Rachel Amphlett previously worked in the UK publishing industry, as a TV/film extra, played lead guitar in rock bands, and worked with BBC radio before relocating from England to Australia in 2005. After returning to writing, Rachel enjoyed publication success both in Australia and the United Kingdom with her short stories, before her first thriller White Gold was released in 2011, with the Italian foreign rights being sold to Fanucci Editore’s TimeCrime imprint in 2014. The third book in her Dan Taylor espionage series, Three Lives Down, will be published on 16 November 2015, and is available on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, Nook, and Barnes & Noble. You can keep in touch with Rachel via her mailing list by signing up here.
Like most book reviewers, Monique is a crazily-busy reader, so when she asked me to contribute to her blog and talk about best practice for requesting reviews, I jumped at the chance.
As authors, we’ve got a responsibility to look after book reviewers – they’re doing us an enormous service after all, and so here are my tips for growing and curating relationships to help get the word out about your books.
1. Keep a log
You’re going to be writing to a lot of people, so you’ll need to know who you’ve contacted, and a way of tracking your progress. My suggestion is to use an MS Excel spreadsheet with the following headings:
- Blog name
- Contact person
- Website address
- Email address
- Date contacted
- Interested (Y/N)
- Date book sent
- Date review provided
- Comments (such as number of giveaway copies offered, if you’re doing a promo with the reviewer, for example)
This is an easy at-a-glance way to see how your reviewers are progressing, and a useful tool to keep for your next publication as well.
2. Do your research
There are three parts to this:
a) Read through previous reviews on the website – does it reflect similar genres to yours? If not, it’s highly likely the reviewer won’t like your genre, so don’t waste their time or yours pitching to them.
b) Read the submission guidelines. The key things to look for include: Are they open to submissions at the moment? Are they accepting submissions in your genre? If you’re independently published, will they accept submissions from self-published authors?
c) Do you have to pay? It’s up to you, but as a general rule, I don’t pay for reviews. If you are going to pay for a review, check the blog’s Alexa (website) ranking – if it’s low, save your money and move on.
3. Prepare your pitch
Bear in mind that reviewers receive hundreds of requests every week from people like you and me, so we have to try to stand out from the crowd. In preparing to submit your book for review, I’d suggest the following:
a) If your book hasn’t been published yet, wait until your manuscript has had a professional edit before offering an Advance Reading Copy (ARC)
b) Have a one-page summary about your book, including the blurb, ISBN numbers (if you have them), approximate number of pages, genre(s)/sub-genre(s), your contact details, and a thumbnail image of the cover artwork.
Additionally, you could include a couple of lines from previous reviews of your work and links to 2-3 interviews you’ve done. I find this adds a level of comfort for potential reviewers, so they can see what you’ve done before. Then
c) Spell check!
d) Covering email text – I keep this to a broader overview of me and my writing, any major accomplishments and a note of the publication date (if the book hasn’t been released yet). I tend to keep the tone chatty, and if it’s the first time I’ve contacted that reviewer, I’ll personalise the email with a comment about a book they’ve reviewed, or something in their bio that resonates with me.
4. Send your email
And, once you’ve sent it, my advice is to forget about it. If you don’t hear from the reviewer, don’t pester them. Again, have some appreciation of how many requests they must receive. It’s likely they don’t respond to every email they receive, because they can’t – otherwise they’d never have the time to review anything (and on this point, they will generally state this within their submission guidelines).
Wait a week, and if you hear nothing, simply update your tracking spreadsheet accordingly. If you do hear back from the reviewer, adhere to what they ask for. Be polite, send the book and request they let you know when the review is live so you can help promote it and their blog on your social media. Try to respond in a timely way, then hit ‘send’ and dance around the room.
It goes without saying that no matter the outcome, remember to say thank you. And, if the review is a stinker (sometimes it happens, although most reviewers are good enough to simply decline commenting if they don’t enjoy a book), then under no circumstances take issue with the reviewer. You have asked them for their opinion – you have no right to tell them what that opinion should be. Simply ignore it, and move on.
Use your updated spreadsheet to contact reviewers with each book release.
Over time, you’ll build up a curated list of key reviewers that you can work with time and time again.
I hope the above goes some way to help you manage the way you approach book reviewers, and that you gain new readers through pitching to bloggers. Monique’s own submission guidelines can be accessed here.
Thanks so much for sharing Monique and Rachel. I have to admit I mostly deal with the big publishing houses and struggle to keep up with what I receive there or via NetGalley that I don’t have a lot of contact directly from authors unless I know them already…. but these are excellent pointers. (And though I’d eventually love to earn money from my book blogging, I’d recommend against paying for reviews as well – at least directly.)
I’m struggling to keep up at the moment, too, Deborah. I’m turning down pretty much all book pitches at the moment, including a few from publishers.
You’re more than welcome Deborah – seeking reviews in such an organised way took me a little while to fathom, so it’s been great to be able to pass on the tips!
This is wonderful advice. I’d also add – make sure the person you’re contacting actually does reviews! I get pitched almost weekly but I do interviews – not book reviews. When people seem surprised by that, I know they’ve never spent any time on my site.
So true. And this does not even count the ones where people ask you if you’d like to review their suitcases and other products on a site that is clearly all about books. Note – the suitcases were not pre-sent for review. Shame.
Suitcases? That’s awesome!
I know, right? I did respond and tell them they were free to send me a suitcase (it looked quite fancy) anyway.
I’m amazed how many people don’t read the “About” or “Submission Guidelines” pages – I think us authors have to realise that we are not the exception to the rule! 😉