5 Mistakes Authors Make When Approaching Book Bloggers

Day 106 - I am a librarian

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Welcome former book blogger Anne Chaconas!

Book bloggers are right next to readers on the “Writers’ Best Friends” list. In fact, book bloggers might even rank just a teensy bit higher, because they’re a writer’s link to readers. A trusted link. Readers often hold the opinions and reviews of their favorite book bloggers in very high regard, and look to them for guidance when making book-purchasing decisions. Trust me; I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it because, for about a year, I was a book blogger myself (I used to run Indie Author Book Reviews; I’ve since had to stop due to toddler mayhem, newborn needs, running a business, and the general need to occasionally sleep for a few hours. I miss it, though).

In that year, I got an seemingly endless stream of requests to review books; the majority of them were from indie authors. I love indie authors. Some of the best modern literature I’ve read over the past few years has come from indie authors. I love that they are often approachable and fun, and that interacting with a new favorite writer is no longer an impossibility. All I need to do is find them on social media and—voilá!—I can be exchanging pleasantries in the 30 seconds it takes me to type 140 characters.

However, despite my love for them, I do have a bone to pick: Y’all make some silly mistakes when contacting book bloggers. Oh-so-silly. Mistakes that at best can cause you to be ignored by the book blogger, and at worst can cause you to become a laughingstock or informally blacklisted in the book blogging community. Don’t forget: we talk. We share stories. And when silly things are done by authors, chances are pretty good word will get around. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

Here are the five most common mistakes I saw authors make:

1. Not checking out the blog first.
So you found a list of book bloggers somewhere (it could be the Book Blogger List, the Book Blogger Directory, or the IndieView Reviewer List (there are others, too, of course) and you start emailing them immediately, without bothering to check out the blog first. What’s the big deal about that? I hear you asking. Well, it’s akin to buying a dress online: chances are pretty good it won’t fit. The first thing you need to do before emailing any book bloggers is make sure their blog is a good fit for your book, and vice-versa. Otherwise, you’re just wasting everyone’s time. You also need to check if the blog is still active and (more importantly) if the reviewer is currently accepting books. And, on your end, you should check out the blog to make sure it’s a place where you’d want your book reviewed. Check out past posts and reviews. Do you like what you see? Are the reviews and posts professional? Do they get a lot of reader interaction? Does the blog have an active social media presence (Facebook page, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads)? This has to be a mutually beneficial experience, after all. Just like the book blogger wants to get the best books and authors possible on their site, you want to make sure to get the best bloggers for your book.

2. Ignoring review policies.
I cannot stress this enough. Read the policies. READ THE POLICIES. READ THE DAMN POLICIES. It doesn’t take long. This is the number one issue I ran into as a book blogger. It’s probably also the one that made me the angriest, because it just felt rude. Here you are, emailing me, asking me to read your book, asking me to review it, asking me to post about it, asking me to spend a chunk of my very limited time doing all this, and you didn’t bother to check if I even reviewed your genre, or what I needed to receive from you as part of your inquiry? Read the policies. Find out what I read. Find out what I need from you. And then follow the directions. Most bloggers will lay out very specific directions on what they want from authors. We do this not to be difficult or feel important, but because we know what works for us and what we need to decide if a book is right for us. If you start by visiting the blog, chances are good you’ll check out my reviewing policies. And if you check them out, follow them.

3. Sending out a mass email.
When I get an obvious mass email, I usually delete it. Typically without reading it. I do this with any mass-looking email that I didn’t sign up for, regardless of whether it’s asking me to review a book or not. And if I don’t immediately delete it, I’m going to read it with different expectations. I’m going to need to be impressed for me to take the next step, whatever it may be. A mass email tells me that you didn’t take the time to personalize things, you probably didn’t go to my blog, you likely didn’t check out my policies. Heck, you probably didn’t bother finding out my name. You just needed my email address, after all. Mass emails = impersonal = bad. When contacting book bloggers, take the time to get personal. Don’t just find out their email. Find out their name. Click around the blog a little bit; find something interesting to comment on when contacting them. Start your email with their name and that little tidbit you found. It makes a world of difference. I know this not just from my past book blogger days, but from my current book marketing business. When I set up a blog tour for an author client, my response rate increases exponentially when I personalize the email I send to book bloggers and take the time to make it clear I specifically wrote it for them after checking out their site.

4. Asking a book reviewer to buy the book in order to review it.
Yes, believe it or not, this happens urprisingly often. DO NOT ASK BOOK BLOGGERS TO BUY YOUR BOOK. I won’t explain why. You should already know why. Your options are: (1) Provide the blogger with a coupon code to Smashwords where they can get your book in their preferred format for free; (2) Gift them the book through Amazon; (3) Ask their preferred format, then email the file to them once they’ve responded (make sure you have .mobi, .epub, and .pdf on hand; that covers the bases). Just don’t ask them to buy your book.

