Almost daily, I receive requests from authors who want me to read and review their book. This is like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks.
Not once have I reviewed a book on my author blog. Not because I don’t want to help authors (because I do, every day — more below), but because my blog doesn’t focus on books! I made a conscious choice to not focus on books and book reviews, since there are thousands if not millions of book blogs out there already. My theme, if you will, is giving authors a platform to share real-life experiences they may not want to share anywhere else.
And if the authors asking me for reviews did any type of research at all, they would know that, right? Social media and developing your author platform isn’t solely about promotion — it’s about building relationships. So here is what I recommend instead:
It can be intimidating to connect with book bloggers, particularly if it’s your first book. I feel your pain — thankfully, there are a few great options to help you.
1) BookBloggerList.com: Compiled by veteran book blogger and web consultant Barb Drozdowich (she designed my two sites and scores of others), the List is a way for authors to connect directly with book bloggers in their genre. Book bloggers are just people like you and me — who happen to love featuring books and authors! Spend some time getting to know what they review, what their submission guidelines are, and commenting on a few posts.
I also recommend connecting with them on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc. — again, not to pitch your book (ask any book blogger how to tick them off — pitching your book to them on Twitter or other social media usually does it). Be real, be human, contribute something to the conversation BEFORE you approach them. Would you walk up to someone on the street and ask for a review? NO. So don’t do it online either.
2) Do A Book Tour: There are many tour companies out there for a wide range of prices. I have the most experience with Pandora, owner of Orangeberry Book Tours — she’s reasonably priced and can tailor your tour as needed. Just remember this: book tours will sell a book here or there, but the main reason for doing them is this: visibility. If you and your book are mentioned on 30 or 60 book blogger sites, your SEO improves, as does your Google Ranking.
You do pay for a blog tour (primarily admin fees, graphics, and placement), but there’s no guarantee of reviews and if there is, that the reviews will be positive — which is fair.
Many times, book reviewers are also book bloggers, but not always. Many work full-time and don’t have book blogs, but do enjoy reviewing books, which is why I’ve listed them separately here. How to find and connect?
1) Amazon Top Reviewers: again, don’t hit these folks with pitches right off the bat. They get tons of requests every day — so how will you stand out? Here’s a great cheat sheet from Joanna Penn (The Creative Penn) who is a wonderful champion of authors.
In my own experience, I connected with three Amazon top reviewers on Twitter and just started following their recommendations, blog posts, tweets, etc. It took me awhile to ask them to review my book (and in one case, she offered). I also had them guest post for me on my business blog — not solely for relationship-building purposes, but because they could offer great free advice to all authors.
2) Books: there are many ‘how to’ books out there and even before I started writing for this site, I had purchased How To Market A Book by Lori Culwell and Katherine Fye Sears. It’s chock-full of tips about all aspects of marketing, but also specifically how to approach reviewers and get reviews.
3) Paid Reviews: No doubt you’re heard of paid sites like Midwest Book Review or Kirkus. Both cost money and they don’t in any way guarantee a positive review — and I think that’s fair. If the ‘big guys’ think your book is sub-par, it’s time to re-evaluate your book and get back to work. There are also more indie-centric options, like IndieReader. Do what works best for you and your budget.
Others disagree with me — if the review isn’t going to positive and you’ve paid for it, what’s the point? I believe that reviews must be honest and fair. Manage your expectations and you’ll do fine.
BETA READERS and/or ADVANCED READERS
We sit alone in our office for months or years, creating what we think is the perfect masterpiece. Many times, that’s it — an author runs it through spell and grammar check, formats it, slaps a cover on it, and calls it a book.
This is what people think indie publishing is all about and it’s NOT. I personally have never and will never do that.
You cannot live in a bubble! You have to show your work to others — and by others, I don’t mean your Aunt Martha who taught English during The Great Depression and did a quick check for you. After all, your book will be out there in the world — don’t you want to make it the best you can?
You need to show your work to critique partners (other writers in your genre whom you trust to give it to you straight), beta readers (non-professionals who read it for you at no cost — usually fans of your work or other interested parties), and/or advanced readers (can be similar to beta readers or others you know or who have expressed an interest in receiving an ARC (Advanced Review Copy).
Think of it as input, market research, and even pre-release marketing. All these activities (plus professional editing, proofreading,formatting and graphics) are to help your book become spectacular as well as to start creating word of mouth. Many people should see your book and give you feedback before you hit that publish button. Tip: ask them all to sign up for your newsletter (I use free Mailchimp) when you send out the beta or ARC, so when you do hit publish, they can all write their reviews!
Hope this helps you target book bloggers and reviewers in a more efficient way. Got questions? Ask below!