The least you can do as an author is to respect all that time and effort by following the rules the blogger has laid out for you.
When you’re exploring the site, look around for a Review Policy page. It’s usually in a sidebar or tab, fairly prominently displayed. If it’s not, try doing a search.
If you can’t find the review policy…well, maybe the blog isn’t such a good fit after all, because most serious book bloggers have detailed review policies and want you to find that page. Not having one is a sign that someone’s either too new to know the ropes or doesn’t really care about doing a professional job.
Read the policies carefully. Is the blogger currently accepting inquiries? Will they take books from indie authors, or only Big 5? Do they have a preferred format (print, digital, epub, Mobi, PDF)? Do you need to fill out a contact form, email them, or send a carrier pigeon?
All these policies are in place for a reason. Bloggers are flooded with books—those they buy, those sent by publicists, those submitted by indie authors—and they have to have systems in place to keep on top of everything.
By following the rules, you make it easy for the blogger to say yes to reviewing your book. You’re showing that you’ll be easy to work with and that you’re professional and dedicated.
And that’s the start of a great relationship!
3. Sending a Blast Email
Never send a blast email to a whole bunch of book bloggers when you’re first looking to establish relationships with them.
It’s cold, it’s impersonal, and it’s probably going to go right in the Spam bucket…because that’s basically what it is: spam sent to a batch of bloggers whose contact info you got from a directory without bothering to learn more about them.
Take the time to personalize each and every review request you send out. Sure, it takes time, but it also gets results.
Once you’ve establish good relationships with a few bloggers, you can set up a separate email list just for them, adding people who have indicated they’d like to review your books in the future. You can use that like Big 5 publishers use their advance reading copy mailing lists—send out a nicely formatted newsletter edition offering a copy of your upcoming book in exchange for a review.
But when you’re first reaching out to someone, write a personal email. Show that you’ve read their blog and followed their review policies and demonstrate that you want to build a relationship, not just ask for a favor.
4. Talking Money
Book bloggers aren’t paid for their work, except for those who make a little money from affiliate links or ads on their blog.
And you know what? They’re okay with that! Bloggers review and write about books because they love books. For most of them, the idea of getting to talk about reading all day is what makes it worthwhile.
That means that talking money is a big no-no for someone looking for a review.
First, never offer payment in exchange for a review. That goes against the ethics of every reputable book blogger—they’re not offering a paid service like some editorial review services, they’re offering their personal opinion. Bloggers are independent critics and they want to stay independent.
Also, never ask a blogger to pay for a book that you’d like them to review! This seems like common sense, but many indie authors try to keep their costs down by asking reviewers to pay for a print copy, shipping, or sometimes even the list price of an ebook!
Just don’t do it. Sending out review copies is part of your marketing costs. If you’re really struggling with your budget, limit your search to bloggers who are happy to accept ebooks so you can save money on print and shipping.
5. Demanding a Review
You are not entitled to a review.
When writing your introduction email, don’t be pushy. Never say simply “Here’s my book for review.” Write a thoughtful note and offer a copy of your book if the blogger wants it, with the understanding that they may not!
It’s entirely possible that a blogger you reach out to will decline your book. They may not have time, or they may not be hooked by your description. It doesn’t matter. Don’t take it personally; there are other fish in the sea, and you’ll find a great blogger partner if you keep reaching out.
What if the blogger did accept your book and now….there doesn’t seem to be a review happening?
Maybe the blogger couldn’t get into your book. Maybe their goldfish died. Maybe they got transferred to Timbuktu for work. Maybe they just got on a sci-fi kick and your literary fiction novel just doesn’t appeal as much now.
For whatever reason, a blogger who accepted a review copy may choose not to review your book. Or maybe they delay your review.
Again, it doesn’t matter. The blogger doesn’t owe you a darn thing—sure, you gave them a book, but you’re also essentially asking to borrow their audience. It’s a mutual transaction and has to be treated like one.
If you had agreed on a rough timeline for the review to appear, it’s okay to follow up a week or two after that to see what’s going on. But if the blogger responds that they won’t be reviewing your book after all, accept it graciously and move on.
6. Demanding a Good Review
The only thing worse than demanding a review is demanding a good review. Let’s repeat:
You are not entitled to a good review.
You may think that you’ve written the greatest work since the Odyssey, but others may not agree.
