Hi folks :) Today we're doing something a bit different on the old blog!
I asked Meghan Hyden, aka The Gal in the Blue Mask, to write a guest post explaining how authors can best go about asking for reviews and otherwise conducting themselves with book bloggers. She wrote a great post on the subject (Meghan is awesome and absolutely earned all her followers both author and reader) and I hope you find it as useful as I did :)
Running a book blog is nothing like running an author blog, even if you do post some reviews for the things that you are reading, even if you do take on some review requests. It is so much more than that. I’ve heard fellow book bloggers describe it as a second full-time job, and I agree with them completely. It’s not just the time that we put in to reading your book (and all the other books on the list), but it’s the hour or so that goes into just setting up the blog post (we need photos and descriptions and specifics and links, a lot of which are not provided to us by the author, so we have to go in search for them), the hours it takes writing the review (yup, hours), and the time we take sharing that link anywhere and everywhere we can. That’s not even including the reposting of the review on such sites as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and BookLikes. There’s the time we put into reading and responding to emails, scheduling, and all the business behind-the-scenes things that a blogger does every day. There’s the other blog posts we do, the research we do on those subjects, and the networking we take part in.
I tell you all of this, not as a complaint, but to show you just how much we love what it is that we are doing, and how much work goes into it. I feel that some people don’t realize all that we do on a daily basis… and this is while holding down full-time jobs, having a family, and attempting to have a life.
I’ve spent a bit thinking about the different things I wish every author knew before contacting me, and hopefully this will help make your connecting with us a little easier (on both of our parts) and run a little smoother.
1.Know who you’re talking to… and I’m not just talking about the horrible slip-ups where I’ve been called by the wrong name or addressed as Mr.
I always suggest that you take a moment to “get to know” the blogger or reviewer that you are reaching out to. Look around their blog for a little bit, check out any social media links that they have there, look them up on Goodreads and Amazon. This gives you a chance to see how they review, and allows you to write a message that is a little more personable.
It may take a little more time, but it is definitely worth it, and can be the difference between having your email sent to the trash (or worse, marked as spam) and creating a relationship with the blogger that will assure you reviews on all of your future releases. (That’s the big picture right there. Do you just want one review on this book, which is at the forefront of your mind right now, or do you want a blogger that you can go to when you have another release, or when you want to get yourself out there a little more? A lot of us do interviews and other things that can help you with your marketing.)
Be careful, though. If you go with the compliment route when you’re reaching out, make sure it’s a sincere one. (I had someone tell me that they loved my review once, but when I asked which review, they never emailed me back. We’re a curious group, and like to know what we’re doing right, and which of our reviews or posts are catching people’s eye enough that they contact us.) I’ve had several authors catch my attention by pointing out an exact quote from a review that they especially liked (and one who I will never forget who quoted the book description from Amazon as if I had written that myself). If you see that they reviewed a book similar to yours, that’s a great way to start a conversation, but make sure it’s actually a similar book. (I had an author offer me an erotica book based on it being similar to a gardening book I reviewed. I’m still not sure how that works.)
2.Take the time to look for the blogger’s Review Policy. (Another “time consuming” thing that is totally worth it.) You’ll find a lot of important information here i.e. the “terms” they have on reviewing (you know, what you’ll be getting is their honest opinion on your book, that they reserve the right to not review it at all, and that they can’t promise a specific time frame), whether they are still taking review submissions (be polite and respect their wishes if they are not), what kind of books they will and will not read, and the pertinent information they need in order to make the decision on your book. That last one is VERY important, because there are bloggers that will completely disregard your email, no matter how interesting the book sounds, if you don’t give them the information they require (no, a picture of the cover and a link to Amazon will not do).
I can’t tell you how annoying it is to receive an email that is just a bunch of gibberish about a book, especially when it is obvious that it is just cut and pasted from different places (the different sizes, fonts, and colors are a big clue). It may be just me, but I take my blog very seriously, and it bothers me to no end when people reach out to me for something on a professional basis without even trying to look professional. It’s nice that y’all are very proud of the good reviews that the book have received so far, but we don’t need to read them in our emails. (Personally, I don’t read other people’s reviews before I read a book I’m accepting as a review, but if I wanted to read that, I would go in search of the ones that you aren’t really proud of.)
Say hello. Introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about you as an author. Give us the information on your book i.e. title, place in the series (if applicable - and if it’s not the first, be willing to send those books to the blogger as well), genre (be specific), publisher and publication date, page count (this is one of my requests, as it helps me figure out how long it will take me to read the book), and book description. Include the cover photo, the link to the book on Amazon, and the link to your blog/website so that we can get to know you.
3.Here’s a few don’ts:
- Don’t just send the book. I’ve never really been able to figure out what the point of this is, but I had an author tell me once that this is his way of doing things because it “forces” the blogger to review the book now that it’s in their hands.
- Don’t expect your book to be the very next thing that the blogger reads. Most bloggers have a schedule already created. If you have a specific time frame that you would like the book reviewed in, feel free to discuss that with the blogger, but know that they may not be able to do what you specifically want.