5. Making too many demands.
Please post on such-and-such a date. Please email me once the link is live. Please cross-post on Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari. Please tweet it out five times on the day you post. Please tag my Facebook author page when you post about the review. Please include this photo. Please include this book trailer. Please do this. Please do that. And please do these other five things, as well. And, often, without saying please.

Look, we get it. If you’re getting a review, you want it posted. You want to know when the review is up. You want the link. You want it to be available everywhere your book is sold. But if you start off our bloggy relationship by making fifty bajillion demands, I’m probably just going to reply and say that this is probably not such a great idea, and I’ll pass. Because if you’re like this at the outset, what will you be like once I’ve got the book in hand? That thought is just scary.

Book bloggers love to read. They love to tell others about what they read. They love to establish relationships with authors, and they love to help their favorite authors out. Get on a book blogger’s good side, and you’ve got an extremely helpful, trusted marketing machine on your team. Get on their bad side, and you could get majorly badmouthed.

At the end of the day, it boils down to being nice, being personable, and doing your homework. Take the time to research bloggers, take the time to email them, and make it as easy as possible for them to say YES, PLEASE to your book.

Anne ChaconasAbout the author: Anne Chaconas was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, attended a small private university in New Haven, Connecticut, and currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, two kids, four cats, two dogs, and entirely too many books. Anne writes many things, but has found her true love in humorous non-fiction and parenting essays.

She is currently working on EMBRACE YOUR WEIRD (a how-to guide on how to be happy from someone not academically qualified to write such a guide) and A STORK FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST (a collection of essays, limericks, and assorted musings on pregnancy, childbirth, parenthood, and other unnatural acts). She also offers marketing services for authors. You can find out more about Anne online.

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41 Responses to 5 Mistakes Authors Make When Approaching Book Bloggers

  1. A.K. Meek October 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Great advice. As a reviewer and author, I find this very informative. Thanks.

    • Molly Greene October 14, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      Thank you, A.K.!

    • Anne Chaconas October 14, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

      I’m glad you found it useful, A.K.! 🙂

  2. Robyn Jones October 14, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    When I first started requesting reviews it felt a little like cold calling, but going through the blogger’s posts and reviews allowed me to make a possible connection even if the person passed on reviewing my book. What do you think about the open call approach where for example an author sends out a DM on Goodreads or Twitter saying that his book is available any time to be reviewed?

    Great post! It’s always helpful to get the inside scoop.

    • Molly Greene October 14, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

      Thanks Robyn! Anne did a great job on this post. Have you tried the open call review approach? I wonder how many replies people get, any idea the response rate?

    • Anne Chaconas October 14, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

      IMHO, it’s tricky with a DM, Robyn, because it can feel like spamming (similar to the Twitter auto-DMs thanking you for a follow and immediately asking you do to something, like share a post, visit a website, or buy a book). I think people equate DMs with a personalized message, and when it’s obvious that it’s not personalized, it easily gets ignored and/or blocked. From my perspective as a book blogger, it would be better if, instead of directly messaging me with an open-call approach, you scheduled regular tweets advising people that your book is available any time to be reviewed, and make sure that your Goodreads profile states that, too. It’s much less invasive, and is likely to yield better results.

      Of course, personally emailing book bloggers after checking out their sites and policies remains the best approach, but the steps I outlined above would be a good second. 🙂

  3. Anne R. Allen October 14, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    AMEN!! Every author (and publicist) needs to read this.

    Publicists are the worst. They see somebody has guest blogged for me so they think I owe them a review. Except I don’t have a review blog! Nobody has ever reviewed a book on my blog, and yet I get a dozen or more review requests a month. All they have to do is click on the link and take a 10 second look at the blog…but that’s not worth their time.

    But it’s worth my time to read their silly emails and respond politely?

    And yes, I’ve had plenty that tell me where I can BUY the book.

    I get tired of it.

    Rule #1 Don’t query a blogger without reading the blog! Why is that so hard?

    Thanks for this, Molly! I’ll spread the word!

    • Molly Greene October 14, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

      Thanks, Anne! I get several review requests a month, too, mostly on Twitter – also get approached with requests to interview authors on my blog, as well. And yes, it is time-consuming to reply. I try to be polite, but, ummm … Hmmm.

      • Anne Chaconas October 14, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

        It’s so very hard to be polite after the 157th time you’re approached about something you don’t do. Or when you’re approached about something you DO do but without the appropriate information.

        So very, very hard.

