So you’ve finally done it. You’ve taken that great idea from concept to completion, published it, and now you’re looking to build relationships with bloggers across the interweb. You’re ready to put together a list of potential reviewers to help you spread the word about your glorious creation: your very own novel.
You’re smart. You realize most of these bloggers are pretty small operations, and can’t even come close to reviewing every book published in a given year. You know you need to stand a cut above the other requests crowding their inboxes.
So how do you stand out? What makes a request memorable? What makes a reviewer immediately peg you as the savvy professional hidden beneath the complex, mysterious writer persona?
Well, here’s my review request checklist. Going back through the indie requests I’ve accepted over the last several years, these are the things that set some of my favorite authors far above the rest.
Official Story Sanctuary Review Request Checklist
DO: Check out my blog before contacting me.
When I get a request email that specifically comments on a post I’ve written or mentions an aspect of the blog the author finds useful or appealing, I’m more inclined to pay attention. Why? Because this tells me that I’m not just getting a form email sent out to a hundred bloggers, and that the author has considered whether my blog is a good fit for the novel he or she is hoping to have reviewed.
A form email from a publicist or publishing house isn’t a terrible thing, however. Professionalism and seriousness on the part of the author definitely grabs my attention.
DON’T: Waste your time asking me to review something outside my target genres.
At present, I only accept review requests for middle grade, young adult and occasionally new adult fiction. Your time is valuable. Don’t spend any of it asking me to review your book if it’s outside what I review. (I mean, finish reading this post, because I’m probably going to say something useful at some point. But other than that, find you some adult fiction review bloggers!)
DO: Give me great links.
It’s a great idea to include your author web site, any site with an excerpt and even a link to your book on Amazon, if it’s posted there and has any reviews. Before I accept a review, I like to find out more about an author. If an author provides those links in the email, I’m more likely to click them when I first read the email than to leave it sitting in my inbox, meaning to check it later when I have more time to search for the information myself.
On the author site, I’m trying to get a feel for what kind of person the author is. Is the site really classy? Does it look like the author invested time in site development and management?
At Amazon or another site which allows me to read an excerpt, I do exactly that. If I read the first five pages of the novel and find myself cringing at spelling and grammar errors or simply not connecting with the characters or story, I will pass on the review request.
DON’T: Attach a copy of your book to your initial request email.
Limit review copies to the bloggers who’ve already accepted a request to review your book. Your book is too valuable to give away to everyone, right?
DO: Proofread your request email.
First impressions are important. When I get an email with a lot of typos, I tend to imagine the entire novel has the same baffling sentence structure or creative spelling. That or the author wrote me her email while she was being chased by a herd of wild antelope, in which case maybe the novel is okay, because you can’t write 300 pages of anything while being chased by wild antelope, so the antelope encounter must have started after the novel was completed. (If you can write an entire novel while being chased by antelope, I should probably read your novel strictly as a nod to your stamina.)
Taking the time to proofread your message shows that you’re a conscientious, disciplined writer. These are the kinds of writers I most want to work with.
DON’T: Include a clichéd summary or teaser of your novel.
Include a summary or teaser by all means! A well-written snippet can really excite me about reading your book, even before I find my way to an excerpt.
But if your teaser sounds like this–
[Heroine’s name] had it all. When [Hero’s name] comes to town, she’s determined to avoid him, but his hunky handsomeness is irresistible. Just when she’s falling for him, she learns he has a dark secret that could destroy them both. (Or she has a dark secret that only he knows about/can protect her from.)
— realize I’ve probably seen almost the exact same snippet at least twice this week. Tell me what sets your story apart from the ten thousand other Twilight derivatives. Read the teasers or back cover copy of your favorite books and see if you can freshen up your description a bit.
DO: Tell me if you’re interested in other types of posts.
I enjoy conducting author interviews and hosting cover reveals and other events like that. When an author asks about those or offers to participate in an interview, I’m inclined to feel like that author is working hard to be accessible, and I can’t help but respect that.
DON’T: Email me the week your book comes out hoping for a review to coincide with the release date.
Most bloggers fill their calendars weeks or months in advance. I would love to accommodate everyone’s scheduling needs, but I simply can’t. As of January 2017, I’m filling post spots at least two months in advance, often further out.
DO: Follow up during the month your book is scheduled for review.
Sometimes an author (or publicist) drops me a quick line to make sure I’ve got everything I need and we’re still on track for a review posting soon. I’m always impressed to get these emails. I think it shows a lot of organization and professionalism. This is also a great time to remind me (or any blogger) that you’re interested in other types of posts.
DO: Tweet about the review or respond to my social media posts about it.
Getting my blog site out there helps me gather more readers, so I really appreciate the authors who take the time to mention the review on Twitter or other social media sites. Also, a word of thanks is always appreciated, whether it’s in a blog comment, Facebook post or Twitter mention. It really makes my day. Even if you don’t read the review, acknowledging my time goes a long way.
DO: Contact me if you have concerns about the review.
If there’s an error in the review, please let me know so I can correct it. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve spelled authors names wrong a couple of times… I try to be careful, but it does happen)
Once or twice an author has responded to the review in order to clarify a question I had about the story. One time I’d been confused by the title choice. Another time the resolution of the story didn’t make sense to me. The author wrote me privately to explain what motivated her to write the novel, so I was able to add that to my review as an explanation. I love that stuff.
As long as it’s polite and professional.
DON’T: Contact me to critique my review or explain why my opinion of your book is wrong.
This has happened more than once. Seriously.
Maybe I completely missed the point you were trying to make with the whole talking unicorn as a metaphor for world domination, and maybe I really couldn’t get into Great Aunt Mabel’s snarky attitude. I’m sorry if I didn’t connect with the best parts of your story.
The sad truth is not everyone will. I promise to be nice and civil and remember that you are a person sitting behind a keyboard with feelings. I promise to be professional. I feel like it’s only fair to expect the same from the authors with whom I correspond.
It’s got to be seriously tempting to respond to a negative review with an explanation or defense. Doing it will only make you look bad, and it will probably hinder you from getting further reviews from bloggers as well.
DO: Tell me if you prefer not to read reviews about your novel.
I also respect an author’s decision not to read reviews. I usually email an author with thanks and a direct link to the review a few days before the it’s posted, but I will not include the link if I know an author doesn’t want to read reviews about his or her work.
DO: Email me about your next book.
Nothing is better than finding out an author I loved has written another book and emailed me to ask for a review! Sometimes I catch news about new releases on Facebook, and I can chase an author down to ask if I can review the book, but sometimes (often) I miss those announcements. Having those requests in my inbox makes sure I hear about the book and can respond in time to schedule a review.
After writing reviews and working with authors for more than four years, I’ve put together a book of tips and tricks for developing the best possible working relationship with bloggers. You’ll find information about when to contact bloggers, tips on how to track reviews, what kinds of information to include on your author website and your pitch email to a blogger. It’s free to read in Kindle Unlimited, and just $2.99 to purchase a copy at Amazon.
DO: Share other tips you’ve found helpful!
As an author or reviewer, what experiences have helped make this process smoother for you? What tips would you offer other reviewers and authors seeking reviews?