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.
About 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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Image by Cindi