01 April 2015

How to Get Reviews for your Book from Bloggers

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net - Stuart Miles
I've spent the last five months promoting my debut book. Aside from regular social media, my intent was to get as many book bloggers as possible to review the book. I decided to go it alone (without using a blog tour company) and here are the things I learned.

So far I have secured reviews or features on sixty-three different websites You can find a list of the websites I've been or will be featured on here.

Has it been worth it? To get the reviews, definitely. While they haven't all been 5* (your book isn't going to be to everyone's tastes), it has both improved my listings on Amazon and Goodreads, and also driven spikes of sales. Some of the interviews/guest posts have results in sales as well (but not all). I don't think I can put a price on the relationships I've built, and the new fans I've gained as a result.

I don't necessarily recommend this approach (there are many blog tour companies who will save you a lot of time) but if you do want to go DIY here are my tips...

How to Find the Book Bloggers


Your problem won't be finding the book bloggers. It will be narrowing them down. Once you start, you'll find an ever-expanding web of blogs until you find yourself wallowing helplessly through the mire. Focus.

Don't just fling your review request at every single website you can find. It's a waste of your time. If you check a few things first, you'll save yourself the time and energy of emailing book bloggers who won't reply because they aren't accepting your type of request.

It can be addictive, just like querying (I can stop anytime I want, honest...). At some point though, you will get request fatigue. So focus your efforts on where you'll get the best bang for your buck.

There are heaps of websites which list bloggers. I don't need to tell you how to use Google. First, focus on those which review your genre exclusively.

A good shortcut for finding the most relevant bloggers is to find a book like yours that has been released recently and been on a blog tour. In most cases you should be able to find a list of all the blog tour stops. Simply click on each of the websites and follow the process below.

Another approach is to google reviews for a popular author in your genre - one who is too well-established to be doing blog tours, but is being reviewed widely by the bloggers.

Most blogs will have a blogroll, or list of their favourite blogs, usually in their sidebar. This will prove irresistible (more blogs! more reviews!). By all means, click on them. But continue to be ruthless and follow the guidelines below. And make sure you deal with all the websites you have open before you go opening more from the next blog. I know, it's hard! But it will wear you out eventually.

Determine Whether to Submit for Review


Okay, so you're on the blog. The first thing you do is check that it's still active - have they posted in the last couple of weeks, preferably in the last few days? If yes, the next thing you do is:

Check their review policy. Sometimes finding the policy can be a mission. If you draw a blank but find their email address, use your judgement as to whether to send them a request - do they review books like yours, from indie authors?

Things to check on the review policy:
1. Are they currently accepting review requests? Sometimes bloggers will leave their whole policy in tact but put a note somewhere (hopefully at the top of the page) that they are currently closed.
2. Do they review books by indie-authors? (no point getting excited about everything else if this is a No)
3. Do they review books in your genre?
4. Do they review e-books? (ignore if you are willing to supply your book in print)
5. Do they have specific submission requirements which mean you'll need to tailor your request in a certain way? Some websites want you to fill in a form instead of emailing - follow their instructions in each case.
6. Most good bloggers will note that they are not paid for reviews, and that they will not distribute your work to anyone else.
7. Note any other information such as the standard response/review time, where they post their reviews (some post more widely on request, such as to Amazon and Goodreads), and if they will post a negative review.

Once you are satisfied they will accept your request and are a good fit, go back to their homepage and check:

1. How many blog followers do they have? Facebook likes? Twitter followers? Goodreads friends? They should have at least a couple of hundred, maybe a couple of thousand (you decide what is an acceptable threshold). No matter how cool their blog is, if no-one knows about it your review won't get noticed.
2. Along the same lines, scroll down through their posts. How many comments does each one get? If there aren't any, it might not be worth your time submitting a review request.
3. At the same time, notice the types of books they are reviewing and the average ratings or types of comments they make. If you haven't already got enough information on the genres they read, looking at the actual reviews should clue you in. If necessary, check out their Goodreads profile.

So everything looks great with the review policy, their social presence and interaction on the blog. Time to get your submission ready.