Get used to it. There will always be people who don’t like your work for some reason. That reason doesn’t have to make sense to you; art is all about opinion, after all.
As you become more successful as an author, you’ll start seeing negative reviews pop up from time to time. You need to learn to ignore them and move on. Don’t let negative critiques stop you from writing; use them as a reason to keep writing, so that you can learn and grow and get better.
Remember, even Dickens got slammed with some lousy reviews.
Many book bloggers choose to be positive in their work: they’ll only post reviews of books they liked, and they’ll simply choose not to publish anything about your book if they didn’t like it.
Others are more critical, posting commentary about books they didn’t like and why as a service to their audience. These can be strangely helpful—if a great blogger explains why they didn’t like something, their audience might actually be intrigued! Posting that you didn’t enjoy the book because it was too character-driven and didn’t have enough explosions might just entice readers who are burned out on pyrotechnics and really want something with gripping characters.
So remember: you are not entitled to a good review. But a good reviewer will craft a critique that can still help you and your book.
7. Demanding…Well, Anything
Book bloggers aren’t there to be your marketing department. They have their own business and their own workload—those books aren’t going to read themselves!
Most have a system for how they promote posts on their sites, and that includes a review of your book. Don’t ask them to go against that just for you.
That means accepting whatever promotion and followup they offer, rather than demanding what works for you.
What does this cover? A lot.
- Don’t demand that they cross-post to Goodreads and Amazon. Most reviewers do this automatically, but it’s rude to insist.
- Don’t demand social sharing. That includes demanding that they tweet about your book, make a Facebook post, put it in Pinterest, send an email newsletter, or any other social sharing. Again, most bloggers do this for every post anyway—it’s how they raise awareness of their own site and attract new readers—but it’s not for you to dictate how they promote your review.
- Don’t demand that they post on a certain day. It’s totally expected that you’ll ask for a review that matches up reasonably well with your publication date…but remember, book bloggers have a lot of books to get through. It may take some time for your review to appear. And that’s okay! We’re in this for the long haul and a review that appears two or three months after publication can still be really useful, boosting sales of a book that might have started to slump.
- Don’t demand that they keep you in the loop. Book bloggers are busy folks. Most will email you or tag you on Facebook when your review goes live, but sometimes they might forget. That’s fine! You should have a Google Alert set up for your book to let you know when it’s mentioned online, and it wouldn’t hurt to check in on the book blogs you’re interested in working with from time to time. It’s on you to follow up with the blogger, not on them. Besides, signing your email with a polite “Looking forward to sharing the link when it’s live!” will go a lot further toward getting them to loop back with you than saying “Make sure to send me the link and tag me on Facebook when it’s ready.” Be polite!
8. Expecting a Response
It’s nice to think that everyone you reach out to will respond, happily and openly, offering to do everything you’ve asked and more.
It’s nice, but it’s not realistic.
Bloggers are often inundated with emails asking for reviews, on top of reading and reviewing the books they already have, maintaining their social media presence, and doing outreach of their own—on top of their work, school, family, and personal lives!
So it’s not uncommon for a review inquiry to slip between the cracks and get ignored.
Now, if you’ve followed the review policy directions, done your homework, and written a catchy email with a good subject line, this is less likely to happen.
But you may still end up getting silence in response to some of your inquiries.
That’s just fine. You can reach out to follow up once, about a week after your initial email, and after that…let it go. There are other bloggers out there; it’s time to move on.
If you really want to work with this particular blogger, try reaching out again in a month, or the next time you have a book coming out. It might just have been a bad time.
If a blogger declines to review your book, gives a negative review, or calls your cat fat…let it go.
You’re not going to win any points by arguing about why they have to review your book or why they were completely wrong to think that Angelica wasn’t a well-developed character.
Don’t pester them—just accept their decision and thank them for their time.
If a negative review gets posted, ignore it. You’re not going to make yourself look good by commenting about what a lousy review it was, either on the blog or by emailing a snarky message directly to the blogger.
Doing so will simply burn your bridges—you’ll look petty and rude in the eyes of the blogger’s audience and the blogger will certainly remember your bad behavior and will probably tell their blogger friends that you’re not worth working with.
When working with book bloggers, follow the golden rule: Treat them the way you’d like to be treated. Be kind, courteous, and engaged. Treat them with respect and you’ll soon build a network of great contacts eager to support your writing career.
Book bloggers can be amazing partners on your author journey. Treat them like it!
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