There’s a quite probably apocryphal saying in publishing that people typically need to hear about a book three times before they decide to read it. Reviews are one way of achieving that.
Unlike their traditionally published colleagues, most indie authors don’t have publicity and marketing teams behind them to foster interest and facilitate reviews. They have to drum up that interest and get the book into bloggers’ hands themselves. That often means contacting the bloggers directly to ask if they’d be interested in reading and reviewing. This is called “soliciting reviews.”
I’ve been blogging for almost four years now, and have received a lot of review requests over the years. Some of them have really worked to grab my attention, and others I’ve looked at wondered why I was sent that request. Here are my dos and don’ts for reaching out to bloggers.
1. Don’t stress about it
You might find it nerve-wracking to approach a blogger about a review, but don’t stress about it! We understand – we approach publicists from big publishers about ARCs all the time, so know what it’s like to write these sort of emails.
It also will get easier the more you requests you write. You learn what works and what doesn’t, and get a lot quicker at putting them together.
2. Read the Review Policy
It’s my belief that every blogger should have a review policy clearly stated on their website. I even wrote a post on what to put in there. These are the big neon signs to help indie authors and publicists work out whether the blogger is a good fit, and how to contact them.
A Review Policy should contain the following information:
- If a blogger is currently accepting review requests
- What sort of books they like, and what they don’t (genre AND age range)
- The book formats they prefer
- How to contact them
Make sure you read their review policy careful – they can get quite long, but read it all. You want to make sure you are contacting someone who might want to read your book. It’s there to save everyone a lot of hassle and disappointment, and a blogger can tell if you haven’t read it. The number of requests I get to review books that are in genres I have explicitly said I don’t read is surprisingly high.
Unfortunately, not every blogger has one of these, so if they don’t, look for a “contact” page or link.
3. Book Comps
Book comps (or comparison titles) are a really useful way not only of finding bloggers, but working out if they fit. If they’ve liked a book similar to yours, then there’s a decent chance they’ll like yours.
I’d also recommend doing more than just checking their star rating. A 3 star review might not be immediately encouraging, but reading might reveal that, ah, the thing the blogger didn’t like and so it wasn’t as highly starred is the thing you’ve done differently/is what they wished had been done. A 4 star review might mention not liking something that’s an even bigger element of your book/the reason that book is your comp.
However, make sure your comps are appropriate to the book. The basics are:
- Same genres (sub-genre if you can match that too)
- Same age range
- Major thematic similarities (what’s the thing people will think of when they see that title? That needs to be in your book too)
Big mismatches can make a blogger wonder if you know what you’re talking about. If I got a review request for a MG contemporary fantasy inspired by Greek myths that says they’re contacting me because I liked an adult space opera inspired by a South-East Asian myth then I’m going to be confused. And probably wonder if the book is going to be that confused.
How do you use these comp titles to find bloggers? Google.
Googling (or Goodreads if you’re willing to step on there as an author) reviews for books will bring up a list of people who’ve read the book. You may have to go through several google pages though, particularly for big traditionally published books that will have got reviews in major journals.
I do recommend looking for traditionally published books, at least for some of your comps, as that increases the chance of finding lots of reviews. Those books do get a lot more push.
4. Put all necessary information in the email
Something that’s pretty much guaranteed to make a blogger say no is to make it an absolute faff to get any information out of you. Give them everything they need right from the start, rather than starting a long email chain.
Information you should include:
- Title, age range, and genre of the book (get these in first, and I’d also recommend these are in the subject line too)
- Cover (not necessary, but if you have a good cover, show it off. That can really draw people in)
- Comp titles, PARTICULARLY if you’re approaching them over a good review of a comp. Also saying what part of your comp title the book is similar too can be useful.
- What format you are offering (ebook including what format, physical, audio) (make sure to check their location BEFORE offering a physical if you have restrictions, because retracting that offer is awkward)
- If you would like the review by a certain date (but ensure you are giving them at least a month’s notice, though I’d argue 2-3+ is MUCH better)
Some requests come with quotes from other authors/reviewers. It will depend blogger to blogger whether that will impact their decision, so if you are going to use them, I’d recommend you put them at the end. That way those who don’t find those pull quotes useful don’t have to wade through them.
I would also say that emailing with “all the information is on my website, here’s the link” is unhelpful. If it’s already there you can quite easily copy and paste that into the email. I do think that having it all collected in one place is useful, because if a blogger really likes your books, they can go to your website for later releases and know how to get in contact, but in that email, give them the information without needing to click a half-dozen links.
And yes, you do need to offer a free copy of the book, NOT “I think you’ll like it, here’s the amazon link, please buy it.” I know it’s a hard industry to make money in, but you are asking them to work on your behalf to gain reviews. It is a transaction, you can’t ask them to pay to do that.
If you are an author with a book on NetGalley/Edelweiss/etc and that’s how you’re going to distribute your eARCs, offer to get them a PRE-APPROVED NETGALLEY ARC LINK (and make sure you can do this). This is particularly true if you are with a publisher who manages approvals, rather than having that control yourself. Otherwise you’re approaching them for review and they might not be approved.
5. What to do next?
In short, wait patiently.
Some bloggers don’t respond. I try to respond to all, but if it comes in right when I’m stressed, it might end up slipping under the radar – or I might be very, very slow to respond. If you really think that blogger would have been a good fit, you can politely nudge after a few months, but only once (and do let time elapse.)
If they agree, great. You may wish to give them your social media links so they can tag you in good reviews (and it should only be good reviews, it’s basic etiquette.) You might agree a date with them, but don’t push for that. (I personally resist agreeing to dates, save for blog tours where that’s a must, because I want that flexibility in case life takes a turn.)
Be prepared not to hear from them again/not get tagged. Some people don’t tag as a rule for anything. Maybe the blogger didn’t end up enjoying the book (so don’t go stalking their Blog/Social Media to see if they’ve read it yet.) Perhaps something happened and it’s taking longer to get around to it (if you agreed a date, they should really tell you if there will have to be delays. If the date is super important, have something like an extract on hand to offer them in place of the review.)
I hope those tips can help you navigate the world of soliciting reviews.
All my other posts with advice for bloggers and authors wanting to work with bloggers can be found here.