Every author, publisher or publicist that has spent more than ten minutes online comes to the realisation that one of the key steps to getting your new book the attention it needs, is getting it featured on book review blogs. Not only does this get your book seen by the reviewer’s own followers, many bloggers also repost their reviews to Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari and any number of other places where a healthy review history will help you attract readers.
The realization every author, publisher and publicist comes to after their next ten minutes online, however, is that most everyone else has the same idea, and these review sites are swamped with more book offers than they can ever possibly read.
Getting reviewed turns into a similar experience to getting a publishing deal or an agent – query letter after query letter, the bulk of which result in (polite, often apologetic) rejections or silence.
With that in mind, here are a few hints on how to improve your chances of having your book picked from a reviewer’s own personal slush pile and get it the exposure it needs.
1. Submission Guidelines Are Not There For Decoration
The cardinal rule of requesting review is to follow the website’s submission guidelines.
If the blog asks for all book submissions to, say, use the subject line format ‘Review Request – (Name of book) – (Name of author)’, sending yours titled ‘Please review my book’ will flag you as having either not read or not cared about their guidelines, and earn you a one-way trip to the trashcan.
Be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking these guidelines as petty hoops for you to jump through. Plenty of bloggers use filters based on these subject line tags to manage their overflowing inboxes. By ignoring them, you are making the blogger’s life harder, which is never a good idea with a person you want to help promote your book.
2. Do Not Attach eBook Files To Your Queries
This largely comes under ‘submission guidelines’, but sometimes blog Review Guidelines don’t specify either way.
As a general rule, it’s safe to say unsolicited eBook files don’t usually go down well. These are large files and can take a long time to download for those using POP3 and IMAP to then discover it was a book they didn’t request, so it is more often seen as ‘presumptive and rude’ rather than ‘conveniently providing me with a book I’m sure I’m going to enjoy’!
There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and a small number of blogs actively ask for full eBooks with their query letters. In this case, pay attention to their preferred format and then knock yourself out!
3. Personalise Your Pitch.
Before emailing a blogger, read through their site, the first few posts at least, and the ‘About’ section if they have one.
While it is never a good idea to declare yourself a long-time reader of a blog you just found through a directory service – lies have so much room to bite you in the ass later – this will give you an idea of the kind of books they enjoy and what they look for.
While you can’t make your dystopian steampunk epic into a sweeping historical romance just because that’s what a blogger likes best, you can emphasise different strengths. One reviewer might be drawn in by your vividly painted high-tech, low-society world and the fight against class-injustice, while another will connect with your strong female protagonist and her personal struggles.
With this in mind, it can be a good idea to write two or three different pitches, and paste in the one that you think will suit each blogger best.
Now, you could always write a pitch that talks about everything that’s awesome about your book. However, this leads on to the next point.
4. Less Is More
Brevity is the key.
Your email to a blogger is, at its core, a sales pitch, and if you’ve not made them care within the first few sentences, you will likely never make them care. Worse, faced with a wall of text, some people might not even read those first few sentences at all.
So keep it to two or three short paragraphs, and tell them why, of the twenty review requests they received this week, they should pay attention to yours.
So, if you’re feeling inspired to shop your book around some reviewers, warm up your email client and polish your keyboard.
May I recommend the Book Blogger Directory as a good place to start?