Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Writing 101: How to Ask for Reviews

In the past, I've blogged about how indie authors can get reviews. I even blogged about tips for writing reviews. But what indie authors really need to know is how to properly ask for reviews, in order to use their time more efficiently and avoid making enemies out of book bloggers. 

Review Requests

I've advocated, more than once, that indie authors send out review requests. Self-published books need a lot of marketing, and book review blogs are a great way to get it. The good news is, there's a ton of them out there. The bad news is...there's a ton of them out there. Knowing how to send out review requests is every bit as important as the sending itself. Learn how to ask the right way, and you'll get a lot more positive responses. 

  • Twitter. Twitter is a convenient and easy method of communication, and plenty of book reviewers are on it. But no reviewer posts book reviews on Twitter. They have a blog somewhere, so do not contact them through Twitter. In the majority of cases, book reviewers have a blog they've worked very hard on, with a review policy page. Send a tweet or a direct message through Twitter instead of going through the proper channels, and I'll never blame any reviewer for choosing to ignore you.  
  • Searching. Even finding book reviewers is difficult. First, you've got to stop looking for book reviewers. You'll be in search engine hell the rest of your natural life if you just do a generic book blog search online. Instead, search for lists of book review blogs. Adding that simple word to your searches will make it much easier to find book review blogs. Bookmark all the lists you find and start going through them every day. Usually, I'll go through one letter of the alphabet a day on my book review lists.
  • Look. When you're going through big lists of book review blogs, you're going to get into a certain rhythm. Mostly, you'll be focused on finding the review policy and contact information for each blog. But before you start accessing different pages, stop and look. Always, always check the top post on the blog. You may find that the blogger hasn't posted anything new in over a year, a pretty strong indication that they're no longer taking book review requests. You've got to decide on a cutoff date. I won't write to a reviewer if they haven't posted in the past month, but other review-seekers might be a bit more lenient. 
  • Addressing. When you write an email to a blogger requesting a review, take the time to look around on the blog for their name so you can address your letter accordingly. Most often, you'll find this in the "About" second or the Google profile box (on Blogger blogs). If a blogger is especially tricky, you may need to look at the headings and footers of their blog posts. Often, you'll find "posted by" in the footer, and this will include a name.
  • Policies. Take the time to find the review policy. Many, many book blogs have this neatly labeled so you can find it easily. Sometimes, the review policy is included on a general "policies" page. Other times, it won't jump out at you so easily. Look for the About section and Contact sections of the blog, if present, because the review policy information may be located here. Some bloggers include very brief review policy information in their bio boxes, so look here as well. If you can't find a review policy no matter what you do, assume this blogger isn't taking requests. 
  • Read. After you go through the effort of finding the policy, make sure to read it. Some reviewers dismiss self-published authors entirely; just exit out of that blog and move on. Other reviewers may not read books within your genre. So look the policy over, make sure you fit into it, and then send your request. 
  • Time. It sounds like a lot of stuff to do, but once you know what to look for and you're aware of what you need to find you should be able to check a blog for compatibility within 1 minute. Once you know you meet the policy, the blog isn't too old and you know who the reviewer is, send your review request.
  • Ask. The review request is a letter where, basically, you're just asking someone to read and review your book. Write it in casual language and don't be afraid to let your natural voice come through; if the blogger can't connect with you they certainly won't connect with your book. Tell them you're requesting a review, explain the genre of your book and how/where it's available, and why you chose this blogger. Always, always, include at least one personal line -- "I'd like you to review my book because I like the way you emphasize on the characters in your reviews," for example. Include the title, Amazon link and blurb for your book at least. In more elaborate requests, you might also include ISBN information, a book trailer and a picture of the cover.
Whoever said "it never hurts to ask" didn't know what book bloggers are like. Don't send out very generic review requests addressed to no one, and don't contact reviewers inappropriately. Asking for reviews on social media or in the comments section is really just an annoyance. If you ask the wrong way, you're already doing a terrible job of selling yourself and your book. If you ask the right way, in a respectful and friendly fashion, you're already spreading good feelings about your book. You may still receive a negative response, because book reviewers can't possibly respond favorably to every request, but they can't all say no. That's why you've got to send your requests every day. When you run out of book blog lists, do a search for new lists and start all over again.

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  1. Great post Jade. I hope everyone reads this because as a book blogger it can be extremely frustating when an author just sends you a code to their smashword book so you can get it for free without explanation or extra information on their book. I agree that you must get your voice out and be yourself and I totallly agree on the fact that you should look around and tell the book blogger why you choose him to reviewy our novel! Seriously I sometimes get requests that seemed copy pasted and those are very annoying. While some are quite pleasing and can make my day :D

  2. Thanks for weighing in on this one, Nic. It's good to hear from an actual book blogger for this topic.

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