We’re on our way into the new year now and as we move into 2020, I find that I’m working with a lot more authors and publishers than I have maybe ever! I love helping to promote books and reading, and being able to use my little corner of the internet – whether that be here, on bookstagram, on Goodreads, or even just to a passing browser reading my Amazon review – to spread my love of books with the world!
Everything that I do in regards to book reviewing is done because I love it – because I’ve been an avid reader since I was a little girl, and because I’m passionate about reading and books and authors and the work that goes into an amazing story. I don’t get paid – although I do often get free copies of books provided in exchange for partnering to promote them or review them honestly (I never promise a favorable review in exchange for a book, ever) – and a lot of the books I read are bought from the money out of my own pocket, or picked up at my local library. And trust me, I’m the norm – book reviewing is a labor of love, not of profit.
So I thought I’d put together a few tips for both authors/publishers seeking book reviewers to help build buzz around their materials, as well as for the fellow book reviewers out there wondering how to start getting into working with publishers or authors directly. These aren’t the end-all-be-all rules or anything, so don’t @ me if I’ve left something out that you’d have included!
As with any post on my blog, please take my suggestions & words with a grain of salt – these things are just my opinions, and not everyone may share the same ones! That said, these are what I’ve found success with, or appreciate personally as a book reviewer. Additionally, I have more tips for reviewers than for authors/publishers just ’cause I am one – so if you want more stuff from the other perspective, I’m sure you could reach out to some and ask!
Tips For Book Reviewers When Requesting ARCs or Review Copies of Books
- Find out who the best person to contact is for publicity/marketing/review requests, and their preferred method of communication. Many large publishers work using imprints, which are smaller companies under the main publishing umbrella that usually specialize in a specific type of book – like horror, or teen fiction. Find out who the publisher is of a book you’re interested in (using Goodreads or Amazon), Google their review request page, and find out the email contact of the person you should be speaking with. For smaller publishers, you can often find the contact info on their main website – make sure you’re reaching out the the appropriate person for every instance. You don’t want to annoy someone who only handles one area of the book’s publication with a book review request that they don’t have anything to do with, you know?
- If you don’t get a response, don’t feel slighted or hurt. Publishers and authors surely get lots of emails, and they maybe just missed yours, or didn’t have the available copy requested and didn’t have a moment to reply. If you feel compelled to do so, feel free to send a follow up after a fair amount of time has passed without response (a few weeks), but be understanding if not every request is replied to or granted.
- When requesting a book, include as many pertinent details about who you are, what you want, and what you’ll do in return for receiving it. For example – I always include links to my blog & social media channels and stats, full details (title, author, publication date) of the book I’m interested in, and that for physical copies of books, I share them on Instagram, Twitter, and in a blog review (as well as leave reviews online in places like Amazon and Goodreads). Giving all these details up front can really help a publisher or author easily decide if working with you is something that would be a good fit.
- It isn’t really in good etiquette to ask for books via social media DMs, or directly to authors, unless you have some sort of established thing with them that would make this an okay policy – I can’t blanket statement everything, but please use your best judgement and don’t harass Joe Author on his personal Instagram asking for free books, it’d be rude.
- Don’t try to befriend authors or publishers just to receive free things. It’s very transparent when you’re digging for freebies, and nobody likes it – it makes people uncomfortable! There are proper ways to request books (mentioned above), and the people who write books & publish them are just normal humans like you and I, and shouldn’t be used for selfish reasons. Many reviewers (me included) have built actual friendships with people they’d previously only known about through the books they’d written that we loved reading, and those relationships are amazing parts of book reviewing and the book community – they aren’t something to be taken advantage of. I have plenty of author friends who have never given me a review copy of their books, but I own all of them anyway because I’m genuinely a fan. Being greedy isn’t cool.
- Have a review policy posted somewhere (especially if you’re a blogger) with a clear preferred method of contact – this will help a lot in keeping things organized and streamlined for you, which is extremely helpful if you’ve got a busy life outside of book stuff. I have mine listed here if you need an example! Make sure to also include things like your preferred genres, formats, and if you’ll work by specific deadlines or not.
- Utilize online websites for digital copies of books like NetGalley and Edelweiss – these are great resources that don’t require you to directly contact anyone, and can help build your online reviewer reputation with some great current reads.
- Don’t accept books you don’t want to read. I know that the lure of getting a new book free of charge can be exciting, but it’s important to know your reading preferences & set appropriate expectations based off of them. If you’re an avid YA romance fan, you probably won’t want to slog through a 600 page book about extremely detailed science fiction. I’m not saying you can’t branch out in genres at all, but you don’t want to waste the author/publisher’s time, or your own. Be realistic when accepting/declining requests, and then see the next point.
- Be honest with the people you’re working with. This ties in with # 8, but the expectations thing is very important. Don’t promise to have the book read in a single week if you know that isn’t reasonable. And when you’re declining a book, feel free to be honest (but respectful and kind) about why – if you don’t feel it’s within your preferred genre or that it’s not the right format, that’s okay! You don’t have to feel obligated to accept any requests from anyone; again – labor of love, right? If you start doing things that make this feel like an awful chore, you’ll love it less, I promise.
- Remember that reviews are for readers. All the above said, at their core, book reviews are for readers, not for the authors or publishers of the books. Be honest in your feelings, and don’t feel like you have to rate favorably just because you were sent something for free.