    • Anne Chaconas October 14, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

      I’m so glad you found the post useful, Anne! It’s funny–even after shutting down my book review blog, I still get emails all the time asking me to review books. I wish I could say that I respond to them, but I simply ignore them now. I’ve shut the blog down, I’ve included an auto-responder in the old blog email that lets people know that I no longer review, and the social media profiles for the blog are all taken down–and still I get requests. I just don’t know…I totally understand that priority #1 for many authors is getting their book out there and reviewed, but…taking the time to find out of a blog is still active and if they even review should be the first step. I don’t know why it isn’t for so many.

  4. D.G. Kaye October 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Wow, great post as usual Molly! As I am getting ready to launch my first book and learning the ropes in the cyber world I have been thinking about getting my book on some sort of a blog tour or to a blogger. I haven’t delved far enough into it yet but heck, sheesh, common sense. I should like to think that any respectable writer would acknowledge these points as common sense and etiquette, it floored me to read how common these points are overlooked. Thanks for sharing….and I won’t ask you to review my book 🙂

    • Molly Greene October 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

      Ha ha! Thanks, D.G. You’d think it would all be common sense, but then again, maybe good sense and courtesy aren’t as common as we like to believe 🙂 Best of luck with your book! Check out the book blogger sites in Anne’s post!

    • Anne Chaconas October 14, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

      I think common sense often leaves us when we really, REALLY want something…and many authors really, really, REALLY want reviews. 🙂 Definitely check out the links in the post, D.G.–there are some great reviewers listed there. Another great resource is Facebook; just go on there and search for pages with ‘Book Blog’ in the title, and you’ll have more than you can handle! And here’s a post you might find useful, too, as you launch your book and consider putting together a book blog tour: https://badassmktg.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/quick-and-dirty-guide-running-your-own-book-blog-tour/ Let me know if I can answer any questions; I’m always glad to help! 🙂

  5. Richard Alan October 14, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    This is very good advice for us (authors) to follow. As someone who is trying to follow the rules, I have a favor to ask of book bloggers. In preparation for a launch I’ve been compiling a list of bloggers/reviewers to contact. Some bloggers submission requirements are next to impossible to find. Please clearly label a button, or link, or tab, for us to find. There are some bloggers whose rules I never found and some have them buried in their “about” or “contact” tabs (but without a drop-down to know they are there). We would really appreciate it.

    Thanks for an informative post, as always.

    • Molly Greene October 15, 2013 at 8:37 am #

      Really good point, Richard! I’ve experienced the same thing.

    • Anne Chaconas October 15, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

      One thing to keep in mind, Richard–if the blogger doesn’t have their policies clearly stated, or they are very hard to find, you may not want to have them review your book. The first step when setting up a book blog and hanging your shingle as a reviewer is to set up your review policies and make them clearly available to authors–if they blogger hasn’t done that, chances are good they may have other crucial things not set up, as well. Of course, this isn’t ALWAYS the case, but it is often the case. That’s also why it’s important to visit the blog first–you can make sure the blogger has their house in order before you ask to come visit. 🙂

      • Richard Alan October 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

        I agree, Anne. I try to look a their blogs first to see if the reviews are written professionally and to see if my genre is there. If it’s obvious that it’s the wrong blog for me, I don’t even search for details. There have been some, though, I thought would be a good fit, but they did not make it to my spreadsheet if I couldn’t find their submission requirements.
        Thanks for your insights.

  6. Michael Kelberer October 15, 2013 at 4:59 am #

    Good post. Reminds me of biggest problems with authors submitting work to agents/magazines/etc: don’t study their target, don’t read the instructions, don’t personalize their submittal, etc.

    • Anne Chaconas October 15, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

      AMEN, Michael. It’s all about taking the time to study the market and your target, and putting the effort into personalizing your approach. It’s not hard, and it pays off massively in the end.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  7. Jennifer October 15, 2013 at 5:38 am #

    Molly, thanks for this helpful post. I’ve always wondered about this. I help a lot of self-publishing authors, and while none have asked me specifically about how to contact book bloggers (I guess I always figured they knew what they were doing when it came to that), I will definitely be referring them to this post.

    • Anne Chaconas October 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      I’m so glad you found the post helpful, Jennifer! 🙂

  8. Shirley Ford October 15, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    Very helpful advice thank you. I am often asked to read/review and some of the requests I get are for genres I don’t read. Perhaps I need to make the information clearer too. I am still new to this game, so am learning all the time. Perhaps I’ll blog about my requirements.

    • Molly Greene October 15, 2013 at 8:38 am #

      Great idea, Shirley!

    • Anne Chaconas October 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      Blogging about your requirements is definitely a good idea, Shirley! A great way to make sure authors can clearly find them is also by setting up a page labeled “Reviewing Policies” which clearly states your requirements, and making sure it appears in the navigation of your site–then there’s no way they can miss it!

      I’m glad you found the post helpful! 🙂

  9. Kristopher October 15, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    Great post Anne.

    These items are all very true. If authors/publicists would simply take a look around at a blog, they would have a much better success rate with their inquires. Why waste time writing to someone who doesn’t review your genre? I just don’t get it.