How to Submit for Review


You should be able to write a template which you can use for most requests, except for those with very specific guidelines. Your request might include these parts:

1. The blogger's email address - send to only one at a time.

2. Your subject line with the words "review", "request" and the title of your book somewhere in it.

3. Address the blogger by name - their first name, e.g. "Dear Kathy,"

4. Introductory letter with the main pitch.
This may take the form of "I would like to submit my book [BOOK NAME] for review. It is a [genre and any other vital differentiating facts]. I have included more details about the book below." Then let them know the formats it is available in and if you have a deadline in mind (but don't sound demanding). Sign off with your pen name.

Be polite, courteous and professional. Sure, you're offering to give them a free book. But it takes time and effort to read and review a book, and if they're good at it they'll be in hot demand. Your tone should reflect your understanding of this.

5. Book details:
a) Title
b) Author
c) Publisher
d) Published date
e) Number of pages/words
6. Book blurb
Your synopsis or back cover copy. You should already have this to hand.

7. Book links:
a) Goodreads
b) Amazon
c) Other retailers

8. Your Bio
Short author bio (a few paragraphs). Again you should already have one on file.

9. Your links:
a) Your website
b) Facebook
c) Twitter
d) Any other social media of note

10. Attach your cover.

Proof-read several times. The last thing you want is the blogger thinking your pitch is sloppy and therefore your book will be too. Remember to include/attach anything else mentioned in the policy guidelines (although the above will cover off 99% of them).

Hit SEND!

Many bloggers will not reply if they are not interested. Expect to get a positive response from maybe one or two in ten. If a blogger expresses interest, continue to be respectful and whatever you do, don't beg them for a positive review. Your work should speak for itself. Just send off whatever file format they want and thank them for their time.

The good bloggers will be booked up at least a couple of months in advance. Ideally you should be contacting them 3-4 months in advance of your release - but this can be a challenge when all you want is to finish the damn book! Be prepared for the fact that your reviews/posts will be staggered if you do your promo post-release. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

In many cases a blogger may reply saying they are too snowed under to do a review, but the offer a guest post, interview or feature instead. This may mean some effort on your part but as a writer starting out any publicity (on reputable websites) is worth the effort. If they ask you to do a giveaway, consider it. They know best how to maximise the exposure for your book.

Note for sending directly to Kindle email address
Sending a mobi file directly to the reviewer's Kindle is a win-win. They get it straight on their device and you make sure it won't be distributed to anyone else. There are a few steps to follow though:
1. The reviewer needs to send you their Kindle address, which won't be the same one you're corresponding with. It will end in @kindle.com.
2. The reviewer needs to add you to their list of addresses within their Kindle account (type your email address into the body of the email so they can copy and paste it). Instructions of how to do this are here, point 2.
3. Once they have confirmed they've done #2, email the file to their Kindle address. You don't need to type a message.

Negative Reviews?
Not everyone is going to fall in love with your book, regardless of how similar you thought their tastes were. People make negative comments for all sorts of reasons you never could have anticipated. Maybe they weren't in the right mood for your book at that time, perhaps it wasn't quite the specific slant on the genre they like, they thought it moved too fast or too slow, or perhaps something about the characters irked them. You can't please everyone. If you get reviews with three or less stars, see if there is any constructive feedback in the review and then move on. There's no point dwelling - focus on the good ones. Pay attention though if there are common negative threads in several different reviews. Perhaps you should learn something for the next book.

Whatever you do, do not reply to the review on social media or contact the blogger privately to complain. It will only make the situation worse.

Goodreads
Readers on Goodreads seem to be particularly harsh. I've even had people put a lower rating on Goodreads than they put on Amazon or their own website (more than once!). Why? Who knows. Maybe they like to appear more harsh in front of their Goodreads friends. Just don't be surprised if your overall ranking on Goodreads is lower than the rest of the universe. It's still an important tool for word of mouth and can't be ignored.

A note on piracy
If you followed all the guidelines above, you can be fairly confident the bloggers you send your book to are legit. If they do end up passing it onto their friends - sure, you may have lost a sale... but you may have also gained a fan, which is so valuable for a writer starting out. Stay vigilant - google your book frequently and if it pops up on a pirate website, take immediate action.

3 comments:

  1. That is incredibly helpful, Charlotte. You've obviously worked very hard and I hope your efforts pay dividends with your sales. Congrats! x

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Angela :-)

      I thought I might be able to help out newbie authors if I shared my experiences.

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