Reviews are essential for book marketing – they provide social proof that our books are engaging and reader-worthy. They also have an effect on the algorithms on bookseller sites.
Book review bloggers provide an essential service for writers looking for reviews.
But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about approaching these professional readers about your book.
Today book blogger Brit McGinnis highlights four essential things writers should know when pitching their books to online reviewers.
More authors than ever are working with small book blogs (and by proxy, book blog tour companies) than ever. It’s becoming a standard part of a book release: Meet with book fans in real life, and meet up with book fans in the virtual world. Why do you think your agent was so interested in how many Twitter followers you had? We have to make sure that review post flies out as far as possible!
As the editor in chief of Fangirls Read It First, I’m delighted to have seen more authors approach my blog asking for a review. Independent and traditionally published authors alike are embracing this form of publicity. It’s led to more interesting discussions around books between citizens of the Book Web.
But all too often, authors don’t know how to approach a book blog properly. The knowledge of how small blogs work isn’t common knowledge. Here’s what to keep in mind the next time you aim to submit a review request:
1. A Human-Sounding Pitch Goes A Long Way
If you opt not to use a tour company and decide to send cold pitches for book reviews, great! It’s not considered unusual nor unprofessional to solicit reviews yourself, or even to do it through an assistant.
Pitching a small book blog presents a rare opportunity for writers: You can talk about your book with people who have no stake in what your book is about. Be enthusiastic. Talk about what people might like about your book. Reference similar books the blog has covered and how yours may appeal to the same fans. Don’t be stiff. This is the least judgmental crowd to whom you may ever pitch your book.
2. Not All Blog Tour Companies Are Created Equal
Most commonly, authors will seek to use a tour company that solicits reviews from blog in the name of the author. It’s a good option for authors that are squeezed for time or who don’t know which blogs may be worth your time.
Most blog tours are run by lovely and enthusiastic people. But I and my reviewers have worked with some that are more invested in an author’s money than their success. These companies solicit coverage from any blog willing to write about the book, regardless of fit or audience relevance. We feel bad writing those reviews, and we feel bad for the authors that have given their money to this company who doesn’t have their best interests at heart.
To achieve the best blog coverage for your book, look for a blog tour company that has review-only tour options. This is an an indicator that they are selective about which blogs they work with and that they communicate with them in a timely fashion. Cover reveal and excerpt-only review stops tend to elicit less follow-up from tour companies. A visible blog roll on the tour company’s website is another sign that you’re giving your money to a company that really understands the needs of authors.
3. If We Say We Want A Certain Genre, We Mean It
Some of the most successful independent book review blogs (such as Smexy Books and Fiction Vixen) have found their success by narrowing their focus to a certain genre or subgenre. Doubling down on one genre means we can connect more deeply to our fans and build a blog’s fan-base faster.
If a blog states on their About or Submissions page that they are only reviewing one type of book, take that warning seriously. Blogs are in the business of serving their readers first.
One thing to note: If a blog says that they are temporarily not covering certain genres, they mean that as well. This decision is typically made because there’s too many reviews of books in that genre backlogged. Check in with the blog again in 2-4 weeks.
4. Our Readers Are Potential Superfans. Treat Them As Such
Reviewers don’t care if you’re offering an excerpt of your next book on your website. It’s a good offering, but we don’t know you as an author yet. What does it matter to our readers? But a giveaway is cause for excitement… and extra distribution on our end.
Call it bribery.
But giveaways are popular on book blogs for a reason: They convey that the book’s author is willing to lose a little bit of money if it means that new people will potentially read their book. It is an acknowledgement that the enthusiasm of readers will determine whether or not their book is successful. It’s all worth it if they can earn the fans’ favor.
But even if you’re not planning a giveaway, it’s important to take book blogs and their readers seriously. You may not be reaching as many people as you would with a review in The New York Times. But you will be reaching a very passionate audience that likely contains many super readers. A shout-out tweet or responding to a comment yourself may go a very long way.
Have you had success in pitching book review blogs? Do you have any experience to share or questions to ask? Please do add a comment below and join the conversation.
Brit McGinnis is an author, copywriter and general research nerd.