    As for asking me to buy your book, that is just beyond. Most book bloggers don’t get paid anything for the efforts they put forth, so if you are asking them to review your book, the least you can do is offer to give it to them. I review plenty of books that I buy, but never will I review a book if the author directed asked me to consider writing a review without providing me with the book in some format.

    Also, I know we are all busy, but it would be helpful if your e-mail was longer than a sentence. “How can I get my book reviewed on your site?” is worse than useless. I get an e-mail like that at least once a week. If you think I am going to do the research to see what type of book you write, you clearly don’t understand the process here.

    Lastly, most book bloggers provide authors/publicists with a link to the review/interview/whatever when it is posted. Use that link to spread the word to your followers via Twitter and Facebook. Not only are you letting your followers see the words that have been written about your book, but you are also doing your small part to help spread the knowledge of the blog to a wider audience. It is not much to ask and we appreciate it.

    • Anne Chaconas October 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

      AMEN, KRISTOPHER! I could not have said it better myself. The worst part is that all of these are common sense–but, as I said in a previous comment, I think common sense leaves us (all of us) when we’re asking for something we REALLY, REALLY want–and authors really, REALLY want reviews.

      I think a lot of these could be avoided if we just applied an amended Golden Rule–“treat book bloggers as you’d like to be treated.” 🙂 And book bloggers need to make sure they make it easy for authors to provide them with the information they need–after all, we need each other! Might as well make it easy to happily coexist and help each other out!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  10. Brinda October 15, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    Great post. I knew nothing about blogging when I started and I had no idea people would send me their books to review so I had no review policy until an author commented to ask me. I’ve learned since then, and have experienced all of the above. In most cases, I think authors just don’t know better. This is good advice to benefit authors and bloggers.

    • Anne Chaconas October 17, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Brinda! 🙂

  11. Jeri October 16, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Since I am very selective about the books I’ll review and can only post two detailed reviews a month, I’ve since gone to buying the author’s book. It’s a way to show support, but I wouldn’t be able to do that if I read tons of books! Also, since we are all trying to build a social media presence, it only makes sense to help each other out by sharing each other’s links and granting guest posts, etc.

    • Anne Chaconas October 17, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

      That’s actually a good point. Jeri, about buying the book as a way to support the author after you’ve reviewed it. I’ve actually done the same thing. 🙂 And yes, sharing on social media and guest posting is the way to go to build social media presence and rapport across the board!

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

      • Kristopher October 18, 2013 at 8:29 am #

        I, too, often buy the books that I dearly love after reviewing them. Mostly, I encounter these authors at book conventions, so I want to get finished copies signed for my library. Plus it helps to support them and allow them to write more books for me to enjoy.

  12. Grace Peterson October 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    Oh man. I hope I haven’t violated any of these snafus. I’m going to pay more attention. The last thing I want to do is spread negative energy. Thank you for a great post, Molly. Now will you buy my book? Just kidding.

    • Anne Chaconas October 17, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

      LOL. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Grace! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  13. Liam Taylor November 5, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    Thank you, Molly and Anne, reading this blog post couldn’t have come at a better time. I am just about to start researching some book bloggers to approach about reviewing my book. I am pretty new to all of this, but hey, it doesn’t take a genius to know that you need to take a look at the blog of the bloggers you choose to email. Thank you for including the blogger lists, I will definitely be looking at these first. Hopefully with all of your suggestions, I will be able to have my book reviewed by some reputable reviewers.

    Thanks again, without all of you who freely help and support indie authors, the job of marketing my book would be so much harder and probably would also waste some of my precious writing time.

    • Molly Greene November 6, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

      Thanks, Liam! Best to you on your quest for reviews.

  14. G.P. Field November 13, 2013 at 2:25 am #

    Thanks Molly, great advice for a newbie. From reading the comments, it seems the first rule is the big one.

  15. Chene Sterckx November 14, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    Great advice and great post! Thank you 🙂

  16. Stacy (StacyHgg) January 13, 2014 at 10:13 am #

    Great Article!!! I will be forwarding this to New Authors!!!

  17. Julia Hughes January 30, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    Together with two other author friends, I manage a book related site. It has an open door policy, and we invite authors to send in requests for reviews and guest posts. Some of the emails we’ve received are breathtaking/laughable in their arrogance. As for book tour hosts, due to their unreasonable demands, we no longer participate in their tours. Although there’s a couple of exceptions to that!

    Manners cost nothing. Favours too are free – so be polite and observe your hosts’ preferences.

    • Molly Greene January 30, 2014 at 9:22 am #

      Thanks, Julia. So well said! Good manners and respect pave the way to successful relationships, both online and off. Thank you so much for your comment!