- Cross-post your reviews! Oftentimes, I see bloggers sharing their reviews on their own blogs, but not posting them anywhere else. Not everyone may see or know about your blog, so it’s really important that you also share your reviews to places like Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. Amazon can be tricky – remove any bad words or mature content from your review to ensure it gets posted!
- BONUS: It’s not necessary – and kind of a jerk move to some folks – if you tag the authors/publishers in a super negative review on social media. While you should be honest when reviewing, also remember that kindness is important, and an author drinking their morning cup of coffee and checking their Twitter notifications on a Sunday morning won’t want to be greeted by why Abigail Reviewer thought their book was trash. As a rule, I generally don’t tag authors/publishers in reviews under 4 stars – some reviewers tag at 3, and I have friends who are authors that I read books from who don’t mind being tagged in any review at all. But to be polite, I stick to my rule, and I suggest keeping to one of your own to avoid being seen as someone seeking to hurt rather than inform with their review.
Tips For Authors and Publishers When Requesting Reviews from Bloggers in Exchange for Copies of Books
- Check if the reviewer has a review policy posted somewhere online. In most cases, it’ll be found on their blog or Goodreads (if they have those). A cursory glance at someone’s bookstagram bio will not always provide the information they want to convey on how they’d prefer to be contacted or the genres they accept, for example, and as mentioned in the above section – politeness is key here! Some reviewers use social media strictly for book discussion/camaraderie, and don’t like to be contacted in DMs about book reviews.
- Include as much information about the book being offered as possible so the reviewer can make an informed decision. This will help save time in the event that someone accepts something and then later finds it wasn’t what they assumed, and not what they want. I love when authors and publishers include book title, a brief synopsis, and any promotional/marketing information available – like press photos, book covers, etc. These are also great for me as a blogger, as I can include these promo materials, covers, & author photos in my review if I want.
- Don’t base everything off of follower count. This one won’t apply to everyone, so feel free to skip! I work with a lot of independent publishers and self-published authors on things like book tours and book reviews, and I’ve had lengthy discussions about stuff like Instagram’s algorithm, blog SEO, and social media engagement. It’s very easy for an account to buy a bunch of followers, or even for fake bot accounts to suddenly – and sometimes overnight – flood a single account with follows that aren’t actually real. What’s important is engagement rate – if a person’s Instagram account has 50k followers, but each post is only getting a handful of likes/comments, that’s a sure sign that their reach won’t really do much for you – if that’s what you’re focused on. I mention this because sometimes people view high follower count as something to aim for, and ignore some accounts with a smaller chunk of a following – this is a mistake, friends! Some smaller accounts have such a dedicated following that their influence can have a much greater impact than that of a bigger account with bought/fake followers.
- Remember that this is a labor of love for many of us, and badgering book reviewers is not cool. I’ve had an author in the past message me repeatedly asking about when I’d read their book, or why I hadn’t finished it yet when they’d seen me finish others through my Goodreads/Twitter/IG updates. This was a very invasive message, and I told this person that I wasn’t comfortable with the demanding tone and that I’d not be reading or reviewing their book after all (and subsequently donated it to my local library). If a reviewer has agreed to a specific deadline or if their post is contingent on a specified date (like a blog tour stop or something similar), then it’s completely understandable to hold them accountable to the agreement – but otherwise, there is a definitive line between professional and unprofessional, and it’s always very unfortunate when an author that a reviewer trusted and respected crosses it. Don’t be that person!
- Don’t contact reviewers about unfavorable reviews. I cannot stress this enough. A lot of the authors I know choose not to read reviews at all (unless they’re tagged in ones they can clearly see aren’t going to be upsetting), but if you want to check out what people think of your stuff, go for it! Just please don’t start commenting on reviews, asking reviewers to change things, challenging their opinions (even if they’re wrong, even if they’re personally attacking you, even if anything, don’t do it!), anything. Bad reviews suck, and I get it – you probably put heart, soul, time, and money into your book, and having someone hate it and trash talk it is probably very awful to see. But it isn’t the end of the world, and even negative reviews can sometimes increase sales and buzz about your book because people want to see what they think about it, and if their own opinions align with the reviewer. View a bad review as an opportunity to grow a thicker skin, and do not engage.
- It’s always great to show appreciation for the process of book reviewing and promotion. Speaking for myself, I can’t even say how much it thrills me each time a review or list I’ve written is shared by the people featured in it. When an author pulls a quote from my 5 star review and uses it on their website or on their book jacket, I’m over the freaking moon. I love reading, I love books, I love authors! I fangirl every time they thank me for taking the time to review one of their books ’cause the effort I put into my blog and my reading life is something I’m proud of, and enjoy immensely – having that recognized by the people I’m talking about is absolutely unreal! So don’t ever underestimate how much it can mean to a blogger or reviewer when you comment their Instagram photos, or Twitter shares, or blog posts! They love it so much and are probably freaking out with elation on the other side of the screen. Obviously, this isn’t to say you’re obligated to retweet every single thing you’re tagged in – but a tiny online interaction can sometimes make a reviewer’s entire day!
Again, these are my opinions, and many reviewers may not feel the same! Reviewers, like authors and publishers, aren’t one-size-fits-all, but I find that these general tips are really helpful from my end as a reviewer, a book lover, and as someone who loves spreading the word of her favorite books with the rest of the bookish community!
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