- If a blogger says that they only read a specific genre (i.e. romance) or books directed to a specific group (i.e. young adult), don’t send them a review request for a book that doesn’t fall within that genre, or even worse, send them one in a genre that they specifically say they will not read (i.e. erotica or horror). (I talk a little more about genres below.)
- Don’t reach out to them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or in Messenger unless they specifically ask you to do so. Most bloggers either have their email address there or a form for you to fill out. Those other places, even if they are used for blog business as well, are there personal spaces, and shows them from the start that you are not professional and you do not see them as professional either. (I would like to note that, once there’s a rapport, this “don’t” may change.)
- Don’t argue with the blogger if you don’t agree with their review. As I said before, the review is an honest one based on the blogger’s opinion of the book. Arguing with them won’t change the matter, and will not make you look good. (You would think this wouldn’t be something necessary to state, but it seems that it is. I’ve not only seen it happened to a few bloggers I know, but I’ve been attacked several times by authors as well.)
- Don’t assume that a 3 star review is a bad one. Personally, that’s my middle ground. I hardly ever give anything below that, and I use my 3 star reviews to offer constructive criticism, and to point out what I did and did not like about the book. Not only is constructive criticism helpful to the author (if you take the time to read it and take it in), but it’s also helpful to future readers (some may love the things that I did not like or vice versa).
- Utilize genres, especially sub-genres. This is one of my number one pieces of advice as an editor, and that’s mainly from what I learned being a blogger. Ya see, I loathe romance books, and will not read erotica. But there are ways around this.
Erica Lucke Dean is an author who writes romance, and she will get me every time with her romance malarky (haha). Not only is she a fantastic writer (no, she didn’t pay me to write this), but her characters grab you every time, and it’s hard for me to turn down anything that she offers me. Her way of convincing me to read the first book of her Flames of Time series was telling me that it’s a romance, but so much more. If you look her series up on Amazon, you’ll see that the genres are “Romance > Time Travel” and “Romance > Paranormal > Witches & Wizards.” Instead of putting just romance, she made sure to let readers know that there is a lot more going on in the books than just the sweet lovey-dovey stuff that some of us just can’t stand, which opens you up to more readers. If your book falls into several different genres, and they read at least one of them, make sure you share this information with the blogger, but remember that they may need a bit of convincing. (Notice I said “convincing” and not “arguing.”)
- Contact them on a personal level. In other words, treat them like a human, and not like a machine.
I’m going to use Erica as an example again here. Whenever I speak to her, she asks me how life is going, or asks me about something she either saw me post on Facebook or something we had discussed previously. She’s always very sincere, and turns the request into a conversation, not just a “here, read my book.” I especially love that we’re able to discuss the books that she sends me, and that she is honestly interested in my opinion on them. (She says that it’s even more so since I dislike romance haha.)
Now, some bloggers may not be very open to this, and if they are not, you’ll get all the cues, but it never hurts to try “making a friend.” It shows them that they are more than just a vessel to read your book, and helps to increase that “future relationship” I discussed earlier.
- Say thank you. Even if you didn’t request that we review your book - that means we spent our money on it, or borrowed it from the library, or received it as a gift - we did take the time to read it and review it. Go to the blog and say thank you. Go to Amazon or Goodreads, or wherever you found the review, and like it.
- Share those links everywhere you can, and often. This is always something that leaves me puzzled. An author asks for a review, or participates in an interview, or takes part in a guest post on my blog - and then they never share the links. Why? You’re not sharing the links for me (though I do appreciate it), but for yourself, and you should have enough respect for yourself and what you do to share those links on all your social media, write posts of your own sharing the links, even have a space on your blog that sends readers to the different reviews that have been written on your blogs, as well as the interviews and such that you have done. That helps YOU with marketing. We, honestly, can only do so much.
I wish you luck in your reaching out to bloggers and your relationship building. We’re a great group of people, and definitely ones you want on your side.
Thanks, Amanda, for having me on today. This was a lot of fun (and my first EVER guest post on someone’s blog - not as scary as I thought it would be haha).
My name is Meghan, and I’m “The Gal” from over at The Gal in the Blue Mask, a rather eclectic (and awesome, if I do say so myself) book blog, even if it does sometimes look like I read way too much horror haha.
I started The Gal in the Blue Mask back in 2014 because I wanted a place where I could be myself and have my own rules, a place where I could not only review the books that I was reading, but help my readers learn more about the authors behind those books. To be honest, I never thought anyone, other than my mom, would be looking at it, which is probably why it was so easy for me to just jump into it. After a couple of months, I realized that I was getting a bit of notice, and was super pleased that my mother would go through all the trouble of coming back to my site several times on a daily basis to make me feel good about myself. It wasn’t until I received my first email asking for a review that I realized other people were actually reading it, and that maybe all those views weren’t just my mom.
When I’m not reading and book blogging, I’m most likely editing (Hyde ’n’ Seek Editing), hanging out at Disney World or swimming in my backyard, cooking up some recipe that makes WAY more than two people can eat, cuddling my occasionally sweet kitties (and posting pictures on Instagram of their cuteness), watching more British TV than an American should, or being snarky on Facebook. I like meeting new people, so don’t hesitate to reach out.
The Gal in the Blue Mask on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheGalintheBlueMask/