If you’re publishing books, indie or otherwise, in today’s market, you’re probably aware that the days of putting a book up for sale and going to lunch while sales roll in are a thing of the past. (If you aren’t, spoiler?) Creating is a rewarding experience, and if you’re anything like me, you love the creative part of it but aren’t so thrilled about the business side. In particular, I struggle with putting myself out there, which is where having a strong book marketing strategy comes in. There are lots of aspects to this, but today, I’m focusing on something I know well from doing it over the last ten years—book blogging.
I started blogging while I was in grad school and quickly realized that coming up with posts on top of writing my thesis novel and taking two other classes was not going to work, especially after I had to scrap everything I’d written the first two semesters and still graduate on time (good times). Enter book blogging. I could make connections and have supplied blog content? Sign me up. I tossed up some hosting guidelines, got myself on some blogger directories, and grinned as requests started coming in.
It didn’t take long before I started noticing some patterns, though. A lot of the authors who contacted me were lovely individuals who were very appreciative of the volunteer marketing service, if small, I was providing. Others, though, were not lovely at all, and there were often very clear warning signs in their initial emails. Not knowing those warning signs put me in touch with some rude, nasty, and borderline hostile people who almost made me give up the entire venture.
Ten years later and going strong, I’m still book blogging, but I’ve learned a thing or two about which emails to respond to and which to delete. To avoid being the author who ends up in the trash folder with a demolished book marketing strategy, here are 5 easy (and thoughtful) ways to get more book bloggers to review your book.
Address Bloggers by Name
This seems like such a small thing, but it means a lot to see that you’ve taken the time to personalize your email. Most book bloggers review books as a hobby, and addressing us by name goes a long way in making us feel appreciated. “Hi, Mary” always feels nicer than just “hi” or “hey” or, on one particularly memorable occasion, “greetings, name.” In the early days, I figured the lack of personalization was a mistake or a time-saving technique. Authors are busy people, and anyone can forget to add a word to an email. Life happens.
As time went on, I started noticing the “hi” or “greetings name” people were just difficult—late with getting me materials, mean or insulting when I’d remind them I was waiting on post materials that I needed in 2-3 days, wouldn’t send a thank-you or even an acknowledgement of any kind after the post went live. I felt like I was being used, which led to a “no name, no game” policy. My name wasn’t difficult to find. It was all over my site (even right at the top where the link for my About page read “About Mary”). If I was going to take time to put a post together, an author could take two seconds to write my name.
Oh, and this should go without saying, but make sure you spell the blogger’s name correctly. Which leads me to the second item on this list.
Spell The Book Blog’s Name Correctly
You may or may not be surprised at the amount of emails I get telling me how much someone enjoyed browsing the book reviews on “Kit ‘N Kaboodle.” Honestly, easy mistake to make, which I was aware of when I chose the name. However, also easy mistake to fix. It’s a very simple matter of looking at the top of the page, noticing it’s “K” not “D,” and editing the email so it reads “Kit ‘N Kabookle.”
Like with the name, in the beginning, I was willing to overlook this. Authors were busy, and they probably saw what they wanted to see. But after a while, I noticed the people who spelled my site name wrong came with the same issues as the “greetings, name” people. I also realized that I was worth more than “I didn’t really read the name of your site, but you review books, so review my book—thanks.” Emails that include how great a book blog “Kit ‘N Kaboodle” is get a pass.
Pro Tip: Some bloggers may not wish to put their name out there. If you really have done a thorough search and cannot find a name anywhere, starting an email with “Hi, [name of site” is better than “greetings, name.”
Show You’ve Read The Blog’s Hosting Guidelines
When I first started book blogging, I didn’t do book reviews. I wasn’t confident in my ability to write them, and part of me was afraid someone would get mad and badmouth me everywhere, thus dooming my chances of ever making it as an author. (Not a slight exaggeration—I really was this melodramatic back in the day.) So authors wouldn’t be caught off guard, I stated right on my hosting guidelines page that I didn’t review books. Maybe people just assumed all book bloggers reviewed or maybe they figured they may as well ask, but I got a lot of requests for reviews.
