Open Blog Weekend: 15 Tips For Getting Book Reviews by Suanne Laqueur
“How in hell have you gotten so many people to review your book?” a fellow newbie author asked me. “Tell me your secrets!”
Two months since I’ve published The Man I Love and already I have trade secrets. Me. HA!
Then again, what did I know just a few months ago? Bupkes. Well, I did know that I could count on my inner circle to review the book. But let’s face it, your inner circle is biased. It’s the feedback from people who don’t know you that makes your heart sing. And I was committed to finding as many external and objective reviews as I could. I started out with a spreadsheet of blog sites a fellow author sent me, and I started pitching.
And I learned a few things.
I came up with this list for my pre-publishing self and let her know what knowledge I’ve gained. The crux of it is: if you’re not afraid to put your ass out there and ask (nicely) for what you want, you will get it. Or at least some of it. To date, I’ve sent out 72 cold-call queries to review sites. I got 15 “yes” responses. That’s a 20% success rate. Is that good? Bad? Neither? I don’t know and I don’t care, it feels good to me.
Disclaimer: a lot of this stuff is obvious, perhaps insultingly obvious, but often the things that go without saying need to be said. Salt well.
- You want your book reviewed? Ask. Ask, ask, ask and ask. You cannot self-publish a book and expect the phone to start ringing. You have to get out there and hustle. And believe me, it’s hard out there for a pimp. But not impossible. It’s a fine line between self-promotion and obnoxiousity but it can be walked. Ask. The worst that happens is you get “no.” Is that so bad? Hell, no. And listen: I’m not pushy. I hate sales. If I can do this, you can do this.
- Cast the biggest net you can. Start with the obvious: Google “book review sites.” Go to sites like Bookbloggerlist.com. Type “book review” into your Facebook search or your Twitter search and start liking and following. You can always unlike and unfollow later. You have to throw out a big net first and then start filtering. Reviewers you find on Facebook and Twitter will (or they should) have a website link. Click the link, check them out. See what they read and see if the genre of your book matches. Look specifically for the pages called “review policy” or “contact me.” Read their guidelines and follow them scrupulously.
- Keep a spreadsheet. Make column headers for site name, URL, genre, contact person(s), whether they use a form or an email, what date you pitched, what the response was, what date you got a review and the link to it. Track your submissions and responses. You might even keep a separate spreadsheet of review sites that don’t fit your needs, simply because it might fit a fellow author’s needs. And it’s all bank-able karma.
- In the beginning you can’t be too picky. I call this the Jewish Grandmother Approach: go on the date, you don’t have to marry him. You have to play a lot of small venues before you hit the arenas. So yes, look at how many followers and likes they have, look at the retweets and if there’s commentary on their posts. But just because they’re small or new doesn’t mean they’re second-rate. Everyone has to start somewhere. You help push traffic to their site, they will remember.
- Screen review sites to see if they will, in addition to a review, or instead of one, offer you a book spotlight or author feature or guest post. Indicate if you are open to alternatives (and you should be—exposure is exposure).
- Push the genre boundaries a little. I can’t stress this enough. I looked down my nose at Romance until I wised up and saw it was a huge market and its buyers were voracious, intelligent readers with broad views and open minds. I got reviews from people who claimed they never read anything but YA or paranormal or Harlequin, and they found The Man I Love to be totally unique and a fresh change of pace. Of course, if the website says in big bold font they only like young adult paranormal, you probably shouldn’t pitch your historical fiction. But if they say, “I tend to like [xyz] but will try anything,” then pitch away. The worst that can happen is they say “no.” They might, however, say “yes.”
- Thanks to their alchemical algorithms, Facebook and Twitter will keep recommending other sites based on what you like and follow. Keep checking them out and adding them to your spreadsheet. Click everything, you never know. My habit is when I find these sites, I email the link to myself. Then at the end of every week I go through all the links I find and do my homework.
- Do not send the same form letter to every site. Sure, make a standardized pitch with the blurb, genre, synopsis and details, but then tailor it as best you can to the specific website. Read about the blogger—do you have any common interests? Is there anywhere your edges match? Did he or she review a book you yourself read recently? Do you agree or disagree with their opinion? Engage. Even if it’s simply thanking them for making themselves available to indie authors and how much you appreciate the opportunity as you launch your dream, etc etc. Be yourself. Be as genuine and personable as you can. Thank them for their time. If they’re working on a book of their own, wish them luck. I know you already know how to mind your manners but it bears repeating. You must connect as a person first and a writer second.
- Take care attaching unsolicited e-books. Some sites will allow you to attach an electronic book to the email or form, some won’t, and some aren’t clear. If you attach an e-book, state clearly that you realize this is a liberty and there is no guarantee of review. Thank them.
- Make sure you include everything they ask for. Make sure your signature has your email, links to your website, your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and so forth.
- If you get rejected, say thank you, mark them as “no” on your spreadsheet and move on. Don’t dwell. If you don’t hear back from a site, it usually means “no.” Mark them “no response” and move on. By the way, once I got rejected by a blogger but she offered a list of alternate sites that might be open. So sometimes the door slammed in your face opens the door down the street. You never know until you ask.
- Join review sites on Goodreads. You can always un-join. As with Facebook promo sites, most forums are a lot of shouting and no listening. In other words, everyone casts their bait but few get hooked. Cast yours. The worst that can happen is “no” or silence. If you get a bite, reel it in and add it to your spreadsheet. You’ll also find review threads on LinkedIn but for the life of me, I don’t know how to get out of a LinkedIn thread once I’ve joined it. It’s driving me batshit. So a big caveat here.
- Swap reads/reviews with a fellow indie author. You will read a lot. A lot of gems and a lot of… not gems. If you commit to reading and reviewing, do so. Keep your word. If you, however, get screwed in the process (they don’t read, they don’t finish, they don’t review), try to let it go. Mark the offender on your spreadsheet and move on, you have better things to do.
- If you follow or like an indie author you feel has awesome internet presence, someone you want to emulate, then engage them. Don’t just like their posts—comment on them. Don’t just favorite or retweet them, but reply or preface with a few words of your own. Or quote their book (authors love that). Connect. And do it sincerely, without expectations. Just keep banking the karma because one day you will be that author to a newbie. No really. You will.
- Last, don’t drop a blogger after they review your book. That’s worse than being slept with and not called. Keep engaging and building a relationship because when you write that next book, you’re more likely to have their “yes.”
And there you have it. The pickings of my green brain. I’m still learning and you are too. The encouraging thing is there’s no absolute wrong way to do this (other than being a total jerk). The only fatal error is to do nothing.
You wrote a book. Believe in it. Now go ask for what you deserve.PlasticBag