4 May 2016

Guest Post By Derek Alan Siddoway, Founder of Book Review 22

Tied in with discoverability, book reviews are one of the most vexing problems facing authors today. Aside from social proof, reviews also help kick Amazon’s and other online booksellers’ algorithms into gear, essentially helping you sell your book. Reviews are also important for most third party advertisers out there, from Bookbub all the way on down.

For many of us, however, they’re hard to collect. But much like extra lives in Super Mario World, we’ve got have them. Book reviewers/bloggers are an excellent resource and often have a reach far beyond that of a regular review, due to the fact that they’ll often post it to multiple reviews sites and oftentimes a website of their own as well. Ignoring them is a mistake but you’ve got to approach them in a certain way to get results. Here’s how smart authors work with book bloggers to get reviews.

1. Do your homework

The absolute worst thing you can do is take a shotgun approach when contacting reviewers. For one, you’ll probably get ignored if they don’t review your genre and two, reviewers are usually swamped with requests. When you try to get them to review a book you’re not interested in, it clogs up their inbox, wastes their time and contributes to less reviewers all around for everyone.

You don’t want be the author that ruins it for the rest of us. Instead, I suggest finding 3-5 books in your genre that are comparable to your book and then search for reviewers who have read those books. Next, read the bloggers’ reviews of those books (I’ll explain why in a minute).You’re much more likely to get a yes using this method and the reviewers will appreciate that you did their homework. It may seem like it’s taking more time than emailing everyone, but the result you’ll net will be much greater (and you won’t get a reputation for being THAT author).

Also make sure to find a blog’s review policy page and carefully read it. You can go to all the work of finding a great blogger only to ruin your first impression by not letting them know about your book in the way they’ve outlined in their policy. Many sites, for example don’t review indie books at all or only want hard copies. Others way ask for pdfs only, or want your book specifically in .mobi format. DON’T IGNORE THIS STUFF!

2. Prepare your pitch

A pitch is just a fancy way name for the email you’re going to send to the reviewer. You’ll want to keep this short and to the point. In as few sentences as is reasonable, let them know:
  • How you found their site (bloggers like to know where their traffic is coming from).
  • Why you’re contacting them: Make it personal. Don’t say “to review my book.” Instead, let them know your read their reviews of X, Y and Z books and give a short statement about something you liked or agreed with from one of their reviews.
  • You can also leave a comment on their site as well (note: if you do this, DON’T ask them to review your book in their comments sections. That’s spammy and dumb.) Once you’ve covered that, NOW is the time for you to say something like: “I have a book that’s similar to X, Y or Z book you reviewed. I realize you’re a busy person, but I think you would enjoy it and wanted to see if I could send you a free copy in exchange for your honest review.”
  • How they can get your book: Depending on their review policy, sending bloggers a link where they can download your book in the format of their choice is a good way to go. If your book is permafree, sending them the Amazon (or Barnes and Noble, iBooks, etc) page works great. If not, I highly recommend checking out Bookfunnel an awesome service that takes the headache out of side loading your book onto devices. You can also upload your book files on a range of places including Dropbox, your Wordpress site or many others. 
3. Keep tabs

As you start reaching out to reviewers, create a simple Excel sheet or Google sheet to track your progress. Include columns for the reviewer’s name, the name of their blog, their blog URL, their email address and what books similar to yours they’ve reviewed. Once you’ve started reaching out, also include a column for notes. Here you’ll put down every time you contact them. For example: Sent initial email 4/30. Just basic stuff to keep your wires from getting crossed. This also gives you a contact list for the next time you want to outreach so you don’t have to go back and find the blogs all over again.

When you start getting responses, I like to highlight the rows with green, yellow or red cells. Green means they’ve reviewed the book (you’ll want to add a column for review links, too when you get them). Yellow means they’ve got your book and are planning to review it and red means they aren’t interested. Color coding your system makes it easy to tell who you need to follow up with (and also keeps you from bothering someone who’s not interested in reviewing your book at the moment).

4. Don’t be shy about followup.

If you don’t hear back from a reviewer, there’s nothing wrong with following up. I recommend doing this every 5-7 days until you get a response. Although you might assume people are ignoring you, most of the time they’re just busy and will appreciate a reminder. If you’re bugging them, you’ll likely hear about it. Be polite in these responses and, along with including your original pitch, say something like this: “Hey (reviewer name) just wanted to drop a quick line to see if you’d seen my email. Looking forward to hearing from you!”

That being said, know when it’s time to give it a rest. If you send 7-10 emails with no response, it’s best to respect a reviewer’s time and try again in a few months. Following up doesn’t mean being a stalker!

5. Let the pros do it for you

Aside from the above process, there is another option for authors looking to outreach to book bloggers. Let us do it for you!

At Book Review 22 we’ve developed and continue to grow a vibrant rolodex of book reviewers that we work with to help authors get reviews. All you’ve got to do is submit some information about your book and we’ll handle the rest: outreach, pitching and follow-up. This saves you countless hours you could spend writing (something you’d rather be doing) instead of getting reviews (something that needs to be done but takes hours of time). To learn how our process works and to get us started helping you out, visit bookreview22.com.

Getting reviews doesn’t have to be a pain. Using the above steps, you’ll be working with bloggers who are excited to reads your books and see those stars popping up in no time!

Derek Alan Siddoway
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About the author

Derek Alan Siddoway is the author of the Teutevar Saga, a “medieval western” series combining elements of epic fantasy with the rugged style and folklore of American Westerns (read: John Wayne meets Game of Thrones). His journey as a storyteller began over a decade ago with a particularly thrilling foray into Pokémon fan-fiction. Ten years later, Out of Exile, his debut novel, and the first book in the Teutevar Saga, was published. An Everyday, Undaunted Author, Derek spends his time reading, obsessively filling notebooks, adventuring outdoors and celebrating small victories. You can find out more at Derek's website http://derekalansiddoway.com/ and follow him on Twitter @D_Sidd.

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