Early on, I would politely respond that while [title of your book] sounded awesome, I didn’t review but would host an interview, guest post, or spotlight. Many authors were on board with this. Many others would send their book along with the rest of my post materials. This irked me. I said I didn’t do reviews. Why do you think your book is so special that I’ll mystically decide to read and review it? It felt like pushy self-promotion, and many of those authors were rude to me after they found out I didn’t post a review of their book.
Hey, I said right on my hosting guidelines page that I didn’t review. Not my fault if they didn’t read it. Right?
Don’t Tell Bloggers They Have to Read Your Book
If you’ve written and published something, odds are good you like it and think it’s great. This really does go without saying. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have spent all that time on your marketing strategy and contacted all these bloggers to ask for their help. I cannot tell you the number of emails I open (often addressed to “hi”) that include some version of “my book is fantastic, and you need to read it right now.”
This was cool the first two or three times it happened. After that, it felt like bragging, and not the nice kind. It was pushy, and I couldn’t help but wonder why the author felt the need to tell me this. Who were they trying to convince? When I did start reviewing books, I took on a few from emails like this, and often, I found those were the books that had glaring plot holes, missing words all over the place, and characters whose names were spelled two or three different ways. In short, they were no fun to read, despite the authors’ claims they were the best book ever written.
Listen up: be proud like this peacock—don’t brag. Bragging is not a solid book marketing strategy. It may feel like it’s pumping up your book, but really, it makes a lot of bloggers wonder why you have to say this about it. Are you hiding something? And if the book doesn’t live up to the hype, book reviews will reflect that. A blogger might give a book 2 stars they would have otherwise given 3 because they felt even more like the read didn’t match their expectations.
Don’t Insult Other Authors/Books
I once had someone email me asking for a review for their fantasy novel. They went on to tell me the novel was unique, thought-provoking, and “far better than such drivel as Harry Potter.”
I do not gest—drivel. Your feelings about HP or Rowling aside, this is a completely unnecessary comparison to make in an email requesting help from a book blogger (who can only take on a limited number of books for review due to time constraints) for a favor. If the person you’re emailing turns out to be a super-fan of the book you just insulted, that’s a guaranteed “no.”
I said this about bragging, and I’m going to say it again for this because it’s VERY important: insulting people is not a solid book marketing strategy. It’s not a solid marketing strategy for anything. All this does is tell me the author is jealous of someone else’s success, and jealousy is never a pretty emotion. Even more, I don’t want to work with someone who starts their relationship with me by insulting someone else. What will they be like if I happen to do something they dislike?
Bonus Tip: Thank your Book Bloggers
I begin every reply to a review/feature request with “thank you for reaching out.” This author had lots of publicity and marketing options for their book, and they chose to contact me because they saw something about my site that made them feel like it was a good match. I appreciate that, and I make sure authors know it. A quick thanks is one of the most meaningful things you can do for someone who’s helping you out. It doesn’t have to be anything lengthy or complicated. A quick “I saw the post—thanks again” does the trick, and it honestly makes my day.
Final Thoughts on Book Bloggers
Long story short, bloggers are a solid book marketing strategy. (See what I did there?) Taking a few extra minutes to be polite and thorough can make all the difference when trying to get reviews for your book. Some bloggers get hundreds of requests a week, and you can bet many have auto-no criteria—meaning if an email doesn’t follow guidelines, it doesn’t get read. If your emails aren’t getting read, your book is not getting reviewed. If your book isn’t getting reviewed, people aren’t seeing it. I’ll let you do the math for how that translates into sales.
So, to recap:
- Address book bloggers by name
- Spell The blog’s name right
- Read and follow review/hosting guidelines
- Do not unnecessarily brag about your book
- Do not insult other books/authors
- Thank your book bloggers
- And make bloggers part of your book marketing strategy
Got your emails ready? Now, you just need some bloggers to pitch. Here’s the link to the Book Blogger List, and the BookSirens also features a nice collection that’s organized by genre.
And if you want to take things to the next level with a virtual book tour, I highly recommend Goddess Fish Promotions. I’ve been hosting tours with them for a decade, and they are fantastic to work with.