For new book reviewers, this can be a big draw…. a chance to receive books (Glorious books!) in the mail not only before they are released to the public (insert squueeee here) but also at no cost to you.
When I first discovered that publishing houses and authors would offer you their books to read in exchange for hopefully a review on your blog… that was so exciting. And for the record…
I totally blew it.
By blew it I mean…. when offers started coming in for books I said Yes. I said Yes to just about everything – books I may or may not be interested in, self published books because I wanted to help the author… and when the books arrived… I knew I had agreed to read them and now it felt like work. A few of those books… I never did review and I still feel bad about that.
For the record – you do not want your love of reading and enjoying books to feel like work.
So – with that little trip down memory lane, let’s get back on track here and let me share with you a few tips to bringing books to you for review. 😀
First and foremost, I am not an expert. I am not the first person to write about this topic and I am more than likely not the best source for this topic. I am mainly writing this post because I am often asked through email and through posts, how does a newer book blogger connect to the authors and publishers, and for those who are asking for the right reasons – to be able to read a book prior to publication and post reviews on these books, I am more than happy to offer what little knowledge I have gathered through the years. I hope something here is helpful.
- Before you start looking for publishing houses to start pounding down your blogs door… ESTABLISH your blog and its name. How do you do that? Do what your blog was set up to do… write reviews. Write reviews on books you have read, write reviews on new books you have purchased, write reviews on books you check out from your library. Basically write reviews. A publishing house usually likes to see several months of reviews happening. They like to see what you are reviewing and how you review. It’s your blog… do it proud. *insert chest bump here*
- Write a review policy. That may seem premature. Maybe it is – but I know once I started looking at the blogs that I admired, they all had one. And you will find out it is a life saver at times to spell out exactly what your policy is. Here is mine, tweaked and re-tweaked through the years but it is a necessity for those interested in you reviewing to know what you are able to do and what you are not.
- Have a way for people to email you that is not hidden. A contact me area on your blog is essential. If a publishing house likes what you are reviewing, they need to be able to connect with you. Make it easy to find your “contact me” area. Most people will not work for it.
- As a side note here – I created a new email for all of my bookish/bloggish emails to go to. I personally would recommend that. It is nice to have one email to go to for all my blog conversations and book review requests. It is also nice not to have the book emails mixed into my personal emails.
- Post frequently. It does not have to be every day, but 3 -5 times a week is a good standard to set. If a blog sits idle, it is hard to increase readership. It is hard to establish good connections with publishing houses if you do not have a readership. During your start up period this is a great time to work on your readership as well. How? Write interesting reviews and bookish topics. AND – read other blogs AND comment. Your interest in other blogs does bring readers to you – it is how I established this blog… I set a guideline of visiting and commenting on twenty blogs a day and I did it. Most of those bloggers, visited me in return. I believe it works. Put yourself on social network sites – Facebook, Twitter… it is hard to make your blog grow if you write a post and then sit back and wait for people to notice. Keep up these practices – your blog will grow.
Now you may be thinking, “Wow Sheila… all I wanted to know is how to start receiving books for review in the mail and I get all this extra stuff to do!” Well, that extra stuff is important and should help you to start building relationships in the publishing world to start receiving the books you wish to read and review.
- Ok…. so you have done all of the above. You are excited…. in fact, you may have already had contact from an author or publisher and you about wet yourself. Been there… I get it. But remember what happened to me…. proceed with caution.
- Remember you are a professional. Maybe you didn’t think you were… you are just writing a fun blog about books… but once you are making contact with the publishing houses and authors- surprise…. you just upgraded to professional. This basically means…. act it. Do not approach a publishing house with your long list of book requests – ESPECIALLY when you are new. Introduce yourself. Link to your blog. Tell them a little bit about what you review, how often you review and your readership. You may be thinking, “Really Sheila? Isn’t that a bit TMI?” In which I look at you dead pan and say, “It is not.” This is information many may ask from you anyway. After introductions, request an advanced copy of a book (yes one). If they send it…. READ IT. REVIEW IT. Then – email the person who sent it to you thanking them for the opportunity to read the book and link your review. Relationship established… or at least the beginning of one.
- Always ALWAYS be professional when inquiring about books for review. At the Book Expo one year publishing houses told horror stories of how some bloggers have made requests for books – practically demanding books, or as I mentioned before, requesting long lists of reads and even to the point of becoming angry with the publishing house when their request was refused. You would think common courtesy would be a no-brainer but as a book blogger; this sort of poor behavior gives us a bad name. So – I say it out loud. Introduce yourself – inquire nicely – if you are turned down – do what has been asked (establish blog more, have more reviews, work on readership…) and politely try again at a later date.
- Do not make promises you can not keep. Sure things come up occasional that were unanticipated, however if you are telling an author or publishing house that you can review within a certain amount of time or on a certain date – you should do your best to do so. This is an important piece of my review policy – with my busy schedule I no longer can give a time frame when I will be able to review a book. As an established blogger, I suspect I have a bit more leeway because most of the publishing houses know me. When I started blogging however, my policy said I would read and review within 6 weeks.
- As I mentioned – it is easy to get in over your head and as book lovers it is not hard to act like a kid in a candy store and want and want and want. Start slow…. receive a few books, review them… repeat. As you do this – you may be surprised how the publishing houses start to find you. Remember – you never know who is looking at your blog…. maybe they found it by searching for a particular book title…. so keep it professional. I dont mean don’t have fun… of course have fun…. just remember if you want to grow the blog – your reviews need to be something that publishing houses want their books on.
Here are a few suggestions of places other than the publishing houses to possibly pick up a review or two:
TLC Book Tours – A great group to work with that connects to book reviews to books to review on specific dates
Netgalley – books to download to your phone or e reader.
Blogging For Books – the more established you become – the more book choices will be offered.
Library Thing – you can request books and they go into a drawing to see who receives the copies, a lot like Good Reads Giveaways.
Booklook Bloggers – a lot like blogging for books.
BookBrowse.com – sign up and receive a monthly list of available books
Audio Jukebox – for those who like to listen to and review audio
Receiving great reads and reviewing them can be a lot of fun. I really enjoy it and I have been doing this since 2009. I still am not as organized as some with their contacts list and knowing which books I want to pursue months in advance. Some day… I hope to get there 😀
Fellow book reviewers – please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments – I am sure there are vital steps I should have mentioned and neglected to 🙂 Newer bloggers, if I didn’t answer something – please inquire about it in the comments and I will answer it then. 🙂