How to approach book bloggers to ask for a review:
The DOs and DON’Ts.
As the owner of a site that blogs, among other things, about books, I am constantly bombarded by book review requests – many of which I promptly refuse.
There are two major reasons I refuse requests.
The first is simply a lack of time. As the Editor-in-Chief of The Writers’ Shack, plus an author, a full time worker, as well as a mother and wife, I am very busy. Reviewing books is the LAST priority on my hectic list of things I have to get done.
Reading used to be a joy but has recently become more of a chore (and that’s a whole new blog post on losing the joy of reading). What used to take me a day or so to read is now taking up to a month to get through simply because I am time poor. For that very reason, I am accepting very, very few review requests. The ones I do accept are usually only because the author had something that really piqued my interest. Most of the books I review come from NetGalley, or are books I choose to read for enjoyment.
The second reason I refuse requests, and why only a small percentage of the books I do accept for review are self-published, is because too many authors have no idea of how to approach a book blogger the right way.
There is an etiquette you MUST follow. Skipping it will almost always guarantee you get a big fat no!
I’ll break it down into DO’s and DON’Ts, but I’m going to start with the DON’Ts, because that’s what is going to hurt your chances the most.
DON’T just copy and paste the same request to dozens of book bloggers. We can tell in a couple of seconds whether we’re the recipient of a Cut and Paste Request. It’s not that we think we’re super special but we at least want to think you chose our blogs because you liked something about them. Perhaps mention some of the blogs, or that you have at least read our review policies. Personalisation will get you a lot further than generalisation.
DON’T give us your sob story. We don’t want to know if your mother cried on her death bed while reading your book and said it was the greatest masterpiece she’d ever read, or that your dog died last Saturday and it inspired you to approach reviewers to get your book out there. Really, I’m not being harsh, but a sob story is unprofessional. Nobody needs to be guilted into reading your work. Let your book stand on its own merits. In fact, be very careful about making your book request all about you. Avoid the ‘I’ pronoun as much as possible in your request.
DON’T send requests on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else on social media. Requests should always be made by email. Not doing so is likely to get your request promptly deleted. And don’t bother sending DMs on Twitter. Most book bloggers I know never read them.
DON’T spam our email or social media accounts with constant free book vouchers. If we choose to read your book, we’ll let you know and you can then send the appropriate details for downloading a copy.
DON’T offer money in exchange for a book review and if the book blogger is also an author, DON’T ask us to swap reviews. If you reviewed one of my books, thank you very much. I really do appreciate it. But that doesn’t mean I should be obligated to review yours in return. That’s not to say I won’t read your book at some stage in the future and post a review, but review swaps are problematic, and avoided completely on this site.
DON’T crash other people’s party! This is a big one guys. If we are running a promotion on our Facebook pages, or giveaways on our blogs, don’t crash them with your own promotions, or with announcements of your free book, or invitations to visit your blog. Start your own damn party and invite your own guests. Hijacking someone else’s post for your own gain is really, really bad manners and likely to get you blacklisted. You might think I’m being picky here, but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had fellow authors do this, hijacking my posts to promote their own books, or their own Facebook pages, or their own blogs. Just don’t!
DON’T ask for review updates. This includes emails asking if we’ve had a chance to read your book yet. This is definitely a case where patience is a virtue. If we have accepted your book for review, we will get to it when we can. Harassing us about it will only make us less inclined to read your book. In fact, my advice is send a review request and if the reviewer accepts, promptly forget all about it. IF they post a review (any review – good or bad), consider it a success and move on. IF they don’t post a review, forget about it, mark it up as a loss, and move on. Personally, I have over 100 books in my reading list. It’s going to take me some time to get through them all. It could take over a year. Accept it or choose a different blog site. The only time when this will even be considered negotiable is if the review is part of a book launch to be posted by a specific date, and then only on request.
DON’T attach files to a request. If we are interested, we will request your book. DON’T be presumptuous and send it to us without asking. I never open any attachments I have not personally requested. People who send unsolicited files are 99% more likely to end up in the delete folder. IF we accept your request, then and only then, send us the manuscript and a JPEG of the book cover.
