As a published author, I am very thankful for book bloggers. Not only have these unpaid reviewers given The Cross and the Dragon their endorsements, they have also exposed it to new audiences.
So far, The Cross and the Dragon has been the subject of 13 reviews and interviews on the blogosphere, and it’s not done yet. I will continue to reach out to reviewers in the months ahead.
In the hopes of being helpful to both authors and reviewers, I’d like to share a few tips for authors, especially those who published with a small press or self-published. Much of this comes from my experience as a journalist, when I was on the receiving end of a pitch for free publicity.
Rule No. 1: Be Nice
Remember that you are asking someone for a favor. You are asking them to spend hours with your book and write down what they think–for free.
Many reviewers are writing their blogs on their own time, while they maintain a full-time job, fulfill family obligations, have other responsibilities, or a combination of all of the above, just like you.
Rule No. 2: Read the Review Policy
Because of the time commitment bloggers make, it only stands to reason that they select books for review that they think they’ll like. So if a reviewer says they won’t read a novel in your genre, move on. It’s not personal.
Literary tastes are like food tastes. I happen to like Brussels sprouts, but some people won’t eat them, even through there is nothing wrong with the vegetable. Don’t waste the reviewer’s time and yours by offering something they said they don’t like, or worse clogging their inbox with the e-book or wasting your money by mailing an unsolicited print book.
Nor it is anything personal if a blogger can’t accept any new books until they catch up on their backlist.
Rule No. 3: Read the ‘About Me’ Section
I always like it when a letter is addressed to me personally rather than “Dear Author,” and I can only surmise reviewers would appreciate the same courtesy. If you find something that you have in common–such as being members of the Historical Novel Society, for example–it helps to make that connection.
Rule No. 4: Send Only a Pitch
I will not send unsolicited books, electronic or print, unless the review policy states otherwise.
Ebooks and images are large files, and clogging an inbox with unsolicited files is annoying. You’re not going to get a yes by annoying people.
As for print, well, I want to expend resources where they will do the most good. Having my unsolicited book land in someone’s mailbox only to be unread is a waste of money.
My experience at my last job at a daily newspaper in a midsize Indiana city colors this view. We were sent unsolicited books in the hopes they’d be reviewed. My newspaper didn’t publish reviews, even of local authors.
Rule No. 5: Have the Basics Covered
OK, the basics need to be done before you send your first e-mail. You need to have a strong, enticing blurb of 200 words or less. (An earlier post in Outtakes details how I wrote my blurb.)
You should have an excerpt and first chapter posted on your website so that you can link to them in your e-mail and help the blogger decide whether they want to devote time to your work.
Rule No. 6: Be Professional
The e-mail you send to a reviewer likely is their first impression of you. Bad spelling, bad grammar, and rambling writing is a turn off, just like it is with agents and editors.
Rule No. 7: Be Flexible
In this case, those of us who are published with a small press or self-published have an advantage. No one is putting pressure on us for our sales to do well within the first two weeks—or else. If it will be two months (or more) before a blogger can post the review, it still will make an impact.
And be patient (see rule No. 1). Constantly asking “are we there yet” doesn’t speed up the trip. I have followed up with bloggers when they’re running late on reviews, but I’ve waited a few weeks.
Rule No. 8: If You’re Offered an Alternative, Accept It
Endorsements are wonderful, especially when you’ve tried for years to be published and could paper a large walk-in closet with all your rejection letters. But it’s not always possible for a blogger to fit a review into their schedule. An interview or a guest post is still a free way to expose your work to a new audience.
Rule No. 9: Realize You Might Still Get No for an Answer or Not Get an Answer at All
Even if you follow all of my suggestions, I can’t guarantee you’ll get a review. I have lots unanswered e-mails. This is not a complaint, and I don’t take it personally. Some reviewers get so many e-mails, they simply can’t answer them all, and I must assume that my novel and these particular readers were just not meant for each other.
Rule No. 10: If You’re Tempted to Pay for a Review, Don’t
Paying for a review taints the whole process and ruins it for all authors and readers. The only trade should be a free book for an honest review.
A paid reviewer’s claim that they won’t guarantee a review will be favorable lacks credibility. A business needs satisfied customers to survive.
You are much better off enlisting the services of a virtual book tour organizer or making an investment of time, whether that is in making sure you’ve contacted the right reviewers or improving the book itself.
I welcome everyone’s comment but would especially appreciate feedback from reviewers. What advice would you give to authors seeking to have their work reviewed?