DON’T be a diva. If you are difficult to work with, if you demand your own way, or if just generally have an unpleasant persona about you, people will not want to work with you. A review request is as much about personality as it is about your book. If you are unlikeable, it doesn’t matter if you’ve written the next HARRY POTTER, people won’t want to deal with you.
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ask us to take down negative reviews. If we have taken the time to read your book, we are absolutely within our rights to post a review. Book bloggers are not there to scratch author’s egos. DON’T bad mouth us on social media, or get all your friends to dislike our review. It’s unprofessional, and likely to get you blacklisted from most other book blogs. In fact, responding to reviews (good or bad) is considered bad form. If someone gives you a review, be grateful and move on. Not everyone will like your work. If you can’t accept that, then you shouldn’t be an author. Or just stick to getting your family and friends to review for you. And DON’T ever ask to preview a review before it goes live.
DO your homework. Know what genres your chosen blogger reads, what formats they prefer, how they like their requests formatted… If a reviewer states they only read hard copies, only offer a hard copy. If they say they only read romance, don’t send them your horror book. If they say they don’t read Indie authors, don’t think you’re going to change their mind with a wonderfully worded request. Also, it’s good to read a couple of past reviews the blogger has done. If they tend to mark down for grammatical errors, and your book has its fair share, find another book blogger. Knowing what a book blogger wants is half the battle.
DO provide book bloggers with everything they need to make a decision. Give them the title and genre of your book. Let them know if it’s your first book or your fiftieth. Give them the blurb and page count. Tell them what format it’s available in. Tell them any awards, prizes or special mentions your book has got. If you won first prize in a writing competition, let them know. Tell them what qualifies you to write a book, and what previous writing experience you have. Also be upfront with whether it’s trade or self-published. A review request is not the place to try to hide information. And it’s certainly not the place for any false claims. If your book has hit the Amazon best-seller list three times, that’s great, and it will probably help reviewers make a decision, but if it hasn’t, telling them it has will make you look foolish when they find out (and they will find out).
DO include all your links. Notice I said links and not attachments? There are two reasons we want your links. If we are interested in your book, we will most likely check out the other reviews of your book, as well as how professional you act online. This is where that last DON’T is so important. If you have acted unprofessionally with other book bloggers, you’re going to lose out at this stage. If we do go ahead and accept your book for review, your links will also come in handy when posting the review. A book blogger does not want to chase you up after the fact to get these. Possible links to send include your website, blog, social media accounts, book buy pages, Goodreads page, or anything else that will show potential readers your author platform.
DO be polite. Address the book blogger by name, and politely request a review. Nobody was ever offended by good manners. And if you’re polite, even if you inadvertently do one of the DON’Ts, we’re more likely to forgive you because you’re nice (but that is no excuse to deliberately do them and cover it up with niceness).
DO keep it short, sweet and to the point. I’ve been guilty of this one myself, in sending out a 4 page book review request. The book blogger in question was kind enough to email me back and point out the mistakes I made in my request. The majority of bloggers wouldn’t. They’d just hit delete. We don’t have time to read through long, complicated requests. Get to the point, and get to it quickly. Use lots of white space and use bullet points to give us bite size chunks of information.
DO edit your request and for god’s sake, use spell check! A formal request is always much better than a hurried “I’m sending u my book 2 review. Tell me wen you finish.” If your request is full of errors, we’re going to think you’re book will be the same.
DO let the reviewer know of any time requirements but allow plenty of time for reviewers to respond, AND read your book if they agree. It’s no use sending us a request that states you need a review posted by next week. We’ll just say no.
DO include your contact details.
DO understand that book bloggers are doing YOU a favour. You’re not doing them a favour by sending them a free book to read. Most of us have full time jobs outside our blogs, AND we also have lives outside of work. It’s a HUGE time commitment agreeing to review books at all. Authors would do very well to remember that.
DO include a snippet of other reviews, but only if they are from other book bloggers or media professionals. We don’t want to read what your mother said about the book. But if another book blogger has given you 4 stars, or the local newspaper said your book is the most exciting piece of literature they’ve read all year, it could help get you accepted. The hint here is brevity. Don’t cut and paste entire reviews but just give us the highlights. Try to keep it under a paragraph.
Finally, I’ve attached a PDF of a sample review request. Don’t just copy and paste, but tailor it for your book, and most importantly, tailor it to the individual book blogger!